Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Don’t Believe It

Unbelievably we are now into our fifth consecutive wet and windy day, a sad state of affairs requiring no comment other than today’s blog title. So in place of birding or ringing I’m digging into the archive yet again for a few pictures of a favourite bird.

Photographs of Lapwings are guaranteed to provoke positive comments from Another Bird Blog readers, mostly from folks who either don’t have Lapwings in their own countries, have very small numbers of them, or who perhaps see them just at migration times.

Northern Lapwing

The proper name for Vanellus vanellus is Northern Lapwing, but most UK birders name them simply Lapwing. Older generations of farming families even today still use colloquial or local names according to where in the UK they live e.g. Peewit, Green Plover, Tewit/Chewit, Flopwing or Hornpie to name but a few. Up here in the soggy north there are places with historical names that clearly refer to the previous abundance of Lapwings, e.g. Tewitfield, Peewit Hall, or the many homesteads adopting the descriptive Peewit Farm. More recently, there are modern developments with names like Lapwing Drive and Lapwing Avenue, where as they pocketed the cash, town planners, developers and builders had a wry laugh at the Lapwing’s misfortune. Luckily we do have a few remnant Lapwings in this Fylde part of Lancashire but even those are now a tiny chunk of the Red Listed UK population.

Northern Lapwing

The Lapwing is probably one of the best-known birds indigenous to the UK, and certainly one of the most beautiful. A description of its lengthened crest feathers and overall black and white colouration with tints of iridescent greens and purples hardly does the bird justice. Their peculiar sort of flight, a series of wide slow flaps on rounded wings is highly characteristic, enabling them to be recognised from a great distance, and their typical high pitched sometimes screaming “peweet” call cannot be mistaken for the note of any other bird. These features gave rise to their numerous descriptive local names.

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

Any day now, and after the recent rains, we will start to see huge numbers of Lapwings feeding on the Fylde plains as many more wintering Lapwings arrive from Northern and Eastern Europe; the Lapwing migration is so regular and marked in Kamchatka, Russia that the month of October is known there as “Lapwing month”. The UK provides the northernmost regular wintering area of Lapwings and is particularly important for Scandinavian birds. But if we get a cold spell where marshes and fields are frozen the Lapwings move west to Ireland, often in a very visible fashion on particularly cold mornings. They will stay there until normal spring passage in February and March. On occasions westerly weather movements lead to some Lapwings overshooting Ireland during strong easterly airflows and crossing the Atlantic, where they become a twitchable bird for a few fortunate US and Canadian birders.

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

In the spring I get to ring a few youngsters, not as many as I would like, not nearly as many as there should be, and certainly not as many as there used to be as recently as the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Maybe next year will be a better Lapwing year, but don’t bet on it.

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing


Paco Sales said...

Amigo Phil, te deseo que cuanto antes mejore el tiempo y puedas salir otra vez al campo, aquí luce un sol esplendido y estamos a unos 29 grados, suerte del archivo que nos ayuda en días como estos. Un abrazo amigo

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Definitely one of my faves Phil, grew up 'surrounded' by Chewits on the farm near Liverpool.
I heard not so long ago, from I can't remember where, that there were now only a handful of breeding pairs in Wales outside of nature reserves - can't be true can it? Very sad if it is!


Stu said...

I've seen the grand total of 2 Lapwings in 10 years here in Japan.....

The weather was lousy here too, then it got better but by that time I'd come down with a heavy cold.........

Kay L. Davies said...

Well, of course, being inclined toward falling in love with every pretty wild creature I see, I just want to hug the bird in your first photo. Ridiculous of me, I know, but there it is, and I haven't improved with age. Quite the opposite.
Suffice to say I love the photo, and leave it at that! :o)

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Robyn Kadis said...

We have a number of lapwing species here in South Africa, but yours is by far the prettiest lapwing I have ever seen... We used to call them plovers. They are also known as a Kiewiet (in the Afrikaans language, one of our 11 official languages) due to the sound of their call.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Stupendous collection of Lapwing images there Phil. I am sorry, but I must confess, KY has all of the grande weather for the week, and it would make you even more sad, if you could view the autumn beauty, but alas, your good days, they are a coming~

eileeninmd said...

Awesome shots of the Lapwing and the juvie. They are cool looking birds.

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