Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How many AGP's?

juvenile American Golden Plover, Baleshare, Sept. 2010
The autumn of 2012 is likely to be long remembered for the 3rd British record of Semipalmated Plover which was found by John Kemp at South Glendale on the 7th September. This individual followed hot on the heels of 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers and a Spotted Sandpiper as well as several Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers and American Golden Plovers. In total (so far), this autumn has produced 7 species of American waders in the Outer Hebrides compared with 9 species in 2011; just 4 species in 2010; 6 species in 2009 and 8 species in 2008.

It therefore hasn't stood out for variety and indeed hasn't stood out for numbers in particular, apart from American Golden Plover that is. In 3 out the past 4 years (2011, 2009 and 2008) around 6 American Golden Plovers have been found throughout the Outer Hebrides during the autumn although just 4 were reported in the relatively poor autumn for American waders in 2010. In 2012 a minimum of 15 American Golden Plovers have been logged including 6 adults (for more details please visit the recent sightings on: Western Isles Wildlife

Why 2012 has been so good for American Golden Plover is a bit of a mystery although it could purely be the year when lots were blown off track as has happened with other species in the past e.g. Semipalmated Sandpiper in 2004 and White-rumped Sandpiper in 2006. What is for certain is that there has been an upsurge in records during the last 30 years with annual totals in Scotland peaking at 12 in the 1980's, 31 in 1990's and 22 from 2000 - 2004 (Birds of Scotland). It was removed from the list of species requiring descriptions by the BBRC in 2006 and from SBRC in 2010. Observer awareness and better understanding of identification criteria have almost certainly led to the increase in records. Coverage in the Outer Hebrides is also increasing during the autumn and the county almost certainly now leads on records of American Golden Plover in Scotland if not the UK.

juvenile American Golden Plover, Kilpheder, Sept 2012
adult American Golden Plover, West Gerinish, Sept 2010

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