Monday, 4 August 2014

The Ringed Plover.

 Knot David Cookson    

A multitude of waders use our estuaries during the winter months, and the spectacle of seeing a mass of these birds in the air like the Knot in DC's image is quite an experience. But the scenery is changing and populations of the UK's most popular waders have declined during the past 10 years. The precise reasons behind the declines is not fully understood, but the distribution of wintering waterbirds appears to have shifted, and there may also be a connection caused by young waders produced in the Arctic being fewer in number. 

Ringed Plover Simon Hawtin

Amongst the most abundant of wintering waders on the UK's estuaries, the Ringed Plover (RP) is the species suffering the greatest decline of almost 40%, which to some extent adds to the pleasure of finding a pair with three young at Cockersands on 1 July. 

The relatively small breeding population in Britain and NW Europe today is the most southerly in the world, and a combined total of British and Irish birds in the early 1990's was estimated to be that of 10,000 pairs. Today the figure of this bird breeding in Lancashire is probably fewer than 50 pairs which is another reason for it being an excellent breeding record at Cockersands this year.

Predominantly passage migrants with the largest numbers in spring, it was brilliant to record up to 900 RP's at Plover Scar on 13 May this year. August and early September should show coastal passage birds though usually in smaller number than those in spring.
Mitchell recorded the RP as....'the commonest wader of the Lancashire coast which breeds along the entire shoreline'. But even then human disturbance was beginning to take its toll on the species breeding in the vicinity of the then rapidly growing seaside resorts, and both he and Oakes recognised this.

To be honest, taking into account the amount of dog traffic I witnessed  - sometimes six at a time with professional handlers - on almost every visit I made to Plover Scar during July and all along this section of the coast at Cockersands, I'm quite surprised the RP pair with three young were able to tolerate and survive to fledging and the ability to escape the threat by these animals. This kind of disturbance is an issue we really must address, to try and halt the unnecessary threat to these coastal birds. 

Thanks to DC and SH for the must 'clik the pik' images.     

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