By Susan Heath
On Monday I headed out to West Galveston Bay with Alan Wilde, a couple of friends of mine, Barbara Pankratz and Crystal Ledezma and Elena Duran, the TAMU graduate student who is taking blood and feather samples from some of our birds. Although the forecast called for partly sunny it was cloudy and a bit chilly. We headed up towards Swan Lake first and it was quite a bumpy ride up there with the north wind. Nothing had changed since last week. 20 & unbanded and LR & unbanded were both incubating their nests. K7 & unbanded and X3 & unbanded both acted like they still had chicks though we didn’t see them and 11 & unbanded were hanging on the breakwater as usual. There wasn’t anything else to check there so we headed back to West Galveston Bay.
We went to Struve Luci to band the remaining chicks. L9 & unbanded were on alert as we approached. We didn’t see their chick but we found it hiding in the vegetation on the top of the island. We banded it X9W. Here’s Crystal holding her first every oystercatcher baby.
We searched for LT & JA’s chick but once again we didn’t find it. I found a new scrape so perhaps something happened to their chick and they will lay a new nest. I guess we’ll find out next week. 12 & unbanded were hanging out on their part of the island. We didn’t see their chick but hopefully it was just hiding. There wasn’t anything happening with either of the other pairs so we headed to Jigsaw.
YE & unbanded were still incubating their nest and LH & JX still acted like they had a chick. X2 & W2Y were acting sketchy again but I didn’t find a nest for them. I am not sure what’s happening with them.
Along the Galveston shoreline, YK & unbanded were hanging out along the shoreline with a couple of Black-necked Stilts. Pretty classy company!
16 & W8W were sleeping on the 8 Mile Road extension. We found a lot of youngsters on the docks (about 25 of them!). C8A & unbanded were still incubating their nest behind the Gangs Bayou breakwater.
A4A & unbanded’s territory had some white pelicans hanging around but the oystercatchers were still acting protective and I found one chick behind the shell berm. There could have been more but I didn’t want to keep the adults away long so we left pretty quickly.
On South Deer, there was a fishing boat very near A1A & unbanded’s territory so they were already on alert when we checked on them. They always keep their chick hidden anyway so I doubt we would have seen it even without the fishing boat. A5A & unbanded were also on alert so we left them alone to guard their chick. Y7 & unbanded were still incubating their nest. When we got around to F1A & E2A they both erupted from the vegetation so I assume they had their chick hidden up there somewhere.
On North Deer, either E8A or her mate was in the vicinity of their nest so we didn’t bother them. C1A & unbanded were not at their nest though so I checked it out. No more eggs. Bummer. No telling what happened to them but the rattlesnake could have eaten them if it was still hanging around that area. I’ve seen evidence of that happening a couple of times. An oystercatcher doesn’t have much of a chance against a rattlesnake that is intent on eggs for dinner. YM & JH were still incubating their nest so we moved on.
On Marker 52, we found that JJ & P4 still had their three eggs but J6 & UF’s nest was gone. It was very close to the shoreline and it looked like it had overwashed. I really wish they’d laid it a couple of months ago before the pelicans arrived. Then they could have placed it in a safer location. Ugh. The Reddish Egrets are looking pretty funky!
W5 & JC surprised us with a new two egg nest. Nice job!
FR & unbanded were standing up on their shell berm very near where their nest had been. I gave it a quick check and found two chicks still hiding up there! They were snuggled up together but before we could get out of there, they both stood up.
Y2 was still incubating her nest so we headed back to the boat ramp.
On Tuesday I headed out to East Matagorda Bay with Taylor Bennett, Taylor Snyder and Elena Duran. We haven’t been out to this bay in four weeks due to scheduling and weather issues so I wasn’t sure what we’d find. At Chinquapin, F8A & unbanded were hanging out on a small shell berm along the GIWW. If they had a nest, it was gone now. The tide was really high!
LF was guarding a single chick. I’m not sure of its age but on our last check the nest was due to hatch so the chick should be around 25 days old. We banded it X9U. Taylor enjoyed her first oystercatcher chick.
At Old Gulf Cut, A7A & unbanded were standing around doing nothing. They had a nest the last time we were out but it must have overwashed because there were no eggs or chicks. On the other side of the cut, we found 25 trying to hide from us behind a shell berm, a sure sign he had a nest. Sure enough, we found two eggs.
There are only four pairs in that bay now 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!
Current Stats for upper Texas coast from Dickinson Bay to East Matagorda Bay: 12 nests being incubated, 9 failed nests, 14 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.