These urgent bird calls are designed to distract

South Uist If the oystercatchers had sounded anxious, the new arrival sounds almost desperate, for its call has a panicky breathlessness about it

At the end of a hot summer day what could be pleasanter than a peaceful evening stroll down to the beach? The sun is still warm, there’s just the lightest of breezes, and the only sound to be heard is that of a skylark singing overhead. But we haven’t walked far before an oystercatcher takes to the air, uttering a succession of loud, shrill calls.

Over and over again it repeats its brief, anxious notes as it flies over our heads away across the field, and then returns to make another pass above us. A second oystercatcher a little further away echoes the vocal performance so that our eyes are constantly drawn to one or the other. They accompany us for a 100 metres or more along the track without once letting up. Then they are joined by a lapwing.

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