As lockdown begins to ease in Wales, shopping centers, parks, zoos and gardens have started to open up to the public. After months of DIY in the house and garden it has been a relief to finally travel beyond my own front door and a recent visit to Knowsley Safari Park was especially liberating.
Now as many of you may all ready know, I love big cats and Knowsley has some of the most recognizable classic safari big cats, lions and tigers. I spent most of the day trip out battling the rain, trying to take images that showcase the prowess of those animals. It was great fun winding down the car windows, snapping shots, then quickly rolling the windows back up to prevent having my second shower of the day. I enjoyed photographing all the animals at the Safari, though one of the rarest animals there and one of the trickiest to photograph was not one of the safari park’s collection. Lapwings!
At first we didn’t spot the birds but rather heard their iconic piercing 'peewit' call, which gives them their other, common name: Peewit. After searching the grassland we spotted a few individuals feeding on the greensward. From a distance, Lapwings look black and white, but up-close, the back and wings have an iridescent green and purple sheen. They are quite fast runners, which combined with the dreary weather made them a challenge to photograph. Though with perseverance and adjusting my white balance settings and ISO I was able to capture the harmonious iridescent colours with eye-catching vibrancy.
As well as 'Lapwing' and 'Peewit', this bird (Latin name Vanellus vanellus) which means 'little fan' and actually refers to its floppy, flapping flight. Chewit, tuefit, toppyup, peasiewheep, teewhup, ticks nicket and hornywinks,green plover, tew-it. Take your pick of what you wish to call them, because this enchanting species is certainly not short of names. But what they are lacking in is numbers. The Lapwing is a struggling species on our shores, In fact, their struggle is so real, that they are classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds where they first appeared in 2015 and have remained until the latest up date in January 2020. Between 1967 and 2017 there was a rapid decline of -54% of the population. They also appear on Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and are listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
But why is this such an issue? Well, the biggest losses in population have been on farmland yet, with spectacular irony, historically the lapwing was known as the 'farmers friend'. A decent population of lapwings on your land will rid pastures of wireworms, leatherjackets and importantly water snails, that can carry the parasite liver fluke. Their role as a natural pest control species and ‘the farmers friend’ has been almost completely replaced by the use pesticides which probably have two affects – the removal of their food source and the toxic effects of the pesticides. Organisations such as the RSPB and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust have worked hard on grant schemes to encourage farmers to leave squares of land out of food production at nesting time. Whilst this has had some positive effects, Lapwings are still in decline.
Want to learn more and help do your bit to save these iconic British farmland birds? Please follow the links to below to some great resources:
Songbird Survival. Saving Songbirds with science. Bird statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/bird-statistics?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgsS7xPbR6gIVt4BQBh0gYwAAEAAYASAAEgKZ5PD_BwE
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework [online] Available at: https://jncc.gov.uk/our-work/uk-post-2010-biodiversity-framework/
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [online] Available at:https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=Lapwing&searchType=species
Appleton, G. (2015). A helping hand for Lapwings. [online] Wadertales. Available at: https://wadertales.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/a-helping-hand-for-lapwings/
The RSPB. Lapwing Conservation | Advice For Farmers. [online] Available at:
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Lapwing Appeal [online]. Available at: