A Failed Nest

Monday, July 27, 2020,

This post is a bummer. This photo is a bummer. The story behind this photo is a double bummer. This is a failed nest. That’s what we call a nest that has failed to produce any chicks.

This is an Oystercatcher egg that has been predated. Not predated as in the past tense but predated as in a predator has been at work here, although now, the promise that this nest once held is certainly in the past tense. By looks of it, I’m guessing the perpetrator was a gull of some sort. It’s hard to be sure because no one I know was witness to the attack.

I mentioned that this was a double bummer, and it is. You see, this single egg nest was the second attempt by this pair of Oystercatchers to nest this season. Their first nest, which was up in the dunes was predated as well. The possible suspects there include Raccoons and feral cats. When Oystercatchers suffer a nest failure they will often try again, which is what happened here. Second attempts at nesting are always small clutches. Instead of three or four eggs, a second nest will often contain only one or two eggs. This nest only had the one egg and it was in a terrible location.

After the initial nest failed the Oystercatchers built a second nest right in the middle of a busy section of beach. Perhaps they were over compensating after their failure in the dunes. Despite the fact that the Conservation Department had roped off the area, this nest was still in a lousy place. While it was beyond the tide line, it was nowhere near the dunes and in a heavily trafficked area. People could walk in front of it, behind it, and on either side. I had been monitoring this nest for several days and there was more than a few times when I saw folks setting up their towels and blankets just outside and even around the roped off area.

Whenever folks came nearby, the parents would walk away. Walking away is not a sign of bad Oystercatcher parenting. Rather, it’s a basic strategy that Oystercatchers follow so as not to draw attention to their eggs. In most cases, it’s a plan that works. However, when the beach is so crowded with humans and you stay away from your nest for extended periods of time, it leaves your nest open to predation. And some predators, especially gulls, are not at all shy around humans.

And so, sadly, this pair of Oystercatchers lost two nests in the same season. It was too late to attempt a third so they will have to wait till next spring to try again. I know it’s just nature and I know nature can be harsh but still, my heart is a little bit broken.  JK


A Common Tern Tending Her Nest

Thursday, June 11, 2020,

This is a series of photos of a Common Tern tending to her nest. Terns, like many other shorebirds, make very simple nests. Most are usually just shallow scrapes in the sand. Terns depend more on their cryptically colored eggs than on fancy digs to conceal their location.

This Tern, however, fancies herself a bit of a Martha Stewart. She’s already laid her two eggs but now she’s redecorating. A little extra sand, perhaps a stick or two, and the place is really starting to shape up.

Take note of the skate egg case in the foreground. It’s that small black pouch with “horns” at either end. Some folks refer to them as Mermaid Purses. They’re actually the egg cases to certain species of sharks and rays. But today, it’s about to become a bit of home decor.

Check out where that Mermaid’s Purse has ended up. If you click on the above photo for a larger view, you may notice one of it’s “horns” sticking up in front of the eggs. A beautiful finishing touch, don’t you think? And now, it’s time for a rest.  JK




Oystercatcher Nest

Monday, June 3, 2020,

This is an Oystercatcher nest and those are two Oystercatcher eggs. They are fairly easy to spot here but this is a zoomed in photo and the eggs are in the center of image. If you were to try to spot these eggs on a beach, you would need some very sharp eyes. I knew where this nest was, having spotted it the previous day, but it still took me almost ten minutes to find it again when I returned. As you can see, Oystercatchers do not build intricate nests. Like most other shorebirds, they merely make a shallow scrape in the sand.

This is Mama Oystercatcher who has come to sit on her eggs. She spends most of her time on or near the nest but she does leave it occasionally. While I was taking this series of photos, she only left the nest twice. Once to dance with her mate, and another time to scold a Tern that was perched on a nearby pole. That’s how I managed to get the photo of the uncovered eggs in the first pic. After giving me the once over – I was seated some distance away – she settled back down to incubate her eggs. JK



Number Nine

Thursday, May 14, 2020,

This is a House Wren that has taken up residence in bird house number nine at Morton Refuge in Sag Harbor. I was mostly just relaxing and taking the occasional photograph but this lady kept flying to and fro looking for edible little tidbits for her family. Each time she scored a meal, she would fly back to the nest box, disappear within for a quick moment, and then fly back out in search of more insects for her brood. House Wrens make good parents.  JK.