Spring migration is underway

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Birders following The Amazing Journey have sent us several recent reports confirming that Sociable Lapwings are now on the move again and have started their long migrations back from their wintering grounds.

Part of the migrating flock found at Sanliurfa, March 4th, 2012. © Dr. Soner Sabirli

At the vanguard of the migration, a flock of 21 migrating Sociable Lapwings was found near the Turkey/Syria border in the Akçakale Plain at Sanliurfa, southern Turkey, on March 4th.  Even though local birder Sukru Esin and friends found these birds in an area where Sociable Lapwings are quite regularly seen on passage, locating them in this extensive steppe habitat is still quite a challenge.

Earlier in the day, and before finding this flock, a chance encounter with a group of flighty Great Bustards was another exciting find for these birders in the same area.  Regrettably encounters like these are becoming rarer, with illegal hunting still widespread in this part of Turkey.

Returning to the same area, on Saturday March 10th, Sukru found no sign of any Sociable Lapwings where they’d been present previously, but further extensive searching paid off when another flock of 29 Sociable Lapwings was located in similar habitat several kms further north. These birds are captured in flight in Sukru’s photograph at the head of this post.

A single migrating Sociable Lapwing found at Sultanpur National Park, March 5th, 2012. © Sharad Sridhar

In India, an intriguing record of a single Sociable Lapwing found in the New Delhi area created a stir among local birders on March 5th. This individual was found by Sanjay Sharma at Sultanpur National Park, Gurgaon, Haryana, on Sunday evening and was photographed superbly by Sharad Sridhar the following morning.

Despite searching, on several subsequent days, this bird could not be found again, so it had presumably departed to continue its migration overnight on March 5th.

The last report of any Sociable Lapwings from the Delhi area (that we have on record) is a flock of 55 birds at Sultanpur some nineteen years ago in February 1993.

A further report we’ve received from Gujurat is of a flock of between 13 – 17 birds at Eachwada village in the Surindernagar district between 20th February and March 3rd which is presumably a flock of locally wintering birds passing through the area as they embark on the first leg of their journey north.

Over the next couple of weeks, Nature Iraq (The BirdLife National Affiliate) will be conducting surveys hoping to locate flocks of migrating Sociable Lapwings moving through the country. In addition, they will again be raising awareness and taking hunting mitigation action in key towns and villages along the birds flyway.  We hope to bring you details of this action over the coming weeks.

We also hope to soon bring you more news of the birds’ migration. If you encounter migrating Sociable Lapwings this season we’d be grateful if you would send us your records and photographs. This will help contribute to our growing knowledge about the species’ migratory routes and distribution and, of course, enable us to keep regular visitors in touch with the latest news. Please submit any sightings you make online here.

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