Although the temperature drop over the last few days reminds us that we’re still in the grips of winter, it won’t be too long until farmland birds begin to turn their attentions to breeding. One such species is the lapwing, whose tumbling display flight is a true sign that spring is springing!
Over the last 20 years or so, we have seen a decline in the numbers of breeding lapwings on the South Downs. A review of all the available data suggests that this is not only in numbers, but also range. In response to this, the SDFBI is setting up a South Downs Lapwing Project to work with farmers and landowners to address the situation.
Maps showing the decline in lapwing breeding range in 5 year increments between 1995 and 2015
Much research has been done into lapwing declines by organisations such as the GWCT and RSPB, with the resulting data providing valuable answers as to how the problems may be tackled. One big problem with lapwings nesting on arable land, as much of the South Downs birds do, is chick survival. There are many causes for failure including predation, starvation and impacts of field operations, and it is these areas that the project will focus on.
Over the next few weeks, Advisors will be visiting holdings in key lapwing areas to discuss the management of HLS fallow plots and other areas used as nest sites. We know that the current management methods are not working for lapwings, so will be trying new techniques such as:
- minimum tillage to improve soil insect numbers
- split management to prolong the effectiveness/attractiveness of plots to lapwings
- creating lapwing feeding areas such as beetle banks and grass margins next to nesting areas
- Ensuring effective legal predator control during the breeding season
- Fencing nesting areas to protect from ground predators
As these new methods are trialled, we will report on progress through this blog. Using these experiences, we hope to create a new set of management guidelines for lapwing that will help to increase numbers across the South Downs. If you have lapwings on your farm and would like advice on how best to manage for them, please contact us here.