Something Very Special

Youngster. A juvenile American Oystercatcher on LBI's front beach.
Youngster. A juvenile American Oystercatcher on LBI’s front beach.

If you’re an observant, early riser in North Beach, you may have been treated to the sight of the flashy & stylish American Oystercatcher during the past few seasons. If you’re not an early riser, you might have been treated to their screaming loud honking as they flee in panic over your house, after bolting when the first dog hits the beach just after sunrise.

This rare-ish and severely threatened beach nesting bird is usually found only in protected Island habitat like Holgate or Barnegat Light; but it has been a real treat to have a few seemingly local AMOY here in North Beach the last few years. The best guess is that they are nesting out on one of those reed-y, fly-covered little islands back in the Bay behind North Beach. They do seem to consistently come out to forage on the beach, usually at the sunrise, sunset, and often after big storms… basically all the times they know that no humans will be around… which is precisely when I go looking for them.

I’ve spent many a sunrise with them, but today became a special day indeed when one of the adults flew in with something I’ve never seen before on the front beach on LBI: a juvenile.

We’ll have to keep watching to know for sure if one of our local AMOY has, against all odds, had a successful nest here, and is now showing Junior the ropes and the finer points of feeding in the surf and fleeing in panic from dogs. These could be migratory Oystercatcher on their way somewhere South from a nest somewhere North. I was encouraged though when a large, out-of-control Golden Retriever came barreling down the beach, its owner furiously blowing a whistle which seemed to have no effect at all, and the AMOY flee’d in panic back towards the Bay along the similar path this year’s adults have been using to flee from dogs.

If it is not, well… still, every juvenile Oystercatcher is a huge victory for one of our Island’s true treasure species, and a step forward to restoring the population that has been decimated buy our destruction of their habitat, our disturbance, and all the predators we’ve led to the beach with our garbage.  Each and every juvenile is something to celebrate. Try as we might to pave paradise into a giant, artificial playground for our amusements, the Wild Beach won’t be snuffed out so easily!

In the meantime, we should start thinking of names.