There’s never a hat around when you need one…


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.



2 thoughts on “There’s never a hat around when you need one…

  1. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the UK will be peering out of their classroom windows this month to take part in the world’s biggest school wildlife survey.
    Now in its 15th year, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, giving the charity an insight into the wildlife which is doing well or not so well, and providing schoolchildren with a great learning experience.
    Running from 4 January- 12 February 2016, the survey encourages schoolchildren of all ages, and their teachers, to count the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day. Each school’s findings help the RSPB’s experts to build a picture of bird populations and monitor any changes, while carrying out the survey helps children to improve their observation skills.
    Last year, a record breaking 90,000 pupils and teachers across the UK took part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which revealed the blackbird as the most commonly seen bird in school grounds, with 85% of schools seeing an average of five.
    Now the RSPB is looking forward to receiving this year’s school wildlife sightings, which also contribute to the results of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world, taking place on 30-31 January.
    James Harding-Morris, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator said: “This fun and educational activity is suitable for all ages and abilities and, best of all, it takes just one lesson or lunchtime”.
    There is still time for schools to sign up to take part in the Birdwatch. Teachers, helpers or children don’t need to be experts to take part in the survey. To register to take part, visit


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