Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘american oystercatcher’

Updates from the Field: American Oystercatcher Monitoring on the Delaware Bay

Friday, May 17th, 2024

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

Welcome back to the second season of American Oystercatcher monitoring on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay beaches! CWF, and our partners at the Wetlands Institute and USFWS, have returned to the Bayshore to continue our research project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Last year, the CWF-led team surveyed 29 miles of Bayshore beaches, monitored 19 nesting pairs, banded seven adults and four chicks, and conducted invasive species removal. This year, we’re excited to build on that progress and learn more about this previously understudied oystercatcher population.

This American oystercatcher pair nested in a horseshoe crab shell, perfectly embodying the vibe of the Delaware Bayshore.

Band Resighting Sheds New Light on Delaware Bay Oystercatcher Population

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

When CWF began monitoring American oystercatchers nesting on the Delaware Bay this past spring, we also set out to place field-readable bands on as many oystercatcher adults and chicks as logistically possible. Band resights allow biologists to collect a wealth of information about site fidelity, habitat use, dispersal, and migration, especially when data is collected over many years. Since the Delaware Bay population of oystercatchers was previously unmonitored, we have a lot to learn about their life histories and how they may differ from other oystercatchers in the state, if at all. Where are these birds staging and wintering? Do breeding adults return to the same mates and nesting locations each year? Where do fledged chicks disperse, and will they return to their natal grounds on the Delaware Bay to breed upon reaching sexual maturity? Banding efforts, combined with resight data reported by biologists, dedicated volunteers, and the general public will help answer these questions (and more) as we increase the number of marked individuals on the Bayshore.

Orange C41 (aka “Crouton”) being equipped with a metal federal band on the lower leg. The color of the field-reable bands on the upper legs represents which state the bird was banded in (New Jersey and New York use orange), while the alphanumeric code on the band is unique to the individual bird. All handling of birds is conducted by trained individuals under proper permits.

Candid Camera: The Role of Game Cameras in American Oystercatcher Monitoring

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

This year, CWF embarked on a new, ambitious project to monitor and characterize the previously understudied population of American oystercatchers nesting along the Delaware Bayshore. Since so little is known about this breeding population, we had a lot of ground to cover this first field season, both physically and metaphorically. One of the goals of the project is to characterize threats to oystercatcher nest success on the bayshore, whether it be predators, flooding, or something else entirely. It sounds straightforward, but when you consider the span of the project (35 sites across approximately 45 miles of bayshore), monitoring nesting pairs gets a bit more challenging. That’s where game cameras come in.

.CWF biological technician Caroline Abramowitz deploying a trail camera to monitor an oystercatcher nest.

Game cameras are an extremely useful tool for wildlife monitoring. Cameras deployed at nest sites can provide valuable information about oystercatcher behavior, predator presence, and nest fate (whether the nest hatched or was lost prior to hatching). This is especially important for our Delaware Bay sites, many of which are remote and cannot be monitored as frequently as other locations. Game cameras enhance our in-the-field monitoring and can pinpoint the true cause of nest loss that would otherwise be difficult to determine in the field. Accurate knowledge of nest fate and predator presence is crucial for understanding which factors significantly impact oystercatcher success along the bayshore.


How to Advocate for Beach-nesting Birds During the Holiday Weekends

Friday, May 26th, 2023

By Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

As we approach the official, and unofficial, beginning of summer, many warm-weather loving citizens of New Jersey are pulling out their swimwear, purchasing their SPF and preparing to flock to the Jersey Shore and contribute to some of the worst traffic seen around the country. It’s important, however, to take a step back and remind oneself to be certain that their beach activities will not affect the livelihood of other creatures that are just trying to survive in the only habitat that can support them. Both Memorial Day Weekend and July 4th holidays occur during the season that beach-nesting birds are incubating eggs and raising chicks. This makes for some conflict between beachgoers and coastal wildlife, so it’s necessary to bring more awareness to the presence of the birds and the importance of giving them space.

Beach-nesting birds are called just that because they depend on undisturbed, sparsely vegetated, and stabile coastline to breed, lay eggs, and raise their young. They nest directly in the sand and their eggs are sand-colored and camouflaged against predators. This also makes them difficult for people to see, and without proper monitoring and protection measures, they can wind up being run over or stepped on. Small chicks, like those of the piping plover, are tiny and very mobile shortly after hatching. While the parents do their best at corralling their chicks and keeping them away from people, sometimes the chicks wind up under a beachgoer’s umbrella seeking shade or wandering too close to potential danger. Anyone with small children would understand the difficulty in keeping their kids from running off somewhere they’re not supposed to go, especially when they can have up to four of them at once. The chicks must forage to feed themselves, so being very mobile increases the likelihood of them finding small invertebrates to eat.

Piping plover chicks are small but very mobile, allowing them to begin foraging shortly after hatching.

Book Club: Spring Reading List

Thursday, April 6th, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

Emmy’s Recommendations

Spring is in the air! With the days getting warmer and longer, now is the perfect time to pick a sunny spot outside and read a book. Here are some of my all time favorites that I hope will inspire you to get out in nature. Happy reading! 

In honor of Earth Day, which is just a couple weeks away, I’d like to recommend the beautifully written Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. As a botanist, university professor, and member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer intertwines her scientific knowledge of plants with an indigenous worldview, culminating in a powerful collection of reflections and teachings about our relationship with nature. Science is often considered an objective field (a scientist observes an object), but Kimmerer offers a more holistic perspective where the objects (in this case, plants) can be teachers, offering wisdom instead of just scientific knowledge. Her stories share a central theme of reciprocity and a reminder that we are responsible to protect the natural world in exchange for its many gifts. In a time when humans have become so disconnected with nature, Braiding Sweetgrass is an important and inspiring book I think everyone could benefit from.  

One of my graduate school professors assigned The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf as reading material for our Conservation Biology class. Up until that point, I had never heard of Alexander von Humboldt, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are so many things named after him! Humboldt County, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…the list goes on. Although Humboldt was a widely famous naturalist and geographer during his lifetime, he remains largely forgotten today. If you aren’t familiar with Alexander von Humboldt, I highly recommend this engaging biography about his life and contributions to science. You’ll follow Humboldt throughout his many explorations and learn how his writings shaped ecology as we know it today. You may be surprised to learn how much his work inspired well known historical figures including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Jefferson, and John Muir! I still think about this biography regularly, and those who know me know I’m a bit passionate about Humboldt – I even named a piping plover chick after him! If you also enjoy the biography, definitely check out the companion illustrated book, The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt featuring beautiful original artwork by Lillian Melcher interlaced with Humboldt’s original notes and drawings from his journeys in the Americas.

And now a field guide recommendation. Since spring migration is upon us, a bird field guide seems appropriate. I know many birders are die hard fans of Sibley guides. Don’t get me wrong, I also love his illustrations and keep a portable copy of his guide on my phone. That said, The Crossley ID Guide by Richard Crossley is one of my all-time favorite reference resources for birds. Instead of illustrations, this guide features photographs (taken by the author!) depicting each species in various plumages and behaviors. Crossley even layers the photographs on backgrounds depicting the birds’ natural habitats so that the reader can learn what the birds may look like in different behaviors and from various distances (see the American oystercatcher plate above). It’s a very approachable field guide that can be helpful to any birder regardless of skill level.