my gull friend and oystercatchers

6.29.21 ~ The Captain is back!!! ~ Eastern Point

The weather has been brutal here, heat advisories, oppressive humidity, air quality alerts… What a relief that pandemic restrictions at the beach have been lifted, for the most part, so we can get out of the house for supper there, a tradition we had to skip last summer. And joy of all joys, on our first evening out, my gull friend with the mangled leg showed up!!!

He did a couple of flybys but didn’t land on the post in front of our bench. Perhaps he doesn’t remember us. It’s been a couple of years. But, more likely, it was because of a human family picnicking on the lawn. They were encouraging their children to toss food to the gulls (against the beach rules) and to then chase them, shouting and screaming at them, when they tried to get the food. If my friend had landed on his usual post he would have been pursued. I hope that family won’t be there the next time we go.

The Captain surveyed the situation from the top of a tall lamp post and I did manage to get a couple of pictures of him. I’m a little concerned because he was keeping his mouth open, a behavior I’ve not seen before. Tim thinks perhaps he was cooling off from the heat. I did some research and that does seem to be the case. Poor overheated gull.

For my newer readers who may be wondering who The Captain is… Back on August 27, 2011, almost ten years ago, I met him at our beach while we were waiting for Hurricane Irene to arrive. We’ve been friends ever since. When Tim & I have supper at the beach in the summer he will often come perch on the pole in front of our bench and keep us company while we’re eating. We never feed him so I like to think he has no agenda besides friendship. If you click on “The Captain” tag at the end of this post you will see all the posts tracing our history.

As I turned to leave my friend I heard the unmistakable calls of American oystercatchers. There was a family of five on the rocks, plucking hermit crabs out of the water, the parents teaching their young ones how to feed themselves. It was only a few weeks ago when we saw the parents flying around the rocks and so it looks like they did settle here this year, like they did seven years ago. Needless to say, I was walking on air!

The youngsters have the dark-tipped bills.
The adult bills are bright orange-red.

This juvenile was paying close attention to its parent’s demonstration.

American Oystercatchers probe sandy and stony areas for clams, oysters, and other mollusks, which they open by cutting or smashing. Much of their day is spent resting in roosts during high tide. They are vigorous, and very loud, during courtship displays, territorial conflicts, and interactions with intruders.
~ All About Birds website

The first hint to their presence is often their whistling call, which can be heard from a mile away.
~ All About Birds website

26 thoughts on “my gull friend and oystercatchers”

  1. I marvel at your friendship with a gull you do NOT feed. Amazing. In Norway, they are greedy beasts who seem to eat almost everything – including stuff that is not eatable, like old old shoes. I made up that one, but at lest, so it seems to me

    1. I love gulls and forgive them for their apparent greediness. I think of them more as opportunists. It’s the humans who are foolish enough to feed them in the first place, and then complain when they show up for more. What do they expect? Our food is just as bad for them as it is for us.

  2. I am amazed that your gull friend is still going strong. That is wonderful to hear! It saddens me to hear of the family’s behavior. I’d like to think that if they’d stop and think about their actions a little they would change, but who knows these days. It must have been hard for you to have to watch.
    The oystercatchers are so lovely, aren’t they? Great photos and information.

    1. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a pair of nature lovers but it always shocks me when I see parents teaching their children to bully or hurt other beings. Compassion for other creatures was an early and often repeated lesson in my family of origin. Sigh… It’s hard to know just why some people behave that way. I’m glad I finally noticed the oystercatchers and got to spend some time watching them teach their youngsters. 🙂

  3. What a wonderful post! I remember that the Captain did not appear last year, and so share your happiness that he’s still flying around.

    1. Thank you, Susan! Seeing him again was at the top of my wish list and I was thrilled he showed up for our first summer supper at the beach! 🙂 (Next time we go I hope he will sit on the fencepost next to our bench.)

  4. Wow, The Captain has lived a good long time, despite his disability. I read that the oldest recorded was 29 years. I didn’t know that they can live that long!
    The oystercatchers are so striking with their orange bills. I’m heartened that they have had a successful brood.

    1. I’m happy the oystercatchers have been successful, too. We hadn’t seen them for 7 years and this was the first time I’ve actually seen the juveniles!
      I do wonder how long my gull will live, who knows how old he was when I first saw him 10 years ago? I read the average lifespan is 10-15 years. The day I saw him catch and eat a large crab reassured me that his bad leg doesn’t hold him back from taking good care of himself. He could live many more years!

  5. I’ve never seen an oystercatcher so thanks for that. Maybe they don’t come to FL? Watching the birds and seeing an old friend is better than any “dinner and a movie.” Glad you and Tim can continue this summer tradition.

    1. I looked at a range map and see that they are found year-round in northern Florida, but only right on the coast. Up here they visit to breed. Ah yes, we’ve never been the “dinner and a movie” sort, more “lunch and a walk.”. 🙂

  6. Fabulous shots, Barbara! How awesome for you to see Captain again, and to know he’s been living successfully with his handicap. Yes, all birds will open their mouths, almost like panting, helps them keep cool. 🙂 You got awesome shots of the Oystercatchers, well done! They are a beautiful bird.

