The Lancashire leg of my Glasgow trip left me overnight at Morecambe. I’ve stopped all sorts of places on my Anglo-Scottish drives – Southport, Lancaster, Kendal, Penrith, Carlisle – but really Morecambe should be a no-brainer.
For a start it’s a dump, which means plentiful and cheap accommodation. It has one superb Chinese restaurant. And then there’s the Bay. When the tide’s right, the shore drips with waders – this time oystercatchers, redshanks, a lone dunlin, black-tailed godwits and one bar-tailed godwit; and turnstones – a surprisingly tardy 655th addition to the 12-month list.
Less surprising later was a single pinging bearded tit at Leighton Moss for number 656. The RSPB reserve there also held four snow geese but I already had them earlier in the year at the Salton Sea, California.
I love turnstones. They can be so confiding, almost as though they don’t realise you’re there. They are handsome creatures too and my crappy picture of one at Cramond, Edinburgh doesn’t do it justice. It certainly doesn’t suggest the colour that completes the more formal name of ruddy turnstone. That’s because I snapped it in the winter, when the ruddiness disappears. Like most waders both sexes moult into their more colourful breeding plumage. Unlike most waders turnstones will feed on almost anything, even human corpses. We’re not so sacrosanct after all.
There’s been a bit of tinkering with waders’ taxonomy under the IOC but they still basically split into plovers and sandpipers. The turnstone sits between the two large sandpiper genera of Tringa and Calidris, represented by greenshank and curlew sandpiper respectively. In Europe the common sandpiper also occupies its own odd little niche here.
Odd little niche – maybe that contributes to the turnstone’s appeal too. It feels like a different bird, and therefore interesting.