Country diary: love is in the air for these oystercatchers

Country diary: love is in the air for these oystercatchers

Sandy, Bedfordshire: Each bird is studiously focused on its own doings yet peripherally aware of the other. Apart but close – are they an item?

Love is blossoming in our hairdresser’s horse paddocks by the river. Around a crescent-shaped pool – the last dregs of flooded winter – two oystercatchers are having nothing and everything to do with one another. Though they are the only diners in this fenced-off restaurant, each is studiously focused on its own doings. And yet both are peripherally aware of each other too. Apart but close, moving around the field, always keeping the same distance. Are they a pair, a couple, an item?

Both birds are feeding, wielding their beaks as precision tools, probing, listening, feeling for tremors of life. One hoicks up a catch and scampers down to the water to rinse it. It has short legs and long toes, and has the inelegant run of a diver wearing flippers. But it is quick. The other, presumably its mate, pauses and stares at the departing bird, waiting for it to come back into the zone of mutual devotion before resuming its search. Once more, the birds ignore each other. Apparently.

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