It’s been a strange spring, which up until this week has felt more like winter! Clear skies and frosts through much of April haven’t been ideal nesting conditions, particularly for ground nesters like lapwing. However, the weather forecast is for warming conditions over the next few days, so fingers crossed spring is now in full swing.
As part of the SDFBI Lapwing Project, we have been searching areas of the Downs where we would expect lapwing to be nesting. Unfortunately, nests have been very far and few between, but the season is not yet over, and with the arrival of some warmer weather, I hope that a few more will be put down in the next week or so.
One of the lapwing nests found on the South Downs this year. The nest was marked so it could be avoided during agricultural operations c. Bruce Fowkes
The nests we have found have been largely on HLS fallow plots or other fallow land, typically maize stubbles. Plots where split-plot management has been adopted have proved popular, and the resulting mix of bare disturbed ground and sparsely vegetated settled ground offer a range of nesting and feeding opportunities. For those nests approaching hatching, the increased level of cover should also be good for chicks, although we’ll need to keep an eye on them as the season progresses and either cultivate of spray off parts of the plot to retain some bare ground.
Split plot management. The left hand side will provide good cover and feeding opportunities for chicks c. Bruce Fowkes
The nests on maize stubbles have been more problematic. As machinery starts rolling to prepare the ground for drilling, nests are very exposed and vulnerable. In these situations, we have been marking them with two canes placed 5m either side. This allows tractor drivers to easily see them and leave a small uncultivated area around the nest. So far this has proved successful, with 4 out of 5 nests still active despite various operations underway in the field.
Marking nests mean that they can be left during cultivations. Once the nests have hatched, the whole area can be turned over c.Bruce Fowkes
At least one of the nests we are monitoring has hatched. Although we have yet to see any signs of chicks. At this time it is crucial that they have some cover to shelter in, as well as to find food. Adults can walk their chicks quite considerable distances, so we hope that they have just moved a bit further a field than we had first thought.
More updates on chick success to follow in future blogs..............