By Rebecca Bracken
This week, I got a chance to fledge, so to speak – time to check on the oystercatchers without Sue as she enjoys Mexico! Time to sink or swim, fly the coop, spread my wings, be free as a bird…how many more bird or boat puns can I work in?
On Tuesday, Taylor Bennett, our coastal biologist, Ben Torres, our research intern, and I headed out to East Matagorda Bay to check on 25 and unbanded’s nest. If you remember from last week, Sue thought she felt movement in the eggs (indicating they should hatch soon), and she was right! As we approached the island, we didn’t see either adult, but once we got around the side, we saw both parents with at least 1 little downy chick running behind! Sadly, we didn’t get any pictures, but it was such a cute little thing. Great job 25! We’ll back to hopefully band their chick(s) in a few weeks.
After checking on the skimmer colony (kudos to 25 and unbanded for putting up with such noisy neighbors!), we headed over to A7A and unbanded’s territory. No luck this week; we didn’t see any oystercatchers on their island. Lots of pelicans though!
On Thursday, Ben and I headed out to West Galveston Bay with Alan Wilde and John Wright. Sue made sure to send me with pros in case I ran into any issues! We started out by checking on 20, unbanded, and their chicks. There are almost always oystercatchers on the breakwater near Zimmerman Point, as well as on land near there, and sure enough 20 and family were easy to find.
We headed up to Swan Lake to check on 11 and unbanded’s chick, which should have fledged by now. 11 and unbanded came flying out at us immediately as we approached their territory, but none of us saw where they came from. They landed on the breakwater and sat there watching us as we circled a couple of times trying to find their chick. No luck unfortunately – they are sneaky! We will check back next week.
None of the other pairs in that area were home, so we headed back under the bridge to Stuve and Galveston Island. All of the Struve pairs are still hanging around, but no active nests right now. But the black skimmers are still nesting! Each week there have been more and more chicks.
After checking the skimmer cameras, we jetted over to Jigsaw. All the pairs were there, as were a bunch of terns and gulls. The noise around that island is unbelievable! I’m always super impressed that terns nest in such large colonies – imagine having that many loud neighbors just feet from you. Not my cup of tea!
Over at Gangs Bayou, we found a bunch of skimmer chicks, some just hatched and a few old enough to fledge soon. I think some of the birds from Struve are joining the Gangs colony; seems like there’s more and more birds each time.
We also resighted the two skimmer chicks were banded last week – boy, have they gotten big! Can’t wait to see them flying soon.
From there, we didn’t find anyone on South Deer. Just plenty of terns and gulls. On North Deer, we only found YM and JH hanging out with their fledged chick.
We then meandered our way over to Marker 52 to see if J6 and UF’s chick had fledged. But we couldn’t find them! I bet they flew with their chick to some unknown location nearby as it learns. With any luck we’ll see them again next week. We were really happy to see that both E4A and unbanded, and W5 and JC, still have at least one chick each. One of JC’s was running after its parent before quickly hiding in the vegetation, too fast for a photo! They’ll be ready for banding within a few weeks. FR and unbanded are still hanging out with their chicks. Their spat from last week must have boiled over because only FR and one chick were there today. Hopefully they make up soon.
As we turned back into the channel, we checked on CA and Y2 and their chick. They seem to move around a bit on their island, but we easily found Y2 and the chick. Great to see them even with some dredging happening nearby.
Sue will be back next week from Mexico – I’ll give her a full report of all the fun she missed! Many thanks to Alan and John for keeping us afloat this week (had to work in one last boat pun).
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: 0 nests being incubated, 31 failed nests, 5 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 22 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.