The Green Plover or Peewit
(Originally published in The Villager)
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.