Saturday, 7 August 2010

Bit of this
From the dark recess of the cubord a dusty bike carrier appears.

Bikes and carrier are slung on the back of the car.

There are acorns and oak trees, joggers, walkers, bikers, onesis, twosis and groups all enjoying the outdoors. But it is the unexpected call of the lapwing which provides the perfect moment for me. That and the fact I manage to peddle all the way around the reservoir with only the aid of a cool ice lolly.
Bit of that
Until 20 years ago the lapwing was one of the most widespread as well as one of the most colourful of British birds, with its iridescent green back, black and white underparts and long wispy crest. It is a spectacular flyer, tumbling up and down in great vertical swoops to drive off predators such as crows or gulls, or merely in display.

But the past two decades have seen a catastrophic crash in numbers: according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds its British population declined by 52 per cent between 1970 and 1998.

In Wales the decline was 73 per cent between 1987 and 1998, and Devon, where once thousands of lapwings bred, "a pair on every farm", now has only 100 pairs across the whole county.

As well as mountains and marshes, farmland is a major habitat, and, as with the skylark, changes in farming practice are believed to be a main cause of their decline. They have been hit in particular by the dwindling of mixed farming - arable and livestock combined.

Lapwings flourish where both are found together, as the birds like to nest on bare fields of young crops, where they can see predators coming, then take their chicks almost as soon as they are born into pastures, where insect food is more plentiful. But British agriculture is increasingly polarising, with crops grown in the east and livestock raised in the West. This and other changes, such as intensified field drainage, mean that in many places lapwings have disappeared altogether.

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