Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ruddy Turnstone - Unmistakable

While "shore birding" last year was really all about just seeing different birds, this summer progressed into the challenge of identifying shorebirds.
It is a great relief to come across a bird that is so different from all the others that I can identify it quickly and accurately upon first sight, unlike the White-rumped Sandpiper that is leading this flock of Turnstones. The black and rusty colors coupled with the bright orange feet are a quick giveaway.
The Ruddy Turnstone breeds on the tundra in the Arctic and by the time it reaches our shorelines, it is usually still in its breeding plumage as seen above. However, very quickly it begins to molt into its winter suit. Even then it is unmistakably a Ruddy Turnstone.  The rusty color is gone and the black is all but gone but the shape, size, orange legs and brownish breast are so distinctly different from the other shorebirds, that it is hard to NOT identify this bird.
Shorebird watching is tricky. It is important to reach the beach when the tide is going out or is already out.  When the tide comes in, some birds often move away from the beach. Then there are the rocks which are difficult to navigate and, of course, there is the incessant wind that tosses you around over the slippery, lumpy terrain.
Yet, when movement is detected and birds are spotted all of those elements plus the wind chill seem to dissolve into a moment.  While looking at the birds it is like standing in the midst of a tropical oasis.
Once the birds move away or the watching comes to an end, it is like the wind and cold intensify and the rush is on to make it back to the warmth of the car.
The Ruddy Turnstone often turns up on the Newfoundland Winter Bird List but so far no one has reported this bird yet. Maybe I will find one....

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