Oystercatchers

No stretch of coastline around the UK is complete without at least a few pairs of Oystercatchers. Bardsey is home to about 80 pairs, which breed around the entire coastline year after year. From mid-Spring to late Summer it is rather hard to go for a walk anywhere near the sea without setting a pair up into the air with their loud piercing alarm calls, and with the ferocious attacks in some situations. They are, despite becoming rather annoying as the year progresses, pretty charasmatic birds that are certainly on of the most obvious things that pop into mind when you think of the coast. (well, certainly for me, at any rate).

At the moment, all of the pairs around the island are incubating eggs, which are laid in a small scrape on a rocky ledge or shingle beach. Both the males and females can share incubating duties, although most often it is the female. The period of incubation is between 24 and 27 days, whereafter it can often take another few weeks before the chicks fledge. The young are said to be precocial, which just means that they hatch out at a fairly advanced stage of development, leaving the nest very soon after hatching, find their own food, and follow their parents.

An interesting fact about Oystercatcher chicks is that, due to the species’ very specialised feeding habit, the young will often remain with the parents for weeks so that they may learn the techniques involved in extracting bivalves from their tough shells. It has even been said that the young may associate with their parents for up to a year after fledging.

I have made a bit more of an effort to photograph this species in its element this year, with a mixture of long exposures and finding the right locations for atmospheric shots. Here is a selection of images from the last week, taken with Canon 7Dmk II and Canon 300mm f2.8 + 1.4x converter.

A few nights ago I was out in the evening when a very heavy rain storm arrived. Instead of running back to the house or nearest shelter, I took the opportunity to try and get some more atmospheric images of a few Oystercatchers which were perched on some rocks not far away. With a strong wind, the rain was almost horizontal, and got very heavy indeed. Sheltering behind my camera bag, I was really pleased when the sun dropped below the rain cloud on the western side of me, and so backlit the rain in a really nice way. I experimented using different shutter speeds to get the most desirable effect on the rain
There are around 80 pairs of Oystercatchers nesting on Bardsey, and they are all incubating eggs at the moment. I used a remote shutter release and fisheye lens to capture this bird on a nest on Solfach. This bird is relatively tolerant of human presence on the beach, due to the number of visitors that visit

For this image I used a slow shutter speed of 25th second to capture the slightly backlit waves crashing on the rock. This type of image is one that I have really been experimenting with this year

A somewhat perturbed Oystercatcher reacting to me being a bit too close to their hidden nest

A couple more
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