Neill picked me up at an ungodly hour this morning and with Mike S, Jason and June, we hared south to Staines Moor in the shadow of Heathrow Airport for the Brown Shrike.
Just like old times really, we found the general area quickly enough, then with unerring incompetence took completely the wrong path through the scrub and wasteland in search of the little beauty....disturbing only fishermen and Ring Necked (sorry, Rose Ringed) Parakeets.
I couldn't help but notice that locals spoke VERY loud, an inevitable side effect of jet after jet roaring over their heads as they took off from Heathrow - the noise was deafening, and I suspect that after a week catching wasps and sitting on top of hawthorn bushes in the area, the Brown Shrike's hearing will be worse than a tinnitus sufferer's after a Motorhead gig.
Deaf, or not, the bird showed really well this morning, affording us fine scope views when we found the right path, but it was a little too far away for quality digiscoping.
Nice bit of abo it has found itself though, despite the racket from Heathrow - as long as the wasps keep coming, it may stick around a while longer.
After an hour and half watching the shrike (my fourth UK tick this year!), we headed back up the road through Oxfordshire, calling in a Didcot tip/power station (we go to all the best places), in the hope that "Mr Stinky", the Azorean Yellow Legged Gull would put in an appearance.
"Mr Stinky" was a no show, but plenty of Red Kites kept us entertained, with up to 24 in the air at once, stunning birds and great to see the reintroduction scheme has gone so well.
Green Woodpecker, Chiffy and Common Darter here too, but by 3.45pm we'd had enough and pushed on back north on the M6 at its most congested - the less said about that tarmac coated nightmare the better.
Superb driving by Neill, although I think two cans of energy drink may have pushed his sugar levels over the top, 'cos by the time we reached Stafford he was buzzing faster than 50 hives of speeding killer bees.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...