Oystercatchers are brilliant birds, the dandies of the estuary. They can live very long lives – a male which was tagged as a chick in 1970 was caught in 2010, making him over 40 years old. They adopt two different methods for eating shellfish. The Hammerer uses their beak to smash into the shell while the Stabber uses their beak to prize the shell apart. And how a pair eat will determine the behaviour of their chicks. Researchers predict that at some point these could evolve into different species.

Oystercatcher Mask Design by Ruth Webb

Some of the Oystercatchers that live on the Taw/Torridge Estuary are resident all year round, spending much of their time in mud flats that team with cockles, mussels and worms – like the Skern on Northam Burrows or Isley Marsh RSPB site near Yelland. Others arrive from Northern Climes in the autumn and spend the winter here and return North for the breeding season. Some of these migrant birds come from Scotland or from further flung places like the Faroe Islands. Did you know – the Oystercatcher is the national bird of the Faroe Islands? For the Faroese, the arrival of the Oystercatcher marks the beginning of Spring, and they celebrate them at a national holiday called St. Gregory’s Day or Grækarismessa.

If you’d like to find more about Oystercatchers and the other birds that live around the Estuary, why not visit the Northam Burrows Visitors Centre, Sandymere Road, Northam, EX39 1XS, search the website of the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds or visit one of their reserves. This wonderful landscape is overseen by the North Devon Coasts Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which gathers information about how best to protect it and holds events throughout the the year. We thank them for supporting our project through their Strategic Development Fund.

Our strolling theatre performance

Final Costume Design by Ruth Webb

Strolling theatre is a wonderful way to connect with people on the street. Performers walk a designated route and along the way, they interact with passers by. Some people like to stand back and observe the overall picture. Others like to find out what’s going on, ask questions. Ideally they are drawn into the world of the performance and interact in a playful way.

The Creative Team:

  • Sarah Corbett – Performer
  • Fiona Fraser Smith – Producer
  • Paschale Straiton – Director
  • Michael Wagg – Performer
  • Ruth Webb – Designer

We think that this kind of performance is brilliant. It punctuates everyday life, offering moments of curiosity and make-believe for people who are unlikely to have been expecting it. It provides unusual stories to share at work or down the pub – ‘I funny thing happened to me yesterday…’ And at the very least it makes people question what’s what.

Early Design Ideas by Ruth Webb

We hope that by performing with these characters in Bideford, Barnstaple and on the beach at Northam Burrows and Saunton Sands, we’ll encourage people to think about the wonderful birds that live in our local area of outstanding natural beauty.

By presenting the characters as half human, we hope that people will draw parallels between their lives and ours. If we can relate to the birds more completely, perhaps we will look after them better. After all, while Oystercatchers are not yet on the Red Endangered list, they are on the Amber list – with numbers in sharp decline.