Oystercatchers - A first Berkshire breeding record


28 May 2010 | Tim Ball & Ken Moore

This year there have been many more sightings of Oystercatchers in Berkshire than is normally the case. Signs of potential breeding activity were seen in at least two areas and breeding was finally proved on 21 May when Roger Stansfield and Ken Moore spotted a pair with a brood of four chicks on an island on Theale Main Pit.

Oystercatchers are not common breeding birds on the coasts of south east England and inland breeders are very uncommon throughout southern England, although they have been gradually spreading south through the Midlands. The first June record in Berkshire was as recent as 1986 and since that time they have become commoner throughout the year. The vast majority of birds are seen during migration periods when they generally appear in ones and twos and normally only stay for a few days at a time. Breeding season records are still not common and this is the first year that there has been any real suspicion that breeding might take place.

Thanks to the kind assistance of Pat Forbes, the Manager of Burghfield Sailing Club, a small party were able to visit the island on Wednesday 26 May. One of the original chicks had already disappeared but the three survivors looked fit and healthy. The birds were generally keeping to the island shores and the chicks were being well guarded by the adult birds. Two of the chicks were caught and ringed but despite careful searching the largest chick couldn't be found. All three chicks were seen back with the parents within a few minutes of us leaving the island.