Typical nesting habitats for Ringed Plover comprise beaches, saltmarshes, relatively undisturbed industrial land and arable farmland adjacent to the coast, while inland they utilise river valley gravels and the shorelines of reservoirs, gravel pits and lakes (Brown & Grice 2005). In Caithness, a substantial proportion of the population nest on clifftops where the slate has been worn down by weather into broken stony terrain (Caithness SOC 2016).
During ornithological survey work in Caithness in 2018 we encountered three pairs of Ringed Plover nesting within our study area (ca. 40m above sea level). One was in a layby along a constructed stone windfarm access track (ca. 75m from the nearest operational wind turbine) with the surrounding area being deforested, dry moorland (Figure 1.). The other two pairs were using wet, recently deforested ground immediately adjacent to the windfarm (ca. 120m from the nearest operational wind turbine) (Figures 2 & 3). This small, wet area hosted a high diversity of breeding species in comparison to the adjacent dry moorland including Greylag Goose Anser anser, Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and numerous Lapwing Vanellus vanellus and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. The site was approximately 3km from the coast and we observed birds flying in the direction of a nearby beach on numerous occasions, presumably to forage.
Whilst Ringed Plover do utilise a variety of different habitat types for nesting, historically, most pairs have been found on beaches. As this species continues to abandon traditional nesting grounds on our increasingly disturbed coasts, its ability to utilise ‘atypical’ habitats such as those described here may help to restrict losses going forward.
Brown, A. & Grice, P. (2005). Birds in England. T & A.D Poyser.
Caithness Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) (2016). Birds of Caithness.