Just why Mark and I were at Frodsham Marsh on 26th Sept 1987 is long forgotten, though I expect it was promising weather conditions or a run of Nearctic waders in the country, since then, as now, it takes a lot to get me away from north Wirral. We had parked up near the log and not seen a great deal, despite walking up to and around the I.C.I tank, checking the Weaver Bend and even getting as far as the Bailey Bridge. Having struck out we started walking back round the IC..I tank, which held a largish gull roost, shimmering in the heat haze. I thought I could see something with a slightly paler mantle in the middle of them and was thinking Mediterranean Gull, which would have been quite a good find then.
The combination of heat haze and distance persuaded me that I’d be better off if I scrambled over the edge of the tank so that I could rest my elbows on my knees and get a steadier view, sat on the inner edge. Just as stepped over the top, there was a completely unexpected explosion of black white and pink from the bare ground in front of me and a Hoopoe took off and flapped low across the tank.
Normally when you find a good bird there is a short or sometimes long period of slow realisation as you piece together clues to its identity and you get a chance to work out how to communicate what is going on. Not so on this occasion. I knew it was a Hoopoe in the same instant as the photons hit my retina. I also knew that there was a chance that it might just disappear if I didn’t persuade Mark to turn round and come up the bank. He was watching the bend. I am told not a single word that came out of mouth made any sense at all (except a few choice expletives). Allegedly I was similarly incoherent when a Pallas’s Warbler interrupted my attempt to put yoghurts in the fridge, by flying across the bottom of the garden, when neither the words Pallas’s nor Warbler passed my lips. I blame the adrenalin. Fortunately on that warm day at Frodsham I managed to convince Mark of the urgency of the situation and he joined me on the edge of the tank while we watched the Hoopoe cross over the gulls and apparently land on the far edge near the bridge.
So what to do next? There is a Hoopoe down somewhere on the edge of the I.C.I tank and no other birders nearby. No mobile phones. Then I saw in the very far distance a group of birders, heading off towards Frodsham Score. I left Mark staking it out and set off to tell them. I was quite fit then, but even so by the time I jogged up to them I was hacking my lungs up and really rather sweaty. As I got closer to the group I started to feel less and less that this was a good idea. My worst fears came when I finally caught up to them and explained between gasps for breath, that there was a Hoopoe about. I think their exact words were “That’s nice Deary” as they carried on unpacking their flasks and sandwiches. On reflection I might have been quite an alarming sight/sound. Next I headed off into Frodsham where I hoped that I could find a telephone box. Fortunately I did and was able to make the appropriate phone calls. When I got back to Mark, I was treated to the surreal view of the Hoopoe flying up the Weaver within a flock of Redshank, before it crossed the River and appeared to fly into Weston and was seen shortly after over the embankment at the Rocksavage works
Written by Jane Turner.
Note book illustration. WSM