Temptingly Tundra

A close look at some of the migrant Ringed Plovers passing through Northants in autumn would suggest they are from further north than the race which breeds in the UK.

The fact that we get ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers on passage in small numbers during late spring is well established (see here and here). As juveniles in autumn they are perhaps less obvious and characters vary as differences are clinal but some readily exhibit certain pointers which suggest they are not the nominate race hiaticula.

At least two such individuals have been present at Boddington Res since 29th September and are still present today. To my eyes they stand out as being different – so much so that they have even been reported by some observers as Little Ringed Plovers.

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers can be one of two races, either psammodroma, which has a breeding range from the Faeroes to north-east Canada, or tundrae, which breeds from northern Scandinavia to Russia, although the validity of psammodroma as a race is contested by some authorities.

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plover, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

The Boddington two differ from each other insomuch as one has a narrow, complete breast-band and the other has a broad, almost broken one. While both appear noticeably smaller than ‘our’ Ringed Plovers, they differ from juvenile Little Ringed Plover by the lack of a pale eye-ring, a fairly obvious supercilium and clean white forehead. Of course, when they fly there’s the wing-bar!

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plover, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

In addition to the size difference against the nominate race, ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers have darker upperparts and in October show no signs of the moult to first-winter which has normally already begun to take place in hiaticula. Additionally, the supercilium is less extensive, the legs are a dull, weak ochre and one other feature is the bill, which is smaller and ‘dinkier’ in Tundra birds. All these features are shown by these two birds at Boddington so it’s more than just tempting to call them ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers.

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