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

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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.

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