Saturday, 7 March 2015

198. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Time now for the waders, a dauntingly large group containing many streaky brown guys who will no doubt have me impatiently splodging various shades of brown everywhere to make a right mess. However I'm excited to start painting waders as it's also the group that contains some of my favourites such as Little Ringed and Ringed Plover and the phalaropes, and one of my most wanted birds, Dotterel. Plus I will get a nice gentle start with Oystercatcher today! 

Oystercatchers are among the UK's best-known waders, being noisy residents year-round of our coasts, and also breeding inland - where I volunteer at RSPB Sandwell Valley, we have the same pair returning every year to breed. They're easily recognisable, or at least the female is, because she only has one foot - it doesn't seem to hinder her too much though! From watching their antics over the past few years, it's apparent that they invest a high level of parental care in their offspring, and this pays off, with them successfully raising many young'uns. Oystercatchers are unmistakeable with their black and white plumage, bright orange bills, pink legs and noisy calls. In winter they also develop a white stripe along their chin. They like open areas including a wide range of coastal habitats - tidal mudflats, sandy beaches, saltmarshes, sand dunes and grassy clifftops - also lake, reservoir and river shores, and fields in upland areas. Eurasian Oystercatchers are also resident around the coasts of other European countries at similar latitudes to the UK; they also breed inland and at higher latitudes in many northern European countries. They are found in winter only around more southerly coasts (Atlantic coasts of the Iberian peninsula and France; north Africa; Greece). Further afield, their distribution stretches right across central Asia to coastal China and Russia.

Eurasian Oystercatcher, ©Knut Nilsen, via Flickr Creative Commons
Oystercatcher painting.
Hmm quite like this one :o) a bit cartoonish but that's Oystercatchers for you.

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