Wednesday, October 7, 2009

American Oystercatchers

This week I went to a presentation on american oystercatchers in the Tampa Bay estuary put on by the Clearwater Audubon Society with help from the Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuary Program. These birds are a "species of special concern" by the Audubon Society. The Tampa Bay area has over 18% of the oystercatcher pairs in the entire state of Florida. Oystercatchers mate for life (like penguins). They nest on beaches and there aren't many of those left that are not being trampled on by people. There are several protected islands in the Hillsborough bay that are off limits to people for these birds to nest on with big signs that explain why you cannot tresspass on these islands. Boaters still land on these islands and spend time playing on them even with their pets. The oystercatchers are declining due to these types of behaviours.

What can you do? Stay out of protected areas. Don't let your dogs run unleashed on beaches. Keep pets off beaches where they don't belong. Stay far away from bird nests and eggs on the beach. If the oystercatcher parent is scared away from the nest the eggs could cook in the hot sun in less than 20 minutes. The eggs need the shade the parent provides.

A year ago I never really noticed these birds. At first glance I thought it was another skimmer. They are so rare to see. They are very skittish and will fly away quickly. It's hard to get good pictures of them, they have to be cropped up closely. Now I am always looking for them.

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