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Monday, May 24, 2010

The African Black Oystercatcher





I have painted a pair of "tobies" flying low above the water line where they forage for food. The long orange-red bills are also used to pry oysters and mussels from between the rocks and they can push that bill right into the sand to find little fauna underneath. These birds also feed by night! African Black Oystercatchers or Haematopus moquini, called tobies in our area, mate for life, the pair remaining loyal throughout their potentially long lives of up to 35 years.

Black oystercatchers are the most precious birds on the West Coast, being on the Red Data list of seriously endangered birds with less than 5000 in the world. There is a sign at Kabeljoubank warning visitors not to disturb these birds. (visitors to these beaches and rocks are luckily very few) Tobies are not very scared if you keep your distance, and I can sit quietly about 10 meters from them for a long time.

Their nesting habits are problematic as they scratch a shallow nest into sand and sometimes line it with a few bits of shell. With only one to four eggs lying in the open, the dangers are many! The eggs can be trampled, found by dogs or grabbed by other birds and animals. It is a known fact that the conservation people who watch and count the birds will not even tell a well-meaning person where a nest can be found! Human curiosity may just lead a person to try and take a peek and later on someone's dog may follow the spoor!

21 comments:

  1. I love it when we are visited by a pair of black oystercatchers -- easily identified by their bright orange beaks and legs if they're patrolling the shoreline, or their distinct (and loud) call if they're racing around like the ones in your beautifully painted picture. As far as I know, there's just the one pair here, and I don't know where they nest, but I hope they've found a better place than the very popular walkway around the harbour.

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  2. Oh my, humans can learn something from these birds - being loyal to your partner for life! Beautiful painting and once again I have learned something new! : )

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  3. wonderful art and what a treat looking through your blog.
    God bless and keep it up.

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  4. Love the way you captured them in flight. Very interesting to read about these birds. They are very distinctive with their red bills. You live in an interesting area for a watercolorist.
    Jean

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  5. They are beautiful birds and you have painted them beautifully!! Thank you for teaching us about them!!

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  6. I went to bed knowing full well that the blues in the photo of my painting was not correct! Does other people also suffer from "the battle of the blues" when it comes to photographing art? I think it is better now!

    Charlene, I keep learning as I never realized that the birds that I know almost intimately are really all over the world!

    Yes, Helen, the partnering is impressive. We usually see 7 pairs here. I have never seen brown chicks though, we hope the parents get a chance to breed.

    Thank you, Gary, I will continue as long as possible!

    Jean, you will find a lot to paint and must consider a visit! I think why I can paint this area is because it is quite desolate. If it was Stellenbosch for instance, I would have an overwhelming choice of buildings, trees, etc and would never have started!

    Thank you, dear Manon!

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  7. How inspiring to have these birds close-by Marie! A real treat - beautifully done.

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  8. Thank you Marie, for this wonderful post. I loved hearing about these black oystercatchers. I find myself imagining a nest lined with shells (ouch). I find myself rooting for those eggs and for officials who work to keep this species safe. It saddens me to know that they mate for life for the simple reason that I have seen the grieving a duck will do when he loses his mate (also maters for life). Still, a fascinating fact that is so intriguing to me. The painting is gorgeous, truly, and once again, I find myself wishing I could visit your beautiful part of the world!

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  9. Thank you, Maree!

    Shelley, I would hate to see a tobie without his mate, that must be so sad, I'm sure. I can well imagine that you will be such a wonderful member of wildlife society. I wish you could visit too!

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  10. How great are these paintings!

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  11. This is wonderful Marie. So interesting and the colors are just gorgeous. Very nice!

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  12. I love this piece. And you are such a compassionate soul, Marie. Thank you for educating us about this lovely bird!

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  13. Yes, I love how you captured some of them in flight with the backdrop of the ocean. They are fascinating to read about as well. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Marie.

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  14. I love learning about your country and all of its inhabitants.... They have such orange beaks, don't they???

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  15. Thank you Art Trip, Barbara and Kelley, Michelle and Marian! Yes the beaks are truly red when you watch these birds from the beach. The photos and paintings often make the bills look either darker or lighter.

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  16. Beautiful art Marie! I adore your site. I do have a surprise on mine, do come visit!

    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  17. Sometimes I publish a comment, yet it does not show up here. So this time I am bringing Kim, comment straight from my e-mail:

    Kim has left a new comment on your post "More about Paternoster":
    Marie, This is absolutely lovely! Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your kind comment. And now I have discovered a wonderful new artist! Cheers!

    Thank you Kim and Karena!

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  18. I like the dark dominant shapes of the birds over the surf. Both birds and waves depict a lot of energy. These birds are new to me, as I'm sure they do not exist in Southern Ontario.
    I have a lot of difficulty with blues in my photos as well. I find that in Picasa I can add some yellow quite easily and it helps. Also, some cameras can change the light balance so that they don't come out too blue. Its so complicated!!! As if painting the picture isn't hard enough :)

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  19. This is a wonderful painting, Marie - and a wonderful story to go with it.

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  20. Wonderful painting! I can see their flight and feel the mist from the sea. Very interesting information on these birds. I love your blog and am always pleased when a new painting appears!

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  21. Thank you Catherine, I only noticed the energy in this painting after you mentioned it. The thing with blue is that blue sky has an influence on the photo. We must wait for an overcast day with white bright sun shining through clouds. Then take out tripod and camera and all the paintings and do a good job!

    Thank you Claire and Linda!

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