Jun 25, 2010

A Central Asian Visitor For Seaforth

Seaforth Nature Reserve has had a series of special arrivals over the past week from distant shores. A White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus) arrived on 27-28 May 2010, much to the delight of birders on site. This magnificent rare bird was seen by a handful of those who have permits to visit the reserve, these lucky few were able to enjoy a close look at the striking wing patterns and bright yellow legs of the lapwing.

Earlier in the week, a beautifully marked female Wilson’s Phalarope from North America was seen, closely followed by a Pallid Harrier flying north. The White-tailed Lapwing has only been seen in Britain on five previous occasions. There is one previous record in Lancashire, when one was at Leighton Moss in June 2007. Given its rarity it is quite possible this was the same bird that was seen at Seaforth.

The White-tailed Lapwing or White-tailed Plover is closely related to our familiar (Northern) Lapwing. It breeds semi-colonially on inland marshes on in central Asia and less commonly in the Middle East . Four eggs are laid in a ground nest. The Iraqi and Iranian breeders are mainly residents, but the main population migrates south in winter to south Asia, the Middle East and north east Africa. It is a very rare vagrant in western Europe, the first example in Britain being found at Packington, Warwickshire on 12 July 1975. This medium-sized lapwing is long-legged and fairly long-billed.

It is the only lapwing likely to be seen in other than very shallow water, where it picks insects and other small prey mainly from the surface. Adults are slim erect birds with a brown back and foreneck, paler face and grey breast. Its long yellow legs, pure white tail and distinctive brown, white and black wings make this species unmistakable. Young birds have a scaly back, and may show some brown in the tail. The breeding season call is a peewit, similar to Northern Lapwing.The White-tailed Lapwing is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

The Wilson's Phalarope, (Phalaropus tricolor), is a small wader. This, the largest of the phalaropes, breeds on the prairies of western Canada and the western United States. It is migratory, wintering around the central Andes in South America. Like all phalarope species it is the males that incubate the eggs and rear the young so, unusually for birds, it is the females that have the most showy plumage.

They are passage migrants through Central America around March/April and again during September/October. The species is a rare vagrant to western Europe but more than 200 have been recorded in Britain since 1950. It seems likely that the 2010 Seaforth bird was the same one seen on the reserve in June 2008 and possibly as the one at Martin Mere in 2009

Seaforth Nature Reserve is accessible to permit holders only. Permits, issued by the Port of Liverpool Police, are available to Lancashire Wildlife Trust members – contact Steve White at swhite@lancswt.org.uk for details.

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