Dodging expertly placed piles of doggy pooh we meandered our way to said stakeout and waited for zero hour.Unfortunately none of us had the commonsense to syncronise our cronometers(watches,pagers,mobiles) so we were slightly buggered to what the exact time was for zero hour.Doc being Doc decided we should use his watch as it had the latest hour uponit and mine for later as it was the slowest(cunning what!) we just might need those extra few minutes 24 hours later on if we're still awake.DONG !!!(no not the dodgy chinky Man Utd striker) but the sound of Heswall Church (oh bugger! I've given the top secret site away whoops) sounding midnight..........let the race begin.
Bird number one a distant Welsh Oysercatcher followed immeadiately by a reeling Gropper,singing SedgeWarbler and calling Redshank we were off and running but unfortunately our two target birds were fast asleep.
A rumble of thunder or was it someones arse seemed to curtail any other avian sounds and a bolt of lightning struck the Dee estuary.....great just what the daylist doctor didn't order.After a week of blisteringly hot days and balmy nights could our timing be so unfortunate as to get the first rain of the Indian Spring...dam blast and double bugger!!!
We left the Wizzal and raced back down the M56 to our first Owl site of the night.Armed with a zillion watt B&Q searchlight that wouldn't go a miss on some remote headland i.e a lighthouse we burned the eyes of a Barn Owl as it peered out of its nest hole...whap owl number one.A decision was unanamously made (so much for all the itineries I'd produced) that a quick diversion to the local patch would hopefully grip back on of our missed Wizzal target birds.
Trudging through the wet grass at the back of Coward Reedbed the rest of the team inquired why on earth I'd suggested we ditch our wellies before the off...whoops! (my feet being bone dry in my designer Brashers ha ha!).We waited and waited and waited some more then bingo a Water Rail squealed its displeasure at the racket the local Tawnies(tick) were making.Even better the Little Owl at the back of Insomniacs house also piped up,magic three owls whapped plus one target bird we were back on schedule.
Another itinery change due again to the weather and our success had us flying down the M6 to a farm near Crewe.Incredulously my three companions listened on as a QUAIL 'wet its lips' nearby.Now thats a daylist gripper what? high fives were duly exchanged.
3.00am and we're on 17.
Next stop and its Macc Forest for dawn chorus.Time for my 5th wee of the day,must be the constant adrenalin rushes I'm having from all the grippers we've heard.Out comes the B&Q owl blinder and I fry the eyes of a new Macc Forest colonist a gaudy Mandarin of all things no need for the Raby plastics now.Several roding Woodcocks well pre dawn and Redstart (one of the first dawn singers) are ticked off.
The team casually walking back to the CCC twitch mobile having got Red Grouse,Golden Plover and Curlew,suns just over the horizon as we make our way to the famous Chimney.Rouzel,Wheatear, and for the first time ever on a May bird race a Stonechat.Dropping down into Wildboarclough we give the distant hillsides a quick scan and another first and our fourth owl a Shorty glids by.A wander down the clough produces yet more goodies with Pied Fly,Dipper (not us dudes),Grey Wag,Sparrowhawk and low and behold another daylist first two Spotted Flycatchers.Fred and I are beginning to think this could be a very good day so I have yet another wee to relieve the tension....aahhhh!
Stopping at pre selected sites (on our way out of Macc)we rackup more quality birds such as Xbill,Siskin,Wood Warbler,Lesser Redpoll and rarest of all a Tree Pipit.7.30am we're on 69
As we leave the hills the opposition speed by Groucho,Big Al,Phillis and Chequebook collectively now known as team GARY and thus 'Glitter Band'....do ya wanna be in my gang my gang...no!Enroute back to the Wizzal for the'high tide' we call in at various stakeouts,some not even on the itinery the previous day (the birds always dictate where you end up).Sandbach for one proved awesome (cheers Andy) with Wood Sand,Common Sand,Greenshank,Tree Sparrow , Wigeon and Gargeney.Neumann's had tobe done for the nesting Stilts.Here with hindsight we messed up,pushed for time we uncollectively decided to leave and head for grisley Risley thus missing out on Cuckoo and Green Woody.We then dipped Hobby (seen an hour later by the Glitter boys...bummer!) at the moss but got our only Jay and Treecreeper of the day big deal!.
11.30ish we're on 109,bird 100 being Peregrine at Lostock (10.05am)
The afternoon shift started at IMF and what daylist birds we got here - Whiskered Tern (Fred not impressed),Exocet,Little Egret,a single Knot,and found a 1st sum Med Gull.Unfortunately we missed a skulking fem.Pintail and no Ruff not a sausage.We then hit the coast at Meols to be greeted by our lookout Jane T straddling the seawall.What a wader fest we had here timed to perfection the incoming tide washed up Turnstone,Dunlin,Sanderling,Barwit,Grey Plover,Ringed Plover,Whimbrel several gull species all expertly picked out by JT (I take it all back).In the heat haze the black slick floating out to sea near the windmills turned out tobe 2500 Common Scoter (no we didn't count them) another daylist first.
Hitting New Brighton on a hot sunny weekend afternoon is not a good idea.The oil washed beach was infested with burnt blobby mickey mousers hurling rocks at passing ferries,jesus if only we could conjure up a mersey tsunami!!!
A truly horrendous sight Frank Goes To New Brighton...
We move on quickly to Red Rocks and connect with Brent Goose (another first) and two Sarny Terns adding to the Kittiwake and Common Tern at NB.
score now on 130 and its getting harder to add new species as we run out of birds and sites to visit.A stop at Thurstaston gets us Lesser Throat (cheers again JT) then we're zooming off the Wizzal to good old Frodders where Statto has been scouting ahead for us.
Within quick fire succession we whap on Little Stint,Ruddy Duck(take that Defra) and Stattos favorite daylist bird Whinchat.
Bird number 135 requires a detour to the local patch again! cos we've some how missed Nuthatch in all the excitement.A walk around the patch would surely have gotten us this and several other easy birds but time and pressure is always upon one.The planned R&R stop never happened.
At Moss Side,Eastern Reedbed we were deafened by the Cetti's Warbler (136) yet another impressive addition to a Cheshire Daylist.
Last stop stalag Woolston for two easy padders Black necked Grebe(137) and Pochard(138) with our final bird of the day Little Gull(139) flying in late on...sorted. My 19th wee of the day and we retire to The Stag for a well earned bevvie.
Pod entering the forbidden zone sshhhh! don't tell AP.
Big thanks to the rest of the team Malc for doing all of the driving,Doc for keeping score,Fred for giving me his cold,Jane T and Statto are able scouts,Andrew D for the owl sites,my Mum and Dad(god bless him) for having me,Debs for marrying me etc,etc .
Final tally 139 the 5th highest score ever in Cheshire.Team Glitter scored 130 a very creditable effort thwarted by Radars inability to read tide tables(oh dear we'll never let him forget).Next year theres always next year...bring it on!