Monday, 29 October 2012


The late afternoon walk along the Strood seawall on Monday 29th was rewarded by the discovery of a dotterel on the mud. The bird looked like an unusual plover that suggested a dotterel rather than a golden plover, but unfortunately it was about 50 metres away. As I only had a pair of binoculars with me, I summoned Andy Field by mobile and asked him to bring his telescope so we could get a better view. Confirmation was duly provided of a juvenile dotterel and this photograph by Andy shows the bird before the light faded.

Andy was busy texting and calling the news out that included to Adrian Kettle, above on the right. Martin Cock left work early in Colchester to dash back and managed to see the bird just as the darkness began to descend.

The outgoing tide in the channel was at an ideal stage for waders with a good variety and number seen. Having sat down to count a flock of knot (whose count was never completed but about 50), a "golden plover" type bird was spotted on the mud that didn't look right for a goldie. The white stripe above the eye was more striking, the bird was less golden, the chest was more buffy, the different head shape and the pale chest stripe could just be seen too.

The dotterel was watched for about an hour, spending most of the time in the one spot, occasionally walking down into a little rill in the mud, so that only the black crown and white eye stripe were visible. On the opposite side of the Strood Channel was a roost of 1000+ golden plover, which helped provide comparisons, as did a number of grey plovers feeding nearby too. It's possible that this dotterel was seen flying off the nearby wheat field as I was walking along the seawall, prior to me finding the bird, as I watched a single "golden plover" fly away from 30 lapwings and headed to the Strood.

Dotterels are scarce passage birds in Essex and it will be interesting to see if this bird stays around for the winter. The last dotterel sighted on the Island was thirty years ago in the winter 1982/83, which was the first wintering bird for Essex. It frequented the fields near Chapmans Lane amongst a flock of golden plover staying for several weeks.It was just before my arrival on Mersea but I heard from a local policemen working at that time, that it caused a bit of a stir and some traffic congestion issues along the Lane with all the birdwatchers cars!

Other birds of note along the Strood on Monday's walk were 200+ dunlin, 100+ black-tailed godwit, one avocet, 100 wigeon, 50 teal, 50 brent geese, 50 greylag geese flying over and 17 little grebes in the channel. Other birds seen included 2 rock pipits, 30 skylarks, 40 linnets with 10 blackbirds near the caravan site.


Phil Carter said...

Had a look for this first thing this morning and again this afternoon, not a sniff. Wouldn't be surprised if it's still around though, but it'll be a bit of an arse to find if it's not consorting with the goldies.

Dougal Urquhart said...

It seems unlikely its going to be refound now, although flocks of lapwing in the fields might be just as good a bet to check as the goldies.