Spring is in the air

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With Spring in the air – Boris, Irina and Ainur, the three Sociable Lapwings we fitted with satellite tags in Kazakhstan last summer, have all left their different wintering areas and set off on the way back to their breeding grounds.

Boris has spent the winter in Eastern Sudan. He first arrived close to the town of New Halfa back in late November but rather than staying in one place, he gradually moved about 340 km in a south-westerly direction over the course of the next three months.

Interestingly, this behaviour mirrors that of Erzhan, the pioneering bird we tracked returning to Sudan in three consecutive winters from 2007 to 2009. We know that Boris is likely to have been in a flock with other wintering Sociable Lapwings and, while we can’t be certain of what causes these winter movements, it might be that his flock was following rains or even tracking herds of wild or domestic grazing animals as these birds do in Central Asia. In the map below you can see Boris’s movements this last winter alongside the (dark green) points where Erzhan was recorded previously.

Boris's gradual south-westerly movements during winter 2013/14.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Boris, the only male of our three tagged birds, set off first on his Spring Migration. His Amazing Journey north began on the night of Saturday February 22nd and he was clearly fired up and keen to make headway.

By early morning on Tuesday 25th February he had travelled around 1,350 km to the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. At this point we wondered if he might join up with Irene, our tagged lapwing that has been wintering in Tabuk. However, the next signal we received from Boris, just a few days later, showed that by the morning of Thursday 27th February he’d moved on from Saudi to arrive in west-central Iraq near the Eurphrates – some 1,400 km further to the NN East. This represents a journey of some 2,700 km in just five days!

As data builds throughout the long-term satellite tracking study we can now see patterns emerging and it is interesting to note that Erzhan also staged very close to this spot on 15th March 2010.

As birds rarely return to their breeding grounds before April it will be fascinating to see where Boris is going to spend the next few weeks.

Our latest data from March 10th showed he had made it to Syria and was close to the Iraq border.

Ainur spent her winter in southern Pakistan and had been fairly settled throughout. However, on February 25th she made her first move – a 70 km jump north-west – to a new part of Pakistan. Up until now we have had no further news on Ainur which is rather worrying though it is often the case that signals become sporadic when the birds get underway.

Ainur's track to Southern Pakistan and local movements just prior to Spring migration.

Irina spent her winter feeding in and around lush, irrigated, agricultural ‘pivot fields’ in Saudi Arabia near Tabuk. With the shortest distance to travel back to Kazakhstan, and with good feeding habitat, she was always expected to be the last of our tagged birds to get going and so it transpired. After starting to make a few short local movements Irina was still in her winter oasis on March 6th but by the 10th she had set off and was located about 140 km north of Boris (on the same day) in Iraq.

The great image at the head of this post by Phil Roberts is of one of a flock of seven Sociable Lapwings photographed near Sabya in Saudi Arabia this winter. More information on this and other sightings this winter will follow in a separate post shortly.

In addition, more news on our three tagged lapwings will be posted here too, just as soon as the next stage of their Amazing Journeys is revealed…