African Oystercatchers are one of my favourite species of bird to photograph. To me their pitch black plumage with crimson accents strategically provided by their legs, beaks and eye lids makes them exceptionally photogenic. Combined with the correct background, crashing surf for instance, you just can’t go wrong.
I “discovered” these magnificent creatures after my parents retired to Mossel Bay. When visiting them over the Christmas holidays with my family, one of the highlights for me would be to go “hunting” for Oystercatchers on the beach at Dana Bay and the rocks of Fransmanshoek.
Silvia and I went Oystercatcher “hunting” in the Dana Bay dunes a few years back, and were frustrated by numerous pairs of these nervous birds flying off before we could get even close to a distance which would allow for semi-decent shots.
We had basically given up and had started walking back slowly through the dunes towards the car park when we saw a flock of 6 Oystercatchers flying towards us over the breakers on the right, making as if they wanted to land. As there was a row of dunes between us and the shoreline, we quickly dropped down behind the dune and waited for the birds to settle before carefully looking up over the top.
What a wonderful sight as they paraded down the beach right in front of where we were lying ….
During our visit to Scotland in 2016 we were very pleasantly surprised to find Eurasian Oystercatchers almost everywhere, even miles inland from the nearest coast. We spent two weeks hiking on the Isle of Skye and the North of mainland Scotland. The sheer cliffs of Noss Head at the northernmost point of Scotland are home to many of these beautiful birds.
We also had the privilege of fitting in a visit to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth between many wonderful rounds of golf at the wonderful Crail Golf Club. The Isle of May is home to thousands of nesting pairs of Puffins during May and June, as well as a substantial Oystercatcher population.
As previously mentioned in one of my first blog articles, we have regularly encountered American Oystercatchers on our visits to the beaches in the Gulf of Chiriqui. These aren’t as skittish as their European and African cousins. The dark volcanic sand beaches are a perfect stage on which to present these exquisite birds.
Hopefully I’ll still get to photograph some of the 5 species of Oystercatchers to be seen around Australia and New Zealand.