The Sooty Oystercatcher
I walk most days. Down through the lower escarpment and between the houses until my feet find the sand - sometimes soft, sometimes gritty with a hard crust, sometimes whipping ankles in the stiff breeze. Walking up and down this small patch of coast - taking in its rocks, beaches, the wide expanse of sea off a jutting platform - brings me cleansing and peace.
There's a special little bird here that I see often. It's a funny looking creature - black all over, squat on short pink legs that almost seem to bend the wrong way as it walks, with a long orange beak that is remarkably designed for purpose.
I've seen this bird in a group. They waddle fast and then slow after one another on the platform, watching shallow pools, running toward the waves exploding against the shelf and prancing in the whitewash on the rock that reveals the best food. They nudge detritus aside with that beak - an orange lever lifting and prising and digging in an industrious search for food.
I've seen this bird flying in pairs, in a long low determined track just above the waves, from one rocky point to another, letting out a brief honking call. Is it joy at the feeling of flying successfully against the wind, hard and fast against the water? Is it the announcement of their arrival, or is it a call of direction? I wish I knew what their cries meant.
Best of all I've watched this bird when it is alone, taking a careful promenade along the shelf. Stopping, strutting with a bent leg, staring into shallow depths, quickly grabbing little prizes in the beak. It's an awkward looking little waddle, a little shuffle sideways, a quick dart to the next spot, a stop and watch, a still gaze and a brief targeted attack. I find it magical.
The Oystercatcher is a wading shorebird. Between tides it will be found out on the edge, aloof from the world, dancing on its own. Returning daily and just doing what it needs to do to survive, mostly unperturbed by being watched. I feel such an affinity with this bird. I like the peace and quiet and similarity and change of this space. My heart sings out here under the sun or in the rain, just sharing space with these birds for a while. I’m so grateful for these moments in time.
Author Bio: I'm an amateur observer who likes to spend some time in nature each day, photographing and reflecting on things that interest me. I'm on inaturalist @ m_v.