First off, apologies to Derek Williams - I had promised to call him if I was going for the Pacific Diver/Loon (loon sounds better), but lost the scrap of paper I jotted his number down on in the office.
Anyway, picked Bazzo up at 6.15am today and headed off over the frozen Pennines to Farnham Gravel Pits, near Knaresboro' where the frost was very heavy and the sky very blue, blue, blue.
Got there before 9am and paid our tenner to the Yorkies on the gate, parked and walked down to the still water to watch the incredible Pacific Loon as it cruised around amongst Coot, Great Crested Grebes and Goldeneye.
The bird was hard to photograph as it sped about at a fair rate of knots.
It "snorkelled" frequently like a Black Throated Diver, but was much smaller, more like a stocky Red Throated in size with a smaller version of a Black Throat bill.
Throat was gleaming white, with a chin strap of darker feathering and a stocky neck and big bosomy chest.
The latter meant it created quite a bow wave as it steamed through the calm water.
It's crown and nape were rounded like a Black Throat, but paler and there was a dark line of feathering edging the grey nape at the base of the neck - this was very striking, and can even be seen on the first of my crap photos.
Lovely marbled back and dark, dusky flanks - no white flank patch on this baby!
The next two pics are the ones that no one who hasn't been yet want to see, because at about 9.30am it took a serious run along the water and launched itself in the air, flying high over us and circling a few times.
Dark armpit feathering and white underwings, feet trailing behind the tail and dark head held drooped, but without a kink in the neck like a Red Throat, were all fairly obvious.
We watched as its white belly disappeared into the blue.
It hasn't been back since.
With a first for the Western Palearctic safely stowed away in our pants, I tootled down the road to Bingley, where we caught up with the American Robin, which was showing quite well until some doodle tried to get too close and it cleared off into nearby gardens.
Great bird tho' - wonderful to see one again.
Nuthatch calling around the rough ground the Yankee thrush was on, then we went looking for a Firecrest that was wintering nearby.
"Tha goes dahn yon snicket," were the directions we received from a local birder.
What was a "snicket"?
A peanut filled choccy bar?
An arcane knitting pattern?
A shortcut to Narnia?
A little unnerved, Bazzo and I set off in search of a "snicket", and deciding that a path dropping down to a nearby canal was probably what the guy meant, followed that.
We, and he, were right.
In a canalside garden were Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits, Robins, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail - and a fleeting view of a nice bright Firecrest in a willow tree, which meant it was mission accomplished and time to head home across the border and into civilisation again.
I was drinking cold Stella in the back garden at Dempsey Towers enjoying the subtle warmth of a winter sun on my face by 2pm.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies....