How the Grey-headed Lapwing was discovered

Subject: How the Grey-headed Lapwing was discovered
From: Lynn <>
Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2006 20:27:38 +1000
Thank you Brett and Karen and what a great story. Thanks also Bob & Sandra Cook who had very kindly found the bird for me . After spending far too long in the pub the night before conversing with birders and locals alike, the job was made much easier!!. I certainly contributed to the local economy and managed to convince a few locals that twitching is not entirely all madness.

I was able to liken seeing a new bird with that 3 letter word that we can't mention on this forum ( Starts with s and ends in x ) in that it doesn't happen that often , it is fantastic when it does , doesn't last all that long and you are forever looking for the next one .

Most farmers have a general interest in birds and wildlife on their farms. I was invited to have a cup of tea with a lovely couple the next morning and an interesting sighting they had recently was an Australian Bustard , not seen for 30 years on their place ! It was a great social outing and I was able to tick a few birding-aussers off my list as well.

My highlight on the way home was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle flapping over the road about 20kms west of Gunnedah.


Dick Jenkin
Bob Cook wrote:

Hey Brett & Karen

Thanks for bringing us all up to date with how your discovery was made.  As
you can understand, we all have been wondering about you, what the
circumstances were and how you felt about this wonderful discovery.

We joined the many "pilgrims" over the weekend and were delighted to see the
Lapwing on Sunday.
I hope you are now proud and pleased to have now become so "famous" in
Australian birding folklore.

Bob Cook

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of

Sent: Tuesday, 4 July 2006 10:34 AM
Subject: [Birding-Aus] How the Grey-headed Lapwing was discovered

Hi all,

My wife Karen and I have been following the Grey-headed Lapwing (GHL) twitch
with astonishment. The last couple of weeks has been truly amazing for us,
and after reading the post by Colin R in which he wondered who found the GHL
and how it felt, we thought we would let you all know.

I am a web designer and Karen is an accountant. We live near Jervis Bay in
the Shoalhaven region south of Sydney. We are members of Birds Australia and
the NPA, but are particularly active within our local bushwalking group, the
Shoalhaven Bushwalkers. Karen got some time off work prior to the busy tax
season, and after reading an article in the Open Road, decided we should
head for Bourke and follow the Kamilaroi Highway, with stops, walks and
birdwatching at the Western Plains Zoo, Gundabooka NP, Lightning Ridge, Mt
Kaputar and Barraba.

We were driving through Burren Junction at 11:45am on Monday, 19th June and
had just passed the silos when Karen saw up ahead what she initially thought
was a masked lapwing. It was about thirty metres off the road. As we passed
Karen took a closer look at the bird and said that we had better stop
because she did not recognise the bird at all. We stopped the car, turned
around and drove back for a better view.

We have been birding for about 15 years, and have seen over 500 species of
Australian birds (with virtually no seabirds included in our lists). As soon
as we saw the bird through our binoculars, both of us instantly knew that we
had not seen this bird before, either with our own eyes or in any of our
field guides. Karen told me to start taking some photos of the bird, and I
suggested to her that she write down some field notes. We did this while
staying in the car.

Karen wrote such things as "like a sleek lapwing", "bill yellow with the tip
(about one third) black", "red eye with yellow eye ring", "dark band across
chest, light below" while I snapped a couple of photos. The bird seemed
agitated by our presence, and when I left the car to try for a closer shot,
it flew across the road and landed near the railway line. Further approaches
were fairly unsuccessful as well. After about twenty minutes we left the
bird in peace and continued our holiday.

So how did we feel? Definitely very excited. We knew there was a possibility
that this was a rare bird for Australia, but there was also the possibility
that we were seeing something common that we simply did not recognise -
maybe a juvenile, or a different race, or a wader that had moved inland from
the coast (we have a lot of trouble identifying waders). In the next couple
of days I went through our Simpson and Day field guide, page by page, on
three different occasions and eventually convinced myself that this bird was
definitely not in the book.

At Barraba we saw three Turquoise Parrots on the dirt road while we were
returning from Horton Falls west of the town. In fact, if you had asked us
on Thursday night, when we arrived home, what the highlight of the trip had
been, we would probably have said the Turquoise Parrots, the only new bird
we had seen out of the 130 species ticked for the trip. We would not say the
same thing now .

Not having any books on foreign birds, and not even being sure that the bird
was a lapwing, Karen and I had no real idea how to go about identifying it.
However, we had a friend, Brian Everingham who was a birder, president of
the NPA, and actively involved with migratory birds and RAMSAR sites. I sent
him an email describing the bird and attached a couple of cropped images as

Brian replied to the email on Friday night, but we did not see it until
Saturday morning. It started off like this - "Are you sitting down? I'd send
these pictures off to the Rarities Committee". Brian went on to say - "the
only plover I can see with the diagnostic field markings is the Grey-Headed
Lapwing (Vanellus cinereus), a lapwing of the appropriate size, etc. and its
wintering range is in northern SE Asia - in the lands between India, through
Burma and northern Thailand. Surely a vagrant!"

At 8:39am on the Saturday morning, I forwarded my email and Brian's reply to
Tony Palliser, chairman of the Rarities Committee. It would be interesting
to find out how Tony felt when he read the email, and what happened as a

Just before 10am the phone rang. Karen answered it. At the same time the
computer in my home office chimed to inform me that I had incoming email. I
checked the email while Karen was still on the phone, and it was from Brian.
It read - "Just had an excited call from Mike Carter. he's probably on the
phone to you right this second. A first for Australia guys!!!! He confirms
my ID."

I went outside to tell Karen, and she was still on the phone. When she saw
me, she began pointing madly at the phone. I soon picked up the gist of the
conversation. It actually was Mike Carter, and he was seeking some first
hand knowledge from us before leaving Melbourne in search of the GHL. The
rest, as they say, is history, most of it being reported on this site.

Karen and I were truly gob-smacked! We have seen some good birds before,
including Regent Honeyeaters and Freckled Ducks in our local area, but a
first for Australia was simply amazing. We were very lucky - just two people
with a little bit of knowledge being in the right place at the right time.

There is a rather bizarre side-light to the whole experience. Shortly before
we left for the holiday Karen had sought and eventually found a book from
the library to read while we were away. When we saw the GHL at Burren
Junction, Karen was three-quarters of the way through the book. The book was
"The Big Twitch" by Sean Dooley! One minute Karen was reading about people
like Sean, Mike Carter, Tony Palliser etc in the book, and the next minute
she was talking to them and getting emails from them. Life can be a strange
and wonderful thing .

Good luck to all who go after the bird. We hope you get it.


Brett and Karen Davis

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