Happy Monday! One month into my internship, and I am having a blast. I have been exploring new places such as Bodega Bay, been on a kayaking adventure, spent time hiking around Elkhorn Slough collecting shorebird data, and worked on a neat project regarding the Black Osytercatchers off Pacific Grove’s rocky coast.
The Black Oystercatcher is an all black bird that has yellow eyes and a very distinctive long thick beak that is a bright red-orange color. Oystercatchers are found on rocky coasts and small sea islets along the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Baja, where pairs defend their territory year round and feed on mussels, limpets, and other shellfish. A pair will usually mate for life and takes turns incubating eggs, but unfortunately egg and chick survival is not very successful due to predation and disturbance.
Oystercatchers are very vulnerable to disturbance of their nests sites, therefore the Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Project is working on roping off nesting rocks around the Pacific Grove coast to deter people from climbing these rocks at low tide. Pacific Grove is a very popular place to visit on a beautiful sunny day, by locals as well as many tourists, and people love to climb the highest rocks to take selfies. When people climb these rocks and approach oystercatcher nests, the oystercatchers will fly away allowing other animals such as gulls to come into the territory and eat their eggs or other predators such as a Peregrine Falcon to eat their chicks. People can also step on oystercatcher eggs while climbing or walking around the rocks, since oystercatchers lay their eggs directly on the rocks.
By roping off some of the nesting rocks accessible to people, the Black Oystercatcher Monitoring Project hopes to protect nesting sites during the breeding season. I will be monitoring the roped off areas for the effectiveness of the “Keep Off” signs, by documenting compliance by people. We are hoping that people stop, read, and comply with these signs before climbing the rocks to take selfies, as it can only take one disturbance to determine if a pair of oystercatchers will successfully raise their chicks this season.