Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fight! Fight! Pied Oystercatchers at Odds.

On the morning of New Years Day, with somewhat overcast conditions and a bit of sea fog about, I decided to look for waders along the eastern shore of Pipeclay Lagoon. This is sometimes a good spot for photographing waders, as you can use the car as a hide. As I approached the oyster sheds I came across a flock of about 15 or so Pied Oystercatchers, some in the middle of the dirt road. They were doing their 'piping display' ( top left) and seemed oblivious of my approach, so much so that I had to ease the car through the flock. Most will be familiar with this very vocal display, most often performed between adult birds on adjoining territories.
I turned the car round, so that I could watch/photograph this performance, and the ensuing images are the result. The shots are in the order that I took them, starting at 08.19 and ending at 08.27, (another advantage of digital photography!).
As the birds performed their piping display, only a few metres from me, I realised just how 'hyped' up they were. With head down and 'piping', they picked up shells and small stones, tossing them sideways, as they eyed off rivals. Two birds became particularly agitated and one ran at the other, resulting in the apparent 'head stand' of the second shot. From that point on the fight degenerated to an all in brawl, and they slowly moved away from the rest of the flock, and subsequently into the sea.
I've always thought of Pied Oystercatchers as being a little pugnacious with one another at times, but this was one of the few times I've seen it get that serious. The last image, sees the loser flying off, to be pursued briefly by the bird in the water. I can't tell you specifically what the fight was over, but assume it was over one bird trying to usurp the other's partner. I don't even know whether the protagonists were male or female, but presume they were most probably both males. If you want to fully enjoy their antics, I recommend you click on the images to enlarge them. An interesting 8 minutes of action!

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