Strutting around on the beach
I HAVE been watching War and Peace on the telly recently and it is dripping with dandy young men and women, strutting their stuff in front of their chirping prospective partners.
Forward wind to the 1980s and we still had people with no regard for their reputations with high hair and bright clothes trying to catch the eye of mates.
As Adam and the Ants once proclaimed: “Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”
One of the animal world’s examples of this type of showiness is the oystercatcher.
It struts around with its long pink legs and sturdy, black and white body, but that red beak is something that was obviously attached at the last minute of its creation.
As with all waders that beak is long and flattened so the oystercatcher can search around in the mud and sand looking for shellfish on the coast and insects and other goodies inland.
The bird is pretty much a feature of most inland lakes today and you will see flocks of them hopping into the air together as you walk towards them on the tidelines of beaches along the coast.
In summer many birds tend to head inland as food supplies of cockles and mussels have dried up in some coastal areas, but winter sees a return to the coast with thousands flying in from Norway and Iceland.
Recent figures in the Lancashire Bird Atlas show figures of some 47,000 birds in one survey of the county’s three main estuaries – the Lune, the Wyre and the Ribble.
Our own wildlife trust’s population is believed to be around 2,200, so you are more likely to see an oystercatcher in winter.
The Bird Atlas points out oystercatchers were confined to the dunes and beaches a century ago, but they were nesting on the estuaries. These links to the inland areas helped oystercatchers to move upstream searching for food.
While they tend to avoid urban areas, they were reported to be nesting on top of the Jaguar factory in Halewood on Merseyside from 2008.
There is nothing better than spotting these wonderful birds if you are strolling along a beach or lakeside.
They really are one of our most striking feathered friends.
And in winter they huddle together in their thousands on sea fronts and rocky shores.
And what is a group of oystercatchers? It’s a parcel of course.
This is another of wildlife’s spectacular groupings so get down to the coast and keep your eyes peeled.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. Text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
●● The oystercatcher