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Birds: Turnstone

On the beaches of California we spotted a species of shore bird that looked larger and more strident than the surrounding flock of sand pipers. It walked confidently among the approaching waves, turning over every small shell or rock larger than a pea, while it searched for a tasty morsel of insect or crab. The bird was a Ruddy Turnstone and I would come across this species many times in the years that followed.  Each sighting was worth noting.

During our honeymoon in Bermuda my wife and I saw a full flock of Ruddy Turnstones all along the beaches. They were frequent visitors to our private beach at the Ariel Sands, which made for great viewing of wildlife: kiskadees, bananakeets, frigate birds and sun bathers.

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Many years later on the beaches of Maine we saw them again. This time they blended in well with the flecks of colored rocks. It was their movement that gave them away, though the camouflage was extraordinary. Again they walked among the stones and deftly flipped them over with and easy flick of their beaks, a lesson in efficiency.

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We spotted them again on the beaches in Oregon, when we visited Florence along the southern coast.  Our more frequent Oregon beach time is spent in Gearhart, Oregon.  There too are many single and flocks of Turnstones foraging up and down the beaches.

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A banded Ruddy Turnstone

The turnstone is an interesting species (Arenaria interpres) which breeds in the upper provinces of Canada and parts of Alaska, where they build their nests and rear their young. They have been spotted along the northern shores of South America and all over the Caribbean, making them a successful shore bird.  It is nice to see at least one species that is (for now) not on the endangered species list.  The vast swath of territory seems to have protected the species from the vagaries of disease and environmental destruction, which has decimated other more localized species.

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