An astonishing day.
I was expecting to arrive in Hartlepool this morning to be confronted by hundreds, nay thousands of birders, ladders, siege engines, cranes, cherry pickers, trampolines and all manner of devices that would allow you to see over a 12 foot stone wall and catch a glimpse of the female White Throated Robin lurking there.
Instead, Ralph Jones (great driving Dave), Mrs Ralph (Heather), Eugene McCann, Er Neill and I pulled up in warm sunshine at about 10am, after noticing one or two birders strolling around the terraced streets of Hartlepool headland.
"Go to the green door past the Doctor's surgery at the bottom of Olive Street", they explained. "The bird is in the garden".
I've always liked knocking on "green doors" since a misspent youthful summer in Brixton way too long ago, so we went to the door, knocked, and were let into the most beautiful walled garden, where about 30 birders were scoping the lawn.
And on the lawn, perhaps 50ft away, was a White Throated Robin.
Top marks to Dr Michael Reece for allowing access to see this wonderful bird - you can check my bottfly bites anytime doc.
Couldn't believe how small a crowd there was - no scrum, all very quiet and polite, as the bird fed happily at the bottom of the garden, occasionally disappearing over the wall for five or ten minutes.
They were probably all as awe-struck as I was, I mean to say, White Throated Robin for God's sake!
The bird was a corker - who needs a full-on vulgar male?
Lovely orange flanks, eyering, dark lores, cocked tail, and a thrushy bill, as it hopped about grabbing insects off the lawn.
Like a giant version of an autumn Bluetail in some ways, especially when it cocked its tail and drooped its wings. Wonderful.
Spent about an hour and a half admiring the beauty of a bird that should be in a rocky ravine in Turkey round about now, as it came and went.
It looked settled and happy, so if you're tempted, I strongly suggest you give into temptation.
After a full English breakfast in an empty American diner, we headed for home via a genuinely metaphysical route which saw us take in most of Yorkshire, but did include a nice Red Kite being mobbed by stuff on the outskirts of Leeds.
Great day - first British tick since last August (and I don't mean the kite)!
Thanks for the driving Ralph.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...