March is now upon us, and it won’t be long before lapwings will be performing their tumbling display flight over the Downs. In the lead up to the breeding season, we have been busy working with farmers to prepare HLS fallow plots to provide not only suitable nesting habitat, but also areas in which they will be able to feed and find cover.
The most common approach is to manage a 2ha fallow plot in two halves. One half has been cultivated to create a seed profile, as leaving it too rough makes it difficult for birds to walk around. The other half is then left uncultivated, which we hope will allow quicker natural regeneration to provide better cover and feeding opportunities. In some cases the uncultivated side has been sprayed of with roundup, and it others it has been left. This will of course affect how quickly the plot ‘greens up’, and we will monitor the relevant success throughout the season.
Plots managed in two halves provide both nesting and feeding/cover areas
If they fail at the egg stage, lapwing will often re-lay. By dividing the plots in two halves, it allows the opportunity to manage for this by creating open areas and bare ground later in the season. This will most likely be the previously uncultivated half, leaving the emerging vegetation on the half cultivated in March to provide cover and feeding areas later in the year.
As this management deviates from the HLS prescription, the relevant farmers have derogations from Natural England to adopt the new approach. All plots will be closely monitored during the breeding season, and we hope that the results will help to inform the best and most suitable management for all fallow plots on the Downs moving forward.