Erzhan

Erzhan is an adult male Sociable Lapwing tagged in the summer of 2007 in Central Kazakhstan. His mame means “Brave Soul” and his colour ring combination is white over blue on his left leg and blue over orange on his right leg.

Erzhan’s satellite tag number is 021185. He is no longer transmitting.

Erzhan is responsible for more information gathered on the migration of Sociable Lapwings than from any other bird.

Erzhan’s transmitter remained attached and working for at least three years and six migrations. He has been tracked to and from his wintering grounds in Sudan three times. Remarkably, Erzhan has bred in a completely different region of Kazakhstan each summer.

Erzhan was caught as an adult on a nest in central Kazakhstan in May 2007 near the town of Korgalzhyn, home of the Sociable Lapwing research team. This means that today Erzhan is at least four years old. Generally only the female incubates but on rare occasions, males will share incubation or even undertake all the incubation if the female dies.

At the time, Erzhan was the smallest bird of any species ever to have been fitted with a satellite tag, and researchers were worried that the weight of the device (the smallest then available being around 10 grams) might affect his ability to migrate. They need not have worried! In August, Erzhan set off westwards, and by early September he had reached the Caspian Sea. Later that month he was in the Caucasus and by late October he arrived in southern Turkey. It was here that researchers from Doga Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey), who had been sent the coordinates from an RSPB control desk in the UK, intercepted him. Although they did not manage to pick Erzhan out from the flock, they found to their utter astonishment that no fewer than 3,200 Sociable Lapwings had gathered in the group of lapwings he was travelling in – Erzhan had led them to the biggest flock recorded in decades. In fact, this single flock contained more individuals than was then thought to be the entire world population!

He soon continued his journey and in late October 2007, Erzhan was recorded briefly passing over Saudi Arabia before arriving in what would prove to be his wintering grounds in central Sudan, not far east of the capital Khartoum. Although not seen by human eyes, this was the first record of a Sociable Lapwing in Sudan in many decades, and indeed the first in east Africa for nearly twenty years.

Erzhan in the Sudan winter 2009/2010

During the winter he moved only short distances, and left Sudan in February 2008, arriving back on the breeding grounds in late March. Much to the surprise of the research team waiting for him, he settled for the summer of 2008 more than 600km west of where he had been caught the year before. In the winter of 2008/9 he again wintered in Sudan, this time being seen alive and well by researchers from the Sudan Wildlife Society, and in the summer of 2009 he returned once more to the area around Korgalzhyn, where he was seen in the field again and was found to be looking very well.

After another winter in Sudan in 2009/10, Erzhan returned to Kazakhstan in the summer of 2010, when he moved around between different breeding colonies in central Kazakhstan.

Erzhan’s travels were indicated by a purple pin on the main Follow The Flock Map but he is no longer transmitting.

If you’d like to keep up with this unfolding story you can sign up here for regular email alerts that will provide up to date information on the location of the other intrepid Sociable Lapwings we have tagged in 2013.