By Rebecca Bracken
It was a busy week! We had two oystercatcher chicks and a bunch of skimmer chicks to band, and needed to check on several chicks to check to see if they had fledged yet.
On Tuesday, Sue, Taylor, Ben, Elena, and I (whew, full boat!) went out to East Matagorda Bay to band 25’s two chicks as well as 10 skimmer chicks. When we were out there the past few weeks, the chicks were quick to hide on the shoreline. But nope, this time they were out front and center! Both chicks were out on the little bit of reef that pokes out behind the island, and clearly were not happy that we disturbed them. Thankfully they hadn’t fledged yet, so we know we could catch them. But first, we caught 10 skimmer chicks to band. Here’s Elena holding two of them!
After releasing the skimmers back to their side of the island, Sue and Taylor took off after the oystercatcher chicks. Those babies were fast, but Sue was faster! After the successful capture, both we fitted with their bands and promptly released back to their waiting parents. These will be the last two oystercatcher chicks to be banded this year.
On Thursday, Sue and I met up with Alan and Elena to band more skimmers and check on everyone in West Galveston Bay. The water was absolutely gorgeous and flat, but boy did we miss that breeze! It was definitely a hot one.
We started up in Swan Lake and found several oystercatchers hanging out along the breakwaters at Virginia and Zimmerman Points. Several were unbanded, so we’ll be out there trying to catch them next year! 20 and family were hanging out around Zimmerman point, but they only had two chicks with them.
X3 and family were way over near Malone Point, but it was wonderful to see them since we don’t see them too often. LR and mate were on breakwater in Swan Lake as well. 11 and mate are still hiding their fledged chicks, so we didn’t see them. Normally once the chicks can fly they stay out in the open but 11 is being super careful with his chicks and keeping them away from us.
We banded a few skimmers in Swan Lake since they hadn’t nested there before. There were two small chicks, but most of the chicks were about to fledge. They’re such cute puffballs when they’re little!
As we headed back under the bridge, we all “ducked” because the bridge was lowered for a train. We fit, but it’s always a tight squeeze!
Over on Struve, the oystercatchers were just hanging out. HM and X7 were chilling out on a little reef on the north side of the island but made us go in circles trying to get their pictures!
At least one adult from each pair was loafing on the island. We saw 12, JA, L9, and LT foraging on the shoreline. There were several Long-billed Curlew in the area too. Sue said that they seem to like being at Struve.
We banded a few skimmer chicks on Struve and then headed over to Jigsaw. YE was hanging around, but no one else was home. There were a few younger oystercatchers hanging out around 8 Mile Road, and A5A and family were on the breakwater by Gangs Bayou. A4A and family were also on the breakwater. Great to see the youngsters out and about with and without their parents.
At Gangs, there were about 60 fledged skimmers mixed in with the adults! We were able to spot several of the chicks we banded last week, and we banded a few more.
After that, it was smooth sailing (literally!). We had a nice and quick boat ride over to confederate reef, where we found a few youngsters, A1A, and E2A and F1A mixed in with some gulls. We didn’t see anyone home on South or North Deer.
We didn’t find J6 and UF and chick, and no sign of E4A, mate, and fledged chick. But W5 and JC’s chicks fledged! One of them was clearly having a bad hair (feather?) day.
FR was on his island with his chicks but no mate this week. We didn’t see CA and Y2, but there was some work happening on the side of their island, so it doesn’t surprise me that they weren’t home. After that, we were all pretty tired and really hot, so we headed home. These summer days are brutal!
As we get closer to wrapping up the season, we want to ask our readers: is there anything additional you’d like to see in the AMOY Diaries each week? Maybe there’s a topic you’d like to know more about, or would you like more information about the pairs that have nested in each bay for many years? Let us know! Please send all suggestions and comments to Rebecca at email@example.com.
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, 1 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 28 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.