Sooty Oystercatchers are comical looking water birds with bright red eye rings, long red bills and bright pink legs. A pair were swimming in the ocean in the corner of the beach, literally chasing the waves out, plunging underneath as the new waves raced to the shore, then running back to shore with wavelets chasing them, a game I have watched countless children play.
This pair of Sooty Oystercatchers can often be seen clambering around the rocks looking for food at Serenity Beach over the hill from where I live, they are quite solitary and like to keep their distance. The bright pink legs are a direct contrast to the black bodies and in addition to the red beak they have a bright red eye-ring. They also have long bladelike bills perfect for opening molluscs.
This pair of oystercatchers live in such a lovely spot, a near deserted beach that is part of a protected nature reserve on the far north coast of NSW. I’d be happy to pitch a tent and stay here a while, there is even fresh water dripping down into a small cave and rockpools with starfish and sea cucumbers at one end, pandanas trees for shade and kangaroos taking a dip off the sandy shore. The off-shore island is called Split Solitary and the lighthouse is still in use.
On a night walk this week with my daughter we walked along the top of Look At Me Now Headland which is to the right of this photo. A thick carpet of stars overhead, the sounds of the ocean coming from either side (interspersed with the odd grunting of kangaroos) and as we walked out of a small dip in the track at the end of the headland we were hit with the full force of the wind and were greeted by the flashing light of the lighthouse. Standing in the dark as if I was on the bow of a ship, the waves crashing against the rocks below me, I imagined how comforting a sight it must be to see that little flashing light when sailors are far out at sea.
Oystercatchers are large dumpy waders with long bladelike bills for opening bivalved molluscs and this pair of black ones are called Sooty Oystercatchers. I always see them on a nearby beach with the pretty name of Serenity, just the two of them wandering around the rocks. They seem very content in their abode with its nice bay for swimming and a long expanse of rocks for them to explore. They are about 50 cm in size and are much more solitary in nature than the Australian Pied Oystercatcher which prefers to hang around in small groups on sandy beaches and mudflats.