Yesterday produced an unexpected but most welcome surprise in the shape of a Hoopoe at Middleton on Gower. First reported on Saturday during torrential rain I originally gave it a miss as Hoopoe is easily my biggest bogey bird and I didn’t fancy another wet, fruitless search (see this entry from 2010 for my last unsuccessful hunt for one). Early on Sunday however it became clear that the bird was still present and so we duly headed over. Our arrival was greeted with persistent drizzle that the wind rather nicely blasted into our faces as we peered into peoples neatly manicured gardens. By the time we’d exhausted the houses in Middleton and the path heading across to Rhossili, a familiar sense of deja-vu began to settle. Would this be another Hoopoe that slipped through the net? At least the rain had stopped and with only the Nitten field left to check we were pinning our hopes there. As we neared its top edge it was with some disbelief that our quarry flew in from the left and landed on the path twenty meters or so ahead of us! It was only there for a few seconds before hopping up into a bordering tree where it seemed to settle down. From our vantage point half of the bird was obscured behind a large branch but we could still see enough of that ludicrous plumage to well and truly tick it off.
Normally this is the point at which I’d include a dodgy record shot of the bird in question, but not this time. In a case of reverse psychology I’d actually left my camera in the car in the hope that would encourage the Hoopoe into showing itself. Clearly my plan had worked but that left me with a quick dash back into Middleton. On the way I bumped into Jeff and Peter who were just arriving and we all piled down the track to where Emma had been keeping tabs on the Hoopoe. To my relief it was still present but as soon as we moved to get a better view it was off like a rocket, high and distant to the east.
We scanned the area for a short while before I suggested that a walk over to the car park at Mewslade might be a good bet. It felt about the right distance away for where the Hoopoe had headed and I had a great image of it feeding there in my mind. Of course when we got there that proved to be just a dream and we set about scanning the fields again. Jeff and Peter moved up towards the small chapel whilst I headed along the track back to the main road. Astonishingly the Hoopoe chose that moment to land on a telegraph pole ahead of us, finally allowing me to get that dodgy record shot.
Emma legged it back to the others but the bird sat for less than twenty seconds before flying strongly back in the direction of Middleton. We set off in pursuit but couldn’t relocate it again before my rumbling stomach and work commitments led us back home. The others stayed around for a good while longer and I’m happy to say they got good views and some proper images in the end. I recommend checking them out here.
At Middleton I also saw my first Swallows of the year with four individuals flying in off the coast. That seemed to open the floodgates with several more being spotted on the drive home plus one on the patch later in the evening. Not bad for a weekend that initially promised so little.