    1. Thank you, Donna! Thanks so much for confirming the open mouth to keep cool theory. 🙂 Oystercatchers are definitley eye-catching and so much fun to watch. I’m glad climbing on the rocks isn’t allowed so people aren’t tempted to get too close to them. As it was, no one noticed them but me but I’m not sure if that makes me happy or sad…

  7. My first thought was the same as your husband’s — the gull was trying to cool off. If that’s the same heat wave we had recently, I can understand how miserable wildlife and people can be, and I hope you’ll get a break soon. I’m not familiar with Oystercatchers, so thank you for introducing them to me!

    1. You’re welcome, Debbie! We did get a break — temperatures plunged for the weekend and hit record-setting lowest highs for July. Amazing… American oystercatchers are strictly an east coast shorebird, although the range map shows them on the western Mexican coastline, too. On the west coast they have black oystercatchers with black bellies whereas these have white bellies. 🙂

  8. Beautiful photos. The deets on each bird are amazing to me, a person who sort of sees birds in the trees around here, but never very clearly.

    1. Thank you, Ally! It helps that the oystercatcher is big, the size of a crow, and the herring gull is even larger. The smaller birds are much harder to distinguish from each other. 🙂 Songbirds are fun to listen to, even though I can’t tell most of them apart…

  9. How wonderful that you saw the Captain once again, and know that he lives on. I was walking on the road this morning and pondering the awareness in everything–even birch trees, and fireflies and rocks. Thinking of he awareness shining through the Captain and the oyster catchers and you!

    1. Thank you, Kathy, for reminding me of the gift of awareness. Your walk sounds so peaceful and yet stirring, full of presence and gratitude. We don’t have fireflies around here but when I visited my aunt in West Virginia three summers ago we saw thousands of them at night in the woods near her house. It was awe-inspiring!

  10. That’s great to see the Captain is back – I was happy for you when I saw the title of your post. I believe Tim is right – when birds get too hot, they hyperventilate and open their beaks to breathe. My canary used to do this when I took him to the vet for check-ups and nail trims. Birds also open their beak to breathe like that when they are scared. My canary got so scared the vet once had to give him oxygen. The vet was great, an avian specialist who treated him like a prince, so perhaps the car trip over began his anxiety. I hope the family is not there next time so you have your favorite gull to yourselves. I love those Oystercatchers with their intense eyes and bright and long beaks. You have got some fabulous shots here Barbara.

    1. Thank you, Linda! Going to the vet sounds like it was terrifying for your poor little canary. Did the vet give him oxygen by putting him in a little box with the oxygen pumped in? I think I saw that done on “The Vet Life” on the Animal Planet network. Wouldn’t it be nice if vets would make house calls? I remember how hard it was getting one of our cats into her carrier to go to the vet. It took two people (four hands) to get all of her legs into it at the same time. And she’d cry in the car the whole way, even though the vet was very nice. But after her examination was over she would bolt straight back into the carrier with no “assistance,” more than ready to go home!

      1. I wish they did make house calls … I’d never schedule an appointment until that day so I knew it wasn’t too hot, too cold, too windy – never took him after mid-October until mid-April. I didn’t see what they did for oxygen Barbara … that time we were early for Buddy’s appointment and I had him in his regular cage (canaries are not easy to get out of their cage like a parakeet so that you can put them in a small travel cage). I was cooing to him and talking softly and he wouldn’t stop hyperventilating and he went in the corner and faced it, acting erratically with some head bobbing too, so I called to a vet tech to ask for help and they whisked him away. He was fine until the last year or so of h is life and then this – I hated to take him there, then he’d be almost a day until he would come to see me. When we had his yearly visit, I stayed in the examination room with the doctor and he was fine with her, however, when he had nail trims, I took him to the exam room and they then took the entire cage away each time to another room. So I always wondered if they somehow accidentally hurt him, maybe cut his toe or mishandled him? Something happened and then he had a stroke about 15 months after the first incident and I had him euthanized, so I’ve not been back. So then I swore off pets – too upsetting to lose one as I have no other living family members. I have adopted the squirrels and birds instead.

        1. I’m so sorry this nightmare happened to both of you. 🙁 After my mother died we thought my father would benefit from the company of a cat, since he loved them so much. But he said the same thing you did, it’s too upsetting to lose them and start grieving all over again. We’re living without pets, too, relieved of the responsibilites and worries, but missing them a little, too. It’s proving to be easier enjoying our encounters with wild creatures and leaving it at that…

          1. Thank you Barbara … never again will I subject myself to that grief, because with companion pets, when it is just the two of you, it is truly just as heartbreaking as losing a family member. Your father was right – it’s just more grief to deal with. Yet, I have a friend who has raised golden retrievers for many years. She used to track them and in fact, she lives in Kingsville, near Windsor, Ontario and was the person who trained the K-9 handlers at the Windsor Police Department. She one time had nine dogs as a fellow tracker passed away and asked fellow trackers to take care of her dogs. My friend lives in a rural area of Kingsville – she said she grieves for each dog she has lost, but she has a separate place in her heart and knows she has to move on. Her dogs adore her and when she fell and hit her head on the pavement on a February day, she was unconscious and in a PJ and bathrobe and they covered her body with theirs to keep her alive.

          2. I don’t blame you. I remember the story of your friend’s golden retrievers. It’s amazing how smart and loyal dogs are. I’m glad there are people who have the energy and the patience to give them all they need. I’m not a dog person but I love watching “Pit Bulls & Parolees” on Animal Planet on TV. I admire people who care so much about helping animals.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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