On 17th December I received an SMS text from Peter Dedicoat and June Taylor saying that they had found a Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) amongst a flock of Northern Lapwing close to the village of Benviudo, just south of the EN.123 near Mertola.
I could not go at the time (lack of urgency since the bird was not a "lifer" or even a Portuguese "tick" for me) and following this find the weather in southern Portugal has been absolute crap - we have now had two months of almost continuous rain.
On 28th January we had a sunny but very cold day - I decided to put all my gear in the Land Rover and "go for it" - I had not been out birding or doing any photography for weeks. The 140 km drive was well worth it, and I was onto the bird within minutes of arriving at the location (thanks to Google Earth, SatNav and Peter's directions).
The bird was about 80 metres away down a slope feeding actively with a Norther Lapwing with which it seems to have a close affinity (some interesting speculation there!!). I positioned myself with the sun behind me and, with the rig (Canon 1DMk3 with 500mm f/4 + 1.4TC) on my lap turned off the engine and began to gently roll downhill towards the bird.
Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) - 1st winter juvenile
The bird was not too bothered by my presence as I got closer, but was mostly facing away from me. I decided to play the call on my MP3 player and the bird became very interested and not only turned around but actually began walking towards me. The shots I got were at about 35 metres range, but I was confident that at this rate I was going to get some frame-filling shots at 15 metres which would produce stunning images.
I had not reckoned on the local farmer pulling up behind me in his pick-up, tooting the horn and slamming the car door - the birds buggered-off across the main road into a fenced field and disappeared into foot-high crops.
What was ironic is that the farmer had just come to make sure that I had actually seen "his famous bird"!!! What I said to him was not quite what was going through my mind.