Black Oystercatcher Survey to Start Up


Birds, Citizen Science, Marine Conservation, Marine Reserves, Rocky Intertidal Zone.

Note:  The organizers of the following project are of course re-assessing in light of the coronavirus situation.  The dates for the training sessions and for the monitoring itself are far enough in the future that they have not been cancelled.  We will report any changes to the project here once decisions have been made.

The annual citizen science project to survey Black Oystercatcher nests is coming up again, May through August, and volunteers are needed.  The survey is a partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Portland Audubon, and local conservation groups. CoastWatch is not one of the organizers of the project, but in previous years many CoastWatchers have shown an interest in participating.

The Black Oystercatcher is a unique shorebird species with a memorable call that inhabits the rocky intertidal zone (where, despite the name, there are no oysters—the bird eats other shellfish). Because of their small global population size, low reproductive rate, and reliance on rocky intertidal habitats, they are considered a “species of high conservation concern” and act as an indicator of intertidal ecosystem health.

Portland Audubon and its partners are monitoring Black Oystercatchers to provide new information on this species’ biology including an Oregon-wide population estimate, nesting success, and human disturbance factors.

These efforts inform protection measures for this species and also play a role in work to secure better protections for Oregon’s iconic rocky shoreline habitat and the state’s marine reserves and protected areas. A critical part of this project is engagement and outreach to local communities up and down the coast.

This year’s project is more limited than in previous years.  It will involve locating and monitoring nests, but not the “abundance survey” (a count of all birds on the coast) done in previous years.  During the past five years the oystercatcher project compiled data through the abundance survey, and that data has now been compiled and published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Now the next step is underway—pooling data from Oregon and California into a region-wide population variability analysis.

But the nest survey goes on, and indeed will take on more focus.  Experienced volunteers are needed back, and are invited to provide additional help by mentoring new volunteers and showing them how to find and monitor nests.  New volunteers can be guided by the nest monitoring protocol, but by itself that doesn’t sufficiently prepare new volunteers.

If you would like to consider volunteering for the oystercatcher survey, contact Frances Buchanan, Audubon’s field projects coordinator, [email protected], and Joe Liebezeit, Staff Scientist & Avian Conservation Manager, [email protected], and provide the following information:

1)      Would you like to volunteer (again)?

2)      What area of the coast would you like to cover? You can be specific to a particular site or a section of the coast.

3)      Effort: How often would you be willing to conduct nest monitoring during May-August?

4)      Would you like to attend one of the three trainings (see below)?  If so, please RSVP and let them know which one you'd like to attend.

North Coast Training: Saturday, May 2, at 10 a.m.  Location: Cannon Beach City Hall (163 E Gower Ave, Cannon Beach)

Central Coast Training:  Saturday, May 9, at 10 a.m.  Location:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Newport office meeting room (2127 S.E. Marine Science Drive, Newport)

South Coast Training: Wednesday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. Location: Port Orford Field Station (444 Jackson St., Port Orford)

Trainings will last approximately an hour and a half and there may be the option to visit a field site after. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information contact Joe Liebezeit, (503) 329-6026, [email protected].