Turning of the tides


Turnstone in summer plumage

I was sat on a rather precarious boulder that formed part of the New Passage seawall just above the mud. The tide was on the turn in the Severn Estuary and I was watching it slowly creep up the shore line towards my position. I had my eye on a small flock of birds that were busy feeding along the waters edge and in amongst the seaweeds and shingle that lined the edge of the seawall.

The birds were Turnstones ( Arenaria interpres), a species of small wader that spend most of the year along the shorelines of the United Kingdom. They leave our shores to breed around the Arctic Circle, so at this time of year many of them have returned from their breeding trips and are looking rather spectacular in breeding plumage.

The summer plumage is not only good for attracting a mate but its also very effective camouflage. A flock of Turnstones can often be roosting a short distance away from people and you would hardly notice them.

The little waders get their name because when they feed they often can be seen turning stones over to look for some tasty invertebrates that may be hiding underneath them.

Turnstone - starting to moult.

As I watched from my vantage point more Turnstones came to join the flock. Some scuttled quickly along the shore line coming from all directions. Others flew in and landed piping and calling out to each other. They would have little squabbles with the current flock and jostle for a nice position just on the waters edge. I chuckled to myself as despite them always seeming to be settled, several of them always kept a close eye on me.

Turnstones fly in

The roost keeps an eye on me.

As autumn progresses the Turnstones will start to moult into their winter plumage and whilst not quite as stunning as the summer plumage it makes excellent camouflage for the winter months.

Roosting Turnstone.

As the tide flowed in eventually the Turnstones stopped feeding and they settled down to roost. I had some nice views of them and was pleased that my patience for just sitting up and waiting paid off.

Sitting on the rocks was starting to get quite uncomfortable and it was time for me to move off and leave these waders to rest.


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