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2 weeks in Oregon 14th-28th August '19.

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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 00:04   #1
KenM
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2 weeks in Oregon 14th-28th August '19.

A trip to see our family in Portland Oregon, by courtesy of Delta airlines (absolutely no complaints), a 9.5 hour flight LHR-Portland direct, landing mid-day (8 hours behind GMT). A c20m. transfer to our accommodation (a condo in my daughter's and partner's house). Our itinerary was 15-17th inclusive at the condo, departing South and road tripping to pre-booked three site accommodation for 6 days (Bend, Corvallis and Cannon Beach).

Returning on Sat.24th. spending a further 4 days with the family before departure on the 28th. Hire car was a small Hyundai Kona SUV, overall mileage travelled was c600 miles and it was a pleasure to drive...I could get used to automatics!

On our first morning at my daughter's, her partner Cedric suggested a half day trip (him and I) to Sauvie Island, a mere 30 minute drive away....to which I reluctantly agreed as I'd have to take my bins and camera just in case we bumped into anything of interest. Realistically I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary, as I've been a good number of times over the years and the date was a little early for any meaningful movement of passerines etc, thus we climbed into his 5.3 litre work pick-up truck, then headed out to the Freeway and Sauvie Island.

The plan was that he'd Blackberry pick whilst I ''casually'' birded, thus with me looking up and him (non-birder) looking down...we should have it all covered and surprisingly....it worked far better than one might have ever imagined! We crossed the bridge looking down on the mighty Willamette river and within moments Osprey, Purple Martin and Red-tailed Hawk came into view...''a good omen'' said I?

We drove almost parallel to the river for perhaps a couple of miles before stopping in a National forest state car park, clambering out the truck before following the well trodden path we grabbed a couple of bottles of water, as it was somewhat hot...c30+ degrees C. The path (bramble-edged mostly) took us through old forest (very tall Aspen type trees and clearings, with low lying meadow and river edge. As I was ''struggling'' to find any form of avian life I started to pish (very thirsty work in the heat of the day) eventually pulling out a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, a Western-wood Pewee then Cedric shouted look at this!

As I looked over, a basket half full of blackberries held with one hand, whilst excitedly pointing with ''tother'' to a small leaping pale green ULO (unidentified leaping object) about two foot off the ground disappearing into the leafage. Cricket said I? no he replied! a frog! as we parted the leaves, there two foot off the ground, a superb Pacific-tree Frog....life tick for all!! Images subsequently taken and ID'd later that evening. Eventually we arrived at the river bank with the ubiquitous Turkey Vulture overhead, also Vaux Swift missile-ing through the Barn and Violet Green Swallows overhead.

At this point we decided to head back along the trail, with Cedric getting more ''credits'' for pointing out...two White-tailed deer that I'd totally missed, walking straight passed just a few metres away...another lifer!! After a bit more ''pishing'' I evoked the soft ''wh-ipp-wh-ipp'' return of Swainson's Thrush followed by several heavily shadowed sightings, a meagre tally from moi...just seven avian species to show for a 2 mile trudge. Little did I know that we were about to experience another Lifer, certainly one that I'll take to the grave (almost put me in it!!).

With a c100m to go before reaching Cedric's truck, I zipped my camera away into the case as we ambled along the path, me staring into the trees and Cedric wilting under the weight of his c5lbs of Blackberries to which he was still adding. As we moved out of direct sunlight onto a more shadowed track there was a sudden shout from Cedric...lookout! as he pointed downwards, I couldn't see anything at first, assuming that it was another Tree-Frog thus I slowed my down-step before knee-jerking back into my chest with absolute horror!! Directly beneath my foot, a coiled, head reared, c18'' snake with a bright red spitting black-forked tongue!!

If ever time stood still, yet incongruously flashed by simultaneously, this was it! From jaw-dropping horror, to standing on one leg, whilst trying to unzip my camera bag with expletives pouring forth, lest I was unable to image what could potentially be the most remarkable circumstantial shot that I'd ever taken, was just too much to bear.
Eventually dis-entangling my camera from the case and getting this stunningly beautiful glossy black reptile, sporting a complete contrasting white dorsal stripe from fore to aft, with accompanying lateral red spots, was certainly a moment never to be forgotten!

The gods were smiling that day, as I managed several frame fillers before it slithered into the track edge labyrinth of cover, to put that encounter into some sort of perspective, it was only the fourth wild snake that I'd ever seen, add to which it's ID and toxicity level was completely unknown to me.
Later identified as a Red-spotted Garter Snake and relatively harmless, what a start to the holiday ''three lifers'' in one afternoon!

