Monitoring Black Oystercatcher in Monterey Bay

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Prior to this internship, I was not aware of all the different avian research that was happening around the Monterey area. After meeting different individuals from different agencies I have develop a greater knowledge about all the cool projects that are going on. One of my favorite projects besides the 10-week intensive data collection of migratory shorebird is monitoring the Black Oystercatchers for the California Coast National Monument. We started monitoring the Black Oystercatcher back in March when they were first claiming their territory. Now it has been almost 4 months of collecting data on their behavior and the effects posed by human interaction. Black Oystercatchers are very territorial and defend their territory from other birds, but when it comes down to protecting their territory from humans they don’t have a chance.

Stephanie and I have been able to track most of their life cycle stages. We have seen them claim their territory, prepare nests, mate, incubate their eggs, feeding their young, and coming soon, the opportunity to watch the chicks fledge. We have also seen the Black Oystercatchers fail in protecting their eggs and young.  We are currently in the process of understanding a bit more what happens when the parents lose their young and eggs. We are trying to figure out if they will stay in the same location and try again or will they just give up for the year and hang around or leave to another location. The Black Oystercatcher is not listed as an endangered species. They live along the coast on habitats with lots of rocks and muscle beds. Here in the Monterey these habitats are areas of exploration for tourists and locals, that makes it hard for Black Oystercatchers to reproduce. According to Rick Hanks, the former California Coast National Monument manager, this year has been the one with the most offspring. He has been monitoring the same sites for years and knows a lot about the species. Overall, we are very excited to be collecting data on the Black Oystercatcher and maybe can be useful to someone down the road.

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