Pectoral Sandpipers in Europe: vagrancy patterns and the influx of 2003

Published on 01 December 2004 in Main articles

ABSTRACT Unprecedented numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers Calidris melanotos were reported in Britain & Ireland during autumn 2003, and to a lesser extent throughout the rest of Europe as well.This paper presents a review of the occurrence patterns and migratory behaviour of the species, both during the 2003 influx in Europe, and on a wider scale. Potential explanations for the unexpected regularity of this species in Europe, given its relatively small global population size and predominantly overland migration strategy, are discussed. It is suggested that the routes and wintering grounds used by Pectoral Sandpipers are more dynamic than was previously acknowledged.he autumn of 2003 produced the largest influx of Pectoral Sandpipers Calidris melanotos ever recorded in Britain & Ireland, with at least 261 birds reported (figs. 1 & 2; data compiled from reports at www.birdguides.com). Although these are unchecked reports, which have not beenassessed by county or local records committees, the overall pattern they show of the influx is likely to be broadly accurate. By comparison, the previous highest annual totals were of 132 records in 1999, 131 in 1984 and 91 in 2000 (Peter Fraser in litt.); note that these totals refer to accepted records only, and exclude Irishrecords. Mean annual totals of Pectoral Sandpipers recorded in Britain in the last three decades are 40 during 1968-79, 70 during 198089 and 57 during 1990-99 (Fraser & Rogers 2003). These numbers serve to underline the species’ status as the most frequent Nearctic vagrant to Europe (Hayman et al. 1986; Lewington et

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