Friday, April 21, 2017

Then there were three .....

I didn't really take much notice of the noisy, agitated lapwing overhead, or of the car that drove slowly past until I heard the screech of tyres on tarmac as it braked to a halt. Then I realised there we four little bumps in the road behind it; lapwing chicks that had strayed from the pasture onto the road.

The parent bird, utterly fearless, landed in the road and ushered one of the chicks away into the verge but then took to the air again as the car drove away.

One of the remaining chicks was just a patch of blood and fluffy down on the road but the two others had gone into their instinctive survival routine as we approached, pressing themselves flat against the road and staying perfectly still, hoping they wouldn't be noticed. We picked them up - fluffy, almost weightless bundles with outsized feet - and dropped them over the wall, back into the pasture where they ran for cover - peep-peeping for their parents.

To his credit, the driver turned around and came back to see if he could help and was clearly very distressed that one was dead. In all fairness, if he wasn't forewarned he would have found the birds very hard to see when they were in their defensive prone position in the road.

It was, though, an all-too-common tragedy. The parent birds would have incubated four eggs in their exposed nest for the best part of a month, defending them all day-long against crows, only for one to be flattened under the wheels of a car within hours of hatching.

We really need an awareness-raising campaign in the dales, warning drivers that from now until June they can expect to all sorts of upland juvenile animals and breeding birds straying onto roads, and advising drivers to be vigilant and slow down.

Road traffic takes a terrible toll on wildlife - hares, hedgehogs, badgers, wading bird chicks - in late spring.


  1. Wonder if signage could be made up for a range of areas, esp. if habitat near by. If govt. budgets wouldn't allow, perhaps permission could be granted to put up anyway..Needn't be too expensive, possibly a sign company would donate for a bit of a plug.. or crowd funding??? Probably hopelessly idealistic, but seems like a doable project, and might really educate people and save lives of wild creatures.

  2. That's very sad Phil.
    All the effort to raise young, the natural dangers to keep them safe and then to end like that, under the wheels of a humans car.

  3. I like Jo's idea, Phil. If I was resident in a more relevant area I'd be tempted to take up the initiative and start lobbying local industry.

    My best wishes to you (and Jo) - - Richard

  4. A very timely post as today we were passed at Cowshill by several boy racer cars tailgating each other in a high speed noisy procession towards Killhope. Little chance of them even noticing the wildlife, never mind slowing down.

  5. shame, but a good idea Phil. Although the "Slow Lambs" sign often seems to have little effect...


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