Townsend’s warblers busy in the bird bath. (photo Margo Hearne)

On the Wing: Oystercatcher Chicks and Fairies in the Garden

We had seen the Black Oystercatcher sitting on a log high up on the beach

By Margo Hearne

We had seen the Black Oystercatcher sitting on a log high up on the beach.

It was a sunny day so we presumed it was having a sun-bath — as birds do. Then we saw another oystercatcher further away, poking among the rocks as the tide fell. It called across to its partner then flew over to join it and drop something on the beach. A tiny chick appeared and picked up the morsel. The adult bird repeated the action three or four more times, always dropping the food closer to the open flats.

READ MORE: On the Wing: Feed, fish, birds and whales

Both parents were now actively moving closer to the shingle’s edge. The chick followed, then two more chicks came out from under the log where they had been hiding.

The youngsters tentatively followed their parents out over the open shingle and on to the sea-weedy flats where they fed among the tide-pools as the tide went down.

It was fun to see how the parents coaxed them out into the open so they could learn to fend for themselves. All being well, in a short time they will be as big as the mom and dad.

These oystercatchers, black as night, have a bright red bill and pink legs and have successfully raised a family for the past few years. They have learned more each year, and are passing their experience on to the next generation.

A family of Townsend’s Warblers has been having a field day in our bird bath this past while.

READ MORE: On the Wing: The removal of the Pigeon Guillemot ‘colony’

They wash and splash and dart about, dropping in and out from the low branches as they cool down in the mid-afternoon. A tiny kinglet waits on the edge for its chance and this week, for the first time ever, a Rufous Hummingbird hovered over the water. It didn’t risk going in but went underneath the dripping tap and had a shower! Water ran down its back and on to its flared tail for a brief moment before it flashed away. I guess when you have the ability and agility to do that sort of thing, why not?

Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of detective Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies. He maintained that he saw them at the bottom of his garden flitting among the wildflowers. I don’t believe in fairies, I prefer to trust what I see, but if you didn’t know what it was, and only saw it from the corner of your eye, a hummingbird, after a shower, could be mistaken for one, sprinkling shining, sunlit water as it shoots away. Not to throw cold water on Doyle, but he could have seen dragonflies or large moths as there are no hummingbirds in England.

The crane chicks are growing up, the grouse chicks are barely surviving when they cross the highway, Common Merganser chicks follow their parents over the water in a straight line and here’s hoping that the oystercatcher chicks live long lives. Summer travels beckon us away for a short while, so this will be my last column for a week or so.

Thanks for reading!


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