Going for Gold (Bird Race update 7)

The longer we do the bird race, the trickier it gets. We were seeing three or four new species everyday in the first week or so but now a good day is a single new species. It becomes important that all the regulars are checked off the list and there is one that is still evading Team Warden: the golden plover.

So to fix that, I use heading down to check on the sheep as an excuse to stop in at the Saltcot Merse Observatory. These plovers are seen sometimes in their hundreds murmurating over the merse and this spot is probably the best on the reserve for seeing them.

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Golden plover flock by Alex Hillier

But this time, I have no such luck. Disappointed, I head back to the office.

As a warden, it can be hard to find the time to simply enjoy the reserve. We spend our time with our nose deep in our work so the Bird Race is a great excuse to get out and about. I am allowed to put the emails down, take half an hour and call sitting in a hide waiting for golden plover to show up work and I am not complaining.

They are one of the few wader species that murmurate - golden plover, knot and dunlin are the only ones that come to mind. If you can get an idea of size and bill shape and if you manage to spot their golden shimmer, you'll be able to identify them pretty easily. If not, they do have a nicely distinctive call, sometimes described as a half-squeak half-whistle.

After carrying on with my day, I end up back down by the merse, preparing for a volunteer task and what flies over my head? A huge flock of golden plover!

It just goes to show that when you stop thinking about it, that's often when you are pleasantly surprised with what you see.


Team Warden: 83

Team Placement: 72

Team Dave: 82

Check the blog on Thursday for the final scores and the list of all the species that were spotted!

Words by Jake Goodwin and Marianne Nicholson

Feature image of view of merse on sunny day by Jake Goodwin

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