Surveying Sociable Lapwings in Kazakhstan 2018: more on Maysa…

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This year has been a really unusual one for Sociable Lapwings in our study area around Korgalzhyn. You can read earlier blogs on our work so far this year here and here. From these posts you can see that the breeding season has not been a good one.

As well as continued survey work to locate breeding birds and to check on the small number of nests and colonies, we have been trying to locate the remaining satellite tagged bird Maysa. She has been back in Kazakhstan since 13 April but moved south of our study area due to the cold weather conditions (see previous posts). We had planned a small expedition to the area 300km to the south but on the 7th June she again returned to our study area. After several searches, Ruslan and Timur finally caught up with her on the afternoon of the 30th June at a location near Arykty.

Maysa 30 June 2018
Maysa as seen on the 30th June 2018


Maysa was not alone. She was in a group of at least 409 other Sociable Lapwings, which is the largest June flock we’ve recorded (birds are often still with chicks even late in the month). Of the group, 97 were females and worryingly only 7 juveniles were counted – this confirms what appears to be a very bad breeding season for the Tengiz-Korgalzhyn region.

One interesting discovery was of a colour-ringed bird within the large flock. We always try to check every single bird despite the lack of ringing in recent years. We were lucky to see a female bird that was ringed as a chick exactly 10 years ago, on 30th June 2008 by Ruslan, Johannes Kamp and Elena Merkulova. The bird hatched from a nest near Korgalzhyn Bridge which used to be one of the biggest colonies in our study area. For now, she is the oldest known Sociable Lapwing. We wished her Happy Birthday and many years of life!


Female WWOG seen on the 30th June and ringed in 2008 – the oldest known Sociable Lapwing
Female WWOG seen on the 30th June and ringed in 2008 – the oldest known Sociable Lapwing

We’re continuing to search for post-breeding and pre-migratory flocks throughout July and August and we’ll be writing a final project blog soon.

The survey work is funded by ACBKTengizchevroilRSPB and Swarovski Optik through the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme.


The field team
The field team