2013 Bird Nesting Colony

2014 Sunset Beach Bird Nesting Colony

Jo O'Keefe Copyright 2016. Photos may be used for educational purposes only. Contact me with inquiries.

The photo above was taken by my friend Cheryl Cornwell. Before I handed my camera to Cheryl, I tried to photograph children about 10 to 12 years old climbing on the dunes. Although we saw them two different times playing on the dunes, I failed because they ran away when I saw me taking pictures. Cheryl was trying to capture American Oystercatchers, Wilson's Plovers and Wilson's Plover chicks. I selected this photo to show you how little space remains between Jinks Creek and the paltry dunes. The dunes are 1 1/2 to 3 feet high. There are two gaps the size of a 2-lane street through which people legally can walk. For the Oystercatchers, this is very bad news. They lost their first chicks within a day or two of birth. They have returned to the dune area to nest a second time. Their chicks don't stand a chance. I am sorry to be this negative. The huge Least Tern colony left, the Oystercatchers likely are again doomed, and there are few Wilson's Plovers. Perhaps we will see the Willets nest. They left the site I photographed several days ago, probably deciding it was risk-filled. Sunset Beach, NC, 06/01/14
This is one of the adult Wilson's Plovers that we watched for an hour. Many times we saw them chasing after one chick. We did not see three chicks as we did two days ago. Sunset Beach, NC, 06/01/14
Two Wilson's Plovers -- chick on right, probably adult on left, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/30/14
Adult Wilson's Plovers, parent(s) of three chicks, seemingly in non-breeding plumage, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/30/14
American Oystercatchers on newly formed large ocean sandbar, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/28/14
Willet, adult breeding, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/27/14
Willets, adult breeding, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/27/14
Willets' location in comparison to American Oystercatchers' former nest, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/28/14
I took the following photos with my cell phone on Friday, May 9, 2014. I could only see a reflection of my face in my phone. I left my camera in my beach cart while I set out in search of the parents and their chicks. I suspect that the eggs hatched after 8 PM on Wednesday, May 7th. More likely they hatched on Thursday, May 8th. I am embarrassed sharing these photos and apologize for them.
During seven days leading up to my discovery of the chicks, I thought one adult had vanished. I was pleased to find them both minding the chicks.
First American Oystercatcher chick, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/09/14
This is the second chick. The parents had a tough time because their young were in two different places.
At my request, two men "rescued" the first chick. The chick fell into a deep foot print while its parents were checking on the second and possibly third chick. We did not know what Audubon Society and Wildlife Resources Commission staff would have done. One man smoothed the sand around the chick without touching the bird. After the men joined me, we saw the parents leave the second chick and return, looking for the first chick. They walked past without seeing it and kept on going. The chick walked out of its former hole toward its parents, chirping loudly until they heard it and turned around.
First chick reunited with both parents after walking out of foot print, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/09/14
Eggs hatched, parents off nest just in time before that portion of dune falls off, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/09/14
American Oystercatcher on nest inches from edge of dune, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/05/14
American Oystercatcher on nest, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/07/14
American Oystercatcher on nest, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/03/14
End of dune on East End after 20 feet were lost in 21 days, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/03/14
American Oystercatchers -- one foraging and preening and one on the nest, Sunset Beach, NC, 05/01/14
American Oystercatcher on nest and checking eggs, Sunset Beach, NC, 04/26/14
American Oystercatcher, Sunset Beach, NC, 04/13/14
American Oystercatcher on nest, Sunset Beach, NC, 04/19/14