Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Long-eared Owl - bird number 251 Equals The Record

So got to Park Hall Country Park, near Stoke on Trent today and, thanks to the assistant warden, Patrick, saw a superb LEO. I even got a photo.

The non motorized record is now equalled with one day to go?

Destiny? Wait and see. Here's hoping.

All the best everyone.

Gary

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tuesday 28th - More problems!!

The day started so well. Stayed up for another overnight sitting watching the destruction of the Aussies in the 4th Test [cricket - the World's best sport, away from non Carbon Birding that is].

Got the bike packed up for the final assault on the record with an Iceland Gull at Bartley Reservoir yesterday. The route from my parent's home in Warwick would take me past both my Grandparents' houses from when they were alive as well as the house where I was born. Seemingly fate as a bit of nostalgia on the way pushed me towards destiny [how pomous!] {Actually listening to Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D minor - Sydney - on youtube as I type so excuse the pretensions}

Bike greased up, tryes pumped up and Sid the frog and Barnaby Bear aboard. Set off.

Seven miles later a puncture. Fixed. The tyre went straight down again. Walked the seven miles back home and spent the afternoon trying to find out why the punctures. tyre off and inner tube checked by me and Dad. No hole. Can't explain why it keeps going down. It still hasn't gone down and I'll try again tomorrow. I WILL GET THESE LAST TWO BIRDS!

Ashes to be retained tonight then back on the road - hopefully tomorrow. Even if I have to walk to the next bird I will.

All the best everyone,

Thanks to all who've Facebooked me. Appreciated.

Gary

Monday, 27 December 2010

Modest - Occasionally

Just been told that there's an article about my getting to Sandy, the RSPB's HQ reserve, on Birdguides website.

http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=2481#comments

for the link.

Also I've started a new Facebook link. If you want to get in touch this way then please feel free. It'll be great to hear from you all. Just put Gary Prescott in the search box and find the photo of me in a flourescent jacket with the Leighton Moss RSPB girls behind me.

All the very best everyone,

Come on England [cricket!]

Gary

Could this be the bird to equal the record?

Been waiting at home for a few days now, waiting for news of a bird that I need to turn up near-ish home.

Watching Invictus with Mum and Dad when a vibration in the pocket told of a message on my mobile.

Iceland gull at Bartley Reservoir!    Need it and will hopefully see it tomorrow.

It feels like fate. Bill Oddie's teenage patch; Bartley Reservoir to the west of Birmingham, a concrete basin with a gull roost.

From there the intention is to go to the Wyre Forest to try for lesser spotted wodpecker before heading north to get to Park Hall, near Stoke for Long-eared owl.

Will I get all three? Wait and see.

At least the weather's changed and there's a chance.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wouldn't have been right for the final 50 miles to go smoothy.

Off from an empty Bedford at 8.30am, roads very snowy and the air freezing with misty patches. Actually found that the safest way to make progress was to cycle on the other side of the road so that any traffic would be coming towards me, giving me a chance to get off the road. Very snowy roads for 10 miles or so then . . . .

The first puncture! Great!

Eventually got that one fixed. Cycled on. Northampton - puncture number 2, or so I thought. Same tyre flat but coudn't find a hole once the inner tube was out. Onward.

4 miles before Daventry, tyre flat again. Out with a kinked inner tube and inflation. Thinking that this would be a regular requirement for the rest of the way, set off expecting another deflation. By now the journey had taken 5 hours. Guess what? No more problems, well not from the tyre anyway. Only problem now was the slushy, frozen snow on the roads but at least traffic was sparse.

Never so happy to see a county sign but the blue bear of Warwickshire came up as did a huge cheer and a few tears. Home.

Actually had another ten miles to go and the impacted snow on the road bewtween Leamington and Warwick almost had me falling off. Incredible how my balance has improved over the year. Can I call myself a cyclist now?

Time for reflection. Time for thanks and time for recuperation but not just yet. Iceland gull and Long-eared owl to find.

Back now clean, fed and sitting listening to Pink Floyd's Money live from the Pulse tour on Youtube. With my wonderful parents again. Done it!

Love to everyone,

Gary

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Sandy, a Garganey and Snow

What a totally unbelievable day!

Twelve Rspb cyclists cycled with me to Sandy. Fabulous people - Richard, Mark, Chris, Matt, Charlie, Fiona, Paul, Finn, Olly, Ralph and Harry.

Unbelievably I had a front tyre puncture 30 yards before Sandy's entrance. Took a long time to fix as the tyre had contracted because of the cold. Thanks Grahame and Mark. Also many thanks to the people who were there to greet me at the gateway, especially Laura who despite being very I'll with flu had come in to welcome me. Thanks everyone.

Great to be shown around the reserve by the site manager, Peter. A lovely, intersting man, Peter had a beautiful neolithic flint tool to show me, found at Sandy.

Bike eventually fixed, video interview completed and final phots taken. Time to see a new bird for the year, a nearby male garganey. Bird seen well through Mark's scope. Bird 250!!!

Goodbye to Mark and the start of what I had hoped to be a long cycle back home to Warwick. No chance! Very heavy snow started to fall - unbelievably the worst weather of the year saved for my last reserve day.

Now in Bedford from where I hope I'll be able to walk home from tomorrow. Nothing is easy that's worth doing.

So 50 miles to walk and push the bike. Great!

