Photographic Advent Calendar, Day 9: Turnstones

This is amongst our most frequently encountered shoreline waders, occurring in similar habitats as the more striking Oystercatcher. Perfectly camouflaged on pebble beaches, they can be very hard to spot. Often the sound of their handywork may be the first sign of their presence: as a small group systematically works a section of beach, turning every rock and pebble over with their short beak in search of tasty invertebrates beneath. They are certainly aptly-named, and are a pleasure to watch when at work like this. For the rest of the tidal regime, they can be found roosting on exposed rocky outcrops and boulders, where they may gather with other species like Purple Sandpipers and Oystercatchers.

Turnstones breed in the arctic tundra, wintering as far south as Africa! Many stop off in the UK to make use of the rich food that can be found along our coast; around 51, 000 birds are thought to overwinter here, but declines have placed this species on our Amber list. In the US, the Turnstones breeding in Northern Cananda and Alaska winter in South America. Turnstones have been recorded at an age of 20 years, according to the BTO, and recoveries of British-ringed birds are far-ranging. We had a particularly good spree of catching and ringing these superb birds at the end of the summer- we managed to ring over 20 in a few days, and so hopefully we’ll have some exciting news from one of these one day!

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