August 13th   Leave a comment

A digiscope (camera phone through my telescope) shot of the little ringed plover today (slightly smaller than the adjacent dunlin) – another example of why I use John’s photos. LRPs are actually really nice to look at as John’s proper photo shows below.

After weeks of checking the pool to the west of Crail for waders and finding not much at all, then three good species turn up at once. First thing this morning there was a little ringed plover feeding on the crossroads pool with a dunlin. Very handy, the dunlin, because ringed plovers are about the same size as a dunlin and little ringed plovers, as you might have guessed are a little bit smaller. This plover was smaller than the dunlin next to it. But with any identification of a new bird (for my Crail list) you need a few more characters to clinch its identity. The main one is a yellow eye-ring, and this was just about visible through my telescope. The bill was a bit slimmer and all black compared to the much more common ringed plover, and the more domed head without any whitish above the eye was also another good feature. It’s good fun piecing characters together to get a firm identification even when I knew instantly that it was a little ringed. All of the features I have mentioned gel into an impression of a slim and almost “babyish” ringed plover making little ringeds stand out when you have got your eye in. That said it took a lot of years birding in North Norfolk in the autumn to get them down pat. The best feature of all, though, was taught to me during those long hours in hides at Cley sifting through the 20 or so wader species that you might get there on an August afternoon. Little ringed plovers feed by taking a couple of slow steps and then delicately picking whereas ringed plovers take long rapid runs before snatching prey from the ground. It’s not infallible but any ringed plover doing one or the other consistently gives its identity away. And the best thing is that this character works under any light or wind conditions or at any distance.

Little ringed plover – this is a spring adult and a bit more distinctive than the first winter I saw today but you get the idea – a “babyish” ringed plover

Never mind new waders turning up, two new pools also turned up today! The pool at the crossroads is close to Troustie House, but apparently two other pools are even closer. So other birders have been reporting waders from “the pool near Troustie” and they have been meaning somewhere different from the crossroads pool. No wonder I have been missing wood sandpipers by 20 minutes…It’s been a spatial problem, not really a temporal one. John Anderson set me straight when I phoned the little ringed plover in to him. So I then set off in search of the other Troustie pools. I found one later that morning by Troustie House – almost a duck pond with grass and sedges around it, and indeed a large family of well grown mallards doing their best not to be seen round the edge. On the way home in the evening I found the other. Literally just a bare muddy depression in the middle of a fleeced field, one field northwest of Troustie House. This had 8 greenshank and a ruff on it. Both excellent Crail birds, with 8 being more than the number of greenshanks I have seen around Crail over the last couple of years. The greenshank, the ruff and also the little ringed plover are all on their way back to West Africa after breeding, probably, in Scandinavia.


My wader and pool excitement was somewhat tempered by the farmer’s decision to fill in the crossroads pool today. When I passed it this evening the crop had been flattened and a truckload of soil had been dumped in the pool. Another one of Crail’s marginal habitats destroyed. So gain a pool, lose a pool, although we all lose as farming around Crail becomes more and more industrialised.

Another bit of wild Crail on the way out

Posted August 13, 2012 by wildcrail in Sightings

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