We are just back from a few days in Dorset and I am pleased with some of the pictures I snapped, despite the fact that we had heavy rain at times. The biggest treat for me was spotting some turnstones on a small stretch of seaweed-covered shingle in Weymouth.
I had identified a turnstone only once before, in December 2010 at Porthcawl – but in those days I had my old camera and the picture isn’t very good!
The pictures are slightly better this time, but the turnstones were well camouflaged against the pebbles and red seaweed in a sheltered corner alongside Weymouth’s Stone Pier at the base of the Nothe Fort.
I first noticed the birds simply by their movement and the individuals were very hard to make out as they were so well camouflaged. They feed by turning over stones and seaweed to find insects in warmer weather, or crustaceans, shellfish and worms at other times of year.
I did manage to get a couple of passable pictures of single birds, which are about the same size as the common blackbird (Turdus merula).
Eventually I walked on along the Stone Pier, intending to take some more pictures on the way back, but annoyingly a couple of people walked down on to the beach and the dozen or so turnstones flew prettily away to a nearby off-shore rock.
I’m no expert on waders, but there is more information about the turnstone, sometimes called the ruddy turnstone, here on Wikipedia and on the RSPB website. The Latin name is Arenaria interpres which, as far as I can make out means something like interpreter of the sand.
The birds breed farther north in Europe, as well as in Greenland and Canada. So when we see them in the UK they are often here to overwinter, although non-breeding birds may stay here all summer. It’s interesting that in the mating season the male bird apparently makes lots of scrapes for nests but the only one that is eventually used is made by the female.
The change in plumage during the breeding season is amazing…
But sadly I suppose I am unlikely to see a breeding bird here in Britain…