Where have the Sociable Lapwings that were heading west got to?

Following exciting news earlier this week that Raushan has now embarked on a new route south on her migration, and has been tracked to a location in northern Pakistan, we now turn our attention back to the Sociable Lapwings that are following the established westerly flyway out of Kazakhstan.

Over the past few weeks satellite data received from them has actually been minimal. This ‘radio silence’ is a phenomenon we have previously experienced and doesn’t give us undue cause for concern. Gaps in transmissions often happen when birds start migrating in earnest and are only touching down to feed and rest briefly. Transmissions can also be blocked by military installations and we believe this is likely to also be reducing the data we are receiving currently.

Recent firsthand reports that we have received from our project scientists monitoring migration in the field and, most gratifyingly, from members of the public that have been following the birds progress on the Amazing Journey website, are enabling us to still keep in touch with the Sociable Lapwings’ progress on this route beyond Kazakhstan.

It is likely that all birds have now left their breeding sites. The last sighting of juvenile birds still loitering at the ACBK study site in Korgalzhyn (Central Kazakhstan) was on September 1st. In previous years birds have always departed by the end of the third week of September.

For the past few weeks a steady stream of birds has been passing through one of the first staging sites along the lapwings’ flyway in Manych in south-western Russia. Last weekend birds started arriving in north-eastern Turkey and numbers here are beginning to build up as the birds press steadily south.

Sociable Lapwing photographed at the Erzurum Plain on September 26th 2010.

In Manych Sociable Lapwing project team scientists from RBCU, who are monitoring the flock in Russia, report it has been fluctuating between 300 – 1,000 individuals. Sociable Lapwings have been coming and going since mid September with a high count in one flock of 716 birds on September 19th and 347 were still present on September 28th.

In addition to the birds we have satellite tagged, several other Sociable Lapwings at the ACBK study site around Koralzhyn in central Kazakhstan have been colour-ringed during the past few years. Sociable Lapwings are quite wary birds away from their breeding sites and getting close to them in the field is not always easy. Careful observation of the migrating flock is required to note any colour-ringed birds so using high quality optics is necessary. Two colour-ringed birds have been recorded at Manych this year one of which was hatched at Aktubek (Central Kazakhstan) in June 2009.

On Sunday September 26th a flock of at least 49 Sociable Lapwings was witnessed by Mumin Senocak at the Erzurum Plain in north-eastern Turkey. Mumin kindly sent us the main post picture of the flock at the top of the page. In addition to the Sociable Lapwings present, a flock of 99 Black-winged Pratincoles were also migrating here at the same time. You can see a couple of these pratincoles mixed in with the Sociable Lapwing flock in his picture.

Key monitoring locations in eastern Turkey

Corroborating Mumin’s record, our colleagues at Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey), that are monitoring birds throughout eastern Turkey at several sights, also recorded two flocks of 30 birds each on the 26th September at the Erzurum Plain. On Tuesday 28th September they found another flock in the south eastern part of Turkey at Urfa (Ceylanpinar) and on Wednesday 29th another flock was recorded at the Mus Plain which is about 70 km west of the Van Golu lake.

Latest updates on each of the satellite-tagged birds are as follows:

Erzhan transmitted last on September 25th but no location could be established. His last positive location was on September 5th.

Jibek’s last signal was on August 30th. We are still receiving transmissions from her too but none with confirmed locations.

Dinara’s last transmission was on September 23rd but again with no location information.

Abaj is also still sending transmissions but there are no clear locations.

Raushan was in Northern Pakistan on September 22nd and is still transmitting but there has been no further ‘lock’ on her since.

Tatyana is also still regularly transmitting but again no locations can be established.

Regrettably no signals have been received from Svetlana since August 11th, Lena since August 18th or Alia since August 28th.

Such are the perils of  the Sociable Lapwings’ hazardous migration that we must expect to lose some birds during their amazing journeys. While it is certainly too soon to close our account on these three intrepid travelers we currently consider them ‘missing in action’…

Main picture credit: Mumin Gokhan Senocak.