By Rebecca Bracken
On Wednesday, Sue, Elena Duran, and I went out to East Matagorda Bay to band skimmer chicks and check on 25’s chicks. I was initially concerned because we didn’t see 25 or his mate when we approached the island, but thankfully they both popped up as we circled around the backside of the island. We ended up banding 11 skimmer chicks, all under the watchful eye of 25 and his mate. We never did see the chicks, but we know they were there!
On Thursday, Sue, Alan Wilde, and I went out to West Galveston Bay to check on the chicks we banded last week. We started up in Scenic Galveston and Swan Lake, and found a few oystercatchers, some banded and some unbanded, on the breakwater and islands around Virginia, Zimmerman, and Malone Points. 20 and mate and their chicks were hanging around Zimmerman Point as usual; guess they aren’t tired of their chicks yet.
LR and mate were hanging out on the breakwater, as were 11 and mate. But we couldn’t find 11’s chicks again! We know they fledged, but 11 is so wary of us that the chicks are really hard to find. We had hoped to see them after not making it up there last week, but the chicks should be fine since they can fly now. We’ll look for them again next week. We did find 39 and K7 on the breakwaters in Swan Lake, which was great because we don’t see them every week.
We’ve been noticing a bunch of skimmers nesting up in Swan Lake and this week they had some pretty big chicks! We might band there next week.
Over on Struve Luci, a few birds were loafing around, but most were very skittish of the approaching boat this week. Makes it hard to get their picture if they fly every time! But we found 12 and unbanded, L9, and LT and JA.
The skimmer colony on Struve is getting smaller and smaller as we get closer to wrapping up the season. We plan to band chicks there next week. One of the skimmer chicks we banded at Gangs Bayou fledged a few weeks ago and is still hanging out at Struve. Not sure why since most birds seem to be at Gangs!
Only LH, JX, and their chick were on Jigsaw. No other oystercatchers were around, but that wasn’t surprising given the number of terns and gulls that are still there. We found YK on 8 Mile Road again, with an unbanded bird.
At Gangs Bayou, we were so happy to see the huge number of older skimmer chicks! Many should have fledged or will be fledging soon. We quickly counted the number of adults and chicks, and Alan took a bunch of pictures, hoping that we’d see some of the chicks we banded last week. Some were still around, but a bunch were not, so hopefully they’re off exploring!
We also found A4A, mate, and chick on the breakwater near Gangs Bayou. They didn’t seem too concerned with us today. Surprisingly A5A was also on the breakwater! So strange; that’s quite a ways from South Deer.
About half a dozen oystercatchers were hanging out on Confederate reef, some of which were banded. A1A and family were spending some quality time together there.
On South Deer, only F1A and E2A were there. They were hanging out on the reef with a bunch of young gulls and terns. Doesn’t seem like a great spot to me.
We had a similar result on North Deer – no one home!
We had much better luck over on Marker 52. J6 and UF were with their chick on their little island.
JJ was hanging out on a reef with a bunch of juvenile gulls, herons, egrets, and pelicans. E4A and unbanded were both there with their chick, who can successfully fly now! Great job guys, now you can take your chick somewhere quieter! Always great to see a chick make one of its first flights.
W5 and JC were with their chicks at the end of Marker 52, but it doesn’t look like the chicks have fledged yet. They were a bit younger than E4A’s chick, so that wasn’t surprising. We got some great looks at them though, and they should be fledged next week.
FR and unbanded only had one chick with them this week. Probably time to kick that one out too, but they’re taking their time. CA and Y2 were on the breakwater with their chick. There were also two banded oystercatchers on the other side of the breakwater near the dredging activity.
Things are really starting to wind down for the season. We have a few chicks that haven’t fledged yet, and two that still need to be banded, but we haven’t found any new nests for quite a while now. So, we’ll be wrapping it up soon, but don’t worry, we’ll keep up the blog until the last chick is fledged!
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, 2 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 26 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.