Somehow this month has already gotten away from me. Partial blame is having spent the first week of January down in Texas seeking out new material for the blog. For the next couple of months you will definitely be hearing a lot about that recent trip as well as spoils from the other trips to Texas we’ve taken over the last several years. There is a specific reason for this southern state focus, but I am going to keep that under wraps for a bit longer. For you, the Texas focus is going to be either really good or possibly irritating. If you are a bird enthusiast you will definitely be the former – if you prefer your wild without feathers, then my apologies right up front, gonna be a bumpy ride. I do plan to sprinkle in some other creatures to help you through it.
Kicking right into the new year’s theme – bringing you another new bird for my list
Hopefully you can make it through the less than stellar photography execution. The day was overcast and basically too dark to even hope to get a wall hanger. Task at hand was to try my best to get something in the tin to satisfy requirements to officially get the check on my list. Took a bit of processing in the digital darkroom, but I think they are sufficient to get credit – will let my check officiating crew (aka my brother Ron) weigh in if there is a differing opinion. For now, you will need to tolerate some fuzzy soft shots.
Hit the jump to find out with this new bird is!
That there is an American Oystercatcher. We were heading up through Galveston Island on our return leg of our Texas trip back in January 2017. To give us a different experience on the way back, we opted to take the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula. We wanted to see what that area had to offer in the birding category. It didn’t take long to be productive. While scanning the water for interesting subjects, a deep orange/red bill caught my eye. Having done a bit of research on the area, it was immediately apparent these specimens needed to get in the tin pronto. Issued the code word for Linda to stop the vehicle and jumped out to figure a way to do just that.
Mind you, these Oystercatchers were a looooong way out there. The road curvature didn’t provide any additional foot zoom either ahead or behind. That left the Beast struggling to get a bead on small dark subjects in bad light. This isn’t a problem for statue-like Herons and Egrets. These Oysters were too busy moving about and poking into the water in search of nourishment. The ISO was already pushed due to the weather conditions, ended up having to push it beyond comfortable levels to compensate for that additional motion and distance. That’s technical photo jargon for I should be eating waffles, not taking pictures.
Although, generally not one for excuses, this combination tends to soften the shots which then gets amplified when cropping for the distance. I’ve done a lot worse for sure – just prefer to give my readers better quality as a trade off for their time investment. Lucky for me, the bill alone on these birds is almost unique enough to get the check. Not at the same level as say a Skimmer, but the length and brightness do set them apart from their fellow shorebirds. I had to chuckle when an American Avocet decided to join the search party. Having seen what happened the last time I saw an Avocet engaging with different species, my shutter finger was ready to capture some aggressive behavior – check out the previous Avocet posting if you want some more background (link here).
In that previous encounter, the Avocet had the superior bill in terms of intimidation. In this encounter, the Avocet looked down its formidable lance towards one of the Oystercatchers. Noticing the act of intimidation, the Catcher took its full bill out of the water and countered the offer. Since I don’t speak bird, I am forced to simply surmise the response was “HOLY CRAP!” At that point, the Avocet remembered it had somewhere to be and promptly left the danger zone. Pretty sure there were some Catcher chuckles over that one.
Oh no, out of pictures … well, at least of ones I am willing to show. Do have to show my signature pose.
Being a new bird on the blog, let’s do some quick searches and see what we can find that’s worth forwarding along. Based on the regional maps, looks like they prefer to hang out on the ocean coastlines. There are two flavors of Catchers with the American preferring the eastern/southern coastlines and the Black variety preferring the Pacific coastline. As you would expect based on their name, they do feed on bivalves (oysters, clams, mussels) along with some other water based creatures. Interesting having always thought they would just whack their prey on a rock or simply use that spike of a bill to bust through their victims hard shells, they actually catch them by surprise and stick their bill in their shell opening before they can close it. Once past the defenses, they cut the closing muscle giving full access to the tasty morsels inside. Not many details beyond that.
Need to get back to more picture processing – hope you enjoyed my new addition – see you again REAL soon.