To be continued.....
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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 15:58   #2
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Friday August 16th and Saturday 17th were spent ''loafing'' around the Portland parks including Mount Tabor, casually picking up Rufous and Anna's Hummingbird, Bush Tit, White-crowned and Song Sparrows, Blue Heron, Western and Glaucous-Winged Gulls, Oregon Junco, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Orange-crowned Warbler (only one of just 4 Warbler species encountered on the trip).

An early rise on Sunday 18th, had us heading to the local car rental site (Hertz) where after a few practice laps of the car park in the ''automatic'' always remembering to thrust my left foot ''hard into the footwell'', reminding me of that famous scene from Dr Strangelove, where Peter Sellers strenuously holds down his right arm with his left!

Our first objective was East on the Freeway 84 to Hood River (caffeine break) before tackling the long haul to Bend, an extremely scenic drive through Mountain, rivers and lakes of Multnomah county. En route seen badly (driving), were several immature Bald Eagles and Ospreys along with the inevitable Turkey vultures, arriving at our destination (c1 hour and 15mins later), we parked up and walked down to the lake where a chance scan raised another Osprey followed by a what the Hell moment! Quickly unzipping the camera then taking some distant shots of this long-winged raptor, a glance at the screen blow up, confirmed suspicions of my first avian tick Swainson's Hawk!... (interesting how long-winged and almost falcon like they can appear at certain angles), now if that's not worth a cup of coffee then nothing is!

Supercharged with coffee, we headed South on highway 35 to link up with the 97 to Bend taking in some spectacular scenery on the way. After a relaxing 20 mins. or so on the two-way lane highway, we noted that the elevational descent was taking place and a signposted prompter that Bend was 137 miles to the South. Also observed was an increase in oncoming vehicles, that was soon to turn into a conveyor belt of non-stop projectiles once we descended on to the straight. Probably the ''tensest'' drive that I've ever experienced in 50 years, if you can imagine no breaks in the oncoming traffic travelling at c60mph for two hours on a straight road with virtually no bends, seemingly the entire state of Southern Oregon was high-tailing it back to the North for the end of Summer Term...never again at this time!

Circa two hours down the trail we hit Warm Springs (High desert and Red Indian land)...and the superb Deschutes River. This stop was an oasis...a veritable jewel in a Western landscape!, beauty always being in the eye of the beholder, this for me has always been a magical spot. Certainly at this time of year the temperature is not uncommonly into the 90's, for me the sheer incongruousness of the heat and rock formations, with a crystal clear c30m wide ''snow melt'' river flowing through has always ''blown me away''. Birds noted here were Mergansers, Osprey, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Oriole, Cedar Waxwing, Western Kingbird, Belted Kingfisher and the Turkey Vultures...of course!

At the river crossing there is a car parking area where canoes and kayaks can be launched, for some White Water rafting using the flat gravel banks for easy access. However for me, one of the ''draws'' are the Butterflies that can occasionally be seen taking minerals from the water's edge, It was here whilst trying to image a superb Lorquin's Admiral that my eye caught another, that was appearing and disappearing, over and into, a low lying bush albeit of a different species! Noting that from ''splintered'' glimpses it was particularly colourful...sporting pinks and oranges in it's wings. Although my knowledge of NA Butterflies is not worth putting on a dime! I was at a loss to explain the fleeting tints of colour.

After much searching, I eventually re-located it fluttering perhaps 9-10' up in a heavily shaded wall of thin branches between two trees. It was proving very difficult to image as the subject was screened ''mostly'' by twigs, it then changed position and I was able to shoot some frames! Fair to say I was gob-smacked!, it wasn't a Butterfly at all, but a moth sp. not one but two!

This has to be my best ''moth-ing'' experience of all time....Coral pink wings fusing into orange/yellow, with contrasting black brush strokes giving a ''cubism'' smiley face look, later research revealed it to be a Western Sheep Moth, wouldn't be at all surprised if this moth's patterning, had not influenced the local Indian tribe's blankets at some time in history.

To be continued....Chimney Swifts and two more Avian life-ticks to follow.
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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 22:46   #3
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I just cannot get my head around: "Quickly unzipping the camera then taking some distant shots of this long-winged raptor".

What in the name of all the gods of Asgard is the camera doing zipped up in the operational area?????

JOhn
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 07:02   #4
KenM
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Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
I just cannot get my head around: "Quickly unzipping the camera then taking some distant shots of this long-winged raptor".

