Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bob Gomes

I gained great pleasure yesterday (Friday) from attending a small gathering of people at a retirement presentation to Bob Gomes the ex-RSPB Warden at Elmley and lately of Dungeness.
I first met Bob just after he had arrived at Elmley in the late 1980's to replace Les Street and like most people have, I immediately found him a really likeable guy, extremely knowledgeable and always willing to share that knowledge. I had just become a Vol. Warden at The Swale NNR then and my vists to Elmley became very few after that and as a result never met Bob that many times after. The most recent prior to his retirement was funnily enough, at a Kate Rusby concert, where I bumped into him and Liz, we obviously share similar musical tastes.

The one memorable time that we did come together was on The Swale NNR in June 1988. On one of my morning patrols around the reserve on a warm and sticky day I suddenly spied what at first I thought was a strange Lapwing on the ground. Watching it through the binoculars it immediately became apparent that it was definitely not a Lapwing but a bird of similar size but brownish and with a very swallow/tern like flying action as it hawked for insects. I had never seen a Pratincole before but it looked very much like one that I'd seen in bird books and so rushed home to look it up and yes, it was a Pratincole. Going back the next day, I found two of them hawking for insects together, this was getting silly! Every day for the next week they were always in the same area, reasonably tame and hawking for insects and with the reserve manager on holiday I decided it would be best to get verification of what I'd seen. I was after all, a new Vol. Warden and of limited experience and repute on the Kentish bird watching scene - who was going to believe just me.
So I rang Bob at Elmley and asked him to come down and verify what I was watching every day. We arrived at the reserve on a pleasant and warm, almost Mediteranean June evening. I took him to where I hoped the two Pratincoles would still be after over a week, and yes, after crawling up an earth bund, there they still were. Bob was able to identify the two as a Black-winged Pratincole and a Collared Pratincole -how about that for a double, and we had a pint in the Ferry House Inn afterwards to celebrate.
The next day the Black-winged Pratincole had gone but the Collared amazingly, remained until September, a daily feature of my patrols and unknown to the regular passing bird watchers. One day in September it was gone but, almost certainly it, turned up at Elmley RSPB reserve the next day and was identified by a birdwatcher with knowledge of the species, as an Oriental Collared Pratincole - we had registered both the 2nd British and 1st Kent record of that species.

Bob was a great RSPB warden and of a type that the RSPB can sorely do with out, he will be missed as he spends his time on his allotment.

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