Thursday, August 23, 2018

And then there were TWO!

On Monday, 8/20 around 3:30 PM one of the Wrightsville Beach Bird Stewards (WBBS) reported that she saw 2 big gray Black Skimmer chicks and 11 adult Black Skimmers!!!  One had just flown in and went behind the dunes with additional adults.  What a surprise!

Seven adult Black Skimmers, an Oystercatcher (CT4) and the second chick roosted in the posting for over 3 hours and then easily flew across the inlet. Here are two pictures of the second chick as seen through a scope.

 The Black Skimmer pair with our other chick (the one we banded #47) continued to roost by the point at the inlet while the other chick and Black Skimmers were in the posting. The new “field readable” #47 band was wonderful in allowing us to know exactly what bird we were looking at!  We are so thankful that we were able to capture and band our south end chick (banded #47), and we watched #47 easily move when beach goers approached and fly over the water and mimic skimming behavior.  Both of the Black Skimmer chicks continued the resting posture of lying flat on the ground and appear to disappear in the sand. 
Black Skimmer chick bathing in the surf
photo by Shelia White

BS chick dancing on the beach
photo by Shelia White
BS chick "skimming" in the surf
photo by Shelia White

BS chick playing in the surf
photo by Shelia White

We continue to see flocks of birds roosting on the south end either by the water or in the posting.  Sunday afternoon (8/19)  the WBBS saw a large flock of Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Least Terns and Common Terns.  We also have been seeing increasing numbers of Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Willets, Oystercatchers…and of course the Great Black Back Gull and Laughing Gulls. 

The birds are moving all the time now and if you happen to arrive when they decided to fly across the inlet and roost on the other side it seems like the nesting season is over but there is still much to see!

Our last bird walk of the season is planned for Monday, 8/27.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Nesting Season Slowing Down

The torrential rains on the south end of Wrightsville Beach have finalized the nesting of the Black Skimmers and the Common Terns that were nesting on the front of the dunes the last week of July.  On the last nest check (7/30) we had 12 active nests on the front dune and on the beach, but the storms and the heavy rainfall in the following days that week washed all the eggs out of the nests. 

We have one strong and fast growing Black Skimmer chick to enjoy! And flying lessons have already begun for this little one.  
Here is our Black Skimmer chick practicing FLIGHT!! Notice it is only about 2 feet above the ground! A milestone.... If you zoom in, you can see its leg bands!
photo by Shelia White
On August 7 the chick was caught and bands were placed on its legs.  You will notice a metal band on its right leg and a black “field readable” band with white numbers…#47 on its left leg.  With this field readable band we have the possibility of easily seeing this chick when it returns to Wrightsville Beach in future years and knowing it was our 2018 special chick!!!  

We continue to see large groups of our Black Skimmers on the beach and in the inlet! There were 191 Black Skimmers in the colony the other day.  The birds are moving all the time now and if you happen to arrive when they decided to fly across the inlet and roost on the other side it seems like the season is over but it is not.  Large numbers are on the move because they do not have chicks to care for in the posted area.

Black Skimmers and Common Terns will randomly fly over the posted area and some Least Terns  and Royal Terns can occasionally be seen.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Black Skimmer Chicks

We have  Black Skimmer chicks that can be seen from outside the posting!  
Look carefully in the top picture and find the Black Skimmer chick camouflaged inside the posting.
photos by Jeff Hall

photos by Jeff Hall

While our NC Audubon biologist Lindsay Addison was on the beach last week she noticed that four Black Skimmers cooling by the water had metal leg bands.  She was able to use her scope to read the silver engraved numbers, recorded the numbers and looked up the specific band numbers on the national bird band database.  GOOD NEWS: The Skimmers were banded as chicks at our south end nesting colony on Wrightsville Beach in 2013, 2014 and 2015!!!  They are our birds and have returned to our beach to nest!!! 
We currently have approximately 160 nesting pairs = at least 320 Black Skimmers at the South End.
photos by Jeff Hall

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Oystercatcher Chick Update

We have not seen the American Oystercatcher chick on the beach or being fed by parents for over 48 hours. The parents have been seen on the beach alone and we are uncertain about what happened to the chick. According to the American Oystercatcher Working Group, most chick mortality takes place in the first two weeks of life and generally just prior to fledging (flying). The most frequent causes of death for chicks in North Carolina include exposure, mammalian and avian predation, ghost crabs and human disturbance.

We are pleased to have been able to share our first chick in three years with many beach goers and we're disappointed in this result. 

But we remain optimistic about this challenging nesting season and look forward to Black Skimmer and Common Tern chicks soon.

One of our WB Bird Stewards, Bonnie-Jeanne Berg, not only expressed what many of us are feeling but took some (now cherished) photos of the chick.

" I referred the chick to my Saturday morning beach-goers as our "Golden Child".... and what a show we had from the family... hope you enjoy .... and I am looking forward to our next babies... the show must go on.... and how thankful we will be!"

look closely to see the chick's legs under the mom
photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

American Oystercatcher Chick

photo by Tom Hanna

This little chick is the first American Oystercatcher chick seen on South Wrightsville Beach since 2015!! 

The young chick was able to stand upright and run short distances within hours of hatching. Chicks will escape predators by hiding, particularly in the first 10 days.  A chick responds to parent alarm calls by running for cover, then lying immobile. 

The oystercatcher banded with CKX is the female, the momma of our chick!

Within 1–2 days of hatching, we watched the parent and chick head towards the water.
On the way to the beach!

