Oys­ter­catch­ers are large, stocky waders, mak­ing them ex­cel­lent pho­to­graphic sub­jects, says Os­car Dewhurst

Amateur Photographer - - Technique -

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

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