As of today, three of our tagged sociable lapwings are on the move: Nikoo is now just south of the Syria/Turkey border; Vyan has started his trek north, and is in Saudi Arabia; and in the east, Tesfaye has made it to the northern border of Afghanistan.
As more data come in, we are able to make some interesting comparisons, such as Nikoo’s autumn journey and her spring return:
While satellite tag data continue to stream in, we are delighted to have a report from Philip Roberts and Jeremy Babbington…a first-hand account of finding Sociable Lapwings in the field…so over to Phil…
On February 5th Jem Babbington and I Ieft Dhahran at 3:00am to drive the 300km south to Haradh for a day’s bird watching. In addition to desert, Haradh has large areas of modified habitat created by pivot irrigation fields growing primarily fodder crops. These habitats have become important oases of biodiversity in Saudi Arabia. Not only do they attract a wide variety of birds including raptors, larks, waders and pipits but also other wildlife such as small mammals, reptiles and insects.
During the day we explored those pivot fields we were able to access and saw a number of interesting species including a solitary Eastern Imperial Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, in excess of 500 Greater Short-toed Lark, large numbers of Crested Lark, a few Eurasian Skylark, a solitary Spur-winged Lapwing and on the desert fringes of the fields, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark. Tawny pipits, Isabelline and Desert Wheatear were also common.
Soon after midday we headed across a desert area in search of a group of pivot fields that were visible on Google maps. In this area we found some recently ploughed fields with new growth being heavily irrigated. Jem observed this would be a good place to find Northern Lapwing. Right on cue a single lapwing flew from one of the fields. This was joined by large numbers taking off from the same field and a second nearby. The flocks briefly joined together and proved to be huge. We estimated it to be in excess of 400 birds. This is the largest flock ever recorded in the Kingdom.
While watching the Northern Lapwings in flight Jem also thought he saw two Sociable Lapwings at the back of the flock. After the birds landed and settled we looked more closely and ultimately found a group of 8 Sociable Lapwings in the first field and a further 8 in a second field nearby. This was only the second time Sociable Lapwing has been recorded in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia after an adult at Haradh Farm on February 25, 1982. While watching the Sociable Lapwing we also saw some unusual looking waders which proved to be two winter plumaged and one breeding plumaged Caspian Plover, which is an uncommon but regular passage migrant in the Eastern Province.
Finding the Sociable Lapwings capped off an excellent days birding, which left us planning further trips to the Haradh area, perhaps during March and April when the spring migration is at its peak.
Header photo: mixed lapwing flock, Phil Roberts.