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.
During our only evening in Mallacoota in January it was warm and calm, ideal for a walk after a lovely dinner in the bistro of the local hotel where we were staying. The inlet was relatively quiet despite the large numbers of people – and their boats – staying in the seaside town for the Christmas holidays.
We found a comfortable seat on a headland overlooking the inlet. It was a good vantage point for some late evening birding, though the fading light made photography a challenge. In the estuary we saw several White-faced Herons, Whimbrels, Common Greenshanks, Pied Oystercatchers and Pacific Gulls, all too far away to get good shots.
Earlier we had seen a White-bellied Sea-eagle cruising overhead, sending some of the local birds into a mild panic. While we were relaxing it flew past again and landed on a tree across the water some two metres away. It was a long shot, even with the camera on the full 12x zoom. I haven’t seen this species all that often and never in a position for a close up photo, so this is the best I could do. The eagle is in the middle of the photo and it looks like it is eating something it had caught.
On our visit to Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria in January we went for an after dinner walk along the foreshore and estuary of the river. It was a calm, warm evening and we had a pleasant time exploring this lovely spot for the first time. We decided that this is one place we needed to revisit – and stay four or five days at the very least.
In the quiet estuary we saw many Black Swans, Australian Pelicans, a few Pied Oystercatchers and three Royal Spoonbills.
While on our walk we saw several Great cormorants as well as some Little Pied Cormorants. Two Whistling Kites patrolled the shallows in the company of a lone White-bellied Sea Eagle. I’ve not seen too many sea eagles in all of my birding, so this was something special. I was surprised though that there were not many ducks in the estuary. In fact I only recorded a few Australian Wood Ducks. Perhaps the kites and eagle had scared them off.
The inlet is an ideal haven for fishermen, and this is iluustrated by the large number of boats present in the water and on trailers in the caravan park. There are also boats offering cruises on the river, like the one shown below.
On our holiday in January earlier this year we travelled down along the south coast of New South Wales. On the second day we travelled from Bateman’s Bay to Mallacoota, stopping at a few places along the way. I was keen to find a few good birding spots and also look at potential good places to stay on future trips along that coast. This time we had our daughter with us and so we were on a limited time line. She had to get back home to start work.
One of the places we visited in the early 1980s which I wanted to revisit was the Mimosa Rocks National Park. It’s funny how you sometimes get an idealised concept of a place and want to return there after many years, only to find that it wasn’t like you remembered. That was the case here. Perhaps we went to a different part of the park that first time. The memory can play tricks at times.
Anyway, we found a nice picnic spot for lunch and I was able to do a little birding during and after lunch.
It was quite warm in the picnic ground as we were surrounded by reasonably dense trees and bushes. Only a few steps away one emerged at the beach and a lovely cooling breeze. It’s amazing how much difference a few steps can make.
A few people were swimming or sitting on the beach. Also using the beach were three Pied Oystercatchers, shown in the photo above. It had been some time since my last sighting of this species, so it was a good addition to my list. A few cormorants flew past as I scanned the beach and the water. I recorded both Great and Little Pied Cormorants.
In the picnic ground I watched a small flock of Striated Thornbills busily feeding in the bushes and trees. They wouldn’t come close enough or sit still enough for a photo. I also observed a Little Wattlebird coming into the picnic ground every few minutes, catching an insect, and then head off into the forest nearby, always going in the same direction. It looked very much like it was feeding young in a nest.
On the drive in and again on the way out we wound down the windows to hear the beautiful tinkling calls of the Bell Miners, another good species I don’t get to see or hear very often.