By Rebecca Bracken
Happy belated 4th of July to everyone!
With the holiday falling on Tuesday, Sue and I waited until Wednesday to get back out to East Matagorda Bay to check on the skimmers and 25’s chicks. The water was definitely a bit choppy, but we had babies to check on! We headed straight to 25 and unbanded’s island to make sure all was ok. And we had a wonderful surprise – they have 2 chicks! We saw 1 last week, but since they had 2 eggs we were really hoping there was a second chick hiding somewhere. Great job 25! We’ll be back to band the chicks in a few short weeks.
After counting skimmers, we motored over to see if A7A was back on territory but no dice. Guess they are done for the season after all.
On Thursday, Sue, Alan, and I headed out into Galveston Bay to check on all the pairs there. We knew there was a storm coming in, but we were pretty sure we could get all the surveys done before it hit. We started out by heading towards Swan Lake and found several banded oystercatchers hanging out on the breakwaters. 20 and unbanded are still with their chicks at Zimmerman Point. We found LR and unbanded with their chick at Malone Point. And then there were a couple of unbanded oystercatchers just chilling on the breakwater near 11’s territory.
We rounded the breakwater to go and find 11, unbanded, and their (hopefully) fledged chick. We thought it would have fledged last week but couldn’t find it, so we were really determined this time. 11 came flying in, followed by unbanded, and surprise! Both were followed by 2 chicks! What a little stinker! All this time they had a second chick and we never knew. Sigh. Well, that one snuck by us. But great job to 11 and unbanded for training their chicks well and keeping them alive. Proud of you y’all!
No one else was doing anything in Swan Lake, and all the oystercatchers we saw weren’t staying for a picture. Time to go back under the bridge and over to Struve.
Most of the pairs were at Struve. 12 and unbanded were in their normal spot by the waterbird colony sign, and E5A and unbanded were hanging out of the shoreline. LT and JA were on territory as expected but we knew they wouldn’t have anything. But the Black Skimmers had chicks! There were several that were about the right banding age, so we took a chance and popped over to check. One was able to be banded.
After checking the skimmer colony cameras, we turned towards Jigsaw. All the pairs there were on the shoreline or reef and are doing well. LH and JX’s chick is still with them.
We motored towards 8 Mile Road to see if anyone was hanging out there, and boy, did we hit the jackpot! There were 17 oystercatchers hanging out on the shoreline, 13 of which were banded. They were joined by a few Wilson’s Plovers and a nearby Willet chick.
We found Y7, who is normally on South Deer, hanging out with the big group. W8W was also in the group, which was great because we don’t always see him.
Over at Gangs Bayou, we saw A4A and unbanded with their chick on the breakwater. The skimmer colony on the island is doing incredibly well and there were bunches of chicks. We saw at least one of the chicks we banded the other week, which could have fledged by now. We will have our hands full when we band chicks there next week!
There was some interesting behavior over on South Deer, but after checking the radar we decided we didn’t have time to stay and investigate. A1A and mate weren’t home, but A5A was on territory with no mate to be found. F1A was found on the reef at South Deer, but we didn’t see his mate either. There was also an unknown bird in Y7’s territory that was flying around and acting very suspicious. We’ll be back next week to figure out what he’s up to!
Over on North Deer, E8A wasn’t home but C1A and unbanded were on their shoreline. YM and JH were also hanging out as usual with their chick on their shoreline. Amazing how well they can tolerate the mobs of terns, gulls, and pelicans.
Just as we were heading to the south side of Marker 52 to check on E4A and unbanded and W5 and JC, Alan and I looked around and said nope, time to get back to the boat ramp!
Since we had to go that way anyway to get home, we took a quick look as we passed their territories. E4A and unbanded were at their territory, so they should still have at least one chick. W5 and JC were also on the shoreline near their nesting site, and I’m pretty sure I got a quick look at a chick as it darted into the vegetation.
We got caught in a little bit of rain as we turned back but thankfully we got out of there before the storm hit. We didn’t get to check on FR, unbanded, and chicks, or CA and Y2 and chick, but we know they are doing well. We’ll make sure to say hi next time.
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, 3 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 25 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.