Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Entertainment Continues

On the South End of Wrightsville Beach 

From Sunrise...
photo by John Vorisek
To Sunset...
photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg
You will find the Wrightsville Beach Bird Stewards at your service...
photo by Bonnie-Jeanne Berg

NESTING UPDATE as of June 27 

Least Terns
Most of the Least Tern nests have hatched now. Some of the pairs that had to re-nest are still incubating, but most are busy feeding chicks. Hatching started early the second week of June (probably June 8) and will continue into early July.  We’ll start to see flying chicks around or shortly after the Independence Day weekend.
photo by Laura Scullin
Least Tern Chick stretching its wings
photo by Laura Scullin
photo by John Sutton 
photo by John Sutton
Least Tern Chicks are getting their feathers!
photo by John Sutton

photo by Kathy Hannah
photo by Don Ellson
photo by Don Ellson
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
Please keep your eyes open for chicks that need extra help when they get caught outside the posting! And we need to keep the area clear of fishing line and lures that can injure the birds.  
photos by John Vorisek
We counted 232 Least Tern nests on our census, which is roughly 7% of the state’s nesting population of Least Terns!

Black Skimmers
The Black Skimmers began hatching during the first week of June too, just like the Least Terns. About half of their nests were hatched out on Tuesday’s nest check, and chicks are becoming more visible, especially if you scope out the dunes in the front and on the west side of the posting.

photo by John Sutton
photo by John Sutton

photo by Kathy Hannah

photo by Don Ellson

photo by Don Ellson

This "disposal" behavior helps keep the scrape clean while the chicks are still in and around it for the first few days of their lives. The inside of the shell has a little membrane and often a little goo in it after hatching, which may attract ants or smell enticing to predators. So, it's best for the birds to remove the eggshell from the nest. Many species do this, including all the ones we see at Southern Wrightsville Beach.
photos by Kathy Hannah

We counted 175 Black Skimmer nests on our census, which is roughly 21% of the state’s nesting population of Black Skimmers!

We are happy to see that the pair on the sound side of the posting is still raising two chicks. Lindsay and Sharna banded BOTH of the chicks (dark green CP2 and CP3). One of the parents is dark green CKX.

photos by Don Ellson

photo by John Sutton
Unfortunately, we have not seen the pair that had been raising a chick at the southeast corner of the posting since June 15. If you see it, please let us know! Sadly, the other two pairs have lost their chicks as well. However, one of those pairs is nesting again, and one of them has also been banded. She is dark green CP1.
Common Terns
The Common Tern chicks made their first appearance as fledglings on Monday! Another parent with 3 chicks was seen this week in the front dunes on the sound side, close to where the Oystercatcher chicks hang out!  Keep an eye out for them near the front dunes. Three pairs are also still incubating eggs.

photos by Kathy Hannah


It is not unusual for oystercatchers, terns, and skimmers to re-nest following the loss of eggs or even young chicks. They won’t raise multiple broods in a season—once they fledge a batch, they are done! But, they will persist in trying to do so. In order to re-nest, they go back through courtship, so you may see some late mating and fish presenting going on. You may also see some individuals—especially among the Least Terns—presenting fish to very uninterested birds. These are probably young males who know they are supposed to try to attract a mate but that haven’t succeeded. But, they are getting good practice.

photo by Michelle Frazier


Check out a story that aired on WHQR about the south end! 

Check out this news article that appeared in the Lumina News this week!  
photo by Lindsay Addison

You might notice some little wooden lean-tos in the colony the next time you visit. We added these to provide extra sources of shade for the chicks. The long heat wave we had didn't seem to have an appreciable impact on mortality rates (we always see some dead chicks which can be due to heat, ants, out-competition by siblings, etc.), and temperatures are now a little more reasonable, but Lindsay finally had time to gather some scrap wood to make a few chick shelters. They have been used successfully at other sites, particularly in Florida. Please share observations of how the birds react to them, and if they seem to be drawing crows or gulls!

