Now my car smells of shearwater

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…

3 thoughts on “Now my car smells of shearwater

  1. Whilst some people lament the passing of summer, the Dee Estuary enters arguably its most exciting time of year due to the arrival of vast flocks of birds returning from their Arctic breeding grounds.
    The RSPB is inviting visitors to take part in a series of events across their Dee Estuary nature reserve to share some of the most impressive natural spectacles in this region.
    The heart of the RSPB Dee Estuary reserve, Burton Mere Wetlands, is renowned for its number and variety of ducks, geese and wading birds at this time of year.
    Visitors seeking help with identifying these birds can enjoy ‘Wetland Wonders, Wildfowl and Waders’ on Sunday 22 October for a guided walk around the trails with tips on learning to identify these birds. The event costs £8 per person (£6.50 for RSPB members). Booking is essential by phoning 0151 353 8478 or email
    Meanwhile, with earlier sunsets – another special autumn attraction on the Wirral – it becomes easier to witness the daily spectacle of northern England’s largest little egret colony flying in from the marsh to their night-time roost. In celebration of this wild wonder and other dusk and night-time activity at Burton Mere Wetlands, families are invited to go wild this half term with a Halloween-themed ‘Creatures of the Night” trail to follow around the reserve’s surfaced paths. The trail is free of charge and runs from Monday 23 October to Friday 3 November between 9.30am and 3.30pm.
    Elsewhere, to experience the autumn tidal phenomenon, drop in on ‘High Tide Raptor Watch’ events on Sunday 5 and Monday 6 November at the Old Baths car park on Parkgate promenade. Suitable for people of all ages and abilities, these events are free of charge, but donations are welcome. RSPB staff and volunteers will be on hand with telescopes and binoculars to enhance the impressive views. Timings vary depending on the tides, so visit for more details.


  2. Ronald Lockley! Now there’s a name to trip the nostalgia switch. Back in the day, when I was a young and adventurous member of the West Wales Naturalists Trust, I used to spend a few weeks every year on Skomer Island, just for the thrill of hearing (and smelling) tens of thousands of Manxies Guiding their mates in to the right burrow. On moonless nights the eerie calls would always make the hairs on my neck tingle as the air became thick with birds. For those unfamiliar with either Lockley or the Pembrokeshire islands, I’d strongly recommend finding and reading Lockley’s “The Island”. And if you can find the story of Reuben Codd, the last man to farm Skomer, so much the better, but I can’t remember the title.

    You might have guessed – I just fell in love with the island.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sure sign of advancing age when the long term memory kicks in half an hour after you’d given it a nudge. Reuben Codd’s story was entitled “Cliffs of Freedom”. Marvellous!

    Liked by 1 person

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