The Oystercatcher Diaries 2014: Week 16

By Susan Heath

On Tuesday I was itching to get out and check on the birds to see how they survived all the boating activity over Memorial Day weekend but it was not to be. The weather was a little iffy so I checked it Monday night and again Tuesday morning. Weather.com said 0% chance of rain until around noon so I figured we could get in a morning run at least. We arrived at the boat ramp at 8:00am as usual and were greeted by dark thunder clouds rolling in. Weather.com still said 0% chance of rain but the radar told us that was clearly wrong. Within 20 minutes of our arrival the wind kicked up and the air turned cold. Amanda took a couple photos of the islands near the boat ramp where a couple pairs of oystercatchers nest.

Fat Boy's 2 in thunderstorm resized Fat Boys 3 in thunderstorm resized

Here’s what they look like normally.

Fat Boys Islands resized

Shortly after that it started pouring and didn’t stop until after noon. So much for the weather report.

We were finally able to get out there on Thursday. Things were good mostly. All the nests with unfledged chicks still had chicks and we discovered that one of them has three instead of just two. They are quite young though so there’s still a long way to go for them. Another nest hatched and we were happy to see two small chicks toddling after the adults. We did some observations on this pair which turned out to be a challenge because they were pretty frantic about all the Laughing Gulls. They were so pent up with anxiety that we saw them chase a Clapper Rail away that happened to saunter across their path! Eventually they corralled the chicks near a patch of spartina and both adults immediately went to sleep. It’s hard work looking after two toddlers, especially when you are surrounded by voracious chick eating machines!

We were not able to find the injured chick from last week but we didn’t see the healthy one either so they may have wandered back into the marsh where it’s hard for us to find them. All the chicks we banded last week were doing fine, but two chicks that already fledged have disappeared which is not a good sign. Normally chicks stay with their parents for several months after fledging because they have to learn how to feed efficiently. The fact that these two chicks are not with their parents probably means that something happened to them. We will keep watching for them though just in case they decided they were a little more independent that than they should and wandered off by themselves for a while.

On Friday we were both elated to find that the chicks in Bastrop Bay made it through the weekend. All was well with the nest there too and it should be hatched by next week. If you remember all the nests in Drum Bay failed a week or so ago from overwash and disturbance. Today we found three new nests there. Two of the pairs moved to a different location in their territory and the pair that had the nest on the cement slab made a nest on the ground on the same island with the slab. I don’t think that one stands a chance. First off, it’s really low, but second, that island gets a lot of disturbance because it is close enough that people can walk to it when the tide is low. We will keep our fingers crossed for them though. This is the third nest for that pair. They try so hard and fail so often.

UDrumB030 annotated resized

Current Stats: 10 nests being incubated, 49 failed nests, 6 nests with unfledged chicks, 18 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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