In the last four days I have seen over 300 Lapwings, mostly from my house. Others have seen far more. I've also seen two Snipe and a Dunlin in frozen Wanstead, and hundred of Fieldfares have been streaming over. The vast majority of the birds have been heading west or south-west, and the birding community being what it is the people I know down there have been seeing almost indescribable numbers funnelled into the narrow peninsula. Whilst the Wanstead collective have seen something like 1600 Lapwings in the last four days and has been incredibly excited, Dan Dan the Wader Man, a previous Wanstead stalwart who now lives in Devon had 5100 in an hour and a half. He was counting Thrushes at 250 a minute, and a five minute count netted 400 Lapwing.
With the West Country now probably seeing worse weather than the birds had been trying to escape, spare a thought for their plight. They have nowhere to go, nowhere to feed. Whilst cold weather like this might be exciting birding it is also very upsetting. Thrushes can be helped, indeed numerous birders and non-birders by placing apples and seed in their gardens can see these birds through this cold snap. It is harder to know how to help a Lapwing or Snipe, birds that probe into soft soil or mud - ground that is not only frozen but covered in a layer of snow several inches deep. The sad conclusion is that some of these birds are not going to make it. They were a week or so away from safety - yesterday was the meteorological start of spring - and now they are facing weather that is worse than anything this winter has so far produced and many will likely perish as a result.
My Wanstead Lapwing total has increased beyond the 1000 tally with this cold weather event, one of the Snipe was only my third from the garden, and it's my second patch Dunlin. Great for the stats, not so great for the birds, but that's life. Being a bird is never easy, there are pressures from all sides. Roosting flocks on what clear ground there is are flushed by insensitive dog-walkers or joggers (in shorts!), and places that once might have been safe havens no longer exist, the weather is just one more element in the struggle. We should do what we can to ease the pressure - trying to convince dog owners to keep their pets on leads is nigh on impossible, but feeding birds in your garden or elsewhere is one of those easy things. Many of these birds will make it, they are tough and they are resourceful, they just need a little bit of help.