Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saturday, October 26th - Hoop Hoop Horray on a Grey day! 2 British lifers.

So having caught a cold, and spent the previous night out with friends, I intended to relax today and catch up on some uni work. That plan lasted until about 12:30 when Zac Hinchcliffe rang me. He'd just been told that Alex Jones had found a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) on his patch in Rhyl. According to Zac, Hoopoe are notoriously difficult to twitch, so it only took about 10 seconds to decide we'd go for it. 

It took just 10 minutes to change clothes, pack the car with scope, bins, warm clothes, waterproofs, strepsils and squash, pick up Zac, fill up with petrol and get onto the A55. We were in Rhyl by 13:25 and hopeful we had made it in time to see the bird. 
Alex said that it hadn't been seen for about 30 minutes and so, with dread in our hearts, we headed in the direction of where it had last been seen. After 20-25 minutes, and 10+ birders searching, it still hadn't been found. After scanning the area, I decided that a patch of bushed and trees, much further down the path, looked good (I don't know why), and so I headed off to look. As if by magic, just 6ft from the thicket I was heading for, the hoopoe appeared out of a tree to my left, bobbed down the path in front of me and flicked up into a tree 10 metres away. With shaky hands, and a body full of adrenaline, I got the bird in my bins and rang Zac to tell him where I was. I'm not entirely sure my instructions were 100% coherent or helpful but 2 minutes later Zac and another birder came running round the corner and we all got great views. 

Picture by Zac H - Mine didn't come out very well

The bird was very flighty after these views and disappeared a couple of times before finally landing on a bank near the public footpath, allowing for great scope views.

We left at about 3pm to go and see a Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) that had been showing well for a few days at Gronant. Despite having to wade ankle deep along the flooded paths (not very helpful for my cold), we got fantastic views of the gorgeous little bird. We got to within a few metres and it seemed totally oblivious to are presence, happily spinning and feeding the whole time we were there - how do they not get dizzy!

My best shots of the Phalarope. It's a stunning little bird that was well worth getting wet feet to see. I was glad to see it happily and busily feeding despite our proximity.

Back at the car, the shoes came off, the feet were dried, the nose was blown and we headed back to Bangor. We soon left the sun behind and were hit by strong winds and rain. I've been driving for 3 years, and have done a lot of motorway driving in poor conditions, but these gusts were the first to ever make me scared about the possibility of crashing. I'm battening down the hatches and refusing to drive again until this "hurricane" strength storm has passed.

All in all, a brilliant day with 2 British lifers, my first decent refind and a few good pictures. Well worth making my cold worse for!

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