By Rebecca Bracken
The day has finally come – this is the last Oystercatcher Diaries of the season! Sue and I are both really sad it’s all coming to an end (temporarily of course!) but we’re both happy to have fewer days outside in this brutal heat!
We switched things up a bit this week and went out to West Galveston Bay on Tuesday. Alan joined us, and we started by heading up Swan Lake to look for 11’s fledged chicks. As usual, we found several banded and several unbanded oystercatchers on the breakwaters along Virginia and Zimmerman Points. 20 and family were hanging out in their territory. LR and family were further down at Malone Point. After not seeing 11’s fledged chicks for several weeks, Sue and I gave it about a 10% chance we’d find them this week. But sure enough, there was the entire family! We got some great looks at their chicks. The unbanded chick that snuck by us was very willing to pose for a photo.
We then went to look for K7, 39, and X3 and their families. Along the way we checked on the skimmer chicks we banded last week. Looks like they’re done nesting up there, but there were still a few smaller chicks.
X3 was on the breakwater with her mate and chick. 39 and unbanded were on the next breakwater down. We initially found K7 and mate on the breakwater as well, but they both took off and headed back to their island territory.
After heading back under the bridge, we went to check on the birds at Struve. L9 was blending in with the skimmers.
12 and unbanded were in their normal spot down by the nesting bird sign. HM and X7 were on the reef off the end of the island. No one else was home. But the skimmer chicks we banded last week were still there and should be fledging soon. On Jigsaw, only LH and JX and their chick were there. They seem pretty smart and are staying away from all the gull and tern chicks.
On our way to Gangs Bayou, we found YK hanging out along the shoreline near 8 Mile Road. C8A and unbanded were hanging out on the breakwater near Gangs, as were some youngsters from previous years.
There were a ton of young skimmers at Gangs, all either fledged or about to fledge! There are very few young chicks remaining, so nesting will be done soon. We were able to resight a few of the birds we banded over the previous few weeks, but most were probably off exploring.
Before circling South and North Deer, we went looking for birds on Confederate Reef. We found A5A and A1A hanging out with a few other oystercatchers including YT. YT hasn’t been spotted for a few years, which makes this a great resight for our monitoring program!
No one was home on South or North Deer. But over at Marker 52, we found UF and J6 and chick back on their little island in Jones Bay.
No one else was on Marker 52. All the recently fledged chicks from there must be off exploring with their parents. FR and mate were back together this week and had both their chicks with them. CA was alone on this island this time. On the way back to the boat ramp, we saw an unbanded pair and chick that Sue had told me about. Our goal is to find their nesting site next year!
On Thursday, we made a quick run out to East Matagorda Bay to check on 25’s chicks. Both fledged and looked great!
This was one of the best years in terms of the number of chicks fledged! We can’t wait to be back at it next year and will look forward to seeing our banded birds again.
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, 0 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 30 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.