Its May and once again the Comberbach Casuals are stood out in the cold freezing their respective nuts off waiting for zero hour at a top secret location somewhere in Cheshire. Yes its the start of our annual attempt to see 150 species within the borders of Cheshire in a single day.
Having prepared a plan better than the D-Day landings and more meticulous than Poirot we nearly miss the bell as we 'jog' (stroll fast) to our pre planned starting point.
We score two out of a possible three with a few padders thrown in and we're off and running. Driving round several owl sites we eventually hit the jackpot and three of us grip the Barn Owl that we got in the same place as last year (we've already reverted back to Infocus Birdrace rules!!)
At Neumann's we are blessed with an inland wader fest as LRP, Whimbrel, Snipe, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Lapwing are whapped onto the list all on call despite several silly attempts to scope them (at 2am in the night). We did have a night scope but this piece of kit is much better for perving than birding apparently...
With 25 species under our preverbial belts we head to the Eastern Hills where unbeknown to us the mist is still lingering.
Now I know you'd love me to spill the beans on how, where and in which tree the Casuals find the goodies but tough shit!...its taken us years of practice and jamminess plus a few well placed bribes to secure their whereabouts so go look for yourselves.
That said we suffered badly and for the first time ever dip Rouzel and Wood Warbler. But also came up trumps with a calling LEO, a road side SEO and a displaying Common Sandpiper (we missed this last year). Leaving the hills we were on 75 and the clocks just passed 8.00am.
The first knobhead moment of the day arrives as a hastily planned 10 minute stop sees Gregsy and Fred leg it off in one direction, myself in the other whilst poor old Malc is still negotiating a rather high barbed wire fence. Suffice to say target bird dipped and smacked bottoms all round...if you're going to spreadout, spreadout in a bunch doh!
The 'Patch' sees my spouse arrive with our secret weapon...4 mountain bikes that we use to great effect and rack up such goodies as Med Gull, Lesser Whitethroat, Bullfinch and a rather late Goldeneye (how did you miss that Groucho?)...19 new species in all 9 of which we never saw anywhere else. A bacon butty awaited our dismount then it was off via Moore (total dip) to the Wizzal, our score exactly 100 only 50!! to go.
Spending what seemed like hours searching in the wrong place for a Whinchat we cut our lossess and did the wader/incoming tide/seawatch bit racking up another 16 species of such birdrace quality like Arctic Skua, Eider and Red throated Diver.
Seven more goodies at IMF but no feckin Spoonbill that had been there on and off for a month took us to 123.
A call from Mr Wizzal and we get awesome views of a drumming Lesser Spot, a rare bird on the Wirral me thinks.
Can't say much else as that would give the game away but we then proceeded to add Tree Sparrow, Goosander, Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer, dip a Little Owl doh!, Corn Bunt, BN Grebe, Pochard and finally a birdrace first Willow Tit.
132 being the 'Team' total, I missed Snipe and Willow Tit but was the only one to get Water Rail so 131 for me this year a dam fine effort what?
Next year you bet, that 150 barrier is still there to be broken cest' la vie.