I always am in awe of Oystercatchers. Though they are found in India too - the Eurasian Oystercatchers - that travel all the way from Europe to India. Unfortunately for me - I was yet to see them here.
|Though this bird was clicked during my visit to Sandy Hook, I post it first as I think this is my finest snap...|
The closest I ever got to them was during a cruise for spotting whales while on my trip to Australia and that too seemed like from a million miles away. When I was preparing and packing for my trip to the USA - this bird was one of the must-see birds. During my stay at New-York - as we were driving along the coast - I thought I saw a pair fly in the far distance. Unfortunately - from the moving car, though my heart was excited, I refrained to log my sighting lest it gets a tick on my life list and there remains a small doubt in my mind that would nag me forever. But having got a glimpse - I was sure that these birds are around and will eventually show themselves one way or the other.
The wait was killing and I was on a lookout when I visited the Great Kills Park, New York. I saw a pair flying off in a distance - and though they were close enough for me to see and observe - they denied me the pleasure of the great picture that I wanted.
It was my visit to Sandy Hook that I could hunt them down. Once again I saw a pair in the distance and I plotted the track that I thought will take me to the beach where they were headed. The walk was just about a kilometre or so but first few hundred meters took me through the thick bush that gave me ample diversions with birds chirping here there and everywhere. I looked around the track - marked the tree where the birds seemed to be in a feeding frenzy and without wasting any time continued forward - I just did not want to miss the oystercatchers.
In case you were wondering why the sightings I had till now were in pairs - the reason was perhaps simple - the birds are 'monogamous' - taking one partner at a time (or even for the entire lifetime - if some reports are to be believed) - hence the sightings are two birds at a time or even numbers generally other than when they are with chicks.
|Birds flying around me keeping a keen eye...|
|...and yes they were calling too - that is what made me retrace my steps and go back.|
Coming back to the story - as I neared the beach - the sand dunes blocked my sight to the shore and I virtually rushed up the dune to peer down - and there in the far distance I could see a pair by the beach. That was still about 500 yards to go before I could see and photograph them. I started walking the walk - typical of birders - don't walk directly towards the bird, do not look or stare at it. Stop every few yards and do nothing - especially pointing the Bazooka of a camera towards the bird till it shows a certain comfort level in your presence. It would have taken me not less than 40-45 minutes to approach them and then - when I was close enough I had a time of my life clicking pictures of my dream birds. I sat down near them and soon they were all around me - they flew around many a times, keeping an eye on me only to land back where they were - and this was the time - I suspected that I might be near their nesting site - as nest that is nothing but a depression in the sand with eggs laid in centre. I got up and slowly walked back, following the footsteps in the sand that I had made coming to this point. As I entered the thick bush - either I was lost or the birds that I heard in the trees had moved on - and thus ended my best ever sightings of American Oystercatchers. The birds with hypnotic eyes.