With the recent cold weather, many species of bird, particularly wading birds and ducks, have been moving around the UK and beyond to escape the cold grip of winter. The frozen water bodies and soil means there is no food for them.
Golden Plovers are scarce around Bristol – the nearest places to spot them are on the southern Somerset Levels, high regions around Bath, and sometimes the odd one on the Severn Estuary. So, it was a surprise to find some taken recently as prey by the Peregrines in Bristol. Sam found these on the 13th after a night of sub-zero temperatures. They are by no means a rare prey item for Peregrines – but over the past decade or so, Golden Plovers have been choosing to winter in the east of the UK, with fewer visiting the west. Studying the Peregrines is a great way of finding out what their prey species are up to.
Golden Plovers have beautiful yellow spotted feathers which keep them camouflaged on moorlands during the summer and in lowland fields during the winter. This photo shows some of the body feathers from the back of the bird.
What is even more remarkable is that last week, around the time this bird was eaten, another Golden Plover was caught by a bird ringer in mid-Wales and released with a satellite tag attached to its body. On the weekend just past, the ringer checked the location of the bird – it was in Madrid, Spain! It just shows, that when these cold weather movements occur, many ducks and wading birds literally exit the UK and move south within a few days. I remember being on the Somerset Levels last year during a very cold spell and it was absent of many ducks, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. Remarkably, as soon as the temperatures rose, the birds magically reappeared (see photo above) – presumably moving north again from southern climes. How they know when the ice has suddenly gone is a mystery!