Turnstones with nowhere to land

Updated 21 February 2014IMG_0040IMG_0038


Usually there are plenty of places around Battery Point for these little waders to rest and feed. As their name suggests they search for food under the pebbles and seaweed in the rocks at the far end of the salt marsh.  This is a watercolour and oil pastel sketch of turnstones at low water – I have had so much fun with my 40 year old oil pastels that I have just treated myself to a set of Sennelier oil pastels and this is their first outing!


It was one of those enormous spring tides when the sea rises so high that landing places for the turnstones are in very short supply.  With a 14.6 m high tide the salt marsh and most of the rocks are underwater so the turnstones fly back and forth looking for a spot to land.


At first they jostled for a place on a raft of flotsam swept against the promenade wall . . .



. . . but then repaired to the top of the wall to promenade with the rest of us.


Promenading on the sea wall is unusual for the Bristol Channel bunch as they are typically wary but today they had little choice.


On the same high tide a bird-watching friend saw a flock of turnstones cadging a lift on a large tree trunk floating up the channel (you can see the photo on his excellent local bird watching blog http://avonbirding.blogspot.co.uk) . . . and on another occasion I heard a report of a channel navigation buoy festooned with turnstones on a similarly high tide.


Sketching birds as a part of the wider landscape is quite a different challenge to a detailed study of birds where they are the main or only focal point and the background is either non-existent or secondary. I learn so much doing these preparatory sketches, which, of course, is the whole point of the process. The end sketch may not always be what I had intended, and all too often leaves me with some angst (must do better), but frequently it is those from which I learn most.

Joining these 2 sketches gave an added perspective between the foreground and middle ground birds and indeed the overall panorama (the joined sketch is near the top of this page).


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2 thoughts on “Turnstones with nowhere to land

  1. Hi Hilary
    Just been catching up with your posts……all fascinating and beautifully observed as ever; particularly enjoyed the turnstones’ sketches and narrative – such busy little birds and you know them so well!

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