By Susan Heath
On Monday, Taylor, Taylor and I headed back to East Matagorda Bay. Instead of leaving from the Sargent boat ramp, we drove to Matagorda and left from there. The boat ramp is better and the ride on the water is shorter. The wind was coming from the north so we went down the GIWW into the wind so we could have it at our backs when we got out into the bay. At Chinquapin we headed out into the bay. F8A & unbanded we loafing about and it didn’t appear they had a nest so we went out to Dressing Point. Still no oystercatchers there. Then we headed back down the bay with the wind at our backs and went to the Oyster Farm. LF & M4 were now incubating three eggs! Woohoo!
Finally we made our way back to Old Gulf Cut. A7A & unbanded had a two-egg nest but 25 & unbanded hadn’t laid any yet. They tried to hide from us but we found them!
I had to change the regular West Galveston Bay survey from Thursday to Wednesday because of the weather. Alan Wilde joined me for the day. Once again we found C2A & E1A on the small island along the Tiki Channel. They still hadn’t laid a nest though. We headed up to Swan Lake over a very bumpy bay. The wind was coming directly out of the east which means its straight across the bay and it builds up some big swells and chop.
20 & unbanded were looking like they had a nest but I couldn’t find one. LR & unbanded weren’t home for the third week in a row. Where did they go? The weather was not conducive for a search on this day!
11 & unbanded were on the breakwater where they always are and K7 & unbanded still had three eggs. They were very elusive when Alan tried to get their photos. Sneaky birds! 39 & unbanded flew off to the breakwater when we approached them but when we got to X3 & unbanded, we saw one of them make a quick exit from the vegetation. Aha! I found a nest with three eggs hiding in there. Nice!
I wasn’t looking forward to heading back across the bay with the wind but go we must so we did. We had to go slow but we made it just fine. On Struve Luci all the pairs that had chicks last time, were acting like they still had chicks this time. Good news! E5A & unbanded’s nest had failed though. I suspect they laid it too close to 12 & unbanded and the ensuing battles caused both the nest to fail and 12 & unbanded to lose a chick (or two) because they appeared to only have one left. Why can’t you just get along?!
On Jigsaw, LH & JX were still incubating three eggs. The other two pairs hadn’t laid any eggs yet but they are getting close. They both had very nice scrapes prepared. Along the Galveston shoreline, YK & unbanded were out on a reef loafing and 16 & W8W were missing again. Now where have they gotten off to? We weren’t able to go looking because of the wind.
We found some youngsters on the docks and some more youngsters on the Gangs Bayou breakwater. The tide was over Confederate Reef so I expect they all belonged to that gang. We saw either A4A or her mate fly off a nest on the Gangs Bayou island. Three eggs!
We spent some time trying to sleuth out what C8A & unbanded were doing but we made no progress on that front. They mystery remains.
On South Deer, A1A & unbanded were still incubating their eggs. When we approached A5A & unbanded we saw this.
They had finally settled down and had a nest with three eggs. Good stuff!
Y7 & unbanded had gone missing again. So many mysteries this year! Big news though! F1A & E2A had laid another egg so they have two now! That’s ground breaking for them. Last year they had two nests and both only had one egg. Apparently they are efficiency experts because each of those eggs resulted in a fledged chick!
On North Deer all the pairs were present but none of them had eggs. J6 & UF were AWOL. JJ & P4 and W5 & JC were both just lounging around like they didn’t have a care in the world. It’s nesting season y’all in case you didn’t get the memo. We saw this bad boy and presumably its mate hanging in the trees on Marker 52.
That’s not a good thing. Caracara’s are becoming increasingly common on nesting island in the bays where they eat eggs and chicks! Go somewhere else!
FR & unbanded still had two eggs and the missus was incubating them. Good job minding the store Fred. I know you were keeping a look out for danger. Y2 was on her island alone and I found that she was guarding a single egg. Finally! They’ve looked like they had a nest for several weeks now and its good to find they finally do.
E4A & unbanded weren’t on the new breakwater or their island. No telling where they went to lick their wounds since their nest failed last week.
Time to get out of the wind! I was very happy to be back in the truck which acts as my cozy greenhouse on the hour drive back to GCBO!
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: 13 nests being incubated, 3 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 t