What abysmal weather we've had this weekend. For most people this has probably been nothing more than an annoyance, but if you've been watching the news, it has been a disaster for an unfortunate few. Before I get too sombre, however, for a Midlands birder like me, the chance of a passage migrant being blown off course and into one of our reservoirs or reserves is ample compensation for the decidedly inclement conditions.
On Friday evening I got wind of a Grey Phalarope that had dropped in to Shustoke Reservoir. Not wishing to miss the opportunity for another year tick [year tick 213!] I was down there Saturday morning with my father, for whom this species was a lifer.
The bird was a bit distant compared to the one I saw at Earlswood Lakes last October - mind you, that one was almost within touching distance. Thankfully though, the rain held off and the light was good so we enjoyed reasonable views of this busy little bird, not that you can tell this from my less than spectacular record shot.
Compare this with last year's bird!
Now, onto news of a rather soggy excursion and [sound of trumpets] another lifer.
A pair of Spoonbills had appeared at Coombe Hill Meadows earlier in the week and seeing that at least one of them was present again on Saturday, I decided to nip down and see if I could bag a second year tick in as many days.
Now, I'm not daft, and I did expect the place to be a bit moist, but having traipsed through the mud along the canal, I was alarmed to see that the fields leading to the hide were submerged under several inches of water. I almost expected to see Olympic man-fish Michael Phelps powering his way through the water, with yet another gold medal in his sights.
If I'd been five minutes from home at this point, I may well have turned around there and then, but after a 45 minute drive I wasn't prepared to let a bit of H20 dampen my ardour. I gingerly made my way towards the gate, but quickly realised this was not a good idea when the water got deeper and threatened to breach my welly tops.
I looked behind me and realised I could enter the adjoining field nearer the hedgerow and, with an equal amount of gingerness, made my way back from where I had just come. Stepping over a fallen tree into the field, things appeared better, but just a few yards in and the water levels were looking ominous again. Putting my best foot forward, I ploughed on. The degree of gingerness I was now displaying could have easily had me confused for Chris Evans, Mick Hucknall, or maybe even Carol Decker of T'Pau fame!
Over the next five minutes or so I eased closer to the boardwalk, which I could see was itself under water. A tricky little diversion through the trees to avoid the deepest bits finally saw me to safety. After wading along the boardwalk for a few minutes, I finally reached the sanctuary of the Grundon Hide. I don't think I've ever been so pleased to be back on dry land!
Anyway, enough of this pluvious dialogue - I expect you want to hear about the birds. Well, let's cut to the chase - the Spoonbills weren't present, but there were a pair of Spotted Redshanks, a Black-Tailed Godwit and a Curlew to be seen. Later on, I noticed a Whinchat on one of the submerged islands, probably the highlight of my morning, and there were many Mallards, Teal and a few Shovelers about too. Nice weather for them, I thought to myself.
I think a Peregrine went over at one point, but I didn't manage to get a proper look at it, clumsily homing in on a Rook that was giving it a hard time instead. Oh, and there was a Little Egret amongst the floods as I arrived. A couple of showers came and went, but failed to bring in any Black Terns or new waders. Showing true British spirit, I stuck it out for a couple of hours, then decided to give it neck. I didn't see anyone else all morning - let's face it, no other bugger would have been stupid enough to tackle these saturated pastures unless they had been born with gills and webbed feet!
After another 15 minutes of splashing about I made it back to the canal. The mud that I had cursed a couple of weeks ago now felt like the most sublime of surfaces to walk upon, but even so, I was glad once I was back in the car and heading up the M5 again!
Oh, and that lifer? Eddie Stobart truck Emilia Faith just outside Worcester!