Banding & Rebranding. No Mo’ T Fo’. Introducing A64.

First, you gotta find the baby. Can you find the baby?

This will surely be a day which robots will sing songs about in the future as they do our jobs. An historic day indeed. Perhaps even more so than that fateful day way back in 2007 when Dr. Larry Niles first banded the legendary T2 The Oystercatcher at Island Beach State Park.

That’s right. Today, T2’s miracle babies, T3 & T4, are ready to receive their own sets of colored bands. They are about to graduate from being humble, little miracle babies to being Ambassadors for their Species.

But first, we’ll have to find the babies. And I mean all the babies. Due to the recent troubles with The Small Mercedes Family and the T# Family, all the babies at Barnegat Light will need to be caught at the same time to keep Smalls from taking unfair advantage of the brief chaos. The trouble is, no one can find Smalls, Mercedes, Yeah Yeah, The Beast, and Wendy Peffercorn.

Then suddenly Yeah Yeah, looking big & healthy, comes running out from where you’d least expect him: from right behind T2 and Linda Hamilton. What the…. ?

Amazingly, it appears that Smalls, Mercedes, T2, and Linda Hamilton have made some kind of communal arrangement and are actually living together in the dune and raising their babies together. It appears that Mr. Smalls had a plan all along. It barely computes. We should talk more about this almost unbelievable development but, hey… we got a lot of photos to get to here.

Like a proud mom herself, our AMOY hero, Allison Anholt emerges from the dune with T4 in hand.

In the immediate aftermath of the miracle that was the birth of T3 & T4 this summer, you probably had the same thoughts as I did, perhaps in the same order: first, “OMFG”. second, “How adorable!” and third, “Please, please tell me that someone is going to band these miracle babies!!111!!????”

T4: Somewhere between boy, and man. Or girl and woman. It’s tough to tell. And also somewhere between T4 and A64.

Since their birth was so unexpected, it wasn’t immediately clear this banding would actually happen. I urgently launched a lobbying campaign on behalf of all of us, to everyone I could possibly think of. I even wrote to Santa. I stayed up late at night with a little notebook crafting eloquent arguments as to why it was so important these babies get the honor of wearing bands, and become baby ambassadors for LBI’s Oystercatchers, and for the whole species.

Illuminati AMOY.

It was all for naught. Just about everyone in New Jersey with the power to make the banding happen was already on board. While there is not any current, specific, scientific study involving AMOY at the Lighthouse this season, these are the miracle babies of the world’s most photographed and probably most well-known Oystercatcher, the legendary T2. We need to know what happens to them. These are the only AMOY babies born on the public beaches of LBI in quite some time. We just can’t let this opportunity pass us by.

Thankfully, the magnificent Allison Anholt has an up-to-date permit to band AMOY in New Jersey. And since she has been secretly harboring hope for all of these years that one day T2 would actually be successful, she’s always made sure that Barnegat Light remained on her permit even though few ever believed it would ever matter.

Her boss Lisa Ferguson from The Wetlands Institute, also on the permit, was all in. And of course Kashi Davis from the NJNESP was prepared to give her blessing.

A lone blue pin feather emerges from orangey feather tips of a teenage AMOY.

The only hurdle left to leap was the federal Bird Banding Lab. Yet they too saw the value in contributing to an already marked population of American Oystercatcher, to help us all learn more about their movements and their survival. Plus they are probably T2 fans themselves. Who isn’t? And so it’s on, and this dream becomes reality.

Feathers emerging from their sheaths
Baby Foot
AMOY Bands are sealed with glue. And when that glue is dried, “T4” officially becomes A64.

Now, of course, it would have been amazing if this baby would have become “T4” for real lifesies. But it turns out that Dr. Larry Niles actually used the “T4” band combo way back in 2007 on the very same day he banded our T2. And the real T4, just like T2, happens to still be alive.

From the first moment I called T2’s youngest offspring “T4”, Allison Anholt anticipated my eventual disappointment so kindly, dutifully, and furiously started sending me backstory emails like this one:

T4: After being banded at IBSP, it overwinters in Cedar Key, and has been reported there annually (including this year!). It once stopped over in northern Florida as well, on its way to Cedar Key. It was reported as a breeder annually on Gull Island as well until 2013, when the person doing most of those surveys, my mentor and former boss Tom Virzi, moved away. Presumably it’s still there since it is clearly still alive!

~ Allison Anholt

So no mo’ T fo’ for us.

T4, now banded and rebranded as A64, is laid down to rest…
…to be weighed. A healthy kid. They seriously just lay there on the scale like little dolls. It’s unspeakably adorable.
Got Your Nose! So I’ll just quickly measure it…
Adorable & Angry: The Heart Of An AMOY.
Sharing The Beach: Michelle Stantial (who has been babysitting Yeah Yeah & The Beast during the banding) and Allison Anholt, quickly pose the reluctant siblings Yeah Yeah, and the newly minted, formerly known as “T4”, A64.
Michelle Budd gets the honor of releasing A64 back to us, now complete with flashy new orange bands.

When Dr. Larry Niles banded T2 back in 2007, a legend was born. I copped the term “Ambassador For Their Species” from the great wildlife photographer Melissa Groo. I can’t think of a better example of what that really means than T2. Sure, it helps that he probably has the coolest and most whimsical band combination you could hope for, and that he lives in a very public state park loved by photographers. Yet the value of his little yellow bands clearly go far beyond their stated utility to scientists. His bands have let us know who he is, and through knowing him, to learn his amazing story. They have enabled him to inspire us. He has endeared untold numbers of people to Oystercatchers, and to all the animals who struggle to live down the shore.

Without those bands, he would have been just another bird on the beach. Instead we laugh with him, we cry with him, we learn from him; because we know he is T2.

Cheers to Allison Anholt & Lisa Ferguson from The Wetlands Institute for continuing this great tradition, and to everyone who made this happen. And by the way, if you have never visited The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor Point, I strongly urge you to make an afternoon out of it soon. It’s a gorgeous, interactive nature center situated on a thriving marsh (complete with a Salt Marsh Trail), and all of its exhibits are about the wild things all around you at the shore. My favorite part is the touch tank where you get to see all the slimy things you step on in the water up close and personal. They do all sorts of amazing educational and conservation programs for the coast, but start with a family trip to the actual Institute. It’s really something special. It is super interesting & fun.

Keep the magic of T2’s miracle alive. Say thanks by Adopting An Oystercatcher through The Wetlands Institute. Make a small donation and make A64 your very own, little, adopted baby.

Alert Readers are probably asking by now, “Yeah that’s great, but what happened to T3???”

Stay tuned….