Last week I saw two Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) chicks, although I was so far away I was not able to see any details – only small black blobs stumbling around mom and dad. This week, however, I was able to see them close up and in much more detail at Wilder Ranch State Park (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549). The BLOY chicks are so adorable, just little dark fluff balls roaming around! I was so fortunate to be able to witness an incubation exchange in which the nest still had two eggs and one chick; it was such an amazing sight. There was also another pair in Wilder Ranch that had all three eggs hatch, and I am so excited to see how many of them made it.
Since the eggs are starting to hatch, I need to keep a keen eye out for the nests that are accessible in order to collect DNA samples. I have recently begun helping out Mike Powers from the Marina Bureau of Land Management Office with the collection of BLOY DNA samples. He is collecting as many DNA samples as possible all along the coast, in order to determine whether there are different subspecies of BLOY or whether the entire population is just one species. The best way to get DNA from BLOYs is to collect the eggshell as soon as possible, from shell still containing part of the membrane, an entire egg that just never came out, or a dead carcass. I have yet to be able to collect any samples because the areas where I am seeing chicks are currently inaccessible, but soon it will be possible (hopefully by next week so I can share that experience with you all)!