Well, my mission for tonight is to update on our recent adventures, but with a long train journey ahead of me, I feel the need to share sad news from yesterday.
One of the things I am yet to blog about is that I’m undertaking volunteer work for the RSPB at the moment to survey Lapwings on the South Downs. This is a great excuse to get out and about and to search for signs of Lapwing breeding. Sadly, I’ve only found Lapwing on one field I’ve visited so far, but I fear that even there may not prove fruitful for this species this year.
Yesterday, I was out and about for 4 hours with no sign of Lapwing until the end of the walk. I’d decided on a route which ended up at the place I’d seen them before, so at least if we didn’t spot any, there would be a lovely Lapwing surprise waiting for me before returning to the car. A surprise was definitely what I came across, but not the type I was hoping for.
Approaching the Lapwing field, I could see it was looking very neat and devoid of crops. Getting closer still, what I was dreading to see was confirmed. A farmer was just starting on a second round, having churned up the entire field with a plough. I was devastated and just stood there in disbelief. Watching this take place was truly harrowing and a scan of the field through my binoculars threw up four folorn looking lapwings just watching as their home had been destroyed. Whilst I don’t know 100% that nests had been destroyed, these birds were mobbing crows and performing their lolling display flight over a month ago, so I am fairly certain that nests would have been in place by now. Absolutely horrible to witness and I am not ashamed to say that tears were shed. I’ve had to calm myself before I contact the survey organisers to let them know what happened, but I will be in touch with them later today. In some ways I am glad I was able to witness this so at least I know what happened, but this is undoubtedly the darkest moment of my birding life to date. It just goes to show how farmers must work with nature if our native wildlife is to have a future.
Whilst these events cast a massive shadow on my day, there were positives too. I was lucky enough to see at least 8 Skylark (with more singing), 2 Linnet, 8 Hares as well as the bird of the day which was a lone Grey Partridge spotted by my Mum. We also spied a Corn Bunting singing away at the top of planting on a strip of set aside land which was full of seed producing, wildlife friendly plants. This event in particular just goes to show that if farmers put in some efforts to help declining species, the birds and other species are able to reap the benefits. Whilst little efforts like this strip of land make a difference, a lot more needs to be done to give our farmland birds a positive future.