Dotterel – Cheesefoot Head, Hampshire

While I was out leading a workshop on the Dorset Coast, Dad rang me, I let it go to answer message and he soon texted me to say “Dotterel?” A quick check of Hampshire Bird News and I could see that two Dotterel had been found at Cheesefoot Head, an area I knew fairly well from Landscape Photography trips. After sunset, and having dropped off my participants, I texted back to check if he had already gone to see the Dotterel, he hadn’t and so we arranged for Dad to pick me up at 7:30am the next morning.

Just before Dad arrived, news came through that they were still present and so we set off in good spirits. We arrived at the Cheesefoot Head car park and then walked to the large field south of the containers. I was slightly surprised to see that there was no-one else around. The Dotterel weren’t on view and so I walked a bit further down the track to get more of a view over the brow of the slope and soon found them. 

They fed actively in their typical run, pause, stand motionless, grab a food item (an insect or a worm), stand up-right, run, pause, feed and so on. Occasionally they would settle and preen for a few seconds. 

These birds are on their way from their wintering grounds in North Africa and the Middle East to breed across Europe with most birds heading to Norway although some breed in Britain (500 or so pairs) on the high tops of Scotland’s mountains, especially the Grampians.

There are few south coast records of Dotterel as many of the birds fly directly to their breeding grounds. I’ve seen five autumn Dotterel, all on Scilly, and a breeding bird on the top of Cairngorm but these are my first spring migrants and a new bird for me in Hampshire. In fact this is the first Dotterel in Hampshire since 2014 and the earliest Hampshire spring record ever.

Year list up to 170.

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