Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Oystercatcher

(1) Oystercatcher
(1) Oystercatcher
(2) Oystercatchers
(2) Oystercatchers
(3) Oystercatcher
(3) Oystercatcher
(4) Oystercatchers
(4) Oystercatchers
(5) Oystercatcher
(5) Oystercatcher
(6) Oystercatchers
(6) Oystercatchers
(7) Oystercatchers
(7) Oystercatchers
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THE OYSTERCATCHER

How many times have you been walking along Craigmore or Ardbeg area enjoying a blether with your partner or friend when you have been stopped in mid sentence with the shrill call of an Oystercatcher who has taken umbridge to you invading their area?.

 

I think that the answer will be quite often and may even be each time that you venture into these areas and many others“ ’as our shores have an abundance of these
birds, and if you disturb a flock of them, you can hardly hear yourself think.At one time they were called "The Alarmist", which I think would be a better name than the one that they have, as they have nothing whatsoever to do with oysters, and as for catching one, well I have yet to see an oyster running away“. ’ Many other species use the Oystercatcher to their advantage during nesting times as they are always on the alert and seem to sense danger quicker than most other birds. So it makes sense to build your nest close to them, even all species of gulls will tolerate them and will leave their eggs alone for the protection that they give in the way of noise. It cuts both ways as the volume of gulls in a gullery all dive bombing you is enough to send you on your way“."’ You scratch my back"!. Even Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers use them as well. They are birds that are easily seen on the beach where they nest, yet they seem to persist on laying their eggs just above the high tide mark where most people seem to walk. On seeing you aproach they will walk away from the nest which is only a scrape on the ground and head for the sea, leaving their eggs which are mottled brown in appearance and very hard to see, and many a clutch has been wiped out with the person responsible not even being aware of the fact, or finding out just too late. Their eggs were collected many years ago as well as seagulls and used for cooking, but with the price of hens eggs fallen over the years this practice seems to have stopped“, ’of which I am glad.They feed on cockles which they open with their chisel like bill and ragworms which they dig in the sand with their long bills. In times of high water the will descend en-masse to the farmers fields to feed on earth worms and anything else they can find. When they have been fed they tend to walk along the beach doing what is called" Piping", It seems to be a contest to see who can call the loudest and longest, which can go on for a very long time, and if you are out having a picnic? Tough!, it is their beach so sit back and enjoy the show, it will cost you nothing.
Most other wading birds take their young with them to feed once they are big enough but not so the oystercatcher, they take food to their chicks who are patiently waiting nearby. This is because they have yet to learn the feeding techniques that has made this bird so successful. They will on occassions stalk their prey waiting for a chance to strike the bill into an open shell, or if they are too slow then they will hammer it open. The young do not have a great deal of common sense as when their parents are screaming their heads of ,telling them of danger, they will get up and walk away unconcerned. And if a hoodie crow or a black-backed gull approaches, a war breaks out with both adults diving and trying to peck the offending bird and making it move away from their area. Throughout the day there are many repeat performances that it must be a relief when nightfall comes“. ’This is short lived as when they hatch out the nights are very short, so no long kips for them. That is why you will see them standing on one leg with their head tucked under their wing trying to catch forty winks. And to think that we complain if we dont get at least eight hours a night. we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Norrie Mulholland
First published in the Buteman April 2002.

 

 

 


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