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Sundown Island has been renamed to Chester Island
to honor former Warden,
Chester Smith.
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Port O'Connor, Texas


2000-12 Sundown Island Island

2013 Annual Bird Census


Reddish Egret White Morph
Top: Great Egret, White Ibis; Front: White-morph Reddish Egret. Photo credit: Diane Nunley. View a larger image.

View Photos: Census Count and April's Rookery Visit
Article by Marcy Spears and Tim Wilkinson
June 10, 2013

On May 24, 2013, Warden Tim Wilkinson headed out with two boats and fourteen volunteers to count the nesting birds on Chester Island. It was one of the last really pleasant spring days of the season.

The count this year was remarkable! Except for the haunting erosion issues, the island was in really good shape this year because the area received drought-quenching rain. Brown Pelican nesting pairs nearly doubled in 2013 (3,375) from last year's count (1,702). It was a banner year for the Brown Pelican. They were just everywhere—in the trees, on the ground, and in the center, and along the edges of the island.

On the day of the count there were pelican chicks of all ages from just hatched to fledglings. Most of the nests observed had two or three chicks. Another species that increased dramatically was the Roseate Spoonbill. Last year only 31 pairs were counted—this year 293 Roseate Spoonbill pairs were observed.

You will note from the chart below (2013–2002) that species numbers go up and down from year to year. Even though census counters try to count at the same time of year, dramatic differences in the numbers may occur. These changes may be caused by predators, available food, weather (here and elsewhere if the species is migratory), or species site selection preference.

The photo above includes a Great Egret and White Ibis (both in wanning breeding colors) and a White-morph Reddish Egret in spectacular breeding coloration. Both Diane Nunley and Tim Wilkinson said they had never seen such "blue" legs on a Reddish Egret (White Morph). Be sure to click on the link for a larger view!

Census takers: Tim Wilkinson, Warden of Chester Island, Amanda Hackney (Texas Audubon), Brent Ortego (Texas Parks & Wildlife), Donna Anderson (US Fish & Wildlife Services), Bill Ward (The Nature Conservancy), Owen Fitzsimmons (Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program), and volunteers, Dora Ann Baass, Diane Nunley, Marcy Spears, Ruth Dederich, and Brown Pelican Tracking Project members: Juliet Lamb, Dgsaivre Stève, Elizabeth Ford, and Yvan Satge. View group photo. The group divided the island into six sections to make the count easier and quicker.

You may also view census data from Chester Island (also known as Sundown Island), from 2013 through 2002. Click here to view the PDF file.

2013 CENSUS - CHESTER/SUNDOWN ISLAND
Species (nesting pairs)
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007

Brown Pelican

3,375
1,702
2,029
2,507
1.181
1,508
1,676
Double-crested Cormorant
-
-
-
2
1
-
-
Neotropic Cormorant
9
1
-
-
-
6
6
Great Blue Heron
80
134
54
109
128
95
91
Great Egret
185
175
26
141
155
112
225
Snowy Egret
207
145
5
19
89
5
39
Little Blue Heron
1
6
-
4
11
6
28
Reddish Egret - Red Morph
99
127
15
35
39
11
47
Reddish Egret - White Morph
17
5
-
5
Cattle Egret
107
21
6
2
19
12
27
Black-crowned Night Heron
112
35
46
78
87
19
79
White Ibis
273
133
85
148
52
64
276
White-faced Ibis
-
6
-
-
-
-
-
Roseate Spoonbill
293
31
29
71
110
28
59
American Oystercatcher
2
1
-
-
-
2
2
Lauging Gull
4,440
3,026
3,143
6,245
-3,691
4,800
3,750
Gull-billed Tern
6
-
11
-
36
5
5
Caspian Tern
22
22
-
-
-
1
15
Royal Tern
3,308
3,031
4,625
2,909
2,290
3,400
8,000
Sandwich Tern
350
582
622
1,484
710
550
625
Black Skimmer
1
22
34
-
176
110
182
Totals
13,220
9,822
10,921
14,378
9,349
10,813
15,521

 


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How to Help:

Contact Warden Tim Wilkinson for information on how to contribute or volunteer at twsword1@gmail.com. Be sure to visit the Audubon Texas Web site for information about other bird sanctuaries at: Audubon Texas Web site.