Facts of Life, Sooty Oystercatchers
Sooty Oystercatchers, classed Vulnerable in NSW
for KC Valla Beach, 29 Sept 2015
You had never been here, couldn’t believe the colour of the sand,
white as whitewash, how blue, how green the water bright as glass.
On a sand spit in the centre of Deep Creek at low tide, two Sooty
Oystercatchers sleep, long red bills buried in black feathers, just
one red eye each. I take a photograph and holster the camera.
They stand, one stretches a wing then jumps the other, too quick
for my lens, all over in a second, the female bending her body
(the graphics obscured by the pitch black on black and distance,
but she would have moved her tail aside, he will have arched his body
to rub his cloaca on hers and in a flash switch sperm in a ‘cloacal kiss’).
They look identical to me, it’s lucky they can sex each other.
Apparently, the female is sometimes slightly larger than the male
with shorter wings and a broader bill. They mate for life and there’s
one record of a pair defending the same nesting site for 20 years.
I cracked a joke about which one was going to light a cigarette
After an awkward dismount, flapping one wing for balance, he stood
as if in deep thought then seconds later they took off in synch, singing
over the fragile water, bills facing down, piping a love duet until the song
was lost in the heavy breathing of the breakers and the whisper of wind
in casuarinas plaiting the forest at our backs, if you listened hard enough.