Birdwatch: Rare appearance from Kentish plover

It is hoped that Kentish plovers might recolonise this country again one day.  Picture: James Robson
It is hoped that Kentish plovers might recolonise this country again one day. Picture: James Robson
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There has been a good run of rare waders seen in Yorkshire, the latest being a Kentish plover on the Humber at the weekend.

The bird, a juvenile, was found near the Riverside Hotel at Spurn on Saturday by Andy Clements, director of the British Trust for Ornithology, who was attending the Spurn Migration Festival and it was also seen on the Kilnsea Wetlands and on the beach at Chalkie Point, Kilnsea.

The Kentish plover is very much a passage migrant along the south coast with few records this far north. Many birders managed to see a male at Audenshaw Reservoir, Greater Manchester at the end of April.

It is the palest of the ringed plover group with black legs, an incomplete breast band and a smart chestnut cap on the male.

As its name suggests it was once an established breeder along the Kent and Sussex coasts but the persistent activities of taxidermists and egg collectors drove it to the edge of extinction by the start of the 20th century.

After it received full protection in 1904 numbers built up again to 40 pairs at Romney Marsh but the development of seaside tourism on the Kent coast meant an end to regular breeding by 1931.

The last British breeding record was in 1979 when a pair fledged two young at Gibraltar Point on the Lincolnshire coast.

The Kentish plover lays its eggs in scrapes in sand or shingle leaving them vulnerable to both wandering humans and predators such as foxes.

Little tern nests are similarly vulnerable but, thanks to wardening and fenced off areas such as the one at the Beacon Ponds little tern colony, they are now less at risk.

There are some 7,000 pairs of Kentish plovers in France and Spain and, although numbers have declined there, there is always the hope that some might recolonise this country again one day.

Other rare waders included a white-rumped sandpiper at the end of Filey Brigg, buff-breasted sandpiper at Grimston, pectoral sandpiper at Tophill Low, and a juvenile Baird’s sandpiper and pectoral sandpiper at Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire.

There were more curlew and wood sandpipers, little stints and spotted redshanks across the region. A corncrake, dropped into the Church Field at Kilnsea on Friday last week while another was flushed near the gas terminal at Easington on Sunday.

A summer plumaged red-necked grebe was seen inland on John ’O Gaunts reservoir near Harrogate and was still present this week while a Manx shearwater was found in Beverley and taken into care by the RSPCA. It is now recovering at the Sealife centre in Scarborough

Michael Flowers has vacancies on his ten-week Autumn birdwatching course starting on September 27. Many sessions will involve identifying birds on migration. There are most spaces on the afternoons of  Wednesday, then Thursday and Friday. Contact him at or on 07946 625688.