The Oystercatcher Diaries 2014: Week 13

By Susan Heath

It’s May now and things should be settling down a bit. Each time a chick fledges it means one less pair for us to monitor. Six chicks have fledged so far but there is one pair with two and another pair with three that are due to be banded next week. That will be exciting!  Here’s a couple shots of two of the fledged chicks with one of their parents. The first one is chick WA with it’s dad R4 and the second one is chick XW with it’s dad J6. The photos are courtesy of Amanda and the fancy EIH camera.

WA & R4 by Amanda resized XW & J6 by Amanda one resized

This week we banded chick WF. It’s one we looked for last week but couldn’t find. I also found out that the chick I banded at the Texas City Prairie Preserve belonged to a different pair and the one I had intended to band is now fledged without bands. The volunteers that monitor there have a hard time keeping track of things because they have to walk instead of monitor from a boat and they were trying to be cautious of the chick they knew was there so they didn’t walk around that area. Lo and behold, another pair laid a nest, hatched a chick, and raised it almost to fledging without being detected! These oystercatchers are sneaky I tell you. I’m particularly happy to have two chicks fledge from there this year though because last year the productivity at that site was zero. Here’s WF.

WF resized

But back to the subject of being sneaky – we had thought that K6 & JA’s second nest failed but last Monday we discovered they have a chick that is about two weeks old. And…. I may have mentioned that there is an unbanded pair near the boat ramp that has seemed particularly upset at our present the last few weeks. We couldn’t figure out why they were suddenly so reactive to us because we thought their nest had failed. On Friday we discovered they actually have two large chicks. These oystercatchers are making us look bad! Since we weren’t sure of the exact age of the Fat Boy’s chicks but could tell they were plenty big enough to band, we went ahead and banded them WJ and WK.

WJ resized WK resized

There has been an abandoned boat on one of the islands we monitor for over a year. Amanda Hackney, the Texas Audubon Coastal Warden has been trying to get someone to remove it ever since we discovered it there in early 2013 but has been unsuccessful. Clearly someone decided to do it though because we arrived on Friday to discover that not only was the boat gone but so were the eggs in the oystercatcher nest nearby. Because that pair nests in the middle of a large Laughing Gull colony, I had put a video camera there and it handily captured some Laughing gulls taking the eggs presumably while the oystercatchers were kept off the nest by the boat removal process. This is a classic example of how human disturbance can result in a nest being predated by gulls. I would love to show the video but I can’t figure out how to edit ASF files so if anyone out there knows how, give me a shout. Here’s the boat.

boat on Jigsaw resized

I had also put a motion activated camera on a nest that I thought would be predated by a raccoon because it is close to the mainland and we saw a raccoon there a month or so ago. I put the camera too close to the nest and so the photos are blurry but it still captured the menacing face of a coyote looking directly into it. The oystercatchers did not incubate the nest anymore after the coyote visit so it’s safe to say the coyote took the eggs. This is not the first time the cameras have captured a coyote taking eggs in this area. Here is a photo of the most recent predation event along with one from 2011 on another island in this area.

USwanL038 coyoteUGalB001 coyote

Current Stats: 16 nests being incubated, 36 failed nests, 8 nests with confirmed chicks, 6 chicks fledged

Our grant from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for this project requires a 1:1 match. If you would like to make a donation to help us meet our match goal, click on the donate now button and designate your donation to the oystercatchers. We appreciate your support!

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