Thursday, 7 April 2011

Little Ringed Plover Return

Top right: digging scrape

Courtship dance

Found Little Ringed Plover in the same place on the Severn as last year; a wide gravel bank on the inside of meander. For a long time I watched a single bird, a male I think (with more black on the face?), constantly on the move, stalking invertebrate (the rare 5spot ladybird recently discovered only here), its large eye bent to the ground as it ran in rapid whirring sprints. Occasionally it flew up and around the bank vocalising - a display. Occasionally it would sit in a favourite spot wings half open and rub its belly through the shingle, craning its neck and lifting its tail or pick pebbles from the indent; I guessed this would be a scrape for any prospective partner to lay in. At this point it was joined by a female and the courtship began. Chasing the female in a fast low sprint the male spread it's white flanks so the feathers stuck out beyond the dark upper body. The female would stop and allow him to approach and in doing so he would grow in height, pivoting his body upright and straightening the neck, creeping closer on tiptoes he would prepare to mount, jump and more often than not miss as the female steps out of reach, initiating another chase. Eventually the pair succeeded to mate a couple of times while I was there, the male returning to the scrape after each time.

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