Grey Plover. Pete Woodruff.
Well its my pic of the Grey Plover (GP) so it was never going to be the best one in the world, but search as I may, could I find a pic I was permitted to use of the GP....no. But this individual is one of maybe up to three maximum each winter at Conder Green and is my own evidence - in line with that of studies - that GP's use the same feeding areas from tide to tide, and from year to year.
The GP breeds in the high Arctic regions of Russia and North America and migrates to winter in areas throughout much of the world which makes the bird one of the most widespread of all species of waders, and the coasts of Britain provide the most northerly wintering areas in the world for this species.
The GP occurs in Britain both as passage migrants and winter visitors all of which are from the Russian breeding populations. Away from its breeding grounds the species is almost entirely confined to the coasts and - as indicated above - moves into its same wintering areas year on year, and feeds in the same areas tide on tide. Numbers of wintering GP's in Britain increased significantly, rising from under 10,000 in 1970 to 43,000 twenty years later in 1990, another twenty years on and today this figure stands at an estimated 52,000. However, warmer winters on the European side of the North Sea make it possible that the decline in the wintering populations in Britain are due to a reduced need for birds to leave rich feeding grounds, and there is direct evidence that wintering numbers in the Netherlands have increased steadily in recent years.
In our own area the GP is uncommon, and 2009 was regarded as 'another poor year' and only five counts achieved a number between 35-55 and peak WeBS counts were 720 in September and 767 in October (LDBWS Annual Report). But counts in Morecambe Bay were unspectacular in any season and both winter and passage numbers are continuing on the decline.
I was prompted to do these brief notes on the GP because of my sighting of 22 birds at Cockersands on Thursday, a number I never recorded here before despite regular visits all year round and - in the case of this bird - particularly in winter where my maximum numbers have never reached a double figure before but interestingly - as with Conder Green - does so annually in ones and twos.
Birds....they fascinate me in a thousand ways!