19 Aug 2015

Ringed Plover and Dunlin - 1st autumn SCAN trip of 2015!

SCAN had a recent canon netting session in N Wales targeting Ringed Plover. The recce work showed there was a roosting flock of around 80 birds including some we'd colour flagged / ringed in previous seasons.

As usual in these circumstances I can't sleep when I know I have to get up early. At 3.30  I was wide awake and making a brew before leaving the house at 5.30 even though the meeting time wasn't until 07.20! My intention was to arrive at the meeting place early and do a bit of birding.

The weather, for once, was perfect with plenty of sunshine but a nice stiff breeze to keep it cool. The hedges were alive with roving tit flocks and the occasional Chiffchaff whilst a family of Mistle Thrushes searched for invertebrates in among the sheep. The tit flocks were joined by a number of chaffinches and the odd goldfinch whilst a couple of buzzards made low level passes across the fields.

Eventually meeting up with Steve & Rachel and the team we loaded the canon netting gear and set off to our designated beach to set the nets. Birds started arriving early although a peregrine spooked them. They soon returned  though I was given the job of firing the nets on Steve and Rachel's command.......

The wait seemed interminable as the birds hunkered down and slowly moved up the beach into the catching zone as the tide rose. At last the signal came to arm the box and fire on a count down of three, two, one....................


We made a successful catch and eventually caught 102 Ringed Plover, a few Dunlin and a single Turnstone. With the birds all extracted we set about the ringing and processing with biometrics being recorded for wing length, moult, total head and bill and weight. Each Ringed Plover was ringed wit ha metal BTO ring on the right leg and a red colour ring and orange flag with two letters / numbers on the left leg to enable field identification.

 Adult male Ringed Plover ringed and colour makred ready for release.
 Juvenile Ringed Plover showing scaly upperparts and dull head pattern compared to adult.
 Juvenile Ringed Plover
2nd calendar year Ringed Plover showing moult contrast in coverts.

The Ringed Plovers we caught are from two different populations with the birds overwintering in the UK already in full wing moult. A second population (tundrae) travels Africa to winter and delay their moult until they arrive in warmer climes. We caught a couple of birds with arrested moult which was interesting to see.

The Dunlin were interesting - they were all of the race schinzii that breed in Iceland & W Europe and winter in Africa. There were a number of juveniles caught which suggests they've had a fairly good breeding season.

 Juvenile Dunlin (above) showing buff tipped wing coverts and adult below with worn and faded coverts.

A great day out and a very pleasing catch.

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