Do you know what 615 birds flying in the air looks like? Well I didn’t, or at least I wasn’t sure. That was until I saw, photographed and counted them. 

It happened a couple of weeks ago. A chance glance out of the studio window and there they were, swarming in the distance, five hundred and twenty six lapwings and eighty nine starlings. 

One Christmas my Dad was driving me through Seething Wells, Surbiton as a small flock of about twenty Lapwings flew up and over from the reservoirs there. He immediately reminisced of his childhood, when winter would see thousands of these birds flocking together. People like my Mum and Dad don’t need the reliable data from the British Trust for Ornithology to tell them that breeding Lapwings have declined 53% in the last 25 years. They’ve witnessed first hand a heavier decline, over a longer period on many of their favourite bird species; and it brings water to their eyes. 

With that memory fresh in my mind, I set out for a closer experience of these evocative birds. It didn’t take me long, just a mile up the A65, in the fields opposite Ben Rhydding Sports Club. On the move and in the the dull light, those fields looked lined with rows of browny-grey clumps of earth. Closer up however it became apparent that these sods of earth were moving. I’d found them, the peewits were here. 

In the everyday, sightings of large flocks are few and far between. Most of our wildlife is under increasing pressure from habitat loss and the intensification of agricultural practices. But it’s also true (in my lifetime at least) that the public has never been more engaged with environmental issues. If we can act now, just maybe our children or children’s children will enjoy the grand natural spectacles the generations before us enjoyed…