What in the name of all the gods of Asgard is the camera doing zipped up in the operational area?????

JOhn
Yes it was an ironic moment, my camera is usually “unzipped” most of the time even when I’m cycling through and particularly over countryside....clearly a remissive moment on my part.
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Old Friday 13th September 2019, 22:21   #5
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Arriving in Bend Sunday 18th late afternoon, we checked in to the hotel for our two night stay, dumped our luggage and stretched our legs with a pre-dinner amble through Drake Park, (a long central bridged lake that was fed by the Deschutes river). Apart from a couple of dipping Barn Swallows and numerous Mallard there wasn't much action, this resulted in an early dinner followed by a night cap and z-z-z-z-z-z-z.

An early start on Monday 19th (after the tea and croissants), had us walking North along the Deschutes river bank, with birds starting to appear in the overhanging trees, and along the path, popping out the woodwork, right left and centre, compared to the day before, it was as if....someone had opened the cage door! Calling and fly-catching Cedar Waxwings by the dozen, Violet-green and Tree Swallows...then suddenly an American Dipper bobbing on the stones, a flash by Belted Kingfisher, with an overhead Red-tailed Hawk adding to the mix, things were certainly livening-up! The path took us past some adjacent deciduous river-bank trees which held family parties of
Yellow Warblers with young, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinches, American Robins, Pygmy Nuthatches, Housefinches and singles of Western-wood Pewee, Northern Flicker and what looked like a Northern Mockingbird.

We then decided to grab a couple of sandwiches and coffee in town before high tailing it to Mount Bachelor, a circa 30 minute drive to the 6000' base station, then the chairlift to the viewing terrace 9000'. A jaw dropping view awaits all who go, one of my target birds was Mountain Bluebird, had seen and imaged badly some 15 years before and had vowed to return to frame this beauty. Alas as hard as I tried (did see several) they were distant and clearly not going to ''play ball'', (c400m) and there was no way I was going to chase after them down a 45 degree slope of loose rock scree!

However there were other diversions to behold...Clark's Nutcracker a not uncommon corvid ally, the star attraction especially on the terrace, where they readily hang out for tourist tit bits (albeit not something I approve of) around the tables and decking. Also notable was the steady stream of Tortoiseshell butterflies a very attractive species, add to those Oregon Junco, Raven and a surprise to me...a 9000' Red-breasted Nuthatch! Perhaps less of a surprise ,looking down on (perhaps a 1000'+) a Golden Eagle, albeit a poor (nos.) species haul, overall an exhilarating afternoon and my 2nd avian tick of the trip was about to befall me, unfortunately I was driving at the time....and couldn't stop.

Driving down from the base station late afternoon, with the sun low and behind us, spotlighting our descent from elevation, with serried terraces of evergreen firs reaching out into ''the all blue''. When c300m ahead, I noted a seemingly mid-toned ''Mistle Thrush'' sized bird flying almost vertically through the trees, before breaking into the sun's spotlight and enframed by the heavens. The long wings, with contrasting white lozenges brought instant recognition to this much wanted NA bird (the not so) Common Nighthawk! To see it so ''well lit'' albeit briefly, has certainly increased my desire for ''seconds'' of this enigmatic bird, with such an unexpected addition to the days haul, you just....''never can tell'' what's round the next Bend, no pun intended.

To be continued.....
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 09:46   #6
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The usual highly enjoyable read Ken! Congratulations on those ticks!

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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 10:21   #7
ClarkWGriswold
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Great photos as well.
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 21:56   #8
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The usual highly enjoyable read Ken! Congratulations on those ticks!

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Great photos as well.
Thanks Guys much appreciated.
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Old Sunday 15th September 2019, 02:39   #9
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That Common Nighthawk view sounds wonderful!
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 09:12   #10
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Leaving Bend early on Tuesday morning the 20th, we headed North East (on the return loop) to the small town of Sisters (c30 min drive for the requisite morning Coffee stop) this having a more rustic feel as compared to Bend, which was a touch more trendy and up-market. It was here that I thought I had an Acorn Woodpecker ''bounding over'' betwixt two pines, as I sat in the shaded porch of the coffee house, unfortunately the ''fore-shortening'' at speed wouldn't allow me to clinch it, ah well...can't win 'em all!

Our ultimate destination that day was the town of Corvallis, where we had pre-booked accommodation for one night. The drive was very relaxed with an ETA of c3 hours, eventually arriving mid-afternoon we checked into our hotel on the edge of town adjacent to the mighty Willamette river. It proved to be a very convenient location as there was a river path running parallel to the town, which we navigated (hardly ), to find a restaurant for an early evening meal. What we hadn't bargained for was the ''gratis air show'' that certainly shocked and astounded moi.

