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Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

 

The breeding distribution ranges from the arctic as far south as Brittany. In the British Isles they nest on shingle beaches and increasingly inland. Increases in human leisure activities along beaches has made nests and small chicks vulnerable to human disturbance.

Ringed Plover at nest.jpg (10691 bytes)

Due to concerns that the breeding population was declining, we began a study in 1994 to investigate the causes of the decline.In particular what effects human disturbance might be having on the breeding population at Snettisham and Heacham beaches, on the eastern side of the Wash estuary, in England. You can view a location map of the study area. The number of pairs breeding in 1994 were 60 – 65 pairs. 

In order to be able to identify individuals we set up a colour ringing project. Over 200 adults were trapped at the nest during the mid to late incubation period using walk in traps or spring nets, all have been ringed and colour ringed, as have over 900 ringed plover chicks. They have been ringed with a standard BTO metal ring plus a combination of four other colour rings that were unique to that bird. 

Photo supplied by John Webb

 
What identifies the bird as one ringed by North West Norfolk Ringing Group is the  scheme identifier which is either a yellow or red ring above the 'knee joint' on the tibia of the right leg.  On the tarsus below the ‘knee’, birds have a colour over metal ring on one leg and 2 colours on the other leg.  The colours that have been used are yellow, red, lime green, green, pale blue, blue, black (noir) and white. 
Red scheme marker ring on right leg tibia   Yellow scheme marker ring on right leg tibia
Red scheme marker ring on right tibia   Yellow scheme marker ring on right tibia
Photo supplied by David & Pat Wileman   Photo supplied by Mikael Champion  

If you see any colour ringed birds please note the position of any colour rings and also the BTO metal ring. Please pay particular attention to the tibia of the right leg and the presence or absence of the yellow or red scheme identifier ring. Include details of date seen and where (if possible include grid ref or co-ordinates.) and send the details to the scheme co-ordinator John Middleton. E-Mail HERE. and we will send you full details of the birds life history.

Ringed Plover nest.jpg (30126 bytes)

Photo John Middleton

 

This is a typical Ringed Plover nest.   It is simply a shallow depression or 'scrape' made by the adults.  The shell fragments that you see are frequently used to line the nest. The number of fragments that are used differs from nest to nest, with some containing little or none and others containing many.

RPchicks.JPG (28655 bytes)

Photo John Middleton

Newly hatched Ringed Plover chicks only remain in the nest until they have dried off and are strong enough to stand and begin to move around.  The time varies from just a few hours to a day, but most have left the nest within 24 hours.  Thereafter they do not return to it and instead they are brooded from time to time wherever they happen to be by either of the parents.  They can find food and feed themselves as soon as they are able to walk.

We colour ringed the chicks shortly after hatching as soon as they were dry and strong enough. In this way we could be sure of the parentage because as soon as they are strong enough they leave the nest and are much harder to find on the beach.

In 2000 this study also became a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project . At the time it was the only RAS study of Ringed Plovers in the UK. The objective was to gather re-trap information which would allow us to monitor the survival rates. Information on survival rates is important because it can help us to understand why bird populations may be changing . Knowing about changes in survival rates of birds is vital for effective conservation action. Additionally every year we found and monitored the outcome of many nesting attempts and these results were recorded using methodology developed by the BTO Nest Records Unit. Due to the continuing decline of Ringed Plovers in the study area the RAS project was terminated in 2009.

The current situation is depressing! When the project commenced in 1994 there were between 60 - 65 pairs breeding in the study area.

In 2015 Neil Lawton the Scolt Head Nature Reserve Warden commented to me that:

He managed to get an almost complete survey of breeding Ringed Plovers done in Norfolk this year, the only area not surveyed was Heacham, the guy that used to do this has given up as the situation here is too depressing, loads of predation and people. Even allowing for this missing data, the total for Norfolk is now less than 160 breeding pairs, a decline of 66% since 1993. The situation in Norfolk and England looks grim, the 60 pairs breeding on Scolt is now probably the biggest number at a single site anywhere in England.

In December 2015 Ringed Plover was added to the Red List of the Birds of Conservation Concern

Go to Results of this project

 

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North West Norfolk Ringing Group

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  Last updated February 2016