Picked up Bazzo at 7am as Southport still lurked in the deep freeze and headed off up the M6 and across country to Saltholme Pools near Middlesbrough for the Glaucous Winged Gull this morning.
Fortified only by Theakston's fudge (they were giving boxes of it away with every four pints bought in the Legless Arms last night apparently), we raced past numerous speed camera signs, frost bitten sheep and bleak north Pennine villages to a bitterly cold industrial wasteland and the pools which still had a heavy coating of ice.
Good gull roost on 'em, and joy of joys, the adult Glaucous Winged Gull was sitting right in the middle of them, preening and occasionally dozing off.
Lovely scope views showing the bird's long, grey primaries, short tail and grey head and neck.
Bulky certainly, but not much bigger than a Herring Gull - I was expecting something bigger and meaner, but perhaps it was just having an off day.
Back and primaries the same colour, a darker grey than Herring Gull.
The bill didn't look that big or impressive compared to nearby Herring Gulls, but the dark pinky brown legs and dark eye were as obvious as the wing pattern.
It spent a fair bit of time preening, when the subtle colours of the primaries were nicely displayed, and in between gobfuls of splendid Theakston's fudge (if I mention it enough, maybe they'll send me some free beer), I managed a few digiscoped shots, although I couldn't feel my fingers on the shutter release half the time it was so bloody cold up there.
Didn't think I'd get another crack at one of these in the UK, having missed the South Wales bird in 2007, although by the tales of constant rain and pain from those that went for that critter and dipped, that was no bad thing.
"Turn up, see the bird" twitches are always nice, and after 45 minutes, we wandered over to nearby Dorman's Pool, just in time to watch an adult Glaucous Gull flying off to the rubbish tip and several Water Rails skittering about on the ice.
A Peregrine spooked the gulls, Starlings and crows at one point, and there were a few Fieldfares about, but not a great deal else - still the day was all about the gull and that was safely in the bag.
Headed home through Middlesbrough - I'm sure the people are lovely, and the Transporter Bridge was a bit of a giggle, but I can safely say I now know what it'll look like when hell freezes over.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...