Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Turnstone

(1) Turnstones
(1) Turnstones
(2) Turnstones
(2) Turnstones
(3) Turnstones
(3) Turnstones
(4) Turnstones
(4) Turnstones
(5) Turnstones
(5) Turnstones
(6) Turnstones
(6) Turnstones
(7) Stramash
(7) Stramash
(8) Siesta time
(8) Siesta time

 

 

The Turnstone

‘Spot the Birdie’

This is a hard one toe  spot at most times as it feeds on our shore lines. They are the masters of camouflage. You will pass them by without even realising that they are there, and that’s even when they are actively feeding. If you are looking down on a flock of them, it will appear that the ground is moving before your eyes, that’s how well they blend in with their surroundings.


This is a cute little bird a “Turnstone”, and as their name suggests, that’s how they feed, most of the times turning over small stones and also seaweed that all the wee crawly things like sand hoppers hide under. They will even eat small winkles or limpets if there is no other easier food at hand, and they can at times be seen digging furiously in the sands as well, to find hidden food.

They feel that safe with their excellent camouflage that they are very approachable, and it is so easy to get near them if you proceed slowly.
The best areas for viewing are at Lorne road to Bogany Point (Craigmore), and the Thomson Fountain to Ardbeg point. Also from Ascog to the Hermitage. The flocks in these areas number at 20-30, and if they are not feeding they will sit on guard in an elevated position, like an outcrop of rocks, having forty winks, yet keeping a wary eye on what is going on around them.
(I have cut out the means of identifying them now as the Buteman now prints in full colour)
The ones that we see in Britain come from two areas – Scandinavia and Greenland/ Canada
Those from Scandinavia pass through in autumn and spring on their way to and from their wintering grounds in in central and southern Africa, while the Canada/ Greenland birds mostly spend the winter in Europe. About 45,000 of those remain in Britain, with Bute getting its fair share of them. There are plenty more around the island, but I have given you there sites that you can get to without the need of stronger footwear or transport, and if you judge the tides right, you will see the very close when the water is high. If you live out of sight of the sea, it is impossible to judge the tides, so it is no good heading down, then discovering it is low water. In page two of the ‘Buteman’ there is an excellent weekly print of the state of the tides in it. I cut this out every week so that if I want to walk along the shores for a change, I will check out the tables, and then decide what to do. In a lot of areas, the tide goes out that far that all the waders are hard to see, which means carrying binoculars or a telescope, but during a high tide, the naked eye will suffice.
These seem to keep themselves to themselves and in occasions may be joined with Ringed Plovers, but most of the time they are very close together, only on occasions do they separate when the tide is out and pickings are varied.
They much prefer to be in a tight flock, feeding at the water’s edge, which at times they have to stop as the waves from the passing ferries and other craft disturbs their search for food. Is it possible that the waves may be of benefit for them as the tons of water falling on the shore may dislodge and scatter the insects about saving them the job of turning the stones over?

 


Norrie Mulholland
First published in the Buteman 28-11-2003


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