Nope, do not adjust your screens – these really are the best pictures I could manage of the world’s most miserable looking Hoopoe as it rooted around in the rainsodden West Midlands turf at Wall Heath this morning – poor thing seemed to be catching stuff, but it was actually hard to say whether it was waving or drowning in the downpour.
After about five minutes it flapped off on ridiculous wings into a stand of trees and we left it to its business.
I’d been picked up by Trops before he collected Neill and Pete Allen at an ungodly hour this morning – the plan appeared to be year listing despite the weather, which only eased down from torrential at about 3.30pm.
Who was I to argue?
After we’d got the early spring overshoot out of the way we turned back north through Wolverhampton and the M6, whizzing past Jodrell Bank and down Cheshire country lanes that were rapidly disappearing under floods.
Next stop was Lapwing Hill Pool, where a Black Necked Grebe was diving away alongside Goldeneye, Goosander and dabblers in the gloom.
By now we were very wet, but another year tick buoyed spirits until we spectacularly failed to find the long-staying Smew in another part of the Cheshire, which was far more mere-y and it must be said, particularly Farmer Palmery – you can’t park here y’know.
Drenched and Smewless we pushed on north and into Wirral as the rain got heavy enough to put the willies up Noah himself.
Surely the Pallas’s Warbler wouldn’t be showing on Target Lane in Heswall by mid-afternoon would it?
Well yes, actually, it could!
In spite of the torrential rain we joined a small group of birders peering through the fence of the sewage works there, and after a few minutes a feeding wave swept through the bare branches of the trees and scrub beyond.
There were Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and suddenly a fine Pallas’s Warbler – tiny, stripey and yellow-arsed enough to put a smile on anyone’s face – bird of the day without a doubt, especially as it has been a year or two since I’ve seen one.
However our inner photographers were telling us we needed to get some half decent images of something today – so Paul pushed on to West Kirkby Marine Lake, where after a bit of sneaky behaviour using the shadow of the seaward bank for cover, we finally managed to locate the Great Northern Diver, and miracle of miracles, the rain stopped as we walked round to watch it diving away 20 feet off the footpath in the late afternoon sun.
Excellent driving by Tropical Thomason (although I think we know the collected works of James and Kings of Leon well enough now thank you Trops), leap of faith navigation by Neill Hunt to get us to all the birdies and the usual perennially optimistic “ain’t rain brilliant” approach from Mr Allen.
Thanks for a great start to the year boys…