Last Friday was a big day for Arnie. He and his mate began their 2014 family by laying their first egg of the season. If Arnie is lucky, this will be the first egg of three that his mate will lay. Last year, he had a clutch of two eggs. Both hatched, and one chick survived to fledging, which is considered a successful nesting effort for an oystercatcher.
Arnie and his unbanded mate—which might be the same bird he paired with last year, since oystercatchers often do choose the same mate year after yearhave placed this year’s nest within 25 yards of their 2013 nest. This is also unusual. Oystercatchers often occupy the same territory, and it might be advantageous to them: they already know the neightborhood, so to speak. They join about a dozen pairs of oystercatchers all making Ferry Slip Island home this nesting season.
While Arnie is a veteran of the west side of Ferry Slip Island, new in the area this year are about 250 nesting Brown Pelicans just up the slope of the island’s shoreline from Arnie’s nest. In addition to hungry gulls, which would eat Arnie’s eggs if given the chance, the pelicans occasionally jostle oystercatchers’ eggs if they are nesting close by. This is not out of aggression, but simply due to the pelicans’ large size and their scavenging for sticks and other nesting material. Just like unaware people can step on oystercatcher nests, pelicans sometimes get too close as well. But, for most oystercatcher pairs on islands that also host pelicans, there is no trouble, and all species can successfully raise chicks.