Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Dotterels and Happy Memories

On 20th May 1987, I saw my first Dotterels. My Dad and his mate, the late John Cornforth, had seen some in a pea field opposite the entrance to Blacktoft Sands and after school, I nagged him into taking me to see them. We had looked for them in the fields around Swinefleet the weekend before without success, so it was a anxious journey east from York. To my delight, the nine handsome mountain plovers were still present and I drooled over them as they walked around the baby pea plants. 
 My birding notebook for 20th May 1987...not a bad sketch for a 12 year old!

This was my first 'trip' of Dotterels, a bird that breeds on high mountain tops in remote places, and stops off in small numbers at regular sites on its northbound spring migration. It was, then, with a feeling of similar excitement I picked up York birding mate Duncan Bye this evening and headed east again to hunt for a trip of Dotterel. 16 had been reported in fields south of Swinefleet, but there was no guarantee they would still be there. It is after all a big area, with a lot of fields to hide in!

A small group of cars could only be birders out here in the arable wilderness, and sure enough the presence of optics on the gathered gang, proved we were in the right spot. Looking out over the field, there were the Dotterels, looking splendid on fresh plough, persil-white supercila standing out a mile, along with white crescent breast bands. 13 birds were still present and we huddled against the strong wind to enjoy the sight of these magical migrants.

The Trip!


Gorgeous birds, shame my photos don't do them justice.

Sadly, our friend John died only two short years later. He would have really enjoyed this 'trip', and I am sure he would be pleased to know I am still travelling to see Dotterels in the fields around Swinefleet some 31 years later.

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