Now that Spring is here the wide open fields of The Carrs will resound once more to the calls of Curlew, Lapwing and other ground-nesting wader species. Which ones have you seen displaying or calling?
We have regular breeding by Curlew, Oystercatcher and Lapwing, faltering efforts by Common Snipe and Redshank but their fortunes blow with the wind (and rain and drought and cold…) each season. I wonder if this spring will prove to be a decent breeding year for raising young Lapwing – A Lapwing Spring?
Without recruitment of juveniles, wader populations will dwindle. A lot of research has gone into this – it is particularly well-quantified for Lapwing. Seeing good numbers of adult birds paired up, displaying, even nesting and hatching chicks is no guarantee that the population is stable. In each clutch of eggs most will not make it to fledging stage.
- Research shows that Lapwing pairs need to raise an average 0.6 chicks per season to fledging stage for the overall population to match natural losses. This figure is known as the productivity (chicks per pair each season).This may not sound a lot to expect of a bird that lays typical clutches of 4-5 eggs but we must remember these are ground-nesters. Eggs laid in a tussock of grass in an open field and the chicks which hopefully hatch run the gauntlet of predation by foxes, corvids, buzzards, falcons, stoats, hedgehogs and numerous other hungry mouths, not to mention the vagaries of the Yorkshire weather.
Disturbance can cause incubating birds to leave the nest and if they don’t return soon after the eggs may chill in the cool spring air. Nesting attempts might even be abandoned through repeated disturbance at a site. Farmers generally have a good view from a tractor cab to spot and avoid the nests in any essential operations.
It’s a tough life being a Lapwing. The next pair that you see when crossing a field or walking a footpath, spare a thought for their plight. They might be the only pair on a farm to succeed in fledging this year’s recruits – so long as we don’t disturb them at this critical time. Lapwings will dive-bomb you or show agitated behaviour if you enter the field they are nesting in. If you do see behaviour indicating a nest nearby or you spot a nest, eggs, chicks or juvenile Lapwings over the few months – please let me know so we can record how they fare this year.
Oh, and all those watery scrapes the farms have created in the fields at Staxton, Flixton, Potter Brompton etc. This is where they come into their own, fingers crossed, providing some rich feeding habitat for those little chicks. Let’s hope for a good year for them.