Monday, 13 April 2020

R is for Ringed Plover

Please remember! We ask that people do not visit the Reserve particularly if you have to travel. All car parks on Holy Island are closed to visitors until government restrictions are lifted. Many residents on Holy island fall into the vulnerable category. Please adhere to these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others during this time.

Ringed Plovers are a small, short legged wading bird characterised by its black eye mask and breast band and bright orange legs. On Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve Ringed Plovers nest and winter in important numbers. Wintering numbers have increased in the past thirty years but this isn't replicated on a national scale with large declines in recent years resulting in Ringed Plover being Red listed in the UK. The overwintering population are from European breeding populations but there is also an influx of migrating birds passing through from places such as Greenland and use the site for the rich food supply of insects, marine worms, molluscs and crustaceans that the Reserve provides.
Ringed plover finding a worm in the mud © JJD
The Reserve is one of the most important breeding sites in Northumberland for this plucky Plover. Ringed Plovers breed on sandy and shingled areas of the coastline. The bird makes a small scrape in the loose sand or shingle laying up to 4 eggs, neatly arranged with their pointed ends always in the centre of the nest. The adults both take turns to incubate and after approximately 3 and half weeks the eggs will hatch. The chicks emerge fully formed and ready to run to find their own food of insects and invertebrates. The chicks fluffy body and long legs makes them look like frantic running cotton balls! The adults will protect the chicks until they are able to fly on their own after a further 3 and half weeks.
Juvenile Ringed Plover © JJD
 Breeding birds have to navigate a number of issues in order to raise young successfully. Habitat loss and increased disturbance are the chief causes of the decline in numbers. Disturbance on beaches has increased massively over the past few decades. As Ringed Plovers are not colony nesters many people don't realise that the birds have been flushed off nests. The nests are very well camouflaged and can be walked over the top of without even noticing. Dogs running off leads on beaches further exacerbates the issue. If flushed, the adults will start alarm calling to draw a predator away and will sometimes carry out a 'broken wing' display to make it appear that it is an easy meal for an approaching predator.
Adult with young

At Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve we have been addressing this issue through our Breeding Shorebird Protection Scheme which I will go into greater depth tomorrow. Through monitoring, education and reducing disturbance we are seeing numbers of breeding Ringed Plovers increase on the Reserve. A sure sign that the scheme is working.


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