The SPOTTED REDSHANK has always been a scarce passage migrant in BEDFORDSHIRE, occurring only very occasionally as it returns to or migrates back from its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia and Siberia.
Steele-Elliott (1904) gives only two known occurrences, the first of which was a pair and one of which was shot and obtained, at Langford on 17 September 1856 and another 'obtained' in about 1870, whilst towards the middle of the last century, one was at Bedford Sewage Works on 13 April 1943.
Between 1951 and 1987, there was some 74 records (Trodd & Kramer, 1991), with most occurring pre 1960 at the sewage farms at both Bedford and Dunstable. Eight per cent or more of records have involved single birds, although parties of four birds have been recorded on three occasions: at Bedford SF on 2 September 1962, at Wyboston Gravel Pits on 18 August 1969 and over Barkers Lane Gravel Pit (now known as Priory Country Park) on 12 August 1984.
I have concentrated my study on records since 1976.........
A) The Records (all accepted by the Bedfordshire Natural History Club Scarce Bird Committee) 1976-2006
1976: None Recorded
1977: 1 record - Barkers Lane GP from 17-24 April
1978: 3 records - singles at Bedford SW on 30 April and at Radwell GP on 7 May and in autumn flying over Dunstable SW on 20 September
1979: None Recorded
1980: 5 recorded with 1 at Dunstable SW on 12 April, two at Radwell GP on 5 May and in autumn, singles at Radwell GP from 10 August to 12 September and at Harrold GP on 7 September
1981: 3 records, with singles at Radwell GP on 15 and 23 August and at Bedford SW from 1-4 September
1982: 3 records - singles at Girtford GP on 12 April and flying over Barkers Lane GP on 18 April and a very odd record over Blunham GP on 9 July
1983: 2 records - 1 at Barkers Lane GP on 18-19 April and one in autumn at Great Barford on 11 September
1984: an excellent year with 8 birds recorded - 1 at Radwell GP on 28 April followed by a party of 4 at Barkers Lane on 30 April and then 3 in autumn with 2 at Barkers Lane on 12 August and another at Dunstable SW on 6 September
1985: None Recorded
1986: 1 record - flying over Barkers Lane on 6 September
1987: an excellent autumn for the species with up to 9 birds recorded - 2 at Rookery Pit on 15 August were followed by 3 there on 6 September and another on 12 September, with singles at Dunstable SW on 31 August and 7 September and a bird at Stewartby Lake on 11-12 September
1988: 2-5 recorded - one over Priory CP on 3 April was exceptionally early with what was probably the same bird at South Mills NR on 8-9 April. An adult summer was then discovered at South Mills on 21 July with it or further singles at Willington GP on 7 August and Rookery CIP on 8 August.
1989: None Recorded
1990: 4 records - an adult in breeding plumage at South Mills NR on 17 June with a juvenile there on 7 September. Further juveniles were then seen at Rookery CIP on 15 September and 7 October
1991: another good autumn with up to 5 birds recorded - single adults in spring at South Mills on 2 April and 'in June' with autumn records involving one over Priory CP on 19 September relocated next day at Willington GP, two birds at Coronation CIP on 27 August, 1 in Rookery CIP from 1-4 September moving to Coronation from 6-10 September, with two then in Coronation from 10-15 September
1992: 3 records - an adult in transitional plumage at Coronation on 7 June, a juvenile there from 23-30 August and a further juvenile at South Mills NR on 9 September
1993: 3 records - an adult in breeding plumage at South Mills on 24 May ffollowed by a moulting adult at Rookery CIP on 11 July and another adult there on 3 September
1994: 2 records - a single juvenile was present by the River Hir, Arlesey, on 20 August with another at Willington GP on 12 September
1995: 5 recorded - 2 adult birds arrived at Dunstable SW late on 23 June and stayed until next day, with another 2 adults in Rookery on 26 August and a juvenile there on 5 September
1996: 4 recorded, all in Rookery Pit - a moulting adult on 7 August, juvenile on 7-8 September, a second juvenile on 8 September and a very late bird on 17 November
1997: another excellent year with 8 recorded - an adult in partial breeding plumage at Rookery on 22 April, followed by at least 7 juveniles in there from 19 August to 28 September, one of which visited Coronation on 27 August
1998: another good year with 8 birds recorded - at Rookery Pit, an adult on 22 July was followed by single birds on 2, 26 and 31 August and 3 on 5 September, with a very confiding and well-watched juvenile at Dunstable SW from 2-8 September
1999: 5 records - the only spring record was of a summer-plumaged adult in Quest Pit on 3 May whilst in autumn, return passage started with 1 at Bromham Lake LNR on 9 August and a juvenile at Marston Vale and Rookery from 29 August to 1 September. Two were in Rookery on 4 September with a final record over Priory CP on 26 September
2000: 2 records - a single over Priory CP on 17 September and a juvenile at Broom GP on 1 October
2001: 4 records - an adult summer at Willington GP on 10 May, another at Marston Vale CP on 23 June, a juvenile at Willington GP on 7 August and another at Octagon Farm GP on 28 August
2002: 2 records - an adult summer over Marston Vale on 11 May and a single over Roxton GP on 2 September
2003: 7 recorded - a single at Willington GP on 12 April was the only spring record. The first in autumn was a juvenile at Broom GP on 9 August, with 2 juveniles at Marston Vale from 26 August to 1 September, another 2 juveniles there from 23-27 September and a single at Octagon Farm GP on 24 September
2004: 2 records - an adult summer at Roxton Pit on 3 May and an adult in Rookery South on 10 August
2005: 5 records - the only spring record was of a splendid summer adult at Rookery on 23 April, with juveniles in autumn at Rookery on 1 September and in Marston Vale CP on 5, 17 and 29 September
2006: 4 recorded, with 3 in autumn and an exceptional winter record - an adult summer male at Broom GP on 29 June was followed by further singles there on 5 July, 15 August and exceptionally on 9 December.
2007-2010 - no data available
Taking the above records and study period, Spotted Redshank is virtually an annual passage migrant, particularly in autumn, with just 4 birds during 1976-1979, 33 between 1980 and 1989, a mammoth 47 during 1990-1999 and 26 from 2000-2006 - 111 birds in all. Spring passage is on a much smaller scale than in autumn with the earliest record on 2 April 1991 but with most occurrences during the last week of April and first week of May. There are a few midsummer occurrences. Autumn adults have occurred from mid July, with a typical peak of autumn occurrences from late August to mid September. There is a record from November and an exceptional one from early December whilst the maximum number of birds was the influx of 7 juveniles in August-September 1997
Lee G R Evans