As well as the Sanderlings I blogged about yesterday, the other stand-out birds from last Saturday’s birding walk were these Golden plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) though, in stark contrast to the Sanderlings, they did not move, at all, not one inch, in the 15 minutes or so I was watching them. And, as you can see in my second photo, they were keeping a close eye on me so I couldn’t move around much either in case that scared them off.
As a result my photos are all very similar and, just to be clear, I have had to lighten these images a lot so you can see the plumage details (it was mostly a very dull day). Still, I hope you can tell how magnificent the plumage of these birds is. These yellow and black markings are their summer colours, which change in winter to a more stark combination of white and beige.
These birds are British residents, breeding in the high moorland areas of Scotland, northern England and Wales, and then, in the autumn, moving to lowland areas, to fields and sometimes coastal sites, where they can often be seen feeding and flying in large flocks during the winter months.
I didn’t hear so much as a peep out of the Golden plovers I saw at Sker but I really want to hear their call now that I’ve read this in my copy of Stefan Buczacki’s Fauna Britannica:
The Cheshire name ‘sheep’s guide’ arises from the belief that it gives warning to sheep of impending danger by its plaintive call. In Aberdeenshire, its cry is said to be giving friendly advice to the ploughman: ‘Plough weel, shave weel, harrow weel.’ In other areas, such as North Wales, it is the Golden Plover rather than the Lapwing, Curlew or other waders that has been linked with the legend of the Seven Whistlers (seven birds, flying together by night, whose cries forebode disaster). In common with other birds with plaintive calls, Golden Plovers have also sometimes been regarded as lost souls.