By Susan Heath
Excitement this week! We banded our first chick of the season. It was a 31-day old chick from a nest we found on February 14. Here’s a photo of the newly banded XU.
We also caught another adult. This one was a male on a nest in Jones Bay. We banded him CA. His mate is L6 and she was originally banded with her mate L5 in 2012. L5 disappeared after the 2012 season and L6 remained on their territory which is unusual for a female. Usually the males maintain the territory and the females pick a male with a territory they like. Normally if a male dies or leaves for some reason, the female will go find another male on that male’s territory so having a female stay on territory without her mate is unusual. In four years of monitoring this is the only time this has happened.
More excitement in Drum Bay too. We discovered that the nest that Amanda was afraid had failed last week actually has two chicks. Sneaky oystercatchers!! Plus we had a female switch mates which is pretty unusual mid-season. Adult pairs switch mates all the time during the non-breeding season but a mate switch during the breeding season usually means there was a death in the family so to speak. J7 who has been paired with J8 in Bastrop Bay since January 2012 when they were banded suddenly turned up paired with a Drum Bay male, JK who was until a week or so ago paired with an unbanded female. We saw J7 and J8 together on April 4 so between then and now, something probably happened to J8. We will never know for sure unless we see J8 again and can confirm that he is still alive. Additionally JK and J7 already had two scrapes so I expect they will have a nest very soon. It amazes me how fast a mate switch can occur. Last year we had some adult mortality too and all the remaining birds had new mates within two weeks. I think there is a singles oyster bar out there somewhere :-).
On Friday we found six new nests. All of them are renests except one. The one belongs to JJ & U2 and this is a cause for celebration as U2 is was banded by us as a chick in 2011. It’s the first of that batch of chicks to have a nest! I had planned to put a video camera on 15 & 16’s nest because I thought it was about to hatch so one of the volunteers and I lugged all the stuff including a 40 lb battery from the boat to the shore only to discover that there were two small chicks and the last egg was in the process of hatching. I took one second to snap the photo below and then we quickly hauled everything back to the boat and got out of there. Just before we had arrived a Crested Caracara had flown over and the adults had gone nuts calling and flying up and chasing it away. I don’t think the Atlantic coast birds have to worry about caracaras!
Current Stats: 12 nests being incubated, 24 failed nests, 11 nests with confirmed chicks
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