Can you spot the sitting bird? The crest gives it away! This is a female Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), a beautiful species of shorebird that I was lucky to see today in northern Scotland. Stuart and I were driving back from an early morning adventure (more on that below) when we pulled over on the shores of a wee kyle (Scottish inlet) to search for shorebirds. Behind us in a small field were three species of ground-nesting bird, all of which lay their eggs in the open, making them quite easy to spot. Even the heavy feet of livestock, which at times come dangerously close to the incubating birds, don't seem to put them off using what would seem an unsuitable nest site.
Here are some photos of the three nests. Lapwings typically lay four eggs, Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) normally have three, and Common Gulls (Larus canus) will lay two or three.
|Lapwings normally lay four eggs, which are heavily blotched.|
|A typical Oystercatcher clutch of three. Note the finer speckles.|
|Common Gull eggs often come in twos and have a greener ground colour.|
So what was our early morning adventure? We had been up at first light and off to the nest site of a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), a long-legged wading bird so named because of its greeny-grey legs. Stuart has been researching this species in northern Scotland in collaboration with other ornithologists, attaching geo-locators to breeding adults to monitor their winter migration south to Africa. This has involved catching birds at the nest to both attach and later remove the tags to download movement data. Unfortunately, when we arrived at one nest not long after sunrise, both adults spotted us and flew above calling in alarm. Stuart immediately knew this meant their eggs had hatched, and the opportunity to recapture this pair had been lost (specific adults can only be caught on the nest while sitting). Nevertheless, we were still able to locate the nest and find two of the four chicks. As with all baby birds, they are especially cute!
|Two newly hatched Greenshank chicks. The other two were hiding in tall grass nearby.|
|The very camouflaged Greenshank nest is often placed next to a rock or decaying tree stump.|