[T]he Morecambe Bay Partnership is encouraging local families and Easter visitors to Morecambe Bay to keep eyes peeled and binoculars at hand, to spot and celebrate its third ‘Bird of the Month’ – the dramatic Lapwing.
This striking bird has red ‘endangered’ status due to the loss of many inland habitats. One of the highest known concentrations of Lapwing are found on the Bay’s mudflats in winter, when flocks from Scandinavia arrive to mingle with Lapwing which are resident all year.
It’s not too hard to spot this wading bird, if you know how. It is around a foot long and has beautiful, long crest feathers protruding backwards from the top of its head. It can appear to be black and white from a distance, but actually boasts glossy emerald green and purple feathers, plus rich chestnut patches above and below its tail and brown and pink legs. Its face and breast are mainly white and it looks as though it is wearing a black skullcap.
Its name comes from its wavy and wheeling flight pattern, but it is not known as the Lapwing everywhere. It can also be called a Peewit, thanks to its distinctive rubbery squeal, whilst in Yorkshire it is called a ‘Lappy’.
However, the reason the collective noun for a group of these birds is a ‘deceit of Lapwings’ comes from the literature of Chaucer, who described it as a ‘deceitful bird’ centuries ago.
Lapwing certainly deceive humans, by creating and visiting false nests, to draw them away from their young. The mesmerising aerial display that it engages in during breeding season, typically over farmland and heaths, is something to revel in.
Throughout the Easter holidays, volunteers from the ‘Natural Ambassadors’ – a group that shares its passion for Morecambe Bay’s waders and wildfowl by passing on lesser-known and amazing facts about the rich birdlife around the Bay – will be found at key sites either side of high tide. They should be able to point out Lapwings to anyone struggling to spot them.
Lapwing admirers should keep their distance when the birds are feeding on the mudflats, or roosting and sitting quietly, whilst trying to stay warm and retain the energy their feeding has provided. Watching them, with binoculars or through a camera lens, can be great fun and seeking out a Natural Ambassador in their distinctive blue fleece is a marvellous idea, if you want to know and see more.
Those walking through coastal fields and saltmarsh should take care, as Lapwings build their nests on the ground and in short grass on ploughed fields. For this reason, early silage cuts can disrupt nesting. Other factors affecting the birds’ habitats are autumn crop sowing, which leads to crops that are too tall in the springtime to allow Lapwings to nest, plus the loss of pools and wet areas within fields.
To give Lapwings a better chance of survival as a species, there are initiatives underway to re-create ‘scrapes’ (pools in fields) and to re-wet grassland in spring, which will allow Lapwing chicks to feed. The creation of bare areas of ground is another way to assist this species.
Morecambe Bay Partnership’s Waders and Wildfowl Project Manager, Annabelle Kennedy, says: “We hope locals and visitors will gain hours of pleasure from our incredible waders and wildfowl this Easter, particularly focusing on our bird of the month – the Lapwing – and sharing pictures of it on Twitter with the hashtag #birdsofthebay and including @BirdsOfTheBay. It’s one of our many precious birds and one we particularly need to protect. The best way to do this is to appreciate and celebrate them, which is what we hope everyone will do during the Easter holidays and beyond.”