That’s a wrap!
By: Sabrina Cobb
Breeding season has finally come to an end for our coastal birds. We finished up our last survey at the black skimmer nest location on 17 August. Both chicks have successfully fledged and were last seen loafing near the parent birds along the shoreline. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Olivia and I were not able to monitor nearshore islands this season where most of Alabama’s black skimmers have been known to nest. We did document four potential skimmer nests on Little Dauphin Island, but all four failed to hatch making the nest at Alabama Point the only documented successful nest for the 2020 breeding season.
The least terns from the colony mentioned in “Return of the least terns” have departed and begun their migration back Central and South America where they spend the winter season. The last least tern was seen flying over the property on 17 August when all nesting activity had concluded. The colony this season had an estimated 40 breeding pairs that produced 30 chicks. Of the 30 chicks only 11 successfully fledged. Low productivity was likely attributed to coyote predation; we documented tracks through the colony on a few occasions.
In addition to that colony, we had three other monitored sites that produced least tern fledglings this season. Our most productive colony was in the city of Orange Beach. It had an estimated 40 breeding pairs that produced 15 chicks that all successfully fledged! The last two locations each produced one fledgling bringing our least tern fledgling total to 28 for the 2020 breeding season. Other nests and information could have been missed due to postponed monitoring and other COVID-19 restrictions.
Recorded snowy plover nests this season were lower than last year. This season, with the help of volunteer Andrew Haffenden, Olivia and I documented four breeding pairs. Three of the pairs had nests located on Dauphin Island and one had a nest in Gulf Shores. The nest in Gulf Shores hatched two chicks and one fledging was sighted foraging with an adult during a later survey of the location. One of the nests on Dauphin Island hatched three chicks but none were observed after Tropical Storm Cristobal impacted the area. Tropical Storm Cristobal was also the cause of nest failure for another nest on Dauphin Island as it was over-washed by storm driven high tides. Territorial behavior exhibited by a pair on the far west end of the Dauphin lead Andrew to believe there might be a chick from a hatched nest.
Now that the breeding season has wrapped up Olivia and I have already started our first round of Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys. As of right now there are 20 survey routes that will be surveyed at least six times over the course of the fall. Stay tuned for more interesting bird finds and stories as we dive into our Audubon Coastal Bird Surveys in the blog entries to come!