The Oystercatcher Diaries 2014: Week 14

By Susan Heath

A strong late season cold front roared through our area this week with heavy rain and thunderstorms and small craft advisory worthy north winds that kept us off the water for a few days. To top that off, just prior to the storm we had high tides from the south winds sucked in by the approaching cold front. I had great fears for all our chicks as they can succumb to exposure pretty easily in the unexpected cold and wet. On Thursday I got to the boat ramp a little early and was able to set up a scope on one of the islands where we banded two chicks last week. I was VERY happy to see both of them hanging out with their parents and enjoying the beautiful sunshine and low tides following the front. What a relief!

As it turned out, all the chicks were fine. We did lose two nests in West Galveston Bay, one in Dickinson Bay, and at least two in Drum Bay. We weren’t able to get out to the Bastrop and Drum Bay sites this week due to the weather but I scoped several of the nests from shore as best as I could. Two were clearly overwashed as the adults were nowhere around or seen feeding on a nearby reef. The unusual one on the cement slab must still be ok though because a bird was there incubating it. I saw a coyote nosing around that area. I hope it doesn’t find the nest.

A couple of years ago they created a dredge spoil containment area in the middle of Jones Bay. There are four small islands in that bay and we have had as many as five pairs of oystercatchers nesting on them. This year there are only three. I’ve been wondering if some enterprising oystercatchers would take advantage of the dredge spoil and use it for nesting. On Monday we found that a pair from one of the islands had moved over to the dredge spoil area and built a nest on the rock containment wall. This is the second nest I’ve found on a rock jetty like this. The other one failed miserably because it was so low, but this one looks like it has a much better chance. Notice how they carried shells to the spot to make their scrape. Nice handy work CA & L6!

UWGalB159 eggs resizedUWGalB159 annotated resized

We had somewhat of a chick banding extravaganza this week. On Monday we banded two chicks from a nest on South Deer Island. They are now WH and WL. Cute as they can be!

WH & WL resized

On Thursday we banded three chicks from one nest on one of those small islands in Jones Bay I mentioned earlier. I am always nervous about catching chicks so catching three at once had me a little jumpy but it went really well. Amanda jumped off the boat and chased all three down without incident. Here they are.

Sue holding WM WN WP two resized

Current Stats: 13 nests being incubated, 42 failed nests, 8 nests with confirmed chicks, 9 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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