Since arriving on his wintering grounds in mid-August, Shuckster (formerly known as CFX for the code on his bands) has rarely ventured beyond Capers Island, staying within a radius of about two miles. There have been, though, a few notable exceptions when he’s ventured to Dewees Island to the south and Bulls Bay to the north. As the map shows, Shuckster made a brief visit to Dewees Island on September 23, and then returned in mid October and early November. However, it appears that on those occasions, Shuckster only stayed for a few hours. Dewees Island is just about three miles from the middle of Capers Island, where Shuckster’s activity is centered.
Shuckster also made ventures into Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, which lies between Capers Island and the town of Georgetown, SC. Shuckster visited Bird Island at the south end of Bulls Bay (in the refuge) at the end of October. He may have roosted and fed there for at least three days, since we received locations from him on October 27 and 29. White Island, which lies in the northern half of Bulls Bay, was visited on October 12 and from November 23 and 25. White Island is a little more distant then Dewees at eleven miles. Both White and Bird Island are small marshy islands ringed by shell rakes and mud flatsroosting and foraging habitat.
But, for the most part, we can see that Shuckster visits Mark Bay, a shallow body of water filled with marsh tussocks and oyster beds at Capers Island, and transits a few hundred yards across the Intracoastal Waterway to shell rakes, which make great roost sites as in the photo, and more shallow marshes.
If this seems a little restrictive, think about your favorite grocery store. You probably go there several times a week, and you know just where everything is. If you’re in a hurry and just want to pick up a few items, you can take the most direct route to each one, and you might even know when to go to avoid crowds. Similarly, by becoming familiar with a particular area, oystercatchers and other shorebirds likely learn where to go to find the habitat they need for each tidal stage, high, mid, and low. They also have roosts and foraging areas they use when the weather is particularly bad or the tides are especially low or high. Getting to know one area very well therefore saves them time and energy and ensures they can forage as efficiently as possible, just as getting to know a grocery store helps humans finish their shopping sooner. So, sticking to an area that provides excellent habitat and getting to know it well gives oystercatchers a leg up in staying fit and healthy over the winter months.