DB11 & Wings—
I’m a lucky fellow. Lucky to have met Sir Roger Moore. Ballooned at dawn over Australia’s Yarra Valley. To be sharing a glass of wine with P¡NK and shamelessly referring to it as ‘work’. My job elides with who I am in a way that enables me to communicate my enthusiasm for life with fluidity and hyperbole, notoriously with a glass or two of the good stuff in full flow. I try to learn, to listen and pick up new skills to share across the cunning weave of these here days. I embrace friendships old and new and share my life with a hive of bees who I’m beginning to understand are keeping me rather than the other way around. Their honey is the taste of enlightenment.
But if you told me that birding – that’s ‘bird-watching’ to you and me – with Nick Ostler was the epitome of contentment, I’d probably be ranking instantly preferable alternatives in no particular order… Playing Titanfall on the Xbox One; learning about craft beer from bearded Jamie in Manchester’s Beermoth Café (always fascinating); listening to any or all of Ian Hoey’s ‘Festive Spirit’ broadcasts on SoundCloud; speculating with my daughters about whether midnight is too late to catch the very first screening Star Wars 8 on December 15th; a pint of Harvey’s Best. Can anything beat a pint of Harvey’s Best? Possibly Lou Reed & John Cale’s ‘Songs For Drella’ played on the original vinyl whilst drinking that pint of Harvey’s; Nadiya Hussain’s Funfetti Birthday Cake? The poetry of Arthur Rimbaud? Sunlight. All these are pretty cool. But looking at birds? With Nick Ostler? Just who is this guy?
This is Nick with Bill Oddie at ‘The Birdwatchers’ Glastonbury’, also known as the Rutland Water Birdfair in 1989. Nick is godfather to my youngest daughter, generally the cleverest person in the room and on the whole ruthlessly truthful, good-hearted, impressively polite and the man whose birding inspiration comes from one third of The Goodies.
But the greatest day ever?
With Bill Oddie’s biggest fan?
Yup. Four letters my friend, that can change everything about everything:
This latest Aston Martin already belongs in The Museum of the Future where we can all gawp at things enduring eternally as emblems of awesomeness. The car is sleek, sensual, fluid and mind-blowing in the precision of its engineering. Superbly responsive, the steering alone has the effortless elegance of an eagle banking up a thermal. And the exhaust pipe is engineering’s answer to Also Sprach Zarathustra. It is, in fact, a vehicle of unparalleled pleasure. There are three button-touch modes that take its personality from ‘gentleman at play’ to ‘missile on a mission’ all with varying g-force grins that are kindly thrown in by Aston as standard on every DB11 they produce. And this is the first time I’ve ever driven any vehicle that takes you straight to cruising altitude without the inconvenience of take off. Hang on, I’ve been down the track at CarFest in the Vulcan – pretty much orbit without lift off. But aside from my Vulcanic eruptions, the very echo of the DB11 starting up on the day I took Nick on a birding expedition to the RSPB’s reserve at Pulborough, is the sound of every car fan’s dreams coming true.
For Nick on the other hand, the DB11 is the most comfortable and efficient way to see as many birds as possible in a single day.
By chasing them.
Nick heard the car before I picked him up in the car park of the Lewes Rooks home football ground, an irresistibly named meeting point for us to launch our day of bird-spying. Spying does sound cooler than watching. Cruising towards the Pulborough RSPB reserve, Nick was in ecstasy as he bellowed the names of species as we crooned across the countryside in Bird Force One. He casually ignored my insightful line of questioning such as “why is that crow walking?” “is it just lazy?” and “seriously where is it walking to?” while I revelled in the blissful driving position (so many variables it makes me smile with bafflement that my comfort could ever matter so much to someone else) and the kind of command over the road that I imagine only riding a winged stallion across the constellation of Andromeda could come close to. And you didn’t believe me when I mentioned the hyperbole.
The glory of birding in an Aston Martin DB11 is unparalleled. I think it’s fair to say we were noticed by the party of seniors who were lacing up their hiking boots in the car park of the Pulborough Bird Reserve. Probably the engine purring but might well have been all the mud we’d managed to cake up our flanks.
Nick’s mission was to see as many species as possible in a single day – you can find the full list is below – and Nick’s enthusiasm for ‘bird racing’ gained momentum as the day continued as we covered more ground including a spectacular lay-by where we didn’t see anything at all:
You just can’t get more James Bond.
I think Nick would agree that we learnt:
– The front mid-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive delivers peerless stability in bird pursuit.
– Acceleration administers 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds. No bird is unreachable.
– Maximum speed is 200 mph. Exactly the same as a peregrine falcon.
– Rear seats are perfect for smaller birders, or a cagoule and binoculars.
– The rear camera can be used for stealthy reversing for close ups of ground-birds.
– Folding wing mirrors are a bit like little wings.
Above all, the DB11 that for me feels like an instant classic. Part of my job in fine wine is to be able to pick a vintage that’s great today but which will only continue to develop further stature as the years unfurl. If this car was available by the case, I’d hoard as much of it as possible to enjoy today, but also to lay down for a lifetime of beautiful days soaring beyond the usual.
Cheers Aston for the DB11 and wings.
NICK’S BIRDING LIST:
Nick & Olly’s Big Bird Day:
Arun Valley, 10th January 2017 (and from the car – Aston Martin DB11!)
Robin – very tame, feeding almost from hand.
Bullfinch – pair
Jay – several
Lapwings – thousands
Wigeon – hundreds
Teal – dozens
Shoveler – dozens
Canada Geese – 20+
Black-tailed Godwits – 25+
Peregrine – x1, perched
Pintail – x10+
Green Sandpiper – 1 (unusual wintering individual)
Stonechat – several
Snipe – 1
Long-tailed tit – several
Blue-tits – dozens
Great-tits – several
Coal tit – 1
Linnet – x1 perched
Goldfinch – dozens
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Wren – several
Goldcrests – several
Treecreeper – 1
Cormorant – 1
Shelduck – x1
Mistle Thrush (several, over)
X2 Muntjac Deer
Dipped on Great Grey Shrike
Fieldfare (from car)
Tufted Duck (20+)
Gadwall – x1
Mandarin Duck – x2 pairs
Greylag Goose (several)
Willow tit x1
57 species total!