We sat outside (very quiet) and ordered our pizza meal, which came with the obligatory ''evening coffee'' (wine ) and looked up at the party of Vaux Swifts that were wheeling and calling overhead. After some ten to fifteen minutes we noted that the flock had increased to perhaps threefold and on a couple of occasions (by this time c8.10pm) I thought I'd noted a bird dipping down towards the roof chimney stack. At 8.20pm I noted this again, thinking that it was just another coincidence I resumed conversation, then I saw one drop ''into the stack'', it was so fast that I assumed the wine was catching up on me....and taking over! Just to be on the safe side I unzipped my camera, then over the next twenty minutes the entire flock c80 birds had disappeared down the chimney just like Santa Claus.

Not a phenomena that I was aware of and a very real surprise! Speaking to one of the more senior waitresses, she remarked that when she first started working there (23 years ago), on occasion the sky would be black with Swifts. Apparently a lot of the old chimney stacks are being dismantled and the buildings being turned into more up-market Condo's etc. a sign of the times unfortunately....thus moving swiftly on. Wednesday morning was departure day for our last leg to Cannon Beach (land of the Tufted Puffin) before our final push back to Portland. The morning was somewhat overcast and threatening, nevertheless, we decided to mooch along the river path and grab a coffee before heading North West. It was here, that I got superb views of Green Heron, a bird I'd only seen a couple of times before but fleetingly, and what a ''superb mover'' it was! Got some good images, also the local Osprey astride branch, despatching prey, plus a Downy Woodpecker at close quarters, they certainly helped the coffee go down before departure. The drive to Cannon Beach was not without precipitation.....all the bloody way!, with the wind screen wipers in top gear for the duration, miraculously stopping with a hint of ''currant bun'' on arrival.

To be continued.....
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Old Wednesday 18th September 2019, 22:23   #11
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Our accommodation overlooking the Pacific at Cannon beach was pre-booked for three nights Wed-Friday departing Saturday 24th. Thursday 22nd had us early starting for a ''long beach walk'', first South, then North to the famous ''Haystack'' and picking up some good birds en-route. Although misty first thing, it soon brightened up with two Black Oystercatchers and half dozen Black Turnstone. Turning North from the loop end, the beach became busier (birds and people) as we neared the Haystack. Superb Brown Pelicans plunge diving close inshore in the surf, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants winging to and fro, and Common Murre filled the skies with their pelagic cries!... sea bird city it certainly was!

During the afternoon we trundled the beach to the North and the river inlet where the Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls hang out, mostly the former with just the odd latter, plus Ring-billed and a few California Gulls....Now where's that coffee!, followed by some food shopping for our self-catering accommodation, then back to the room for some lethargic ''arsing'' on the balcony to do some serious ''sea-watching'' through my 8x20's.

Thursday morning found us back at the North end of the beach exploring the inlet and river for any ''new'' arrival species. This proved rewarding, as we were resting on the riverbank partly obscured by the overhanging reeds which made us ''acceptable'' to the mainly Western Gulls that had dropped in to wash and preen before drying out on the adjacent sandbank. When suddenly three Heerman's Gulls one by one, landed amongst ''the big'uns'', then started to social wash and preen with the assembled group. These turned out to be the only Heerman's that we were to see at the beach during our stay, during previous visits they had been more numerous and longer staying. Apart from the gulls ''the going'' on the day had been relatively slow at the inlet, with just Barn Swallow, White-crowned Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper and seemingly ''Helium filled'' Turkey Vultures wafting over the serrated teeth of pines that backdropped the beach.

As Friday the 23rd Aug. was our last full day, it was decided that we would do...not just the 4miles on the beach and Haystack plus the Inlet, but we would add the sewage treatment ponds by the RV car park as well! (This training excercise is in the Special Forces Manual) and the final challenge is not obligatory, as only the ''very hardened'' troopers can down a three shot Americano without flinching!

Friday turned out to be a much better day, with just a single distant view of a Tufted Puffin entering a burrow high up on the North face, before flying out to sea. I was informed the day before, that I'd missed them by a day!...well not quite, all black and stocky, with red feet/bill, and white face told a different story, also at least one imm.Peregrine flexing it's wings at the top of Haystack. Below...fishing the surf between the ''rock'' and the beach were several Caspian Terns plus a loon sp heading North far out to sea raised the tempo somewhat. Before hitting the inlet where we encountered a Belted Kingfisher, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and a solitary Red-necked Phalarope (just getting a few shots off) before it flew in the general direction of the reclamation ponds, just where we were heading briskly....adjacent to the ''rest rooms''.

