The Lapwing breeding season starts in early spring, through the winter we carry out extensive work across the wet grassland to make the habitat suitable for them. In the Autumn of 2021, a new fence was constructed around the breakwater field, overlooked by the Ynys-Feurig hide. This site was chosen for several reasons, firstly to try to relieve some pressure on our other fenced area at Lodge farm. Having all the breeding Lapwings in one area is not sustainable and we wanted to create another successful breeding area, protected from mammalian predators, away from the current breeding fields. Secondly, breakwater fields is where the Greenland white Fronted geese often roost through the winter and the fence adds another layer of protection for them.
In the past few years mild winters have meant that the soft rush has continued to grow right through the year, this has often led to areas being too dense with rush for Lapwing to breed. So in January and February this year, whilst the Lapwings were arriving on the site, we cut the rush in the key wader fields, this made a huge difference and this year Lapwings nested in areas where they haven’t been able to for several years.
Despite a lot of work early spring is always a nervous time of year, great care has to be taken to make sure the fences are functioning properly, the strength of the electric fence has to be checked daily and camera traps are positioned around the area to make sure no predators are getting in. In the early part of the season we go out regularly to map the nests, checking each nest every time we go out to make sure we are not losing too many and noting any new ones. This year we lost very few nests and almost all the nests we monitored hatched chicks. Despite the fence the chicks are still vulnerable to other predators, as well as bad weather conditions. If each nest of four eggs yielded just one fledged chick that would be considered an excellent result.
To monitor the Lapwings, we carry out four surveys through the season, counting how many birds we see on each survey, the highest count from any one survey is then divided by two to determine the number of pairs. At the end of the season we then count the fledged chicks and divide that number by the number of pairs to determine productivity. For example, if our highest count was 40 birds, that would be 20 pairs, if those pairs produced 20 chicks, then productivity would be 1, if they produced 10 chicks then it would 0.5. A productivity of above 0.7 will lead to an increase in the population, below 0.7 the population will decrease.
As I write this, things are looking very positive, we have lots of fledged or nearly fledged chicks and both Lapwing and Redshank have bred inside our new fence this year. Whilst they finish their breeding season we are already planning the work for the autumn and winter, this year we hope to create more wet features in the fields to provide more feeding areas for chicks and we also want to extend one of the fences to incorporate another field. All this will be done alongside the usual, cutting and baling of rush, ditch management and hydrological work to improve our control of water levels on the site.
It takes a lot of effort and resources to manage wet grassland for waders, but when you have dozens of fledged Lapwings circling over you, you are left in no doubt that it is worthwhile.
The breeding season in pictures:
Eggs laid in scrape on the ground
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