Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chasing the Code 4 - Northern Lapwing!

When a graduate student from Georgia Southern University spotted a Northern Lapwing while leading a routine Ornithology class off Alma Lane, Statesboro (Click this link to view location provided by Loren), birders from all over the place were eager to find this "Code 4" bird again. Unlike the heat of Snowy Owl, this lapwing is a Code 4 bird. According to ABA (American Birding Association), Code 4 is a bird that occurs casually in a well-defined pattern but is not seen annually. Most birds in this category breed in other continents and wander extensively during migration along east or west coast of North America. Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) was reported by Loren Deaner on February 6 morning.

After talking to Mark McShane, Mark mentioned if I can find time, go as quickly as possible because we never know how long a rare bird would stick around. He sounded regretfully because he could not go until this weekend. Normally if there is a cold front (click link to understand birds and weather), birds will leave sooner. Riding with sleepy eyes, I arrived at Loren reported location at around 8:15, more than a dozen of birders were there searching attentively. It was a freezing, quiet morning with occasional cattle mowing and nothing else, not even a wren or cardinal calling. I was so happy to see my good friend James Fleullan was there and the first thing he told me was "nothing, not yet ....". I took my time, wrapped myself up with more warm cloth, set up my camera with tripod, still,  no lapwing. After almost two hours of searching and waiting, James had to get back to his work and Loren left to search other places. Everyone was a bit disappointed.  But I decided to stay around for as long as I can...Suddenly Patty McLean told everyone..."Someone just relocated the bird at further north down the road...let's move!" What an encouraging moment!

Northern Lapwing (with an arrow) mingles with Killdeer

Lapwing was relocated just about 1/4 mile west of Alma Ln by Simon Thompson, a birder from Asheville, North Carolina! When we pulled over, Simon already had this bird inside his scope! Apparently we were looking at the wrong place this morning. Lapwing was in its own nature habitat mingling with many killdeer and feeding quietly. It was a challenge to "see" this bird from this massive muddy field. Simon pointed bird to us by using a red flag in the far background made an easy viewing from our binoculars and spotting scope.

Uncropped image for readers to see how camouflaged it can be to find this lapwing in a massive mud flat. Simon who relocated the bird on 2/8/13, pointed this lapwing to birders by using a small red flag from far background

Northern Lapwing is a bird in plover family, a common breeder in Eurasia and might winter at as far as India, China or northern Africa. They are not endangered, however, their number declines in the recent years due to the loss of argicultural farm lands and suitable habitat. This is the first time for this vagrant shows up in the southern state and with less than total 15 official sightings in North America. Birding is sometimes all about showing up at the right location and at the right time! If you have time to get to see this bird in the next few days, please stay long enough to see how he fly as his big wings make "lapping" sound when in flight! Finally, chasing this Code 4 bird won't be possible without Loren's original discovery and her passion and dedication to go back to the area every early morning to report the trace of the bird and possible locations for the lookout. My thanks also go to Cameron Cox for his follow-up GABO postings to make chasing this lapwing less stressful and fun. Finally, many thanks to Simon Thompson. Simon relocated Northern Lapwing at a mud flat, just the opposite site of pond off Alma Lane and made many happy faces ;)

-- Happy Birding! -- Linda


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  1. Great report. Thank you Linda for finding it for Bill and I. I would have been so dissappointed to have missed it entirely. You're awesome.

  2. I am so glad you and Bill were not that far off. This is all meant to be! You are a great birder and you deserve this lapwing!


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