By Susan Heath
On Tuesday, Taylor, Taylor and I headed out to check the birds in the Brazoria County Bays. This includes the west end of West Galveston Bay, Bastrop Bay, and Drum Bay. We went to West Galveston Bay first and headed straight for the mooring facility which is on the east side of the mouth of Chocolate Bay. There wasn’t much wind so it was a pleasure crossing the big expanse of bay. Last time we visited we didn’t see any oystercatchers but this time we found F1A on a two-egg nest!
His mate E3A wasn’t there so I guess she was out feeding somewhere. Good job F2A! We proceeded to Alligator Point Island but that pair still wasn’t home. We did a little exploratory mission along the western shoreline of West Galveston Bay, an area I haven’t checked before. There is lots of good habitat there but we didn’t find any oystercatchers.
It was too shallow to get through Mud Cut to Bastrop Bay so we headed back up the GIWW and took the safe route. We found CH & unbanded on a reef near the entrance to Bastrop Bay again. This is the pair I was hoping to find along the western shore of West Galveston Bay. I have no idea where they nest! We also found J0 & 38 on a small island in Bastrop Bay. They have nested in this bay for many years but their island is very eroded and they haven’t nested for the last few years to my knowledge. We’ll see what they decide to do this year.
We crossed Christmas Bay and looked for AR & unbanded at the entrance to Drum Bay. No sign of them. Quite odd since last year at this time we found they had a nest that was about to hatch. We entered Drum Bay and discovered two things. First, E4A & unbanded have a one egg nest on their tiny island.
Second, AR & unbanded were hiding out on the backside of their island. We could see them in the distance. Ah ha! I knew it! We motored back around and sure enough they had a nest with three eggs and the chicks were peeping inside the eggs. It’s about to hatch!
Little sneakers. They managed to evade us when we were there two weeks ago. They clearly had this nest then since it’s about to hatch. We found you! We didn’t find K0 & mate though so we headed back to the boat ramp.
I was really looking forward to Thursday because the weather was supposed to be great and the nests on Struve might be hatched. Alan and I headed out and went to Swan Lake first. All the pairs there were in place but there weren’t any new nests. K7 & unbanded had increased their egg count to three though.
Back in West Galveston Bay we eagerly checked the three nests on Struve. Chicks! All three had hatched and two of them still had the chicks in the scrape.
12 & unbanded had two chicks in the scrape and I’m sure the third chick was hiding somewhere but we didn’t linger to find it. LT & JA still had one egg in the nest but I don’t think it was alive because I didn’t hear any chicks sounds coming from the egg. The other surely hatched and the chick was hiding. They were on high alert! L9 & unbanded had two chicks still wet from hatching in their scrape and one egg that had a very active chick peeping inside so it was about to hatch too. Way to go oystercatchers!
We also discovered that E5A & unbanded had a nest with two eggs about 30 feet from where 12 & unbanded had their nest. Since 12 & unbanded hatched, they won’t be incubating right by each other so that’s good. Oystercatchers don’t get along well with other pairs during the breeding season!
We skedaddled out of there so they could get back to their business and went to Jigsaw. LH & JX finally got with the program and they had a three-egg nest but we didn’t find a nest for the other two pairs.
YK & unbanded were both standing on a shell berm but there wasn’t a nest there. We found 16 & W8W at 8 Mile Road. I guess they haven’t found any place they like to try to nest. There weren’t any nests at Gangs Bayou either.
We made a quick run down to Galveston Island State Park and found the two pairs that belong there were still there. No nests though.
Back up in our regular part of the bay, we found the gang of youngsters on Confederate Reef again. I’ve no idea where they were earlier in the season but they seem to be back on the reefs for now.
A1A & unbanded still had two eggs so I guess they aren’t laying any more. A5A & unbanded were exploring new territory but they flew back to where they have nested in the past when they saw us checking them out. Y7 & unbanded have been acting sketchy for weeks so we searched their entire area but found no nest. I’m not sure what they are up to. We found a Diamond-backed Terrapin though. Pretty cool
F1A was standing on top of the cheese wheel buoy and his mate was on a reef nearby.
I figured F1A was guarding a nest and sure enough I found one egg. It’ll be interesting to see if they lay more because last year they laid two nests and both only had one egg. I guess their philosophy is why waste energy!
Nothing was happening on North Deer and in fact, we couldn’t even find YM & JH. Now what are they up to?! We found more terrapins sunning on what we affectionally call the terrapin tire because there always seems to be one on it on sunny days.
All the pairs were present on Marker 52 but no nests until we got to FR & unbanded. They saved the day with a two-egg nest!
CA & Y2 were out on a reef so despite acting like they had a nest for the past two weeks, they still don’t. Sadly E4A & unbanded’s nest by the new breakwater construction was gone. I’m sure the gulls got the eggs. They just didn’t have much of a chance in that location.
That was the end of the day so we headed back to the boat ramp.
If you like oystercatchers and you want to support this project, you can make a donation (thank you!) on our website here. And how could anyone not like oystercatchers! You can also adopt a pair of oystercatchers to support this project if you’d like. If you adopt a pair, you will receive an adoption certificate for your birds and I will update you monthly on their progress throughout the breeding season. All adoption funds will be used to fund our work for the oystercatchers.
Current Stats for upper Texas coast from Dickinson Bay to East Matagorda Bay: 9 nests being incubated, 2 failed nests, 4 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nest with undetermined status, 0 chicks fledged
Note: All trapping and banding for this project is in accordance with federal and state permits issued to Susan Heath, GCBO Director of Conservation Research. Bird handling by volunteers is only permitted in the presence of Susan Heath and volunteers are trained in proper bird handling techniques.