Our 23 kilometre stretch of beach that runs from Gantheaume Point to Willie Creek has finally seen the arrival of the first Pied Oystercatcher chicks for the 2016 breeding season. This pair of birds laid eggs in the first week of July, which is typical for the Broome area. The next pair of Pied Oystercatchers to the north decided to lay earlier than normal this year and are currently sitting on their third clutch of eggs following predation of the first two clutches they laid. We checked the nest after the eggs were initially laid to establish how many eggs had been laid. We did not need a GPS coordinate, because this nest site has been used for many years. It has seen a change in partners and a female Pied Oystercatcher gave up this territory after a failed attempt with the current male bird, so we have established that they are not quite as faithful to their partners or territories as people may think! The above photo shows the nest site with its excellent views of the surrounding area and the photo below shows the eggs in the nest.  Pied Oystercatcher nests vary from a sand scrape to a rocky outcrop along this stretch of beach.

Pied Oystercatcher eggs

Pied Oystercatcher nest with 2 eggs

Twenty eight days on and the eggs have hatched out! The female Pied Oystercatcher was guarding and sheltering the Pied Oystercatcher chicks when we visited two days after hatching and the egg shell had been removed from the nest. The chicks had been walked away from the nest area and the other adult was nearby at the water’s edge and would return instantly if there was an event that appeared dangerous. Prior to eggs hatching the Pied Oystercatchers are not generally vocal, but the arrival of chicks means they need to use their calls at all times. There are alarm calls and calming calls when a danger is no longer present and over the years we have learnt the variety of calls. One of the Pied Oystercatcher chicks was a lot more active than the other and no doubt hatched out first and was ready to explore.

Pied Oystercatcher chick

Pied Oystercatcher chick (2)

An adventurous Pied Oystercatcher chick!

It was soon called to its parent and as you can see they are quite large and chunky even after they first hatch out!

Pied Oystercatcher and chick

Pied Oystercatcher and chick (2)

Shading under the adult Pied Oystercatcher!

Pied Oystercatcher and chick (3)

Sitting down to encourage the chick to get under a wing!

Pied Oystercatcher and chick (4)

There’s a chick in this picture!

Pied Oystercatcher and chick (5)

Maybe you can see the chick now!

Sadly we don’t have high hopes for this Pied Oystercatcher family, because the predation of both eggs and chicks along the coast is so bad that we rarely see a single Pied Oystercatcher fledge from the sixteen pairs of Pied Oystercatchers that we monitor. That’s no reason to not share this special moment with you when our first eggs hatch out, though. Maybe they will have better luck this year!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!