Little Ringed Plovers breeding at Horford 2020. By Stewart Betts

Although the building of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has, in the opinion of
many of us, had a very detrimental effect on the environment and natural history of the areas
surrounding the new road, a number of new Pollution Control Points and Storm Ponds have
provided a habitat which was not present previously. One such pool is hidden behind the
NDR embankment near Horsford, and which has subsequently become part of the local patch
of several local birders.
On 4th April 2020 Brian Howe found a Little Ringed Plover (LRP) at the Horsford NDR Storm
Pond. Between the 4th and the 14th up to four LRPs were seen to be present at any one time.
All these birds seemed to have moved on by the 15th April. There were no further LRP
sightings until 11th May, when one individual, restless and calling, was present. On the 14th
May, 4 birds were present, including a partially-leucistic individual (which had not been part of
previous groups), and which transpired to be a female. On 16th May 2 birds, including the
partially leucistic female, remained. By the 20th, the male was displaying, with the female
present, with mating being observed later. These birds then remained for the period of these
notes.
On 31st May Nick Edwards disturbed the female, which did a distraction-display. He then
discovered a nest containing 3 eggs nearby. The female subsequently returned to the nest
and resumed sitting. Change-overs were observed later. This nest was unfortunately placed,
just inside the pool’s entrance gate and only a few feet from the footpath past the gate.

 

 

The birds continued to sit until 18th June. There was very heavy rain overnight on the 17th
,
and on the morning of the 18th the nest had disappeared. We strongly suspect that the nest
was destroyed by a vehicle entering the pools – a depth gauge had been installed sometime
between the 14th and the 18th, and fresh vehicle tracks crossed the approximate position of
the nest. Fortunately, both birds remained in the area.
On 23rd June the female was observed sitting tight on a new nest, positioned at the east end
of the pools, well away from the entrance track.
By the 28th June the female had moved yet again, although there was no clue about why the
second attempt had been abandoned. The new, third, site was about three metres away from
the 2nd site, and at a changeover we were able to see two eggs in the nest.
The birds then diligently remained at the nest, with the female especially seeming to spend
more time sitting than her partner (including sitting during persistent rain on the 8th July).
On July 20th the adults were seen attending two newly hatched chicks. Their subsequent
pattern seemed to be for one adult to attend the chicks while the other remained at some
distance. By the 3rd of August the female had departed, leaving the male in sole charge.

 

 

By the 16th August the young were well grown and were apparently becoming quite
independent – feeding well away from both the male and from each other. Although we never
saw them fly we strongly suspect that by then they had fledged. By the 22nd August all three
birds had departed.
These birds showed an amazing persistence and commitment to breeding. Given the late
date of the first nest discovered, at a time when elsewhere LRPs already had well-grown
young, it may be that this was actually a second attempt, with the successful hatching
perhaps being attempt number four!

 

PHOTO CREDIT TO STEWART BETTS

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