Country Diary: Bird often found on rocky coasts and mussel beds

.... 'Mist is steeping

Sunday, 17th December 2017, 12:30 pm
A turnstone ready to feast on a bed of mussels.
A turnstone ready to feast on a bed of mussels.

The trees that winter’s chill of life bereaves;

Only their stiffened boughs break silence, weeping,

Over their fallen leaves.”

– Robert Bridges

Blue skies, frosty nights, and blazing sunsets have been awe-inspiring, especially in the countryside. The ever-changing patterns of rose-tinted clouds following into pastel blue and turquoise skies formed the back-cloth of naked trees silhouetted to perfection.

There is so much art in nature, if only we have time to pause. As dusk falls, flocks of pigeons go to roost. The wood pigeon has a varied diet, taking seeds and leaves of clover and brassicas especially. They can be serious pests when they descend in thousands on vulnerable crops. Starling can also prove costly pests, particularly in winter. Their numbers are swollen by immigration from the continents. These bold birds will enter cattle sheds to feed on the expensive diets of indoor wintered stock. Yet how we love to see murmurations of starlings over Scarborough’s Grand Hotel. The may travel quite long distances for food, yet each evening they head towards the safety of towns and cities. Picking up other groups of birds along the way, thousands arrived noisily, performing synchornised flight patterns high above called a murmuration. Descending to roost on trees, their silhouettes resemble leaves – not starlings.

Visit the harbour, we sought in vain for any great northern divers, or other species of diver. However, a small party of turnstones were observed along the west pier. They are most abundant on rocky coasts, as well as mussel beds and rocky outcrops, or even shingle beaches where drifts of seaweed occur.

Turnstones are aptly named, for with their strong necks and bills, they move along feeding grounds turning over small stones and seaweed. Digging furiously in sand, any small invertebrates dash for cover, but are rapidly caught.

Turnstones are wonderfully camouflaged, and feeding birds seem to feel confident, and are very approachable. We’ve been within a couple of metres without disturbing them. Listen to the turnstone’s call – a clear, rattled trik-tuk-tuk-tuk.

This season, holly bushes glow with an abundance of berries, and now is the time to decorate homes with holly and ivy. It’s an old custom to bring in evergreens, for plants that kept their leaves in winter when snow and ice gripped the ground brought the message of hope for new life in spring.

Holly wreaths are often placed on front doors – not just for decoration, but to give protection to the household.

I have before me a Christmas card bearing a photo of ‘Meadow’, a beautiful black and white Collie crosss. After receiving much needed TLC from dedicated staff at the Dogs Trust, she has now found her forever home.

Please remember, a dog is not just for Christmas, but for life. A donation to Dogs Trust would be much appreciated.