I finally out this morning to go for some of the great birds that have been in the area throughout the bad weather - thank goodness they turned out to be long-staying.
The first challenge was negotiating the black ice which covered the roads in sheets, making for the most dangerous driving conditions I think I've ever encountered. But fearlessly I pressed on, sometimes reaching up to 30mph, until finally I reached the A428 and 16 bewick's swans. Great start.
By 8.30am I was at Grandborough to find the great great shrike - success number two as it turned up after about an hour. What a bird - a long time favourite of mine, sitting atop telegraph wires in the brilliant morning sun. Sadly, despite the fact that there were still plenty of linnets there (perhaps 200, giving the lie to my 23rd December post complaining that they're hard to find in the area!) there had been no show from the oft-reported merlin by the time my toes had finally had enough (it was still pretty cold despite the thaw).
So I headed on to Draycote for some exercise, and to find (succesfully again) the drake smew and great northern diver. A female scaup in among the pochards off Hensborough Bank was an added bonus.
That already represented a great day's birding for me, but perhaps the best was saved till last. I popped back to Draycote after lunch to take my boy out on his bike - bins and small scope to hand in case anything interesting cropped up. And sure enough, as we headed home down Toft Bank, four dark-bellied brent geese dropped into the field and started feeding. Definitely a county tick for me - indeed I can't remember seeing them on any inland site before - and yet another highlight from a great day.
Bird of the day: Great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), I can't quite explain why, but it's been one of my favourite birds since childhood. It would have to be to beat today's other great birds as my favourite of the day.