As the pot-bellied Woodcock came flapping over my head in the blue, blue sky above the car park at Sands Lake at Ainsdale today, before wheeling around and disappearing back into the landward section of the LNR, my mind raced back to a strange evening long ago and far, far away.
Back then and up in the wilds of northern Finland, “Mad Dog” Bannon had insisted that the best way to get good views of Woodcock was to throw your hat in the air as the bird passed and allegedly it would land where the hat fell (Mad Dog is full of suitably bizarre country lore like this – he’d always have a white hankie out and be waving it about before you could say Caprimulgus europaeus like a demented Morris Dancer).
In the Land of the Midnight Sun and in a sleep-deprived state having birded through 24-hour daylight for nearly three days straight I decided to give the hat trick a go beside a lovely lake in downtown Kuusamo, where several Woodcock were wheeling about, and hurled my baseball cap up into the air.
I can still hear their sniggering and the guffaws of Red Necked Grebes further out on the lake today, as my hat sat neglected on the bank.
Bewildered Kuusamonians walked nervously by as I kept chucking my hat about without success (although they probably see a lot stranger behaviour during Reindeer wee season)
No cap available this lunchtime, and I was way too slow with the camera to get an image of the Woodcock as it went over me, but they are always great birds to come across, hat trick or not.
Three drake Pochards fishing on the calm water today, with Shoveler, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Cormorants as usual, and Great Tits singing in the scrub around the boardwalk (Tawny Owls were calling around Dempsey Towers last night).
Sands Lake might not be the hottest birding spot going, but it’s handy for a lunchtime stroll, can be good for Water Rail – and is a great place to practice with the camera.