Listening for Lapwings

As spring approaches and farmers begin tilling the fields and finish their hedge-trimming work we look and listen in anticipation of the first signs of Lapwings selecting breeding sites on The Carrs.

Lapwing in flight

Lapwing in flight      Image: Chris G Bradshaw

Also known as ‘Teeafits’ or ‘Peewits’, the distinctive calls and tumbling display flights of these iconic farmland birds are a sure sign they are interested in nesting on the field below. Ornithologists call this species Vanellus vanellus or Northern Lapwing, while country names in some parts of the UK include ‘Ullat’, ‘Tumbler’ or ‘Green Plover’ . The local Yorkshire dialect name of ‘Teeafit’ is one I have only encountered since working with farmers near Scarborough. Where I grew up in West Yorkshire ‘Peewit’ was the favoured term. What name do you call them by?

Whilst in winter months large flocks of up to several hundred are not unusual on flooded fields in farmland areas, they begin to disperse to seek breeding territories as winter gives way to spring. Grazing pasture on The Carrs or arable land with lingering patches of shallow flooding are some of the areas that attract these charismatic birds. East of Sherburn and Brompton we have approximately 150 pairs breeding on The Carrs. Survey work undertaken in spring 2011 for the Wetland Project found half of these breeding pairs choosing fields in the Higher Level Stewardship wet grassland schemes. As the schemes only cover a selection of sites along the Hertford and Derwent floodplain, there is good potential, with sensitive management, for this population to increase.

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