Four tagged birds, two migration routes

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The exciting start of this year’s Sociable Lapwing autumn migration sees two of our four tagged birds heading towards Turkey and the Middle East, while the others make their way down to Turkmenistan – a particularly good outcome as this route is far less well understood.

What is particularly interesting is that different birds undertake different strategies during migration – some progressing in modest steps, while others appear to fatten up and make enormous journeys in single leaps.

Sociable lapwing flock
Sociable Lapwing flock (Turan Çetin)

Boris and Shirin

Boris left Russia and headed south-west towards the Kostanai region, where he joined up with Shirin at what is clearly an important gathering place – a missing link between the Torgay Valley (a stopover with more than 2000 birds) and the Emba Valley in western Kazakhstan, which is well known as a migration corridor for Sociable Lapwings heading towards the Caspian Sea.  However, some birds are already in Turkey (see later), so Boris and Shirin are by no means the advance party.

Boris and Shirin's route
Boris and Shirin’s route

Hanna and Stepaniya

This year we have been lucky enough to tag two birds that have taken the eastern flyway as their route – an exciting development given we know far less about Sociable Lapwing key areas in Turkmenistan, Pakistan and potentially beyond.

Hanna and Stepaniya flew southwards towards the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border, and look like they are foraging on arable fields, then roosting at Lake Talimarzhan – the site where over 400 birds were found in 2011/12.  Last year, Ainur spent several weeks in September/October in an area of steppe in south-eastern Turkmenistan close to Koytendag, and one of the 2010 birds also spent time there, so with the 2000 km single journey that Hanna took, it looks like this could be a major staging area for the eastern flyway population and merits on-the-ground investigation next year.

As the birds head towards Pakistan, they are eagerly awaited by Ahmad Kahn, Director of Regional Programmes for WWF Pakistan, who is collaborating with us to increase our knowledge of where Sociable Lapwings go in that country, supported in part by a grant from the Oriental Bird Club.

Hanna and Stepaniya head south
Hanna and Stepaniya head south


While Irina’s tag stopped transmitting a couple of weeks ago, we have lost her signal in the past and continue to monitor the airwaves…we may get lucky again.

Meanwhile in Turkey…

…the first birds have arrived and fieldworkers from the BirdLife Partner Doğa Derneği (DD) have been monitoring their arrival at one of the key stop-over sites, the Ceylanpınar State Farm, where DD are going to assess the impacts of recent habitat changes there (especially irrigated maize, which could be catastrophic for Sociable Lapwings) and link field sightings to satellite imagery.

The first flock of 79 individuals was seen on the 24th of September in a newly ploughed field.

Ploughed fields at Celanpılar State Farm (Turan Çetin)
Ploughed fields at Celanpılar State Farm (Turan Çetin)

(Header photo courtesy of Turan Çetin, Doğa Derneği)