Hatching time for American Oystercatchers

June 11, 2016

On a sandy spit on one of my favorite beaches there is a wonderful nesting area for shorebirds, terns and Black Skimmers.  It is a special place and offers a unique opportunity to view nesting birds that are usually in more remote areas. I visit as often as I can with camera in hand. On a recent visit I discovered that one of the oystercatcher nests had hatched.

Oystercatchers are usually quite skittish.  They are constantly on the lookout for danger such as gulls, crows, a raccoon or fox, or people.  At the first notion of a threat the watchful parents will sound an alarm call and the chicks run for cover.  As I sat near the nesting area, well outside of the posted signs and string that protect the nesting birds, the parents brought the family out from an open area behind the dunes where they nest.  The chicks scurried about exploring their world, but never more than  a few feet from one of the parents. One parent was the guardian and the other was on watch while the chicks picked up small bits of dried marsh grass or pieces of shell, poked around at the sand, and watched the nearby skimmers.  Every minute or so, they would retreat to the safety of the parent, settle beneath, and they step out to explore again with a restlessness that was appropriate for their age. 

These oystercatchers have made it through one hurdle in life; they hatched.  The road ahead will be tough. Not all will survive.  But here at this nesting site, they have a chance.  They are protected by a dedicated group of volunteers led by the National Audubon Society. The volunteers manage the posted signs and string that encircle the entire nesting area and keep people a safe distance from the nesting birds, and they do it with warm smiles and an eagerness to tell people about the birds such that maybe the visitors will take notice, observe and be a little more enlightened than they arrived.

These birds are the lucky ones!  


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