July 15th   Leave a comment

I heard a distinctive descending two-note “choo-ip” call from a small wader as I cycled across Balcomie Beach this afternoon. A smaller ringed plover was following a larger one, both tailing a flock of sanderling flying away from me. I stopped and double-checked the absence of a wing bar of the smaller plover – a little ringed plover. The much rarer summer migrant version of a ringed plover that breeds inland and only in small numbers in the UK. I have only ever seen one before around Crail, during the summer when there were floods in lots of the fields creating perfect muddy pools for migrating waders. Little ringed plovers hardly ever turn up on the sea shore. They prefer inland muddy pools, although I have seen plenty in salt water pools close to the shore in Europe and Africa. And Balcomie Beach, and the other muddy coves along the coast at low tide are the only wader oases in the desert of dry land that is the East Neuk. Little ringed plovers are, as the name suggests, smaller than common ringed plovers – they are more slender with longer wings and a smaller more rounded head which accents their smaller size. This one was busy feeding. It is on its way to sub-Saharan Africa (although a Swedish bird was tagged going all the way to India and back, while its mate went to Nigeria!) so needs to fuel up. Despite being disturbed initially by me and then by a series of coastal path walkers it kept coming back to the muddy beach to feed, sometimes alone but more often with the adult common ringed plover and the sanderlings. It was very inconspicuous though and I don’t think I would have noticed it initially if it hadn’t called.

The Balcomie little ringed plover

Posted July 15, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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