With July around the corner, humans are just starting to gear up for the Fourth of July, but oystercatchers have been at the beach since March. Though July is still the height of nesting season in most places in the eastern U.S., things are a little different than they were in the spring. Egg-laying is approaching an end for oystercatchers. If they loose a clutch this late in the season, they probably will not try again. Rather, many are busy rearing chicks, and some have even fledged youngsters. So it’s the perfect time to look at how the Oystercatcher Six did this year.
Arnie was the first bird to join the flock last year, and he returned to Ferry Slip Island on the Cape Fear River and nested in the very same spot. Unfortunately, he lost his first nest, probably to gulls, and his second nest hatched only one chick (a second egg was lost before hatching). That, too, was lost, also likely to gulls, so he and his unbanded mate have not raised a chick. They will have to try again next year.
Farther north on South Core Banks, CF7 paired up with an unbanded mate and hatched three chicks on May 26. Two of the chicks were banded on June 18, about a week before they reached fledging age. They are now CLJ and CLH. Their sibling managed to escape detection by the banders, but all three fledged in late June, making CF7 the proud mom of three grown “kids.”
Meanwhile, on Cape Lookout National Seashore’s North Core Banks, CFX was seen throughout the nesting season and appeared to be paired with an unbanded bird. However, the biological technicians could not locate a nest. There are many predators on that end of the island, and nests have not lasted long there, so it’s likely CFX did have nests, but lost them too quickly for them to be found.
Finally on Wrightsville Beach we waited and searched and hoped, but Oreo never arrived back from Florida. We still don’t know what happened to her, but an unbanded pair took over her territoryperhaps one of them was Oreo’s unbanded mate from last yearand raised a single fledgling, CKK.
So, two of our six oystercatchers have reproduced successfully this year, totaling four fledglings. Over the past two breeding seasons, all but UP and CFX have produced at least one fledgling (though Oreo’s fledgling sadly died after learning to fly). As this tiny group illustrates, it’s not easy being an oystercatcher. Every year brings with it a new set of threats and obstacles to overcome. However, given the right conditions and a break from human disturbance, they will succeedperhaps not every year, but hopefully often enough to keep the coast enlivened by the oystercatchers’ unique charm.