Turn of the tide

As the tide retreats twice a day here in the Aberystwyth harbour, a small expanse of mud flat is revealed, attracting a variety of bird species to this rich feeding ground.

One of the most frequent visitors are the Turnstones, small stocky wading birds found all across the Uk coastline during the winter months. There name comes from their feeding technique, where they use their stout beaks to flip over stones to search for invertebrates hiding beneath.

This evening I came across a small group of these birds, scurrying about the mud to gather as much food as possible before the water rose again.

Here one of the birds is demonstrating the stone turning action. Something which is difficult to capture as the birds move at a frantic pace across the mud!

Turning stones to look for food concealed beneath

A brief wobbly video clip demonstrates this behaviour rather better than still images.

Sadly my approach soon startled the waders from their activity, and they retreated to the safety of the seaweed bank to watch me with caution. Waiting patiently until the birds had settled down, I was able to capture a few images.

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At the water’s edge

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Turnstones in seaweed

One individual bird stood out from the crowd with distinctly more colourful plumage with some chestnut brown feathers across the back and a much whiter head.

This bird is transitioning into it’s summer plumage and appears to be rather ahead of it’s companions, who are still wearing the drab winter feathers. They too will soon begin to moult and transform to look just as striking.

Turnstone in breeding plumage (front-centre)
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A comparison of breeding (left) and non-breeding plumage (right)
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Turnstone reflected in the water below

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2018 ©

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