Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Challenges of BLOY Monitoring

So... in my last Black Oystercatcher post, I mentioned that the pair of BLOY that nest in the Cliff Creek Falls cove on Cascade Head were wandering around looking for places to nest and I would go back the next week and check to see if they had settled on a nesting site. I did. They had not. They were still wandering around. Then they flew away. Frustrated, I asked Elise, my BLOY guru, what she thought. She thought I should go back again. So I did the following week. And waited for an hour without ever seeing or hearing an Oystercatcher. I gave up and did not go back the next week... or the next. It's a long hike and what's the point if the birds are gone?

Fast forward a few more weeks. Both the nests at Road's End failed, apparently. The South Rock birds took up nesting in a totally different spot. The Middle Rock birds hung out one week on the opposite side of the rock from where they usually nest, the east side where I could watch them. The following week they were gone, although I waited for more than two hours. But...

The week after the Middle Rock birds were no shows, a scan of their rock when I arrived found, to my surprise, a bird nesting within plain sight (although at a great distance). Look closely and you may see two eggs under her (him?).

Hmm... Might the Cliff Creek Falls birds have come back and started nesting? I did not think so after so many weeks of goofing around and then disappearing. But I went back anyway for one more check, just to make sure.

And found them nesting. It's an even longer look than Road's End's Middle Rock but with binoculars I could see a bird on the nest. And when she/he stood to rearrange things, I glimpsed at least one egg.

In the space of two weeks, I had gone from one nest to monitor... at Road's End (South Rock)... to three nests to monitor... two at Road's End and one at Cliff Creek Falls. That made me wonder about the rest of my apparently abandoned nest sites.

So this past Tuesday, July 12, I made the long difficult trek to another site where I have seen no BLOY all season, also on Cascade Head, at the north end of Penacle Cove. I again saw no BLOY... there...but... looking south across the cove to a distant sea stack at the south side, with my binoculars I could just make out a tiny black bird foraging on a tidal flat. Alas, I did not have my superzoom Nikon P900 with me... so I took photos with my Panasonic.

 That tiny spot in the water is the sea stack where I spotted a BLOY, believe it or not.

And here it is a little closer...

A tiny black spot in the tide flat in the center of the photo was a black bird with a red bill.

  Soon I saw two BLOY on the ridge line. Back home, I put the photos on the computer and zoomed them in.

There had been two BLOY, not one, on the tidal flats. Was one smaller than the other? A fledgling perhaps?

 When they later disappeared from the tidal area and appeared on the ridge line, were those the same two birds? Was it a pair? Or was the one on the tidal flat smaller than the one to its right in the above photo and perhaps a different bird from either on the ridge line?

Well, I'll never know because I can't tell from the photos. I went back two days later with my scope and the super zoom Nikon. There were no BLOY on that island sea stack that day. Next spring, I will have to spend more time searching the Penacle Cove and 073.1 area for tiny black birds with red bills. And what about the North Cascade Head nest area, where the last bird I saw there was a Turkey Vulture? I may have to check that one again next week...

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