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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Turning stones

Last night when I was at Spud Point Marina, I heard the sound of rocks clinking against each other.  I looked down at the shoreline to identify the cause:

There was a small group of Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) feeding among the cobbles.  In the picture above, you can see the rock that the turnstone just flipped into the air. 

Turnstone is an apt name for these birds.  They'll use their stout slightly upturned bills to turn stones, looking for prey such as crabs and snails.  In different habitats, they'll turn other objects such as shells or pieces of seaweed.

Ruddy Turnstones spend the winter in the Bodega Bay region.  In the spring they'll depart for their high arctic breeding grounds.

At this time of year their feathers are quite worn.  In the picture below, note that most of the feather edges are faded and tattered.

Because spring is approaching, while I was scanning the turnstones I checked for new feathers.  On a few individuals I observed what I think are new, russet-colored feathers.  It's subtle, but see if you can spot them in the picture below.

In full breeding plumage, Ruddy Turnstones are transformed into a harlequin pattern of russet, black, and white.  Here's a picture of one from the outer coast of Bodega Head in May 2010.

1 comment:

Claudia said...

I never saw that behavior before.I always wondered why they were called turnstones.