Shorebirds as the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), are heavily suffering from the return of winter. The return of the winter in the past two weeks with temperatures down to minus two-digit nummbers also in the western part of Germany is devastating for waders. Due to observations of the Hessischen Gesellschaft für Ornithologie und Naturschutz (HG ON) [engl.: Hessian Society for Ornithology and Nature Conservation] in the Main-Kinzig district especially many Northern Lapwings on route from the wintering areas in Africa and southern Europe to their breeding grounds in the north were forced for an emergency landing. This in search of food and to protect from snow and cold temperatures.
In this situation one can observe to the phenomenon of some kind of traffic jam. Birds on migration threatened by starvation landing on the icy or snowy ground did not find enough food. Therefore, they returned, to search for food in more southern latidudes. They met with flocks which were on migration somewhat later in the year. Now both goups of migrations – the early birds and the birds migrating later – landed in the Main-Kinzig district although there the conditions are not favorable, too.
The biologists observed at least 200 Northern Lapwing between two small outskirts of Freigericht (Somborn and Bernbach) in a confined space. They all were desperately waiting for better weather.
Additionally also from other areas of Hesse – especially from the northern parts of Hesse as in the district of Waldeck-Frankenberg – there were observations of masses of Northern Lapwing on the fields. So in an area called “Altes Feld” near Dainrode (2294 lapwings) or in the district of Schwalm-Eder (1000 lapwings) around the village of Wabern. Some biologists explain that phenomenon with the fact that south of northern Hesse the snow had melted away in many places, which means that the migrating birds find at least some food. In the Northeast of the continent however, where many birds breed, there is still a lot of snow and temperatures even grimmer. It is not really the cold temperatures, which makes the birds unhappy but snow bothers them. Whether the delayed trip to the north have an impact on the breeding success, no one can say at the moment.
Especially these harsh conditions are hard for wading birds because they cannot get food in moist soil or in the mud. Biologists are afraid, that due to the harsh winter, the number of Northern Lapwing in Germany will decline even further. In former times, the Northern Lapwing was a common bird; now it is fighting against extinction. The Northern Lapwing is suffering from the loss in wetlands over recent decades. Many nature conservation programs were launched to countermeasure these trends. But nevertheless, last year, the number of breeding pairs of the Northern Lapwing in the Kinzig area declined to 9 pairs only. But other waders as the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) – the bird of the Year 2013 – and the Eurasian Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) are strongly affected by the return of the winter.