Sometimes decisions made in the moment are the best. On Sunday morning at 9am Mrs D had gone to her Yoga class & was meeting friends in the afternoon and as if by magic the Sociable Lapwing appeared on BirdGuides. With Storm Bella coming to an end over night this looked to be a good opportunity to try and see this species missed in Cornwall (Finders report) a few weeks ago. I'd been talking to Jake from the Scilly crew and he was convinced it was still somewhere in south-west.
Bude Marshes was punched into the satnav, podcasts downloaded and I was off down the M5. A complete closure on the motorway at junction 13 didn't stop my positive thinking, I was on a mission. I'd never been to Bude before so it was a case of sitting back and ticking off the 150 miles. It was a beautiful day and the drive went pretty quick given the distance.
I parked at the ruby club and got fully geared up in wellies as advised. The walk only took five minutes when I reached the main marsh where the path split. A local birder saw me and advised to go left from better scope views or go right for closer views but be prepared for bird to go out of sight. I went left.....the path was very wet but rose slightly and gave good views over the marsh. The scope was quickly set up and there was the first winter Sociable Lapwing. The bird was very busy feeding on the grass and seemed to call on occasions. The local birds chased the rare visitor on occasions allowing some flight views. The bird was active for around 45 minutes before flying to the roosting Lapwings. There was only three birders on the side I stood whilst there was probably a dozen on the other side of the marsh, all well distanced.
This was one rarity I was very keen to see given the worldwide population has fallen by 90% in the last fifty years hence UK records have really dried up. The last record was twelve years ago on St Marys, Scilly whilst the one previous was in Kent the previous year. Research suggests that it is not the breeding grounds that is the issue for the species, it's their migration routes. It was good to read there is a multi-national conservation project studying the species and hoping to reduce anymore fall in numbers.
I'd hoped to get to Ham Wall on the way back but given it is now Tier 3 I knew that wasn't really an option. A cracking way to end the year.............