Saturday, May 31, 2014

Friday Bird Walks and a Few Words from John James Audubon

Our Friday morning bird walks have begun! Plan on joining us. And then come back again because there is always something new to share.

The dredging continues but the birds have not been stopped.

In fact Green Herons have been observed even before you reach the beach. Look for nests in the hedges along the parking strip between public access 43 and 44.

And once you reach the beach there is much to be seen!

Black Skimmers

In the words of John James Audubon...
 "The flight of the Black Skimmer is perhaps more elegant than that of any water bird with which I am acquainted.... But, to observe the aerial movements of the Skimmer to the best advantage, you must visit its haunts in the love season."

And, folks, love is in the air!

And for those Skimmers who have already found a partner the waiting game has begun as they rest and guard their nests.

Common Tern

Our common terns are sitting on their eggs just out of our view. But any disturbance on the beach (person, dog, ghost crab, crow,etc.) causes them to react.

"...for they have seen you, and by now they all fly up screaming. Although unable to drive you away, they seem most anxiously to urge your departure by every entreaty they  they can devise; just as you would do, were your family endangered ..... Humanity fills your heart, you feel for them as a parent feels..." (John James Audubon)

While we wait for the common tern chicks to appear it is fun watching them at the shoreline cleaning their feathers. Every day the terns adjust them, stretching and pulling at those that have become worn out.

American Oystercatcher 

But as we wait for the Black Skimmer and Common Tern eggs to hatch the American Oystercatchers continue to entertain us by bringing their chicks out to explore the beach.

Unfortunately sometimes the chicks need to avoid leftovers from a beach picnic :(

When you're at the beach the American Oystercatcher is easy to recognize. 

In the words of John James Audubon ...
"bill vermillion, fading to yellow on the worn parts toward the end....

 Edges of eyelids vermilion; iris yellow."

And to end this week's posting here is a photo of a brand new least tern chick taken last year. Just a hint of what's ahead for all of us visiting the nesting area!
Photo by Marlene Eader

"While traveling, their light but firm flight is wonderfully sustained, 
and on hearing and seeing them on such occasions one is tempted 
to believe them to be the happiest of the happy."
--John James Audubon on the Least Tern
Photo by USFWS; Steve Hillebrand

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oystercatcher Chicks Make Their Maiden Voyage to the Shoreline

It started out as a "work morning" as several stewards added signs to the postings in anticipation of a very busy holiday weekend.

While posting on the ocean side of the inlet we watched skimmers sitting on their nests.

And then when we arrived at the other side of the posting we saw 
our oystercatcher family heading for the shoreline with their new chicks.

Although there are endless perfect captions to write for these priceless 
first family portraits we'll let your imaginations make these pictures come alive. 
Somehow we just know they are "talking" to each other.

It was added joy to see the chicks get their first "taste" of the water.

Since the temperature was in the high 80s the chicks took refuge 
under their parent for awhile before heading back to the dunes.


There are many more moments of discovery ahead for stewards and visitors to the beach 
as more birds nest and raise their chicks on Masonboro Inlet. 
Time to get out there and see it all ....

Local Bird Steward Makes the News

Katherine Makes the News!

Click on the link above to read an article featured in the Star News! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nesting Activity as of May 21

The Black Skimmers have over 40 nests now and are scraping and laying more eggs every day.

We now have 11 Common Tern nests, all incubating.

Sadly, all five Least Tern nests failed within two days of being laid. This was mostly due to Ruddy Turnstone predation, likely enabled by disturbance. One nest, though, was crushed by a beachgoer who entered the posting.

The second oystercatcher pair’s eggs are beginning to hatch. One was started on Wednesday, meaning tiny fractures are appearing in the shell where the chick is beginning to break through. The hatching process can take a few days, so they will probably hatch Friday or Saturday. The other two pairs are still incubating.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We Have Chicks!

May 19 Update

Least Terns
Least Terns attempted to nest at the south end, but failed. Steward Jim Tyckoski observed nesting behavior on May 8, and three nests were found on May 9th and two more were found on May 10th, but by May 12 all had failed. Ruddy Turnstone predation was likely to blame, and this type of nest loss can be triggered by human disturbance. When the birds are flushed off their nests, predators like crows and turnstones move in. They peck a hole in the egg and eat the yolk. Both beachgoers and dredge workers flushed the Least Terns. It's also difficult for small groups of Least Terns to be successful. Larger colonies are more cohesive and better able to protect themselves from predators and other threats.

Common Terns
We currently have 8 Common Tern nests in the colony. You can view two of them soundside on the small dune just inside the posting near where the construction netting is.  (I will make a map Monday and send it along.)  The Common Terns began nesting on May 12. We mark all Common Tern nests and track them to hatching or failure.

Black Skimmers
Black Skimmers began laying eggs on May 14. As of Friday we had 9 nests, and more surely were laid over the weekend. We mark a subset of skimmer nests (there are too many to follow them all) and use hatching success of those nests to get an idea of how the entire colony did as a whole.

American Oystercatchers
The fourth pair finally laid its eggs! We now have four active nests. The first nest, the one visible from the sound side stewarding spot, is due to hatch any day now. The second nest, which is at the southernmost point in the "construction zone" is not far behind. Keep an eye on the first nest for signs of hatching--you might see an adult carry an eggshell away from the nest or see more standing rather than sitting. (FYI a chick was seen today, May 21!)


Mom and pop willet were showing off their four new chicks by the shoreline today.

Our very brave Lindsay Addison (Coastal Biologist for Audubon NC) is recording data for our next update!

Can't wait to see you at the beach. 

New things happening every day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Birds Are Back (and so are we)

The birds are back and the 2014 nesting season is officially underway!

The challenges of nature continue as stewards have seen crows trying to steal eggs and watched ghost crabs in the nesting area. With this week's full moon we have also had to repost several areas that were washed away with the high tide.

In addition to the Skimmers, there are common terns with eggs in their nests and 
lots of sightings of least terns courting in the area.

Don't forget to look for the Oystercatchers sitting on their nest at the top of the dune!
(Look closely to see her facing front and then turning her back :)

Update as of May 12
We have 4 pairs of Oystercatchers within the posting and 3 have nests with eggs.  The first nest that we have been watching with our scope is due to hatch any day now so we will be watching it carefully for signs of the hatching!

Courtship and scraping continues with the Black Skimmers and we expect eggs on the ground this week.

Some Least Terns have returned and began nesting this week.  We had several eggs on the ground this week, but there was no evidence of the nests on Saturday night… we believe that some were raided by some Ruddy Turnstones we observed in the posting, others abandoned by disturbances and/or covered by the blowing sands and high winds and another crushed by an individual who went into the posting one evening…