A welcome surprise…Part 2.
By: Olivia Morpeth
Sabrina, Fallan, and I have been keeping a close eye on the black skimmer nest, checking it three times a week since it was first seen at the beginning of the month. we were all a bit worried about the nest making it to the hatch date. Black skimmers are normally colonial nesters, nesting in groups ranging from dozens to hundreds of birds, and these two skimmers are the only of their kind on the beach. They are also shy birds that tend to nest on offshore islands and beaches that have little disturbance, and the location that this pair chose is one of the busiest beaches here in coastal Alabama!
We kept our fingers crossed that each day we checked on them we would find the parents sitting tightly on the nest inside the fenced off circle. Using the day that the eggs were first observed, we estimated a hatch date during the week of July 20th. On the 20th we started daily nest checks, looking for any evidence that the eggs had hatched. Today, July 22nd, Sabrina and I got to the beach early. We were hoping to get the survey done before the heat of the day set in, when we found a welcome surprise! Both black skimmer chicks had hatched! One chick was stretching its legs, walking around the parents as they sat close to the other chick.
We crept up to the fencing to get a few pictures of the adorable scene, but the parents were not too happy, and one took a couple of quick dives at us. We made sure to give them their space. Eggs and newly hatched chicks are not able to regulate their body temperature, so they rely on their parents to provide shade for them during the day. Getting too close to them may make the adults flush from the nest and leave chicks and eggs susceptible to overheating.
This skimmer family will be closely monitored until the chicks are flight capable, usually around 3-4 weeks. Until then, the parents will take turns foraging for fish in the shallow waters nearby and will bring catches back to the chicks and incubating mate. We are excited that this unexpected nest hatched successfully and cannot wait to watch the two chicks get bigger!