People who keep bird lists are often called twitchers or they are teased for being obsessive. “What’s important to you, the list or the bird?” I have often been asked. “Neither,” I tell them in my cheeky photographer voice. “I love catching them and taking them home in ways you may never see!”
My bird list says I first saw an Oystercatcher on the 1st of January 1994 off Cape Recife in Gqeberha. This might not mean much to anyone else, but to me, my list is a magical record keeper of days of adventure and holidays filled with explorations. My first sight of this dark black bird made me instantly fall in love with her character, attitude, and surprisingly colourful first impression. A flock of Oystercatchers can be a veritable assault on the senses with their bright eyes, striking beaks and the shrillness of their calls to each other from the intense ocean smelling kelp and mussel beds.
Now I live in Yzerfontein, where I can walk to the beach in five minutes and where on many of the beaches I can be sure to see Oystercatchers on any day of the week. They still thrill me. Late at night I can be lying in bed and hear one calling as she flies past on a mission of her own. “Yes,” I say, “I can hear you. You are a beautiful being.”