Some 10 years ago, breeding UK lapwings (peewits) were starting to decline severely in the UK. The conditions they need were being changed adversely, as land managers drained the swampy fields on which they depend. The ground needs to be wet and soft for them to insert their beaks into the soil to find worms, and the grass needs to be short so that they can see predators from afar.
This Bisterne water-meadows project started with a large Higher Level Stewardship Scheme in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Authority. Old Internal Drainage Board ditches were cleared and dams capable of being easily raised and lowered to control the water levels were set into the former drains.
Hear the lonely cry of the lapwing here, a sound so familiar to our grandfathers in every water-meadow……
The Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust have been key partners in our programme, adding expertise, research and resources to the success of the project. We found that by identifying and controlling predators, the rate at which chicks survived increased greatly. This forms part of their Waders for Real initiative, which has now been rolled out to other parts of the UK.
We are proud to share the news that the Bisterne Lapwing Project won a “Highly Commended” prize in the annual Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation. See more on the GWCT site , which describes the programme.
The success of this project depended on close cooperation between the game-keeping, arable and dairy sides of the estate. The local Rods from the fishing syndicate were also very helpful in not disturbing the birds.
What will benefit lapwings will also help redshanks, curlews, and snipe.
We had a very good year of breeding success and the chick survival rate was over 1.0 – meaning that over the life of a pair of lapwings, the reproduction is sustainable for a growing breeding colony. Alongside the lapwings, we had a very good year for redshanks. The parents of one family chose to fly to Lymington marshes, and the chick decided to fly all the way to the marshes in Newport, Gwent in its first season. We can only wonder how it knew how to get there!
Building on our former success, the lapwings have flourished, and the overall report is about to come out. We believe the survival rate has gone up. We have also ringed Redshank, as seen in this report from the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust. One of our Redshank fledglings made a trip to Wales in its first year – leaving Mum and Dad behind. As one does.