Friday, 18 April 2014

It's dotterel time, we hope!

One of the highlights of any wader enthusiast's year in the UK especially in the south is the passage of the Eurasian Dotterels. The most colourful of our breeding waders this bird is eagerly awaited every year. 'Trips' of these birds can be found on lowland farmland, especially open ploughed or recently sown areas, as well as some higher areas.

Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus; Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England. May 2013.
During our quest to see as many wader species as we could, in the Spring of 2013, we eagerly awaited news from the east of England where seeing them is relatively easy, if they turn up, which they did not in any useful numbers or places. We did have one abortive trip to Lincolnshire to grill a sod of earth quivering in the heat haze, but dotterels we did not see. I was beginning to think we'd have to go to Scotland to see them. When we visited Alan and Ruth of The Biggest Twitch to see the Purple Sandpipers they had found for us, they told us that dotterels often appear on Great Orm, we waited in hope.

Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus; Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England. May 2013.
In the end, it was a very high and steep hill that turned up the goods, Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Gary Waddington sent us an email which we read at 02:00hrs in the wee hours, jumped into the car and arrived at 05:00hrs. We scaled the hill and saw our birds which is no more than we deserved.

We have seen that a trip of dotterels has already been seen this year in Shropshire and another already in Highland, these are quite early, May being the peak time for them, so we are hoping we'll get a chance to see some with a little more ease this year, and soon.

A dotterel's eye view from the top of Pendle Hill at dawn. May 2013.
Looking through the bird news for today I noted some other southern UK passage birds, some like the dotterels heading for northern parts of these isles to breed. A Curlew Sandpiper was unusual, they mostly pass through in the autumn, rarely being seen in the Sping as their northerly migration takes them further east. The only other Calidris to hit the headlines today was a Little Stint in Cheshire, that also played host to a Jack Snipe that is presumably not likely to be sticking around for long.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus; Titchwell, Norfolk England. June 2012.

A couple of Tringas were reported namely Wood Sandpiper in Oxfordshire and a few Spotted Redshanks dotted around the country and presumably approaching summer plumage when they are really stunning. One has been seen here recently close to Milton Keynes.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola; Kotu Ponds, The Gambia. January 2014.

Another bird to be passing through is the Eurasian Whimbrel with one reported from Herefordshire today.

Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus; Kotu, The Gambia. January 2014.
So birds are on the move, we can expect some Kentish Plovers maybe to overshoot their breeding grounds, or maybe a Temminck's Stint or two and soon enough we'll be welcoming our summer breeders such as the Little Ringed Plover and Eurasian Stone-Curlew. Perhaps this year we'll get some better photos of the latter!

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius; Kotu Ponds, The Gambia. January 2014.