Slight Return


Strange to see a single male lapwing return to the hill for a period of intense displaying over the weekend. There have been no truly viable attempts to breed in the glen for five years, and there have been no birds at all for the past three. This one bird added a lively fizz of song to the still evening chorus of snipe and blackgame, but now I think he’s gone again.

Most waders are strongly faithful to their original place of birth and will always try to return there to breed – this is why it is so hard to expand their range or re-establish them after they have been lost from a particular area, so this single cock is probably just venting his hormones after having failed elsewhere and is trying the glen on some speculative foray. Perhaps he was hatched here several years ago but moved away and now considers the glen to be “worth a look” in passing.

We have all kinds of waders passing through each spring. The oystercatchers from further down the glen sometimes turn up and feed, and some large trips of golden plover turn up on the high ground throughout April and May. They never really intend to breed with us, but their return is like some half-forgotten memory of bygone days when everything was different. Within a single human lifetime, there were redshank, dunlin and plover breeding on the hill, but I wouldn’t advise them to try it today. The hill has changed, and even with the best intentions, I can only hope to make a small dent in the tide of predators which combs through the grass around the clock.

So much of this wandering wader traffic takes place at night time, when peeps and squeals ring against the stars. Only a relatively small percentage of a population will breed each year, and perhaps it’s no wonder that youngsters or non-breeders are feeling footloose and happy to explore under cover of darkness. But at the same time, it’s easy to imagine that these half-heard sounds are the ghosts of Springs long past.

2 thoughts on “Slight Return

  1. rupert stutchbury

    What a sad reflection on our modern agriculture in a changing and diminishing world that one poor little visiting peewit is all that remains of that lovely tribe of waders which once bred on the hill at Chayne. A memory of past glories and cannot help but fill one with foreboding, bearing in mind that our Blogger is a conservationist and does his bit to keep predators down. How long before he loses his last pair of breeding Curlew to agricultural ‘land improvement’?

    I am just coming up to retirement and was brought up in East Sussex where the great bird artist George Lodge used to stay with my grandparents to draw peregrines nesting on the cliffs of the Seven Sisters on the Downs, with my father, then a little boy, in attendance, My childhood during Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring saw off the peregrines, but was still filled with peewit, grey partridge, larks, nightingales and nightjars, but an almost complete dearth of raptors. Now the place is rampaging with re-established buzzard, and the little versatile sparrowhawk, feeding lazily, no doubt, on a diet from the tens of thousands of pheasants and redlegs running around like chickens but virtually none left of the others. I know which ones I would prefer to see more of, even though I have always loved raptors and all game birds , even the farmed variety!

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