It's always a worthwhile afternoon when you learn a valuable life lesson.
Today for example, Er Neill discovered NEVER to borrow a pair of wellies off Tropical if you're going to wade across to Hilbre on a falling tide for a butchers at the first winter Bluetail.
He'd barely cleared Red Rocks and the saltmarsh (Stonechat, Reed Bunt, Mipit) before he sprung a leak, and that was before the big wade across to Little Eye, half an hour before we should have set off safely.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Splash, splash, splash.
Not much on the walk/wade across, apart from Red Breasted Merg in the channels and a big roost of Oycs at Little Eye, but at least the squelching sound of his socks turning to mush kept us company as we crested Middle Eye and slithered across the rocks and channels to the island proper.
Peregrine overhead and Rock Pipit on the main island as we arrived at about 3.15pm, only to be directed over the rocks along the east side of the island to the sandstone cliffs under the heligoland, where the Red Flanked Bluetail had been flitting around three minutes before.
Half an hour later, there was no sign, then we learnt that the bird had been retrapped and was at the Obs....cue a quick slither over the rocks and up onto the island for a "down the line" bird in the hand experience.
The Bluetail was walked past about 35 appreciative birders, and I managed a few point and press shots.
Neill's pictures, as is often the case, are far nicer though - clearly the seawater didn't reach as far as his camera as he waded across the receding waters of the Dee.
The Bluetail was released again around the trapping area (Blackcap, Wren, Robin), and after a failed stake-out for the supersexy male Firecrest on the island, we walked back onto the east beach for another look in fading light.
The bird was hyperactive, zipping around the rocks and cliffs like a flycatcher, as it grabbed midges and avoided the attentions of an aggressive Robin.
By late afternoon, that part of the island is in shade, so my digiscoped shots were pitiful at best.
Luckily Mr Squelchy, sorry Er Neill, managed better pictures with his SLR as the bird fed 20 feet from us.
Lovely little birdy - any day with a Bluetail in is a good one, so many thanks to the good folk at Hilbre Bird Observatory for making sure everyone got on the critter.
I was surprised that so few birders made the march over to the island this afternoon - I know Bluetail is no longer the mega it was as recently as 1993, but they really are great birds, so if you're off tomorrow and the bird is still there - check the tides, and get your wellies on!
Thanks to Neill for the lift over and excellent pictures, thanks to the gods of the tides that allowed us to walk straight to Red Rocks at 5.25pm, getting back to the car in 20 minutes.
Been too long since I last visited Hilbre (mental note - go more often).
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...
(Almost forgot, one or two Cheshire birders remarked how I don't look like the headshot at the top of the blog anymore. It's true, that shot was taken by Er Neill some years ago, when I was suffering a hangover from hell, so if it's any help, and if you see me in the field, I now look a bit more like George Clooney (or is it George Formby?), except with a few bottles of Peroni stuffed in my coat. Luckily Er Neill snatched the following new id shot today, which should make things easier for everyone.)