Enocia Joseph: The birds who prefer boats to flying    
 The birds who prefer boats to flying0 comments
6 Jan 2007 @ 11:34, by Enocia Joseph

Hi all,

I've seen a pigeon crossing the road at the pelican crossing, but these birds take the biscuit.

Perhaps, these birds are bodhisittas who renounce Nirvana for the sake of humanity. These birds will not ascend until everyone has ascended. ;-)


Love EJ

Source: The birds who prefer boats to flying.


The birds who prefer boats to flying

They have the most efficient personal transport system of all at their disposal.

But two freeloading seabirds have decided a 20-minute ferry ride is a far more agreeable way to make the short daily trip to their feeding grounds. And just like human commuters, they are creatures of strict routine.

Staff on the St Mawes Ferry, which traverses the Fal estuary between Falmouth and St Mawes in Cornwall four times an hour, have been astonished by the behaviour of the turnstones they have nicknamed Fred and Freda who, without fail, hop on board the first crossing of the day, then return in late afternoon for the last trip back.

The birds take up their positions on the gunnel of the boat at Falmouth pier at 8.15 every morning.

They stay for the short hop to St Mawes then fly off, not to be seen again until 4.30pm, when they are back on board ready to go home.

Experts are uncertain whether they are drawn by human company, or simply can't resist the opportunity to save their energy for a day's hunting in the fertile rock pools of St Mawes. It is not as if they lack endurance. In a few months time they and their species will be migrating to Antarctica.

Ferry manager Garrick Royale said it was the second winter Fred and Feda had been appearing for their daily commute.

"It really is quite remarkable," he said. "There are some nice beaches in St Mawes with rocks and sand and we think that's where they head.

"But the amazing thing is they never miss the last boat back. They've become our most regular customers.

"It's most likely an instinctive policy of energy conservation. They go over to feed and this is the most energy-efficient way of travelling."

Skipper John Brown said: "They both board at the pier and have a nibble on some bread. We reach St Mawes and they hop off to do whatever it is they do."

RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead was equally amazed, but said that turnstones were known to be very 'time aware'.

He said: "The fact that these two birds can catch the same two ferries every day is incredible.

"Birds are not renowned for their intelligence. Crows are up there with the brightest, but turnstones certainly aren't. But they are amazing timekeepers. They have to be to set their migration clocks."

The species, also known as arenaria interpres, has a mottled appearance and spends most of its time hopping around rocks and rock pools, picking out food from under stones. It can also swim under water.

It spends the summer in the Antarctic and travels massive distances to winter on coasts as far south as South Africa and Australia.

Boatman Mark Cairns, 25, said: "They are the only two turnstones we ever see - or ever have. They have distinctive chest plumage and each has its own little odd way of waddling along the deck.

"They are now very confident and have built up a rapport with us and some of the regular customers.

"We tell all our punters about them but most don't believe us until they have used the ferry a few times - and realise they're a permanent fixture."

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