Corresponding wives and girlfriends have realised for quite some time that Marshside's finest have been missing a really good adventure in recent months (watching Jellyhead kicking cluster bombs in Israel in April is a distant memory now), so thanks to them all for letting us go to West Galway for the day yesterday for the Little Blue Heron.
We organised ourselves with commendable efficiency so that I'd booked a day return ferry from Holyhead to Dublin, filled the Baby Black Death with petrol and even sorted tyre pressure by 3.30pm on Sunday.
I picked up Neill, Tropical and Jellyhead and we roared off at about 10pm.
Reassuringly Neill had broken the Sat Nav by the time we reached Halkyn in the early hours and fixed it by Conway, only for Tropical to break it again by Anglesey.
And we didn't have a map of Ireland.
Or any Euros.
In retrospect I'd bring both next time - the sight of Tropical's face when he realised shopkeepers won't give him food/beer for free just because he is one of nature's gentlemen was truly heartbreaking.
Anyway we landed at 6am and I pointed the Baby Black Death west through the Irish rain with the nice lady on the Sat Nav (who was speaking to us again by this time) telling us where to go.
Arriving at Letterfrack on the Galway coast, deep in the Connemara National Park (begorrah...and indeed, bejaysus) just after 10am yesterday, we saw the juvenile Little Blue Heron immediately, feeding on the far side of Barnie Bear Bay (at least that's what it sounded like, it was hard to be sure without a map).
Excellent - first for Britain and Ireland, and only the fourth for the Western Pal (the other three were on the Azores, and if you count that as Europe, I'm having Cape May on my list too).
Usual problems photographing a white heron type, so my pix aren't great (Neill's will be much better) - exposure, distance etc, but you can see what it is at least.
Identification-wise, it was pretty straightforward (but it always is when someone else has done the hard work already), stockier about the neck than Little Egret, with long grey green legs, and a long decurved powder blue bill with a dark tip.
The bare lores looked greenish to me.
When it wandered closer to us, you could make out grey smudges on its crown, nape and chest, otherwise the plumage was startling (and digi-scope killing) white.
When it fished, it appeared to have an odd kink at the top of the neck, which it held stiffly, with its bill pointing straight down - I don't remember that on Little Blues I've seen on the other side of the pond.
In flight, dirty greyish tips of the outer primaries were just visible - but not always.
Occasionally when fishing at the water's edge it would sway its head and neck from side to side like a snake - very striking.
Delighted with the bird (a day trip to the west coast of Ireland only to dip would have been very, very silly), we watched it for about three hours, with other birders who'd made the effort to connect with it arriving from around the UK and Ireland, including Pete Marsh, from Heysham Bird Observatory who wisely caught up with a few zeds after giving the bird a good grilling.
Apart from the Little Blue, two Otters were in the bay, with Shag and Whimbrel, and Irish Coal Tits called in the trees behind us. Hooded Crows mobbed a Raven over the distant hills, and a few Rock Pipits zipped around the water's edge.
Apparently the Little Blue Heron has been in the area since August 30th, when it was photographed in Mayo, but the id was only really clinched on Sunday morning - just goes to show, you should always check those Little Egrets at Marshside.
With the bird in the bag, it was time to head east again (pausing only for a regulation pint of Guinness in Letterfrack), to catch the 9.15pm boat from Dublin back to Holyhead.
Got back to Southport at about 4am this morning.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...