MP champions the Lapwing
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert visited the RSPB nature reserve at Pulborough Brooks, Wigginholt, last week (14 June) to learn more about their project to conserve lapwings.
The MP agreed to become ‘species champion’ for the lapwing under a scheme run by the Rethink Nature partnership, a group of seven wildlife organisations working together to make a difference to species conservation.
Mr Herbert chose the lapwing because the South Downs has an important population of the ground-nesting wading birds. The RSPB works in partnership with farmers in the Arun Valley to improve the habitat for lapwings which have significantly declined nationally.
The Pulborough Brooks and The Norfolk Estate are two areas which have reported above average numbers of breeding pairs. Peter Knight, Estate Manager for the Norfolk Estate, has recorded 20 nests with an average brood size of three, above the national average of 0.79.
The Northern lapwing, also known as the peewit or green plover, has suffered decreasing numbers since the middle of the 19th century. Early declines were caused by the large-scale collection of lapwing eggs for food. The introduction of the Lapwing Act 1926 prohibited this, and numbers gradually recovered. However, further pressures since then from farming and environmental changes have suppressed numbers of the birds at low levels. The lapwing is on the red list of species at risk.
The RSPB works hard to protect the species from predators and manages its habitats to help sustain numbers of breeding pairs. They also work with landowners to encourage sympathetic farming methods which include agri-environment schemes.
During the visit, the MP joined the search for lapwing chicks and had the opportunity to see one being ringed. The records are an important part in the monitoring of the species and will support future conservation work.
Alan Johnson said: "It was fantastic to have such a hands-on species champion on site, actively taking part in a study to learn more about these endangered birds so we can help secure their future.”
“Most of the visit was spent visiting the North Brooks trying to catch chicks for an important ringing study. Nick searched for chicks with our conservationist using a thermal imaging camera while the parent hovered overhead. We eventually spotted a little chick by sight and weighed and ringed it before safely releasing it from the same spot.”
The ringing study, now in its second year, aims to help the RSPB find out more about lapwing survival rates, where they overwinter and nesting habits.
The joint project with Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is expected to help conservationists understand more about how the birds move within the Arun Valley and surrounding countryside, and whether they nest close to where they hatched or join a different nesting population when they mature.
Julianne Evans said: “It was great to see how excited Nick was to see and hold a lapwing chick. During his visit we also discussed the pressures facing lapwings and how he can help us prevent any more local extinctions. He was so enthusiastic and genuinely inspired by the experience.
“This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines recently and is now a red-listed species. Nick is a fantastic species-champion, keen to help the lapwing cause.”
Mr Herbert said: “I am proud to be the species champion for the lapwing, and I really enjoyed visiting the Pulborough Brooks, learning about the conservation work which goes on and seeing the volunteers track down and tag a lapwing chick.
“It was really wonderful to be able to see the chick up close, and I am very grateful for the work of the RSPB and their volunteers for the important conservation work which they do.”
1. Photograph – Nick Herbert with a lapwing chick.
2. To learn more about the work of the RSPB see www.rspb.org.uk.
3. To learn more about the RSPB’s Pulborough Brooks nature reserve see https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/pulborough-brooks/.
4. To learn more about the lapwing see https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/farming/advice/helping-species/lapwing/.
5. To learn more about the MP species champion project see https://www.buglife.org.uk/specieschampions.