I had been looking wistfully at reports of a Hoopoe at Clayhanger Marsh, in the West Midlands - it would be a UK 'lifer' for me. It seemed a bit far to go - and then I checked and found that this was only 40 km (25 miles) away from my home! It was sunny (although the weather forecast was not good), and so I set off, a bit later than I would have liked. I arrived to find that the bird had not been seen for over an hour, after it had flown off along the old railway embankment. I amused myself, whilst scanning around, with grabbing some images of some of the warblers, of which there were plenty around.
With no sight of the bird for well-over three hours, and virtually no one around now (presumably because of the failing weather and lack of bird), I decided to take a circular exploration of the site. This bird has a reputation for being elusive, and the site is a large one, with the bird being seen in several different areas. Then the rain started, followed by a heavy hail storm which stung (I'm rather bald, and was not wearing a hat!). Couldn't resist a shot of a very wet Starling. On getting back to the the slag heap I found a couple of birders sheltering under a bush and I thought that it was time to go. That was my biggest mistake - ten minutes after I left it was spotted beside the slag heap!
Encouraged by fine weather, and the blessings of my wife, I decided to return the following day. I arrived to find no one in sight anywhere, and no sight of the bird, from the slag heap. I was just about to leave when another birder arrived from the opposite direction. He had not seen anything from the other side either. After chatting for a few minutes I set off to explore the other potential areas. On the way, I found this Reed Bunting singing loudly.
As I approached the green bridge, I saw that people had arrived since I had looked from the slag heap, and they were obviously onto something. I stopped looking for Grasshopper Warbler and made a bee-line for the bridge - there was the Hoopoe, albeit at a great distance. And there it stayed for a long while, until it disappeared behind a gorse thicket, so only record shots obtained with my 400 mm lens.
Hoopoe (for me, a record shot is better than nothing!)
In trying to find where the Hoopoe had gone, I found this Whitethroat - possibly the same one as on the previous day, as it was in roughly the same location.
Having returned to the bridge, I was told that someone had walked across the meadow and flushed the Hoopoe (I later spoke to a couple who confessed to inadvertently doing this - so I forgive them) - so I decided to head off. On the way back to the car, I stopped to take some shots of a Sedge Warbler.
After Clayhanger Marsh, I set off to have my lunch at my favourite picnic spot again. However, I was foiled by the road access being closed "for a few days" from both directions for roadworks. (the previous day, it had been already fully occupoed by bird photographers and 'locals. I decided, therefore, that I'd take my lunch at Croxall Lakes, on my way home. There were plenty of warblers around, but no photos resulted (just missed shooting a pair of Lesser Whitethroat), except for a few butterflies.