Rediscovered notebooks give historical insight into 'lost bird'
"Spennemann's notes contain descriptions of the calls and behaviour of these birds, things we knew almost nothing of before” —Bas van Balen
Javan Lapwing Vanellus macropterus has not been recorded with certainty since 1940 and is currently classified as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International. The species was confined to wide steppe-like marshes in river deltas on the Indonesian island of Java, which is now densely populated and is currently home to 124 million people. This human pressure means that there is little suitable habitat left and the situation is looking bleak for Javan Lapwings, should any remain.
In the latest issue of Bird Conservation International, a fascinating paper  gives a historical insight into the life of one of the world’s rarest and most poorly known species of bird, pieced together fom newly translated notes by a German amateur ornithologist.
In 2000, the Zoological Museum Amsterdam received a number of unpublished and previously unknown notes and manuscripts written by August Spennemann. Spennemann lived on Java from c.1915 to 1940 and among his notes was a detailed typed account of his observations of the Javan Lapwing in the late 1920s near Pamanukan, West Java province.
"Spennemann's notes contain descriptions of the calls and behaviour of these birds, things we knew almost nothing of before. This discovery provides us with an amazing window onto their lives,” says Bas van Balen, one of the authors of the paper.
These records come from areas with no previous reports of Javan Lapwings and suggest that these birds may have wider habitat preferences than was previously thought.
"If it still exists the population of Javan Lapwings must be tiny and work needs to be carried out immediately to survey all potential areas,” Bas adds.
Already described as the biggest and most wide-ranging bird conservation programme the world has ever seen, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme aims to save the world’s most threatened birds, by finding ‘Species Champions’ who will fund the work of identified ‘Species Guardians’ for each bird - organisations and people best placed to carry out the conservation work necessary to prevent an otherwise certain extinction. Find out more: BirdLife: Preventing Extinctions
Bird Conservation International is the official journal of BirdLife International. It provides stimulating, up-to-date coverage of bird conservation topics important in today's world. For more information: BirdLife: Bird Conservation International.
 New information on the Critically Endangered Javanese Lapwing Vanellus macropterus, based mainly on unpublished notes by August Spennemann (c.1878-1945) S. (BAS) VAN BALEN AND VINCENT NIJMAN Bird Conservation International (2007) 17: 225-234.