Howard prepared this story a few weeks ago, a tale of some birding from 2005...

Way back in 2005 on the 4th December, Mike Dent and I were out on the reserve conducting the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). It was a cold, still and overcast day I seem to recall and we had not seen anything of great note but there were very good numbers of Lapwing with about 2000 across the site.

The marsh was not yet open to the public (that was another 11 months away) and we had the place to ourselves. Lapwing were best counted in flight rather than all huddled on the deck but we were both checking through the birds along the far side of Aveley Pool when I scanned past a brown Lapwing with a huge eyestripe.

There was no doubt in my mind what I was looking at and I quickly got Mike onto my scope and the Sociable Plover in the middle of it.

This was going to be huge and not just because it was the first in the UK for four years but at that stage the entire world population was thought to be as low as 200 individuals and although nowadays they suspect that it may be in the low thousands, it is still an incredibly rare and threatened bird.

So there we were watching it amble around the pool edge with the occasional wing flap to reveal those striking black primaries and white secondaries and wondering what to do. The reserve was still closed to the public and only open for events so, after clearing it with Colin, the site manager at the time, I set about rounding up the local birders to marshal what was to become a very popular twitch.

(Picture by Reg Mellis)

The bird stayed until the 20th December in the end and although it sometimes gave people the run around as it moved between the marsh, foreshore and local farmland it was connected with and enjoyed by most of the 2000 birders who came to see it from across the country.

The birding volunteers did a sterling job of manning the gates and I can recall spending a entertaining day with the late Ken Barrett getting people onto site, sipping soup and coffee and even seeing the Plover in flight as it whirled about in the distance on tri-coloured wings with the clouds of Lapwings.

Some other memories spring to mind from ten years ago including a couple of radio interviews. The first DJ I spoke to insisted on called it a PLO-VER and not PLU-VER despite some pre chat advice and also deliberately slipped up and called it a Sociable Lover while another took place on the river wall while the bird was missing. Unfortunately, it was re-found on the foreshore as I was speaking, to a chorus of whoops and some choice language from the assembled crowd. I love live radio!

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