You’ll have to excuse the photos – all taken using my teleconvertor which, I’m coming to realise, generally only produces slightly blurred, dull shots. (I know – a bad workman and his tools!)
My friend the Proper Birder had been telling me for a while: “Get yourself and the kids down to Allen hide – the avocet chicks are fledged and are often feeding in the pool right in front of the hide.” When an opportunity presented itself, only B was available and willing to join me. (And then somewhat reluctantly).
Once extinct in England, the avocet made a successful return in the 1940s; thanks, apparently, to Adolf Hitler – flooding on the East Anglian coast for defensive purposes and several years without disturbance created the right environment for their return. Now they nest all along the East coast. But in this little corner of the North-West, we have them too!
A couple who joined us in the hide asked whether I knew what species the chicks were, I could see why they were unsure: the chicks and adults were, for the most part, not together. Some chicks sat stock-still on the island, others stalked around the shallow pool whisking their beaks from side to side in the water. The adults meanwhile, were also feeding, or grooming, or shaking themselves in the water, apparently unconcerned; giving every impression of being dysfunctional parents. But this was deceptive – before we arrived at the hide, we had already seen the adults whirling in wide arcs around the pool, shrieking an alarm call. They are renowned for being extremely attentive and aggressive parents.
We watched one bird gather together three chicks…
…lead them across the ‘beach’ at the edge of the nearest island…
…and into the water on the far side, presumably taking them away from some perceived threat.
Then taking to the wing and seemingly abandoning them again, but actually flying away to screech at some interloper.
The avocets weren’t the only careful parents we saw: on the far side of the same island, we had a brief glimpse of two chicks which were being carefully shepherded by a pair of oystercatchers.
There’s another chick just about visible here, tucked away on the right.
It’s one of these…
…black-headed gull chicks.
Another oystercatcher got too close to a black-headed gull nest. One of the gulls made repeated sweeps low over the oystercatcher’s head.
The strange thing was that the oystercatcher didn’t make a hasty retreat, but simply ducked its head down each time the gull swooped what looked to be millimetres from it’s crown.
B was in charge of our binoculars and was very impressed.
But he enjoyed our walk to and from the hide even more…..
To Be Continued!