Monday, 10 April 2017

Remembering the "Colditz Plover"

It still feels just a little too early to be looking for scarce or rare migrants, but high temperatures, clear skies and a light southerly breeze tempted me out early on Sunday morning.
We started out from Happisburgh in east Norfolk where highlight of the morning was a superb full English fry-up from Hill House Inn

The Flying Scotsman, Hill House Inn, Happisburgh, Norfolk
Other highlights included this Black Redstart at the caravan site.

Black Redstart, Happisburgh, Norfolk

Black Redstart doing its best 'Red Kite' impression
Further 'highlights' included a flock of fifty-plus Sand Martins, several singing Blackcaps, two - three Willow Warblers, two Swallows and seven Common Cranes.

Common Cranes, Happisburgh, Norfolk

Nick's severe 'man-flu' threatened to put an early end to the day but he soldiered on and despite a traffic-jam on the Acle Straight we made it in time to Breydon Water to see American Wigeon, Arctic Skua and Kentish Plover.

Fly-by dark phase Arctic Skua, Breydon Water, Norfolk
Although distant, the Kentish Plover was a fine male bird and along with American Wigeon, a UK tick for me.

Male Kentish Plover, Breydon Water, Norfolk - 9th April 2017
Back in Ireland I had seen one Kentish Plover - the infamous Red Barn, Cork bird in December 2007....the "Colditz Plover" as it became known. I reluctantly removed it from my Irish List when the IRBC placed it in category E.
Here's the story in the 2007 Irish Rare Bird Report;

Appendix 1: Category E records
Individuals considered to be probable or certain escapes from captivity.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandinus
Cork First-winter, Redbarn Strand, Youghal, 2 December to 23 January 2008, photographed
(D.O’Sullivan et al.).
The exceptionally late date, together with the presence of a vagrant Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
nearby, initially gave rise to speculation that the bird may have been of the Nearctic subspecies C. a.
nivosus (Snowy Plover). The presence of a metal ring stimulated intensive efforts to ascertain its origin.
Through close observation and almost forensic analysis of fragments of the ring’s inscription, the bird
was eventually traced to Germany, where it had been hatched and reared in captivity, having originally
been taken illegally from the wild. Following a raid on the dealer’s premises by the authorities, this bird
and numerous other waders were confiscated. It was subsequently released into the wild at Greetsiel on
the northwest German coast. Given this bird’s bizarre life history and the exceptional effort that went into
discovering its provenance, it is not without a measure of regret that the record is placed in Ca

You can see the ring on its left leg from this image I took during my digiscoping days.

"Colditz Plover" - Red Barn, Cork - December 2007
I'm not sure if there have been any Kentish Plover records in Ireland since. Probably very few if any - its pretty rare and still a description species there.
So, almost ten years on I have laid the ghost of "Colditz Plover" to rest with this fine male bird at Breydon Water. The real highlight of a splendid day's birding in east Norfolk.


  1. Hi Graham. There was a nice spring Kentish at Tacumshin in late April and early May 2011, plus an as yet unpublished report from Newcastle, Co. Wicklow last spring. But yes, still extremely rare here.