Seeing oystercatchers always delights me. In Australia we have two main species of this family of birds: the Sooty Oystercatcher shown here and the Pied Oystercatcher. There is a third much rarer species, the South Island Pied Oystercatcher, an occasional vagrant from New Zealand. This is one for the experts; I don’t have the skills to pick the difference.
Both species of oystercatchers are found around the entire coast line of Australia where there is suitable habitat. They prefer undisturbed sandy or pebble beaches, estuaries, mudflats and the like. They tend to be found only in small numbers; single birds, pairs or small loose flocks up to about 20 birds. They tend to be wary and not easily approached.
They make a nest on the ground, a shallow hollow in the sand or in in seaweed. I am not sure whether the bird shown below was nesting or just resting and sheltering from the cold wind. Like many oystercatchers they probably nest on the islands a short distance from this point on Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor.
Pied Oystercatchers are more common than their Sooty cousins in Australia.
A few days ago my wife and I spent a little while at Long Reef Point at Dee Why, a suburb of Sydney. This spot is known for its sea-birds, but at this time of the year only a few resident species can usually be found. Most of the waders have long since flown to warmer climes in the northern hemisphere.
The only water birds I was able to identify with my binoculars and the zoom on my camera were as follows:
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Sooty Oystercatcher (see photo below)
That’s not a great list by anyone’s estimation, but about the best I could do in the short time I had. Other birds seen in the vicinity, including the adjacent golf course, were:
Common Myna (see yesterday’s post)
Variegated Fairy-wren (see post from 2 days ago)
Again – not a great list but about what I expected for this time of the year, and for the weather conditions which were dull and overcast.
Next time we visit family in the summer months I must take out time from looking after the grandchildren and visit this spot again.
On our recent holiday on Yorke Peninsula we struck a weekend of wild weather. On Sunday morning the wind was blowing a gale and constant misty showers scudded across the sea and over the adjacent farmland. Undeterred we still went out for a drive knowing that this was the only way we would get to see anything. Walking was really not a pleasant option.
We stopped to have a cuppa at Sheoak Beach, parking the car so that we could sit in relative comfort out of the wind and rain – and yet be able to see the water and any birds on the beach. There was not much to see.
A few Australian Pelicans sheltered from the wind behind some seaweed tossed up on the beach (see photo below). A small flock of Crested Terns sat on the beach looking most uncomfortable in the atrocious conditions. Several Sooty Oystercatchers were hunched up against the wind too, and a few Silver Gulls valiantly tried to fly along the beach. A White-faced Heron also bravely battled against the wind.
As we drove off I opened the driver’s side window a little as it was on the leeward side. This was so I could add a few species I heard calling or saw as we drove along slowly. I saw several Singing Honeyeaters, Rock Doves and heard a Common Skylark calling out in a nearby field.
As you can see in the photos on this post, the conditions for photography were far from ideal, the misty rain making it impossible to get good shots.
Some birding days are like that.
We briefly visited Pondalowie Bay on Yorke Peninsula on our recent holiday. It was nearing the end of a wild and windy day. Not many birds were showing themselves along the beach or nearby headlands. I did see some cormorants, several Sooty Oystercatchers and the inevitable Silver Gulls.
Also present were two Pacific Gulls, soaring overhead on the wild gale force winds. I managed a shot of the two overhead flying in perfect synchronised formation. Annoyingly the shot out of focus. Bother!
It’s not good enough to show here, so I’ve included a photo of two sitting on a rock (see above). That shot was taken at Victor Harbor back in January. By way of apology I’ve included several scenery shots of wave action below.
During our recent holiday in Robe in the south east of South Australia we went for a short drive to Cape Dombey. This is within walking distance of the main street but our cottage was at the other end of town so we drove.
The cape consists of some low but spectacular cliffs. We spent about an hour there during a beautiful sunny and calm morning, a complete contrast with the wild weather of the previous three days. I was a little disappointed with the birding while we were there. The most common birds were the Rock Doves roosting on the rock ledges or on top of the cliffs. Occasionally a small flock would fly over towards one of the rocks or small islands just off the coast.
I also saw a few Little Pied Cormorants and their larger cousins the Pied Cormorants. Some of these were seen flying or swimming out to sea, others, including those in the photo above, were resting on the nearby rocks. On a nearby rock ledge I also saw two Sooty Oystercatchers, but they flew off before I could get a photo of them.
Other birds in the locality included Welcome Swallows gliding and swooping around the headland and the nearby scrub. In the bushy area in the nearby sandhills I also saw several Singing Honeyeaters, several small flocks of Superb Blue Wrens, a single Grey Shrike Thrush and several Masked Lapwings on the lawns of nearby houses as we returned to the cottage for lunch. I also heard several Little Ravens calling.
Oh – I nearly forgot the occasional small flock of Silver Gulls and a solitary Crested Tern.
Click on the photos to enlarge the image.