By Susan Heath
On Tuesday, Taylor, Taylor and I headed out to check the birds in the Brazoria Bays. It was windy and was only going to get worse so we didn’t dawdle. We left from the boat ramp on Bastrop Bayou near Demi John and went out Bastrop Bayou to the GIWW and then headed east to West Galveston Bay. It wasn’t too bad getting across the bay because the wind was at our back. At the mooring facility we found that F2A was still incubating two eggs and his mate, E3A was nearby. We left them to their business and headed back west to Alligator Point. There hasn’t been a pair there yet this year but today there was! In previous years there’s been an unbanded pair here but this year it is U6X and an unbanded bird. U6X is one of FR & unbanded’s chicks from the other end of the West Galveston Bay in 2020. It was great to see that this chick is doing well. It appears to be a female from the amount of eye flecks it has.
We headed back to the safety of the GIWW and went all the way down to Drum Bay instead of heading out into Bastrop Bay. That way we could come back across Christmas Bay with the wind at our backs instead of in our faces. As predicted E7A & unbanded’s nest on the very low island had failed. The island was nearly underwater with the high tides from the equinox. We tried to spy on AR & unbanded from E7A’s island but one of the adults was already standing on top the shell bank staring at us. Busted.
We motored around to the other side of the island and found both adults there and acting very much like they were protecting a chick or two. It is very vegetated there so we didn’t have any real chance of spotting the chicks. Hopefully next time they’ll be big enough to be out in the open.
We headed across Christmas Bay and into Bastrop Bay. We didn’t find any birds in the usual spots so we decided to search for CH & unbanded. The tide was high so we didn’t have to worry to much about running aground on something since I was wasn’t very familiar with this part of the bay. We found them on a very nice looking shell bank trying to hide from us.
Found you! Can you see them both?! Now we can check and see if they will nest there. We headed back to the boat ramp to get out of the ever increasing wind.
On Wednesday I headed out to the east end of West Galveston Bay with Alan Wilde and John Wright. The pair that hangs out along the Tiki Island channel wasn’t there but we found them later on the Virginia Point breakwater. Both pairs along the shoreline in Galveston Bay finally got the memo because they both had nests with two eggs. Here’s 20 & unbanded’s nest.
LR & unbanded haven’t been home for the last few weeks so I was afraid they abandoned the area but thankfully they returned.
All was the same in Swan Lake though 11 & unbanded might be thinking about a nest. One of them was on the shoreline instead of the breakwater. K7 & unbanded still had three eggs and so did X3 & unbanded. 39 & unbanded weren’t home and their island had been invaded by white pelicans.
Back in West Galveston Bay we finally got a look at one of the chicks on Struve Luci. JA was standing on the shoreline with a chick! As we watched they walked up the shell berm and the chick walked down the other side where we couldn’t see it anymore.
12 & unbanded had flown out to greet us when we were only about half way across the bay so they definitely knew we were coming and hid their chick. L9 & unbanded were not showing us their chicks either but they were definitely acting like they still had some. E5A & unbanded were still licking their wounds from their failed nest and HM & X7 were nowhere to be found.
On Jigsaw, LH & JX still have three eggs and I finally found a nest for YE & unbanded.
They’ve been acting like they had one for weeks so I was glad to finally find it. X2 & W2Y might have had a nest but if they did the gulls had already gotten the eggs. Last week they scrape but it was filled in with shell this week.
Along the shoreline of Galveston Island, YK & unbanded were on a reef. We didn’t initially see any oystercatchers at 8 Mile Road but when we got around the west side I saw a bird fly like it had flown off a nest. Oh boy. I went and looked and sure enough three eggs. 16 & W8W had laid a nest at the end of 8 Mile Road. I doubt it will take long for a mammal to find it but maybe they’ll get lucky. We shall see.
The tide was high so we found 18 youngsters on the Sportsman docks. C8A & unbanded were on the Gangs Bayou breakwater. I think C8A is tired of us spying on her!
Alan thought he saw A4A or her mate on their nest but then none of us could see it so we went around the breakwater and pulled up to check. The nest is a bit hidden around a vegetation corner and I guess the bird didn’t hear me coming. It flew off the nest when I was only about 10 feet away. Scared both of us!
On South Deer all was well. A1A & unbanded still had two eggs and A5A’s mate was incubating their nest.
Y7 & unbanded were missing again. We searched the whole shoreline but did not see them anywhere. Another mystery.
F1A & E2A were still incubating their two eggs so we moved on to North Deer. I remarked that it would be a good day for E8A & unbanded to have a nest because the tide was high and we could get to them more easily than normal. We didn’t see them at first but then I saw a head pop up from behind some vegetation. Aha! Two eggs! Sadly, it was still difficult to get the boat out of there!
We found J6 & UF on the North Deer breakwater. I was glad they were there because I didn’t feel like searching around on Marker 52 for them if they had laid a nest in some odd place. These poor birds just don’t have any place left to nest. Hang on J6 & UF! Your island is scheduled to get restored this fall!
JH was hanging around on the shoreline without YM which made me think she was likely guarding an egg. They always lay their nest behind something and this year I found three eggs behind a washed up dock.
JJ & P4 were on a reef so nothing happening there. We didn’t see W5 & JC so I suspected they were on the other side of Marker 52 with a nest. FR & unbanded were still incubating their two eggs so we motored down the backside of Marker 52 and saw this.
Sure enough, JC was incubating an egg on the shell bank. We checked on CA & Y2 and found Y2 incubating two eggs, increased from one last week. We didn’t see E4A anywhere but there was an unbanded bird on the new breakwater which was probably her mate.
Time to head back to the dock! We found seven new nests on Wednesday. Things are heating up in the oystercatcher world!
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: 20 nests being incubated, 4 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.