Sunday, 12 March 2017

Watching Turnstones, turn stones

Turnstone, Holme Beach
I spent a pleasant hour this morning on Holme Beach with the family. It was a grey morning with a hint of rain in the air, despite this and the relative remoteness of the location there were still a fair number of folk out and about with all the usual issues of disturbance to the wildlife you are trying to watch or photograph by their dogs.

Whilst the kids had a play in the sand I focused my attention and rather slow and very old 100 - 300 zoom on a Turnstone that was feeding on the strand line. By approaching the bird carefully and avoiding any sudden movements I was able to get a few nice shots and also to observe it's feeding technique.
Turnstone doing exactly what its name suggests it should do
At first it was working its way through some seaweed and I thought of its old Norfolk name of Tanglepicker, then it moved up the beach onto some dryer sand and started feeding there. It did this by turning over stones and probing deep into the sand with its beak, whenever it removed its face from the sand and turned to face me the birds forehead was covered in a sandy mask.

Turnstone searching for food
What impressed me though was the strength of its neck muscles, it would rapidly move between pebbles, quickly inserting its beak at their base and with a twist and flick of its neck turn the stone over, often flicking stones that looked like they weighed more than the bird into the air, quite impressive.
Turnstone, Holme Beach

I like Turnstones, they are adaptable and approachable and if a bird can have character I think they have it in spades, they are in trouble too with a declining population. You can read more about Turnstones in this excellent blog Why do Turnstones eat chips