Chick enjoying the water!
photos by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

Our chick is fed bivalves, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and other marine invertebrates that inhabit intertidal areas. Chicks are dependent on adults for food for at least 60 days after hatching.
photos by Tom Hanna

And in other news.....

We recently discovered Black Skimmer and Common Tern nests (with eggs) on the beach outside of our posted area. So the postings have been moved and there is a lot of activity to watch on the beach!

Posting being moved so that nests are protected.
Activity within in the newly posted area.

The Wrightsville Beach Black Skimmer colony appears to be the largest in the state of North Carolina this year! Upwards of 200 can regularly be seen at the water's edge or flying overhead.

photos by Tom Hanna

photos by Tom Hanna

and finally.... here is a short video of the new chick for you to enjoy!

click on link to view in YouTube

Friday, June 22, 2018

Today's Lesson: Nest Check vs Nest Census

Black Skimmer nest with 2 eggs!!
(photo by Bill Segur)
We have news to brighten your day!  Our NC Audubon biologist, Lindsay Addison, conducted a NEST CENSUS early this morning.
First thing you need to know is the difference between a “nest check” and a “nest census". Lindsay has been doing "nest checks" regularly since the beginning of the season.
A nest check is a sampling of nests marked with tongue depressors at the beginning of nesting to enable the biologist to follow up on the activity of that particular nest.  A number is assigned to the nest, such as BS 02 which marks a Black Skimmer nest #2, CT for Common Tern, etc.   These labeled nests are checked on a regular basis to follow laying of eggs, loss of eggs, and anticipation of hatching.  It also enables us to determine eggs that are abandoned (nonviable) and predated by gulls or crows because they were obviously pecked.  Lindsay has been following between 16-30 nest.

Common Tern nest with tongue depressor label to the left
As you know, we have lost many nests to crows and gulls, but the Black Skimmers, Common Terns and American Oystercatchers have kept re-nesting!

         A nest census is conducted when the biologist feels that we are at the peak of nesting…which Lindsay did this morning at 6:30 AM.  Early morning is always the best time to conduct a census as the birds have rested during the night and the temperature is the coolest it will be during daylight.       
          A nest census counts EVERY nest in the colony.

And the number of nests is (drumroll, please) ….
     BLACK SKIMMERS       137
     COMMON TERNS              7

Lindsay reported that we had not lost any Black Skimmer nests since her last nest check and that the Black Skimmer nests have between 1-2 eggs.  There do not appear to be any nests with 3-4 egg clutches.  Approximately 25 Black Skimmer eggs were abandoned and another 25 or so were predated by gulls or crows.
The 3 Common Tern nests are still there from her last check and we have 4 new nests for a total of 7!!
The American Oystercatchers still have the two nests since her last nest check.
We are so happy to share this good news!  Our Black Skimmer colony appears to be the largest in the State of North Carolina this year.  
We anxiously await the arrival of some chicks!
Enjoy your weekend and we hope to see you on the beach!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Happy Summer Solstice!



Although we lost the four nests we were following on the south end, as of Lindsay’s last nest check we have 2 active nests on SWB.  We have a number of oystercatchers visiting the colony now resulting in territorial displays by the lone oystercatcher on the beach whose mate is on the nest.  At times, oystercatchers who have lost nests at Masonboro Island, for example, and have given up trying to re-nest will visit Wrightsville Beach and disturb the nesting birds here.  The piping is loud and the head bobbing displays are rather comical and fun to watch.

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photos by Kevin Giannini

Little CP2 in the summer of '15
photo by Michelle Frazier
Some really wonderful Oystercatcher news….A lot of effort goes into banding American Oystercatchers in North Carolina with green “field readable” bands so we can follow the specific activities of a particular bird.  Yesterday Lindsay was able to recapture an Oystercatcher with the green band of CP2 on Lea-Hutaff Island.  CP2 and her mate are re-nesting with a one-egg clutch.  CP2 is a female (DNA from her feathers determined that she is a female) fledged from the south end of Wrightsville Beach in 2015…the last year we fledged chicks on Wrightsville Beach!!!  How fantastic is that!!! One of “our” chicks is now nesting in our area….!!!!   Lindsay’s dedication and hard work to capture and to band Oystercatchers in our area enables us to celebrate this wonderful event!
CP2 and CP3 being banded in '15
photo by Don Ellson

CP3 and CP2 with parent on SWB in '15
photo by John Sutton

The nesting Black Skimmers did better this last nest check and only lost 3 nests of the 16 specific nests that Lindsay is monitoring due to predation.   

Large groups of Black Skimmers continue to gather at the water’s edge to cool themselves and switch places with their mates on nests in the dunes.  There were over 250 by the water on Tuesday this week, and 232 yesterday.   The Wrightsville Beach Bird Stewards love sitting with the Skimmers at the water’s edge and chatting with people about these beautiful birds as they walk by.  Our beach visitors love hearing how the Black Skimmers migrate from South America to nest here with us!

photos by Bill Segur

The Brood-to-Be (notice eggs in nest!)
photo by Bill Segur

The Expectant Couple
photo by Bill Segur

photos by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

photos by Bonnie-Jean Berg

photos by Mary-Ann Walton


We have 3 active nests as of our last check.  Avian predators (likely crows) have hit them hard.


It is likely that the Willets have taken their chicks towards the Coast Guard Station and Banks Channel.  We have not had any reports of chicks on the beach or caught in the inlet current this year.  Nor have we seen any aggressively protecting behavior of the Willets recently which leads us to believe that they have moved their chicks.

photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg