Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Golden plover in North East Scotland

Since 2011 GRG have been studying Golden Plovers at Rattery Head in North East Scotland.  Birds start to arrive in early July, complete their moult and then spend the winter here.

The first  birds arrive in early July peak about the 2nd week of August when there are between 500 and 1000 in the flock, this number remains pretty stable until the end of September when their numbers increase dramatically with up to 5000 being seen there.

Birds have been caught  and colour ringed with an individual colour combination to allow individuals to be recognised in the field. Among the birds we caught was a pullus that we had ringed on the Scottish mountains two years previously and another pullus had its ring read near Edinburgh the previous year. This gave us a strong hint that at least some of the birds present on the Scottish coast were in fact Scottish breeders.
Brood of golden plover with one egg still to hatch
One of the birds ringed in 2011 was then seen on the Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Harris on the 5 June 2012 again suggesting a Scottish breeder. This bird has not been seen again.

One of our colour-ringed birds on Harris, June 2012
Over the next couple of years from colour marked individuals from 2011 have regularly been seen again along the same stretch of coastline, suggesting some site fidelity of the birds to their wintering grounds, others have however never been seen again despite regular searches through the flocks for colour marked individuals. Many birds have been seen repeatedly.

Then on the 22 January this year DE52076 bird was reported form Curragh Racecourse, Kildare, Ireland, this had been ringed on the 21 August 2011 at Rattery Head. It had been previously seen at Buchanhaven /Peterhead in August/September 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Golden Plover DE52076 ringed 21 August 2011 at Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire
So why this bird now decided to move to Ireland after staying in the north east for the previous years we cannot say, however as the bird has been seen in the autumn only in the previous years it may have moved to Ireland every winter. Perhaps future years will provide more information regarding this bird.

Clearly we have much yet to learn about the movements of these birds and what initiates the need to move; cold weather can certainly be ruled out as the winter of 2014-15 in North east has been exceptionally mild.

We intend to continue ringing both pullus and adult birds in the forthcoming years and will be grateful of any sightings of colour marked Golden Plovers