Last weekend I went on one of the most exciting bird chases that I have been on in a while. This time, the target was a Northern lapwing, a type of shorebird that had been found in a pasture north of Roxboro.
Northern lapwings nest across northern Eurasia and spend their winters as far south as northern Africa. Unsettled weather in the form of strong storms occasionally diverts the migration of a few individuals, sending them across “The Pond” to North America.
This winter was one such winter, as multiple birds showed up in the northeastern United States. As time has passed, a couple of birds have been found farther south, in Virginia and Georgia.
I have written before about how birders chase rare birds that have been reported, with hopes of adding a rarity to their life, state, or even county lists. I had resisted chasing these birds, hopeful that one would eventually show up in North Carolina.
Lapwings often occur with killdeer in the United States. They are about 20 percent larger than killdeer and much bulkier. The back is an unusual greenish-bronze color, while the underparts are largely white. There is a wispy crest on the head. The unusual wings are extremely large, wide and blunt-tipped when viewed in flight.
There have been only two previous records in North Carolina for this species, and neither of those birds was seen by the birding public. I took a chance that this outing would be different.
I left my home at 4:15 a.m. to be at the site at first light. Long chases are always nerve-racking; you are always afraid the bird will leave five minutes before you arrive.
My fears were not realized that day, because when I pulled into the parking area there were already three other birders there with the bird in their scopes. So I added a very difficult species to my Life List and my North Carolina List. Outcomes like that always make the ride home a lot sweeter.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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