When CF7 dropped her transmitter a few months ago, we did not expect to hear from her again untilif all went wellshe returned to her breeding grounds on the northern end of Cape Lookout National Seashore. However, recently we got lucky and she was resightedand, even better, by a member of the public!
On October 7, Carl Miller was exploring the marshes near James Island, SC when he spotted a small group of oystercatchers. Fortunately, he had a camera along and spotted the green bands CF7 wears. Then he reported his sighting to the American Oystercatcher Band Database. Audubon North Carolina maintains the database and checks all public records for accuracy, making sure that the band code reported corresponds to a real bird. When we found that record waiting for us in the database, we were happy to see proof that CF7 was alive and doing well on her wintering grounds.
CF7 seems to be wintering just south of Charleston in the maze of marshes and oyster beds that sprawl between James Island and Folly Beach. You can see why the area would attract a bird that specializes on eating oysters. As in the photo, at low tide oyster beds are exposed and a smorgasbord is revealed for CF7 and her flock.
To show CF7’s winter hangout, we added a green dot on the tracking map where Carl saw her, and we added a dotted line from her last reported satellite location to illustrate the “as the crow flies” route. However, unlike Shuckster (formerly known as CFX), which is also wintering in South Carolina, we don’t know exactly when CF7 migrated or if she stopped over on her way south. We only know she was last seen in North Carolina on August 9 and next seen on October 7 about 275 miles south. And, we don’t know if she is moving around, like Oreo did when she shifted 30 miles from Cedar Key to Horseshoe Beach, or staying within a small area like Shuckster.
Although the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources does surveys along the coast for wintering oystercatchers, not every nook and cranny can be inspected, so some banded oystercatchers are inevitably missed on surveys. But, although development and human disturbance are threats to coastal birds, the upside to the ubiquity of people is that there are so many more eyes available to find banded birds. Anyone with binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens can look for banded birds. Oystercatcher bands are designed to be as legible as possible (the birds being relatively large helps too), and even the band color tells us something since the color corresponds to the state in which they were initially banded. However, it’s important to remember not to cause birds to flush when observing them. Approaching cautiously, watching to see if they become fidgety or nervous, and being patient are the keys to finding banded birds without causing them stress. And, of course, if you find a banded bird, be sure to report it! Banded Red Knots, Piping Plovers, and other shorebirds that are not oystercatchers can be reported to the website Banded Birds. Usually you will find out where your bird came from and learn a little bit about that individual’s story.
Want to learn more about reading oystercatcher bands? There is information at the American Oystercatcher Working Group’s website.