With space at a premium, the normally territorial African black oystercatchers on Malgas Island, South Africa, are forced to congregate when feeding on the rocky shore. It's a time of intense social interaction, different breeding pairs flying in to claim their turn at the seaside table, prising shellfish off the rocks both to eat and to take back for their chicks. All the while, they keep an eye on the waves. 'They usually know exactly when to run from a crashing wave,' says Peter, 'but this wave seemed to take them by surprise'. Found only along the coastline of southern Africa, the charismatic species is the subject of a conservation success story. Back in the 1980s, numbers had declined to some 4,500 birds, mainly because their breeding beaches are also where humans with their dogs and off-road vehicles go, resulting in the death of many of the chicks. But though the species remains near-threatened, protection from disturbance in the breeding season has resulted in an increase in numbers to about 6,000.
Nikon D300S + 500mm f4 lens; 1/1600 sec at f8; ISO 640; Manfrotto tripod.
Malgas Island, South Africa