Saturday, 5 May 2012

Unexpected trip

Good news and bad news. The bad news first: I had to abort a great day out at Rainham Marshes at lunchtime yesterday and give up what would almost certainly have been a new personal best day total for the site (well in excess of 80 species was on the cards - more of that in a separate post). The good news: a trip of Eurasian Dotterel was found on the Surrey fringe of the London Area at the emerging hot-spot of Canons Farm, Banstead.

David Campbell quickly texted out news of this superb find just after 2pm - congratulations to him, Nigel Sluman and Roy Weller for discovering Surrey's first record since 1884, and London's first for 18 years. I exited Rainham immediately and promptly ran into traffic on the nearby Dartford Crossing, before getting a clean run on the M25 and arriving at Canons Farm an hour or so later.

Thankfully, the Dotterel were still on show, though initially most of the birds were sitting in stubble and not overly showy. David was still on hand, as were Johnny Allan, Peter Alfrey and a surprisingly small crowd of onlookers; eventually the Dotterel got up and started feeding. I took these images from the public footpath along the side of the field, having seen that passing dog walkers and their charges were not alarming the birds in any way, and having checked with my fellow observers before approaching carefully. It was suggested that the flock comprised nine females and six males, though at least two of the duller birds may have been second-calendar-years (in which case perhaps they are not so straightforward to sex?).

Dotterel are a good find anywhere on migration. A rare breeder in Britain, it is thought that a high proportion of birds reach the breeding grounds without stopping (The Migration Atlas). Away from a very few regular (or formerly so) stop-over sites such as Black Peak Farm in Cambridgeshire and Pendle Hill, Lancs, inland birds are bordering on the exceptional, hence the absence of records in Surrey for 128 years. Only once have I been lucky enough to find a migrant, a single bird on Lundy, Devon, back in May 1991 when I was twitching the Ancient Murrelet there. The last London record closely matches this one, and involved a flock of 16 birds at London Colney on 7 May 1994; I wasn't able to get there then, so this grip-back has been a long time coming.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent photo's and great London record, especially as these Dotterel could represent over 1% of the breeding population in the UK.



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