Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Devon Flashback 7 - Semi-palmated Plover

Another anniversary, for me at least, and a phone call to Birdline South West on June 19th 1997 elicited yet another rushed exit and frantic drive. This time for Devon's first, and Britain's second semi-palmated plover! My diary entry for that day is a bit thin and sketchy but I remember being slightly miffed that such a rare bird could have been around for so long (first discovered in April) without its presence being mentioned. I guess nowadays twitter would kick in to alert all and sundry the minute it was found and a digital photo would have been secured on day one. The identification  would doubtless have been sorted out online the same evening - how times have changed!
My views on that first day, after an energy-sapping jog along the Warren, weren't great. The clearly smaller and plainer semi-p stood alongside a ringed plover on an offshore sandbar. It's no wonder it drew attention but not surprising it was difficult to identify, as the all important finer detail was difficult to see.
The finder was the late great John Fortey. He considered the possibility of it being a 'semi-p' from the off but  had been unable to get sufficient detail on it to sort out the identification and, importantly, it hadn't been heard to call. Eventually, on June 16th, Kev managed to hear it 'chu-it' and this catalysed the final resolving of its identification. Expert opinion was required before any news was released and Mush was summoned in to have the final say. The rest, as they say, is history.
I went back on the 21st and 25th but my field sketches never progressed beyond 'crap' and the views were always rather distant and disappointing.
There has got to be a chance of another appearing in Devon and few would bet against the Warren hosting it. 

The bird was was present from mid April until September 21st 1997 and returned again the following spring from March 31st to May 10th (The Birds of Devon - Michael Tyler).

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