Thursday, 30 December 2010

Flapwings

Yesterday we realised that a small party of lapwings vanellus vanellus was working away in the young winter wheat of the field next door. According to the Word Origins website, the name "lapwing" is derived from the same roots as "leapwink", and describes the way the bird jinks and tumbles in flight. The name may also refer to its habit of trying to lure a predator away from its nest by staggering about trailing a "broken" wing.

Lapwing in the Brenne
The lapwing is known by other names. Peewit mimics its instantly recognisable call. Green Plover? well, the feathers of its back have a green sheen, and it's a member of the plover family, but what a boring name! The French name Vanneau huppé refers to the lapwing's punk hairstyle. Take all the names together and you have a crested, green-tinted plover that makes a noise like "peewit" and has a tumbling flight - that's just about right.


There were only six lapwings in our little party. One of our lasting memories of our voyages between the UK and France is of a flock of several thousand lapwings with golden plover in a field just north of Villers-Bocage, near Amiens in the wide-open spaces of the Somme département of Picardie. The pictures that follow are just a sample.


That was at the end of October 2005. Every time we passed that way, we looked out for them but never saw them again. With changes in farming methods the population is diminishing all over Europe. According to the RSPB, since 1960 lapwing numbers have decreased by 80% in England and Wales. Major declines are also reported in France, but without a baseline covering the whole country, observers are unwilling to be quite so specific. The Brenne is one of the premier sites for lapwing in winter, and that area at least is managed sympathetically for both wildlife and humankind.



A mixed flock of plovers... Green & Gold


Various flight views
More views of the mixed flock... there is a Golden Plover in flight with this group.

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