UK Visit: April – May 2014 – Waders on the Dovey Estuary

We’ve just got back from an extended family visit, and since my family is quite widely dispersed around the UK, it gave me some good opportunities (weather permitting!) to explore some beautiful places around southern England and Wales.

I managed to spend a few hours on the Dovey (Dyfi in Welsh) Estuary on the mid-Wales coast in the second week of May.Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_1979

It wasn’t quite blowing a gale, but the wind was strong enough to send the top layer of sand swirling across the sand in wraith-like ribbons a few inches above the surface. Keeping optics well covered, I leaned into the wind and headed for the shoreline in the hope of finding some roosting shorebirds.

Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7541I found them hunkered down among the stones, grabbing whatever shelter they could find. More often than not, I was in amongst them before I noticed them – they were incredibly well camouflaged – with the result that my first few shots were of flocks which I had flushed. They were a mixture of Dunlins and Common Ringed Plovers, with the odd Sanderling or two.

Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7547 Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7556 Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7560Eventually I managed to track a flock as it wheeled around and resettled, and was able to approach more cautiously.

Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_1984 Dovey estuary_IMG_1986 Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7584In the end I had to crawl commando style across these rocks, making sure that I didn’t crush my bins or handphone beneath me – those rocks were pretty hard!

Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7611 Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7684Once I got down to eye level with the birds they weren’t too bothered by my slow approach, and the combination of the subtle blue-greys of the rocks and the contrastingly bold lines of the plovers were a delight to the eye.Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7681 Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7676 Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7657 Dunlins and Ringed Plovers_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7717

The fact that these plovers were obviously on migration, coupled with their neat, narrow breastband and relatively dark upperparts helped me to identify them as ‘Tundra Ringed Plovers’ – either the race ‘tundrae‘, which breeds in Northern Scandinavia across to far-eastern Siberia (so is the race which turns up as a rarity in Malaysia once in a while) or ‘psammodroma‘, which breeds in Greenland, Iceland and into north-east Canada.

Dunlin_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7701 Dunlin_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7700Dunlin_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7715I think the Dunlins (or some of them anyway) were the schinzii race, but I stand to be corrected. Sanderling_Dovey Estuary_090514_IMG_7671

A familiar face – a Sanderling still largely in non-breeding plumage ‘in amongst’.

I would have happily spend a week going down to the Estuary, but in the end, I was happy to have had one near-perfect afternoon!

 

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