Friday, January 05, 2007
Each spring, they fly thousands of miles south to the Antarctic during the migrating season. But two turnstones are clearly so worn out by their annual exertions they turn up at a ferry at 8.15am each day to hitch a lift to their breeding grounds. The shore birds – closely related to the plover and the sandpiper – like to take the first crossing of the day over the River Fal in Cornwall, from Falmouth to St Mawes. After spending the day in St Mawes, the birds then turn up, as regular as clockwork, for the final 4.30pm ferry crossing back to Falmouth.The pair, nicknamed Fred and Freda by the ferry crew, have kept up the routine every winter for six years. Boat manager Garrick Royale said:'There are some nice beaches over in St Mawes with rocks and sand. But the amazing thing is they never miss the last ferry.' Skipper John Brown added: 'They know our boat. Many of the regulars say they see them each morning.' RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead admitted the turnstones' daily commute was remarkable but added that the species was 'very time aware'. He said: 'They are amazing timekeepers – they have to be in order to calculate their migration patterns.' According to Mr Royale, the only drawback is that the birds don't pay.