Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ruddy Turnstone Convention

Ruddy turnstones along the causeway beach.

Ruddy turnstone in winter plumage.

There's a place along the causeway from Titusville, Florida to Merritt Island NWR, just after the drawbridge, on the left, as you head toward the refuge, where there's a seaweed-covered bit of bay beach you can drive along. There are always large resting flocks of gulls and shorebirds there. And a few wading birds, too. The thing is, the birds are really close. You can drive right up to them and sit there taking photos or scanning with your binocs while they feed and snooze and loaf.

This place always has several budding bird photographers there with their cameras and long lenses, working the flocks. Even when the light is poor you can get really great bird photos because the birds are so dang close.

As I drove up to the spot on Thursday morning last week, I noticed two winter-plumage ruddy turnstones in the grassy strip between the sandy shore and the sandy parking lot where the cars (including mine) were parked or inching along at 2 mph. I stopped the car and tried to focus on the turnstones. But they came closer and closer until I could no longer focus on them. Then they went under the car! I moved the driver's-side rear-view mirror and saw that the turnstones were feeding in the wet tire tracks I'd made in the sand. It must have disturbed the sand enough to expose some food items. The turnstones fed in the tire tracks for a minute or so then ambled back across the grassy strip and down to the water line. Clearly these two turnstones were tuned in to this unusual foraging opportunity.

I drove 50 feet farther down the beach and another turnstone came out and circled around my tires, poking and picking in my car's tracks.

Smart birds—or at least very opportunistic.

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