In a long gone previous year, I'd had a flock of c24 RNP's on these ponds, however that was not to be repeated, just the single bird relocated plus Greater Yellow Legs, Gadwall, Cow Bird, Cliff Swallow, Red-winged blackbird, Bank and Violet-green Swallow. Back to the ''chippy'' for our takeaway evening meal of Halibut and chips washed down with a bottle of the red stuff....now that's what I call ''a last supper''.
Saturday's drive back to Portland East on Highway 26 was an hour and a half, in fairly moderate traffic with absolutely no complaints....save another few days wouldn't have gone amiss, but schedules are schedules...to these we must commit!

To be continued....
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Old Monday 23rd September 2019, 22:58   #12
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Sunday 25th August had me hitting the road with Cedric to estimate a renovation property ''job'' in the Forest Grove area, interestingly coming off the main ''straight'' road and hitting farmland roads with bends, hedges and hills momentarily reminded me of the UK, excepting that all the barns were of the ''Dutch'' variety. It was whilst driving, that I saw an American Kestrel perched up on the telephone wires, with the sun behind us it was brilliantly lit, unfortunately as we slowed to a stop...it was off!

AK is a bird that I've only seen at distance, vanishing out of sight on a wire from my rear view mirror, or disappearing behind tall buildings, thus this was promising to be a good opportunity as several others (siblings) were also present, above and in the air. Watching the interaction between the birds was quite exhilarating, as being smaller they where much faster and more dynamic than their Eurasian counterpart, at times reminding me of a dashing Merlin in flight. I managed a few reasonable shots but none did the birds any real justice, another one to do better....next time hopefully.

Monday 26th August found me and the missus on ''the Max'' Portland's famous tram car, for a few dollars an all day pass and well worth it particularly if you like roses, the Rose Garden at Washington Park is a well known site much frequented by tourists from the Antipodes and the far East. However our quest was of the feathered variety as opposed to the petal...as pleasant as they were.
Once again it was hard work finding ''the feathers'' save Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, American Robin, Steller's Jay, Turkey Vulture, Black-capped Chickadee, Lesser Goldfinch, Vaux Swift and Red-breasted Nuthatch all good birds, but with Thrushes, Warblers and Hummers conspicuous by their absence...just a couple of weeks too early, mid September onwards would have been a better bet for volume and species.

On our last but one (before departure day) the 27th August, Cedric offered me a final trip visit in the truck to Sauvie Island, as he said he needed more Blackberries. I reluctantly agreed to help him carry them (+my camera and bins), even though it meant less time with my 15 year old grandsons, whose faces were perpetually glued to their screens, only coming down for meals....The sheer sacrifices one has to make!, where do we get men like this....are they born or are they made?.....that's me, not the boys. Arriving late afternoon and boy was it hot!...30 degrees+ and seeking cover in the Aspen belt adjacent to the river I started pishing, after a short while, Wilson's and Black-throated Grey Warblers with Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatch and Warbling Vireo all making cameo appearances, certainly looking better than our previous trip to Washington Park, plus Swainson's Thrush, Bewick's Wren and Band-tailed Pigeon things certainly hot-ting-up in more ways than one! Eventually moving out into the open (quickly) before crossing the track and diving into more open heavily shaded woodland, bordering a large backwater wetland area bathed in sunlight, where my next US life-tick was to be found!

A slow scan revealed a distant Great Egret, two flyover immature Bald-Eagles, circa half dozen Greater Yellow Legs and three Killdeer, it was then that I noticed a smaller, more delicate wader, feeding detached and fairly inconspicuously barely twenty five metres out. Only my second ever Solitary Sandpiper! with the Scillies playing host to my 1st, some 30 years prior! With time pressing we decided to call it a day, retracing our footsteps back through the line of Aspens, when a sudden movement high in the canopy yielded the briefest glance of a species that I'd only seen twice before on previous visits....Red-naped Sapsucker!, certainly one I'd like to savour for longer....perhaps next time.

In total circa 90 species encountered, with a number of species hoped for but not seen, but Hey!.....I wasn't expecting any ticks at all, so 3 avian and one of each...amphibian, reptile, mammal and moth, whose complaining certainly not moi. Plus finishing off my ''High Dessert'' at 37,000' on the return flight to LHR was to say the least Tops! Cheers
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Last edited by KenM : Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 07:56.
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