Oystercatchers are large, stocky waders, making them excellent photographic subjects, says Oscar Dewhurst
OYSTERCATCHERS have a long orange-red bill and legs, with white patches on their wings and tail, black upperparts and white underparts, making them very distinctive. Their call – a loud piping whistle – identifies them from a distance. The large, strong bill, means they can feed on prey unavailable to other waders, such as cockles, mussels and other bivalves, which they force open. They breed in a wide range of habitats, including saltmarshes, beaches (sand and shingle), alongside waterbodies and in agricultural land. During the winter, large flocks congregate on estuarine mudflats and saltmarshes.
At this time of year, birds will have returned from their breeding grounds, so large flocks can often be found together on the coasts where they feed. Most coastal sites will have oystercatchers present, although they can often be wary, and if in a flock, if one bird gets spooked, the whole flock can take off with it!
I always like to photograph early or late in the day, as when the sun is lower the quality of light is much better. These times also coincide with the highest activity levels of birds, and lowest activity levels of other people who could otherwise disturb them while you are in the middle of photographing them.
Their large strong bill enables them to feed along the coast Nikon D800, 600mm, 1/1600sec at f/8, ISO 640
Photograph early or late in the day when the birds are most active Nikon D800, 400mm, 1/2500sec at f/7.1, ISO 640