As I slid into the driver’s seat I noticed the lid on the box in the passenger footwell was slightly ajar and in the dark I could hear a scuttling noise.
It was just like that bit in “Aliens” when Ripley and Newt are locked into the medi-lab after the nasty beasties have been released from their holding jars in an act of predictable corporate wickedness.
Okay, it wasn’t quite as scary as that, but the bottom line was that the Manx Shearwater had got out of its box and was now somewhere in my car in the pitch dark.
The air was permeated not so much by the stench of fear as the pong of straw and pilchards.
I didn’t want to dazzle the bird with a light before release so the Manxie had the advantage over me (being raised in a dark, cramped burrow).
So we played cat and mouse, or rather idiot and shearwater, in the confines of the wheels.
After a bit of fumbling, and nips and scratches from its pointy bill and claws (great for climbing out of holding boxes) I cornered the shear under my seat and bundled it back into the box before heading to Ainsdale beach.
I don’t know how long it had been wandering around my car, but the odd thing was when I left it there, I’m sure there was a Paco Pena CD on the deck.
When I finally turned the ignition on, the Pogues started playing instead…perhaps this was an Irish Manxie?
Once I got out to the eerie water’s edge at Ainsdale it seemed anxious enough to be off and after two false starts flew strongly into the night – only to veer back east and head inland!
Ronald Lockley eat your heart out.
It was probably heading back for some more of the luxury pilchards Dave Bickerton had fed it after it was discovered on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Rishton on Thursday evening.
The bird was dropped off to me by Cheryl from Lancs Wildlife Trust yesterday for release once night fell and gulls couldn’t snaffle it.
Fully fed and watered the shearwater had spent most of the afternoon sleeping, while I enjoyed Common and Jack Snipe in the dunes during a guided walk.
A strange evening took a further turn for the surreal when after the success of Operation Pilchardface I popped up to the Legless Arms, where Neill Hunt displayed the sad corpse of a Black and White Warbler he discovered on a cargo ship that docked at Liverpool.
The ship had come in from Belgium, but before that it had sailed from Wilmington in North Carolina, a far more likely port of embarkation for the ex-Yankee warbler than the Low Countries.
I thought the eau de shearwater in my car was a heady perfume before I caught a whiff of this wonderful, but very dead, waif.
Nope, you can’t tick dead Megas.
Don’t think you’ll want to be keeping that in Mrs H’s best tupperware for too long Neill…