Three weeks ago, I was very happy to find two Oystercatcher nests on the beaches of Brooklyn, each with two eggs. One nest was on Plumb Beach (PB) and the other was at Shirley Chisholm State Park, Pennsylvania Ave Landfill section (SCSP-P). But my happiness wasn’t complete and I immediately started worrying about the fate of these nests. These beaches are not well protected and both people and predators are roaming freely.
Birding in Brooklyn after the end of spring migration becomes less interesting by the day. Finding some nests and following them serves to keep you busy. Watching the progress of Shore bird nests in particular have a special magic. Last year, I followed an Oystercatcher nest in Dead Horse Point and watched one fledgling make it to adulthood. (out of three eggs and two fledglings). It was the second successful nest on the same beach in three years. The SCSP-P nest was out of people’s way and the path that leads to it has been closed by the park administration. I wasn’t worried about it, although people can still reach it by walking on the beach during low tide. But the PB nest was a totally different story. It was in the open and where people walk all the time. I know because I have done so on many occasions. On my two next visits to PB, I had to run as fast as I could trying to alert people about the presence of the nest. The first time, two young men were walking straight toward the nest and on the second episode, a family of a father and his two teenage sons were sitting on the wooden board just 5 feet away from the nest. It was very pleasing to me to see the happiness on the kids’ faces when they discovered the nest and saw the eggs. They promised to be careful and protect it. The NPS promised to provide some protection to the nest but unfortunately, they didn’t keep their promise. Or maybe they didn’t get the chance to do so, because three days later, or six days after I found the nest, the two eggs have vanished. I don’t know whom to blame. Was it an accident by a passerby? Or some predator? I have seen Raccoons in the area in the past years. On the same day, I went to check on the other nest at SCSP-P. And to my surprise, there were three eggs, instead of two. But I was unhappy that there were people around the area. The sign that said the path is off limit for visitors was illegally brought down by somebody, and people walked down to the beach where the nest was located just few meters from the path. That made me worried about the fate of this nest too. On the following day, I decided to visit the other section of SCSP that was used to be called Fountain Ave Landfill (SCSP-F). I was shocked to see a Killdeer sitting on a nest with three eggs under a small bush just two feet from the path that goes down to the Pier. It was very puzzling to me. Later, I found out that this path had been closed for few days and that probably made the killdeer think it’s a safe area to build a nest with no people traffic around. I immediately alerted a park worker and he promised to mention it to the environmental/educational department to protect the nest. I didn’t have high hope. I remembered what happened in PB. But there is nothing else I could do. I immediately felt sorry for this Killdeer. Six days later, I went to visit both nests. The eggs in the Oystercatcher nest at SCSP-P were all gone. Just like the one in PB. I didn’t know whom to blame, a passerby or a predator. I have seen Opossums in this park in the past. But the good news is that the Killdeer nest at SCSP-F is still there and now it has four eggs instead of three. But people traffic in the area was troubling to me. Some people were very surprised, and in awe, to see such a beautiful bird and didn’t know what type of bird it was. They didn’t even recognize it was sitting on a nest. Again, I spoke to a park worker and he said they are aware of the situation and monitoring it. Yesterday, two weeks after I found the Killdeer nest, I went to check on it and found out that the eggs were all gone. No evidence of any Killdeer in the nearby, adult or fledgling. I don’t believe that the eggs had hatched. It was at least one week too soon for that to happen according to my calculation. They were probably eaten by a predator. The possibility of somebody might have stolen the eggs crossed my mind but I didn’t entertain it for long. While standing pondering on the fate of the nest, I noticed a Willet flying above my head and screaming very loudly. I moved a little bit toward the fenced area and the bird flew even closer toward me to within few feet. I thought, there must be a nest or fledglings around the area and that drove this bird crazy. I went down to the pier and sat on a seat, more than two hundred feet away from the area. I wanted to watch from far to see if there are any fledgling. I watched that Willet getting crazy every time a person comes close to that area. Then two more adult Willets joined in and now I could see the three of them going crazy. There were many people in the park that time taking advantage of a very nice weather. Many of them went down the path to the pier not aware of what is taking place above their head. A Bicyclist stopped his bicycle at the spot where the Killdeer nest was for few minutes, and one Willet flew very close to his head and the man didn’t even notice the bird. I thought his helmet probably was too tight on his ears and he couldn’t hear their screams. It was funny in a sad way. I watched this for almost thirty minutes and the Willets were getting tired. Sometimes, they would land somewhere for few seconds before resuming their flights and screamings. My guess is that the Willets had some fledglings very close by and they were surprised by the influx of people because it was the time of the day when the park is open to visitors. Now they don’t know how to get the fledglings to safety. The other possibility is that there is a nest with eggs nearby but I am not sure they would behave like that for eggs. I got tired of watching this sad event and there was nothing I could do to help. I didn’t even see any fledgling and all of this could have been my imagination. So, I left. I drove home filled with disappointment. Three nests I was hoping to follow over the summer have gone, and nine eggs of very unique species vanished into thin air. And the worst part of it is to be overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness to help them. Thank you for reading Gus Keri -- NYSbirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsWELCOME.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsRULES.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://email@example.com/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L 3) http://birding.aba.org/maillist/NY01 Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --