On 17th December I received a text from Peter Dedicoat saying that he and June Taylor had found a Sociable Lapwing amongst Northern Lapwing between Castro Verde and Mertola in the Lower Alentejo. Unfortunately I could not go that day and every day since it has poured with rain. I heard that the bird was still there so, as this morning dawned with blue sky and bright sunshine, I packed all my gear into the Land Rover and set off on the 140 km drive.
I found the bird within minutes of arriving and cradling the long lens on my lap I manoeuvered the jeep so the sun was behind me, turned off the engine, and gently rolled down the slope towards the bird which was 80 metres away. It did not seem at all bothered, except that it was constantly facing away from me. I played the call on my MP3 and it became very interested and actually started to move towards me. I got to within 40 metres, taking shots as I went, and reckoned that at this rate, if I could get to within 15 metres or less I was going to get some cracking images in this light.
What I hadn't reckoned on was some hairy oaf of a farmer in a pick-up pulling up behind me and 'tooting' his horn. Of course everything buggered off and the target bird flew over the main road into a fenced area of crops and disappeared. The farmer was O.K. about me being on his land and his reason for driving over was to make sure I had actually seen "the bird" (which has become a bit of a tourist attraction) which he would have been very glad to point out to me!!!
The images are not as good as I had hoped for; they are very heavy crops at 35-40 metres of a nice first winter bird. I might go back and have another bash.
*N.B. I have not been in this area since last summer and was amazed at how the roads have changed. For those of you who like to leisurely trawl along the N123 from Castro Verde to Mertola, pulling over to watch Great and Little Bustards, sandgrouse, and the many raptors, etc., you can forget it in future. The entire road has been resurfaced to the standard of a race-track (for which the locals use it), deep storm gullies have been emplaced on each side of the road, and there are miles and miles of "arco" crash barrier on bends, embankments, etc. - there are now very few places to pull off the road and stop. A great pity .