My search for Irina in Tabuk

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Following the discovery that Irina had reached North West Saudi Arabia in late October, further satellite transmissions in mid-November indicated she was still present near Tabuk.

As her location was effectively his local patch, Vivian Wilson – an Australian birder working for BAE Systems in Tabuk, who has been following the migration of our tagged Sociable Lapwings via The Amazing Journey – offered to try to locate Irina and the flock she might be travelling with for us.

Viv takes up the story of his search for her here…

“The two Robs – Tovey and Sheldon, contacted me to see if I could go and check out my usual birding spot for the satellite tagged Sociable Lapwing, Irina. I’ve been following the Amazing Journey web-site, so I was honoured to be a part of trying to locate her in the irrigated fields around Tabuk and accepted the challenge enthusiastically.

Having received the latest co-ordinates from RSPB’s Rob Sheldon, off I went armed with GPS, binoculars and my Canon 60D. I’m as much a photographer as a birder and, filled with heaps of enthusiasm and optimism, I was desperate to add a Sociable Lapwing to my collection of photographs as well as help locate Irina.

The irrigated fields around Tabuk cover a vast area and even with the latest co-ordinates it was always going to be a challenge locating any lapwings in such a huge landscape. What is it that Sociable Lapwings like about vast empty landscapes? From the endless steppes of Kazakhstan, the irrigated fields of Tabuk and the semi-desert of Sudan – these birds really like to make it difficult for the conservationists trying to save them.

I plotted out a route on my GPS, and covered as much ground as I could in areas where I had access, carefully scanning the irrigated fields that were home to a range of many bird species along the way.

Despite an extensive search, unfortunately I couldn’t locate Irina or any other Sociable Lapwings at my first attempt – the nearest I got was some Spur-winged Plovers.

But I’m not deterred.  I suppose it will become a bit of a quest to find Irina, and add her to my collection of photographed birds.

The route taken by Vivian Wilson in search of Irina

As I write, Rob Sheldon assures me that Irina is still in the area I’ve been searching but her satellite tag locations shows that she is quite mobile and is moving around the general area.

It will be intriguing to see if she stays here for the winter or carries on further south into Sudan or Ethiopia, or even south-east in to the Arabian Peninsula.

One thing is for certain – if Irina stays around Tabuk, I will continue my quest to try to locate her and play my part in tracking her Amazing Journey…”