This is a bird of the open fields and damp grasslands. It was much more
common in days gone by, but now only the odd pair may be seen in spring
in this area. Its characteristic tumbling flight, showing black and
white feathering, is very noticeable. It has three names, peewit from
its wailing cry over the meadows; lapwing from its up and down wing
beats and green plover from the bird books.
The nest consists only of a few grass blades laid in a shallow
depression in the ground, made perhaps by a farm horse’s footprint, and
is wide open to the sky. The four rather large greeny brown eggs are
very pear shaped. With the pointed ends facing inward, this presents
the sitting bird with the minimum of egg coverage.
On hatching, unlike the young thrush or blackbird which have to remain
in their nests for at least a fortnight, the young peewit chicks, on
strong little legs, will follow their mother through the meadow grass
searching for insects, grubs and small worms.
At this time, probably their greatest danger comes from the sky above,
where in spring, the hawk and crow are always looking for tasty young
peewit chicks with which to feed their own young in nearby woods.
Providing the young peewit chicks in their greeny brown fluff remain
motionless in the grass they are relatively safe; but should they decide
to run for thicker cover, the movement will be seen from above and
their lives could be very short ones.
How do you find a peewit’s nest and eggs the next day if you wished to
show them to a friend or child say? Answer, go to the best remembered
area of the meadow and put down a marker, such as a piece of stick stuck
in the ground, or a white handkerchief, or even a hat. Then walk
slowly round and round the marker in ever increasing circles, and
there’s a good chance you will find what you are looking for. Make your
stay a short one, as the peewit will be waiting in the next meadow to
return to her nest.
In days gone by, peewit’s eggs were greatly valued on the breakfast tables of some of the nearby hotels and restaurants.
Finally, there was a time when peewits nested in a meadow just west of
our village church. Children from the then nearby school were taken to
see the nest and eggs. But that, I’m afraid, was a long time ago.