Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Northern Lapwing in North Carolina

In my New Year's day post I wrote about going up to Boston right after Thanksgiving to see one of the northern lapwings that have been the vagrant bird of the winter for the eastern U.S.  I had run into Mike Tove last fall at Mason Farm here in Chapel Hill when we were both out looking for a common redpoll that had been reported amongst a large flock of siskins.  He was convinced that a lapwing would be found in NC this winter.  He proved to be right.  This past Sunday a birder was birding a location northwest of Roxboro, NC in hopes of seeing a white-fronted goose that had been seen on a pond behind a church.  The goose was not there any longer, but in scoping the surrounding fields, he found a northern lapwing.

Even though I had seen the one in Massachusetts, this is only the 3rd northern lapwing on record for NC.  The first one in 1926 was a specimen which means no one saw it alive except for the person(s) who shot it, and the second one in 2004 was seen by only one person who photographed it, but did not tell anyone for 2 weeks and by then it had left. I called my sister Monday afternoon about 4:30 and said we should try for the bird.  We got to the church, which is located at the corner of NC 57 and Concord Church rd., at 5:20 to find several other birders but alas no lapwing.  One of the birders, Tom Driscoll, who my sister knew, told us it had flown off about 45 minutes before we arrived. 

Yesterday was a rainy dismal day, but the bird was reported being seen again starting at 7:30 AM.  Even though we were not too keen on standing in the rain scoping distant fields and pastures for the lapwing, my sis and I decided to try again since it would be a life bird for her.  We left Chapel Hill about 2:15 and arrived at the church to find no other birders.  In a blowing steady rain, we carefully scoped the fields for almost an hour, but other than a large flock of turkeys, and the numerous canada geese and blackbird groups, there was no sign of the lapwing.

Fortunately a local man and his granddaughter drove up and told us the bird was in a field just a 100 yards further down the road from the church parking lot.  We jumped in our car and followed him to the spot.  Much to our delight, we fairly quickly located the lapwing feeding with a few killdeer in a stubble field just west of a fence line.  It was too far away for me to get a good picture, so the 2 photos in this post are of the bird I saw in Massachusetts, and were taken by my friend Doug Koch.

We went back to the parking lot and waited a bit in case other late afternoon birders showed up, and did not know to look down the road.  As we were leaving, a pair of birders did come by, but they already knew to look at the other spot.

So far this winter there have been lapwings found in MA, NJ, VA, NC, and even GA.  And all of them have tended to stay for long periods of time where they were found.  While almost every winter a few are seen in Newfoundland, they are quite rare in the U.S.  The thinking is that superstorm Sandy is the reason so many have appeared on the east coast over the past 4 months.  I know that state birders are very happy that one was finally found in NC.  Derb Carter, who is tied with Ricky Davis for the highest NC life list at 436, saw the lapwing early on Monday, and Ali Ayoob, who is doing a NC big year, went to see it on Sunday as soon as he heard it had been found.  He is trying to break Derb's big year record of 351 birds seen, and so far has 199 on his list for 2013.  As of 7:15 this morning the northern lapwing is again being seen at the spot we saw it yesterday afternoon.

To wrap up this post, I want to mention a birder that I know from Ohio, Jay Lehman, who is doing a full ABA area big year.  His blog is Stay tuned!