Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Minor Species

This has been a disastrous time for the small number of Avocets that nest in their usual location of Conder Green, where this year, three or more pairs failed to rear a single chick. On Monday I drove to Cockerham to check out the remaining pair of Avocets that nested at a different location for the very first time - the perhaps unusual setting of a private and working dairy farm. 

From a fair distance away I noted the Avocets had four tiny young in tow so I arranged to meet with Andy on Tuesday with a view to ringing those chicks and to combine this with another go at the nearby Sand Martin colony. Both jobs would require two pairs of hands and eyes should the young Avocets be difficult to locate through their parents’ ability to divert and disrupt. Sand Martin catches can be unpredictable in numbers whereby it is also essential to have two or three pairs of hands around. 

Tuesday morning and we met up at the Sand Martins to see the whole of the Avocet family just yards away from our parking spot and to hear the warning ’kleet-kleet’ calls of the adults. Before long we had four youngsters in the bag despite the “broken wing” distraction displays and overhead warning flights of the adults. Four ringed - the first Avocets for Fylde Ringing Group. 


A look in the BTO Migration Atlas (first published in 2002) showed the Avocet - Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta as being featured in the pages of “Minor Species” rather than “Waders”. This is a reflection of the species status at the turn of the millennium when the population of the UK was at about 450 pairs. Avocets had recolonised Britain over 50 years earlier from 1947. 

They spread quite slowly to include North West England in their range in the 1980s and 1990s and first bred in Lancashire in 2001. The number of Avocet breeding pairs in the UK in 2020 is thought to be now close to 1,950/2,000 (BTO). 

It is known that Avocets from Southern England join post-breeding moulting flocks of Avocets in the Netherlands where they mix with birds from Sweden, Denmark and Germany. As winter progresses individual birds move further south to wintering sites in southern or southwestern Britain, e.g. the Tamar, Tavy and Exe estuaries. Yet others may fly south to Portugal, Spain, Morocco or West Africa. 

Our North West England Avocets are winter absentees but return as early as late February/early March to look for breeding opportunities. It is likely that these individuals have spent recent months in southern England rather than being Africa returnees. 

So little is known about Lancashire and Merseyside Avocets, an area where very low numbers have been ringed, that more ringing records and recoveries should add to the current understanding of the movements and migrations of the species as a whole. 


While we counted around 140 Sand Martins at the colony the catch of just 13 was disappointing- 10 adult males and 3 juveniles of the year. The ten adults included a ring not of our own series - APA6004. 

Sand Martin - adult

Sand Martin - juvenile 

Sand Martin
We had no recaptures from our previous one of 30 Sand Martins on 30 May when twenty of those were adult males. It would appear that the ladies avoid us and that the resident birds as a whole have in a short time, learned to negotiate our mist net. 

 Sand Martins

We will leave them to get on with it for a while and try to time our next visit for a more substantial result.


Rhodesia said...

It will be interesting to see if you get any feedback on the Avocet ringing but with only 4 of them may be that would just be luck. The ring on the Sand Martin which you have the number of, I presume you can find out where it came from.

Not much going on here, lots of rain, thunder and lightning around and it appears to stay much like that until the end of the week. Not good for photography or walking!

Stay safe Diane

eileeninmd said...


I love the cute Sand Martins and the baby Avocet is adorable. It sounds like the Sand Martin colony is doing well. Happy birding. Have a great day!

Stevenson Q said...

My dear friend Phil! Happy Tuesday! Than kyou so much for sharing these amazing captures of that cute Avocet and these sand martins! I really have to thank you so much for letting me in to the world of birds and I learn a lot from reading your blog, especially some types of birds that are not seen here in my country. I feel so proud at times whenever I visit another blog and features bird shots and I get to say, oh this is a lapwing, this one I think is a warbler, all thanks to your blog and your lovely shots!

I wish you a great new week ahead my friend and hope the weather is fine there and that more birds would visit your garden and your place so you can share more to us :) I'm your student!

Linda said...

Sweet water birds! Thank you for sharing.

The Padre said...

Sand Martins Are Beautiful - Thanx For Sharing


Angie said...

Phil - the beak of the Avocet is so fascinating - and how interesting to see the beak on the young one is well on its way! Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tanza Erlambang said...

I never noticed avocet in wildlife, it is might due to their low number in many places.

Love to see cute Sand Martins....great shots.

Wally Jones said...

Seeing more reports of your ringing efforts renews my hope the planet is slowly revolving to something I recall as "normal".

(I refuse to use the term "the new normal".)

Here's hoping the next BTO Atlas will elevate the Avocet from "minor species" staus and place it in the wading bird section. Your ringing of the recent fledglings may even play a part in that decision.

Since your Sand Martins have figured out how to avoid the mist nets, I'm going to use that as evidence to try and convince Gini to stop calling me "bird brain" in a derogatory manner. (On second thought, that may mean I would have to alter my less-than-genius behavior. So, never mind.)

We are enjoying the onset of sub-tropical weather patterns, warm and humid mornings followed by rumbling thunderstorms in the afternoons. Love it!

Take good care.

Elkes Lebensglück said...

Yes, you can see again how such a large milk farm disturbs the bird life and nature. Good thing you still found some of the avocets with boys.
The swallows are impressive photos. With me, they fly right past the balcony and their tracks at a rapid pace.
It's a shame that they have caught so little, but they are clever birds. You will still have an idea.
It was again very interesting what is going on in the bird world with you!
Have a good weekend, Elke

Mae Travels said...

Your detailed information-gathering about bird locations will surely be very useful in the long run. I just hope that there's a good chance for the welfare of all these species -- our own species as well!

be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Anu said...

Hello Phil. Interesting post. Avocet does not nesting in Finland - yet. Only in their spring migration avocets may be seen in Finland. I like avocets.
Have a wonderful weekend.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil,

I hope the Avocets are doing OK and that there are not too many nests failing. I love both the Avocets and the Sand Martins. Cute photos.
Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend!

eileeninmd said...

PS, thanks for linking up your post today!

Jean said...

The baby Avocet is cute and looks so tiny compared to the full bird photo below. Hope your capturing of the sand martin birds is more successful next time. Have a great weekend.

Anni said...

Great photos today. I always enjoy & look forward to stopping by here. Our avocets do not nest in our area of Texas so your post was a learning experience for me today. Loved both the Avocets & Martin photos you shared.

I want to send along my thanks for your participation this week at IRBB.

I want to send along my thanks for your participation this week at IRBB.

Lowcarb team member said...

I don't think I have seen an avocet other than in photographs.
Always pleased to see the photographs you share.

All the best Jan

Related Posts with Thumbnails