Saturday, June 12, 2010

Masked Lapwing Feast.

I just caught the end of a TV story a few days ago. It was refuting comments that the Melbourne Cup carnival was in danger of being called off because of an infestation of cockchafer beetles. These little critters, in their larval form, had caused the grass to die, (it eats the roots). In turn, this caused "divoting" of the turf, and deterioration of the track. Having almost no interest in horse racing, I can't say that the story had much interest to me, but it did remind that a few months ago, I had an encounter of sorts with these little "beasts".
I was returning home from the bread run, via the Bellerive waterfront, armed as usual with a camera. It had rained overnight and was still threatening, so my birding was limited to a quick scan of the Derwent River. The nearby point had the usual cormorants, gulls and Crested Terns on, and farther down the estuary I could see several Gannets fishing. Nearer, a few Sooty Oystercatchers were loafing on the rocks, but there was little else of interest, except a pair of Masked Lapwing. They're often there, or close by, so common as to not evoke any interest, but lacking any other chance of photography, I took a few shots. One thing led to another, and I began to wonder what they were feeding on. Multiple shots later, I finally found out, cockchafers.
Cockchafers are a common lawn pest, and I recall a remedy that I suspect would probably be frowned on in these 'waterwise' days--flood the lawn with water, forcing the larva out of the ground and presumably drowning them in the process. The overnight rain had the same effect, giving the plovers a feast. Perhaps a large flock of Masked Lapwing on Flemington race course might have helped rid them of the larva, but judging by the number of them caught by 2 birds on a few square metres of grass, it would have required a very, very large flock.