Black Oystercatcher Final Update 2015

This is my last blog as an intern for EFTA, and I figured that I should write about the results of a project that I spent a lot of time on during this internship, my Black Oystercatcher monitoring. Earlier this spring I also conducted a study quantifying the effectiveness of ropes and signs in decreasing the amount of human disturbance in BLOY nesting sites, so I have become somewhat emotionally invested in the BLOY pairs that live in the Monterey Peninsula.

As of July 31, 2015 there were 12 Monterey Peninsula (MP) pairs along Pacific Grove, 12 Pebble Beach (PB) pairs, and 11 Point Lobos (PL) State Reserve pairs with a total of 35 BLOY territorial pairs in the northern Monterey County rocky shoreline. Out of the 35 pairs 26 of them nested and 6 attempted to re-nest after losing their first clutch.

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MP-2 BLOY Pair that re-nested twice but could not produce any hatchlings.

There were a total of 70 eggs in which 24 hatched into chicks. From those 24 that hatched 16 chicks were lost and currently there are 5 chicks and 3 fledglings remaining with an additional 4 eggs still in their incubation stage. While these numbers may not mean much to those reading, it does mean a lot to the 30 California Coastal ¬†National Monument volunteers who dedicated their time to monitor their respective BLOY pairs. As odd as it sounds one does get to learn the little idiosyncrasies of each BLOY pair and how they aren’t mindless creatures, but birds that actually have social etiquette and life goals that are passed down to the younger generations.

To me it was particularly upsetting to watch over pairs in the MP-4 and MP-5 territories, which is where I did my wildlife disturbance study. Even though protective measures were in place, MP-4 had 2 nesting attempts and 5 eggs, but none hatched. On the other hand, MP-5 had one nesting attempt and while both of their eggs hatched, they lost both chicks.

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Juvenile BLOYs. The feathers are becoming darker compared to the grey/black chick feathers. The bill is also becoming more orange instead of the black/orange dirty mix. These are the fledglings of the MP-7 BLOY Pair.

This goes to show that nesting success goes beyond human disturbance and is complex and dependent on many factors. There are physical factors (tides, wind, terrain) biological agents (predators from avian and non avians) and even biological characteristics (inexperienced parents, bad breeding habits, inadequate foraging abilities) that affect the nesting success of any species. However, the monitoring that is currently going on and hopefully continues in the future will slowly bring into light not only answers but further questions on how to manage BLOY populations and habitats, and to a larger extent, other similar bird species.

dangomez04
dangomez@sas.upenn.edu
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