Marlene was able to capture these photos this morning. She used her scope and phone, a skill I have yet to master!
photo by Marlene Eader
photo by Marlene Eader
Green Herons
Green Heron Chicks along the parking strip have fledged!
photos by Kathy Hannah

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Oystercatcher, Least Tern, Skimmer Chicks.... and a Beach Rescue

American Oystercatcher Chicks
Our oystercatcher chicks are growing up very quickly. The picture on the right was taken 6/4 and the one of the left was taken 6/17. Already the fluff is turning into feathers.
Least Tern Chicks
On these hot days look for the least tern chicks in any shade available. Some take refuge near the decoys, others in the grasses or any small pile of debris.

Black Skimmer Chicks
Each day new Black Skimmer chicks can be seen. They are still staying close to their parents.

Beach Rescue
Walking the beach early this morning I found a least tern chick that was trapped in a rut left by tire tracks. Perhaps the chick was in the rut seeking shade or just fell in and couldn't get out. Look closely at these pictures.  In the top two the chick (about a week old) is barely visible. Then in the close up you can see how the chick is camouflaged in the sand. I picked up the least tern chick (a very new experience for me) and gently put him back right inside the postings. The speed with which he took off reassured me that there were no permanent injuries.
So please look carefully when you're on the beach!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

News Flash (and Black Skimmer chicks debut)

Just a quick note to share three important things...

1.  Lindsay Addison (NC Audubon Staff) conducted the Black Skimmer nest census Monday, 6/15 (assisted by Jill and Marlene) and they counted 175 nests!!!  A new record for the south end...prior record was 137. 

Totals are  Least Terns        232
                Black Skimmers 175
                Oystercatchers      4
                Common Terns     12
                Willets                  4

Skimmers on the beach
 (photo by Laura Scullin)

2.  Katharine Frazier (Audubon's Coastal Team writing intern) and our fellow steward debuted her first writing for the Audubon NC website. Well done, Katharine!!!  We love her writing style and think you will too.  Check out the link below..  

3.  Thanks to stewards, Julie Hurley & Jackson Travis for rescuing 4 Willet chicks on Monday, 6/15.  The chicks were being carried away in the current in Masonboro Inlet. Julie and her son Jackson were alerted by the willet parents and used their paddle and surf boards to carry the chicks safely to shore!   Thank you for your quick action and concern! 

Willets at the shoreline
(photo by Laura Scullin)

And now for the big news today (6/16)... 

We have Black Skimmer chicks!!!!!

You will have to look very close to see the chicks!
Both parents are providing shade for the chicks.
This chick was probably born today.
In the next set of pictures two chicks are visible (barely, but they are there)

We've already had two fantastic bird walks this week. Yesterday there were at least 10 adults and 10 children for our weekly Monday morning walk. And today a group of over 20 people from the Wilmington Newcomers' Club were on the beach. In fact it is one of the Newcomers who saw the first Black Skimmer chick. (Perhaps we will have to recruit her to be a Bird Steward!)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Presenting (drum roll please) the Least Tern Chicks of 2015

A bit over dramatic? Perhaps. But many of the Wrightsville Beach Bird Stewards have been waiting a long time to see these adorable chicks. Last year no least terns were able to nest successfully so the anticpation has been buildng until today's crescendo.

I am sure we are going to be treated to some amazing photos of these courageous creatures but here are some of the first. Michelle Frazier was at the colony this morning and offers these glimpses into the world of Least Tern chicks.

Decoys provide excellent shade. I'm sure Lindsay planned it this way all along!

Seriously, it seemed that the majority of the Least Tern's sitting were sheltering a little somebody or two.

...or THREE!

That one's trouble!

When I went out to the colony this afternoon I could not stop smiling at these new chicks checking out their new world.  It was quite warm so most of them (less than 24 hours old) were staying tucked under mom or dad.

Occassionally a chick would peek out and check out its new world.

The parents kept their new chicks carefully shaded in the heat.

New chick checking out a new world to be explored.