Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Tale of Two Oystercatcher

Little Tern chicks are not the only new faces about the colony. Only a couple of days ago, the first of the colony’s two Oystercatcher nests hatched. There were two dark brown and fluffy chicks huddled among the rocks, giants compared to the tiny tern chicks, yet still no bigger than my fist. Evening was closing in fast, so after a quick photo, I left their dubious parents to come back to brood.
Although tiny, Oystercatcher hatchlings are far bigger than Little Tern chicks

The following morning, I combed through the vegetation with my telescope to see how the new arrivals were getting on. The two were still close to the nest, crouched low into the stones while the parents scrutinized me from afar. I expected that I would find them in the same area of beach for at least the next few days, while they were still so helpless and fluffy.

But how they proved me wrong!

I was in the middle of dinner when I got a call to say both chicks were on a mission of lemming-like proportions, heading away from the nest. Their destination was the lagoon, which offers a safe haven with plenty of food, so their parents were calling overhead to encourage them to these greener pastures. However, the beach and lagoon are separated by the ultimate dangers: the railway track and the pedestrian footpath. Joggers! Dogs!! Commuter-rail!!!

The young chicks' destination...with a dangerous interlude!

The wardens jumped into action. When I caught up with their flight, they had survived the perils of the footpath, but were struggling to get through the railway fence and onto the track. We rescued them both inside a hat and hatched a plan to convey them across the tracks to the lagoon side, while making sure their parents knew to follow.

The reckless attempt is intercepted

The Oystercatcher parents were quite alarmed to see their young traveling over the fence in an upturned hat, but they got the jist of what was happening, because once we had turned the chicks out from their makeshift habitat, the parents were quick to circle in. After a few minutes of baited breath, I watched the family reunite from a hiding place in the boulders.

Today, the chicks are happy out in the lagoon, still in roughly the same spot they were released. We wardens will be better prepared for such exploits when the second Oystercatcher nest hatches, and hopefully these two chicks will be joined by four more in a couple of weeks.

Oystercatcher



Susan and Paddy

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