Having spent most of the past couple of days dealing with family matters I left Annie at her parent's house this afternoon and made my way home to finish off a job that was due to go to print this week.
On the way down from Hitchin I had to go via Heathrow on the M25, and seeing as I had made up good time and it was only a five-minute detour off the motorway, I dropped in at Staines Resevoir in the hope the Velvet Scoter was still about. I didn't have my scope or camera with me, just a pair of bins that are always in the car.
I wasn't going to focus so much on Staines this year, as I'm trying to get a list together using the Surrey border prior to Spelthorne's inclusion, but I couldn't resist it.
Walking up the causeway I met up with Staines patchmeister, Ken Purdey, and - at long last - top Tice's Meadow birder and new birding buddy, Rich Seargent. The Scoter had predictably flown off and had apparently relocated on the Queen Mother Reservoir, so there wasn't much about. A group of Smew had been present, but they had also disappeared.
I spent the next quarter of an hour chatting to Rich, when Ken, who had been quietly getting on with scanning the water, commented: "I'm just going to walk up to the other end of the reservoir, because I think I've seen a couple of Slavonian Grebes."
Slovanian Grebes! Both Rich and I joined Ken on the trek up the causeway. And sure enough, Ken was spot on. Two sleeping Slavonian Grebes were drifting across the south basin. What a great find, and typically, had nothing to do with my birding skills whatsoever. I took a good look using both Rich and Ken's scopes, and after staying for a few minutes to drink in the discovery, we left.
So, a great and unexpected start to January, and I haven't been out for a full day yet (my list is stuttering on 24 so far). Next stop, my local patch at Holmethorpe.