Banded oystercatcher returns to Milford Point
In the Sanctuaries …
March 16, 2021 — The focus of attention at the Milford Point Coastal Center last week was the yellow leg-wear of a visitor to the outer sandbar.
The visitor was an American Oystercatcher, banded with a yellow leg identification tag. Bird banding is a long-established method for tracking the movements of migratory birds. Each time a bird with a band is observed, and the observation recorded with the U.S. Geological Survey, a data point is added to the record.
Connecticut’s coasts and the nearby waters of Long Island Sound are globally important for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl. In this case, the arrival of one bird, though seemingly inconsequential, reconfirmed Milford Point’s importance as a place for migratory shorebirds to rest and feed.
Katerina Gillis, who works for Connecticut Audubon as the IBA coastal ranger at Milford Point, snapped this photograph on March 12, from about 150 feet away.
Milford Point is among the best places in the northeast to look for migratory shorebirds, and we encourage you to visit on your own or sign up for our bird walks.
Connecticut Audubon is working as part of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds to help people understand the importance of not disturbing shorebirds as they are resting and feeding at Milford Point and elsewhere. Audubon Connecticut and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute are part of the project, which is funded in part by a Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant.
An oasis for shorebirds
Shorebirds feed and rest at the Coastal Center 12 months a year. The oystercatcher that Kat photographed, along with its mate and two fledglings, was banded by a team from Audubon Connecticut, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, in September 2019.
The oystercatcher returned to Milford Point in the spring of 2020 and again the fall of 2020. There was an anecdotal report that it was seen in Virginia over the winter, but no official record of that.
It isn’t one of Milford Point’s nesting birds, though. Three American Oystercatcher pairs nested at the Coastal Center last year. Kat, whose job as coastal ranger entails monitoring and helping to protect nesting shorebirds such as Piping Plovers, terns, and American Oystercatchers, expects the oystercatchers that nest at Milford Point to arrive during the first week of April.
Oystercatchers nest on beaches up and down the Atlantic coast. eBird reports a small number of summertime sightings in Maritime Canada, but Bar Harbor, Maine, seems to be the northern limit of their breeding range.
The banded bird that Kat photographed at the Coastal Center might nest anywhere in between. — Tom Andersen