At the weekend I was lucky enough to see not one but five dotterel! These birds are not commonly seen but as I was climbing my 7th and 8th Munros (everyone has to start somewhere) I spotted them on the path just in front of us. The latin name for dotterel is Charadrius morinellus. Morinellus means ‘little fool’ and refers to their unhealthy attitude towards people. They are totally unfazed by humans, which in the past allowed people to get close enough to easily catch them for their beautiful feathers and to collect their eggs for their own collections. This led to populations declining dramatically in the 19th century and by the 1930s there were only 50 breeding pairs left in this country. By the 1960s the population had risen to around 1,000 pairs but that has since dropped to around 600 pairs.
Dotterels only come to Scotland to breed and the main breeding population can be found in the Grampians however to get here from North Africa they make many stops along the way. The good news for us is that they have traditional stopping off points and one of them is Tinto and the surrounding area. One was spotted here recently on the 17th May. There is a chance of seeing these birds in around Tinto until the end of May. By June they will all have reached their breeding grounds further north.
Unusually in dotterels, the female is brighter than the male and the male sits is the one who sits and incubates the eggs. They are difficult to mistake for anything else other than a golden plover. But dotterels have a very distinctive white stripe above their eyes, a white bottom and a bright rufous chest.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger