Winter is a great time to see migrant birds here on the coast of Aberystwyth. Birds such as turnstones who arrive here from their homes in the northern Canada and Greenland, to enjoy the relative warmth of our shores until spring returns to the Arctic Circle.
A turnstone in winter/non-breeding plumage
I don’t have to venture far at all to find some of these delightful little birds as they often gather on the tidal mudflat just behind my home. Here they search for food using an intriguing behaviour which gives these creatures their name…
Turnstones flip over or ‘turn’ stones using their strong beaks to find tasty invertebrate prey hiding beneath, creatures such as tiny worms and molluscs.
Turnstones are surprisingly strong and are capable of moving rocks rocks as large as they are with just a flick of their beaks.
Small but mighty!
This morning I headed out earlier than I would usually, keen to make the most of a brief window of sunshine, something which has been very scarce indeed this winter!
Fortunately my eagerness was rewarded with an encounter with a small flock of very obliging turnstones who were busy patrolling the water’s edge in search of their breakfast.
These small, dumpy little birds can be incredibly tame and will often let you get within a few feet of them as they feed. As long as you don’t make any sudden moves or startle them they will carry on quite happily!
Whilst getting close to them is relatively easy, they can be tricky little birds to photograph as they are constantly in motion. Fortunately the bright morning light allowed me to crank up the shutter speed to a high of 1/2000sec to freeze the action.
Hardly pausing for a second these birds they are on a relentless mission to find food before the tide returns and their hunting ground is once again out of their reach.
A brief stretch and this little bird was off again at a frantic pace!
As I sat quietly on the bank, several of the turnstones boldly wandered even closer, so close that at time I could almost have reached out and touched them!
Close up! Uncropped images at 300mm
Don’t let this photos fool you, they might appear large but these turnstones are in fact smaller than a feral pigeon at just 150 grams!
Despite their diminutive size and unremarkable appearance these charming little birds more than make up for this with their personality!
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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