A day in pursuit of Sociable Lapwings on the steppes of Şanlıurfa, Turkey

Now that our tagged Sociable Lapwings are settled in their wintering grounds, we can take a look back at some of the activities last year.

Turan Çetin, working for Doğa Derneği (BirdLife Turkey), gives us a personal account of what a typical day in the field is like…


Ceylanpınar Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in Şanlıurfa is one of the most important stop-over locations for the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing during its migration covering thousands of kilometers. Doğa Derneği has been conducting migration monitoring and conservation work since 2007, when 3200 individuals were observed in the fields of the General Directorate of Agricultural Establishments (TIGEM) which lies within the boundaries of Ceylanpınar KBA.

We began our 2014 migration surveys on a hot September morning in TIGEM District of Beyazkule, Gümüşsuyu, on fields where corn is not cultivated. We carried out the survey according to an agreed field plan, with the participation of 4 observers, including Doğa Derneği experts and volunteers. While two of us made observations, a third recorded the survey on video for communications activities later, and another checked GPS coordinates, took notes, and filled in the survey forms.

Recording sightings

Recording sightings (Doğa Derneği)

As we moved across the immense steppes, we suddenly encountered a flock of Sociable Lapwings.  With great excitement, we jumped out of the car and set up the telescopes as fast as possible. Although the flock didn’t look so large at first, we counted a total of 110 individuals. This was the highest number found together this year.  Looking at our GPS coordinates, we realized that we were very close to the last known Turkish location of Shirin, one of the Sociable Lapwing tracked by satellite.

Sociable Lapwings on steppe

Sociable Lapwings on steppe (Turan Çetin)

After a well-earned lunch, we visited villages and smaller settlements near our observation sites. We handed out information about the species and distributed our posters – involvement of the local communities in the protection of species such as Sociable Lapwing is essential.

Working with local communities

Working with local communities (Doğa Derneği)

As the sun set, we visited local shepherds – the real owners of the steppes – and asked them about the locations they usually spot Sociable Lapwings.

Shepherds on the steppe at sunset

Shepherds on the steppe at sunset (Turan Çetin)

With the sun disappearing below the horizon, we sipped our teas discussing the day and making plans for the next day’s field work.

5 Responses

  1. Eus de Groot January 8, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    Please keep up the good work………….enjoy reading your posts../….thank you very much, greetings from Friesland/Holland, where the lapwing is our national bird………….Eus de Groot.

  2. Marisha Nienhaus February 20, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

  3. Robin Dulake February 21, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Always a delight to read your posts on the sociable lapwing.
    Especially good to see that local shepherds and villagers who know the land minutely are included. Do they say there are fewer these days? They would know so much.
    The photos make me long to be out there too, beautiful, thank you
    Our lapwings in Dorset (South coast of England) are here now, glorious sight and sound.

    Yours, Robin Dulake

  4. jim March 6, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Dear Robin
    Thanks for the comment – and yes, the photographs are beautiful…our Turkish counterparts are very lucky. Latest news is that flocks of up to a hundred birds have passed through – we’ll do a blog next week about the latest news. Northern lapwings are lovely too – especially their space-invader calls.
    Thank you for reading!
    Ian and the So La team

  5. jim March 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Hi Marisha
    Sorry about that! I have checked, but all seems fine with Crome and IE. Are you reading directly on the website or an emailed copy? Best wishes
    The Amazing Journeys team

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