All the best everyone,

Gary

Sandy ...... The Final Reserve!

So here goes.

The last RSPB reserve. Feel very excited about the day and I know I've got a great number of people to thank.

I've seen wonderful things this year and the fantastic people who work for the RSPB have been a privilige to meet. Wardens, assistent wardens, site managers, volunteers, etc, etc, all talented, dedicated and enthusiastic people. My thanks to them all.

In less than an hour the Cycle to Sandy begins from the market place in Potton.

Thanks everyone,

Gary

The Biking Birder!!!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Captain Beefheart

Rest in peace Don.

Thanks for the music and memories.

Rye Meads and Fowlmere RSPB Reserves

In another lovely, warm library at Potton, near to sandy, Beds, with two lovely ladies : Lesley and Debbie.

15th December 2010

Early morning breakfast at Chesunt Youth Hostel; a lovely hostel with large log cabins and the 'all you can eat' breakfast appreciated. early morning cycle along the Lee Valley to the well signposted RSPB reserve. Well, well signposted once you realise that the white duck denotes the reserve.

Met by many super staff in the superb visitor's centre and then out to 'bird'. Now Rye Meads was a big surpirse; a great reserve with super hides overlooking a wide variety of habitats. I like 'urban' reserves and this is one of the best with excellent hides and lots of birds. Water rail from three different hides, ducks a-plenty and a nice flock of lesser redpolls all seen. An afternoon walk with a wonderful volunteer and a brilliant view of a close, walking bittern.

Time to go and slept in a hide on the other side of Rye Meads. Very comfortable and warm.

16th December 2010

Cycled to Fowlmere via Ware. Not without problems though as a puncture whilst cycling along the A10. No pump becuase of another theft and lovely people at a nearby garage helped out.

THANKS Gill - HC Motoros, High Cross, north of Ware!

Lovely ride to Fowlmere actually despite persistent rain. Enjoyed it without a thought for how far places were.

Arrived at the reserve office and met Doug, the site manager. A brilliant man, helpful and friendly; he invited me to join a great group of people, nest monitors, for a meal that evening. So thanks  - Alli, Louise, Alan, Carl and Vince for a smashing evening and for allowing me to gate crash and pontificate.

17th December 2010

What happened to England. Everything going well in the Ashes 2nd Test and then - crash. Come on lads!

Early morning attempt at seeing long-eared owls but the snow and well below freezing temperatures didn't help. Birds not on view so back to the reserve for a couple of hours walking around, guided by Doug. Water rails, cettis warblers and winter thrushes on a very frozen reserve; beautiful with snow a hoar frost.

Right time up at the library. Special day tomorrow. The arrival at Sandy, the HQ for the RSPB and the final RSPB reserve to visit. Meet various people at Potton for a cycling cavalcade to Sandy at 10.00am tomorrow - Saturday the 18th of December and that will be that. Every RSPB reserve visited in one year by cycling only.

Don't know how I'll feel when it's all over. I'll find out tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who's donated to the charities. Really appreciate your kindness.

Love to everyone,

Gary

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Two Days In London

A rest, from the bike anyway, as I walked the capital's streets and went to the Science museum on Monday and the British Museum on Tuesday.

Now one of the reasons for my eleven months sojourn around the British Isles has been to highlight what we can all do to prevent climate change. So I looked forward to seeing the latest exhibit at the Science Museum on just that. Enjoyed it too; with interesting artefacts and great graphics on the interactive programmes. Well worth the visit and I've taken away with me even more determination to do my 'bit'.

Also had to look in on the Apollo material on view. Always was a favourite of mine, I just wish that I could climb aboard the Apollo 10 command capsule; you know just sit in one of the three seats. How about letting me climb down the LEM ladder? One small step for Gary.

Artefacts of a different kind and age were on my mind when visiting the British Museum. I wanted to see the Olduv[p]ai hand axes. After having been diverted by the Sutton Hoo helmet etc, the Rosetta Stone and all things Egyptian, Roman and Greek, I arrived in the appropriate room to find a lovely lady with three such axes available for one to hold. Beyond my dreams I held each in turn. Aged at around 1.5 to 1.25 million years old, these three were not made by Homo sapiens but by H. erectus or habilis. Each one beautifully crafted and each made of differing stone; the lemon quartz one was exquisite.

Now at Cheshunt awaiting tomorrow's visit to Rye Meads RSPB reserve. Going to be great.

Almost there - well, almost every RSPB reserve visited. I will be at Sandy on Saturday at 10.00am. Before that Fowlmere on Friday.

Then the cycle home and the quest to find three new for the year birds to break Chris Mills' record. I just hope I get a couple of days off for Christmas.

All the best everyone,

Gary

Monday, 13 December 2010

Southend to Rainham - the long way!

So early in the morning - just as the sun was rising .....

I laid down a carpet of stale teacakes, old toast and crumbled old scones on the beach across the road from a famous ice cream stand; Rossi's at Westcliffe on sea.

Down came a collection of gulls and waders; mostly black-headed but also three mediterranean gulls, a few common and herring gulls and . . . .

Rossi, the ring-billed gull. Bird number 249 for the year and only 3 to go to beat the NMYLR.

Waders such as sanderling and turnstone came very close to feed on the crumbs.

The important business done it was time to head back towards Harwich to visit the omitted RSPB reserve, Stour Estuary. Also needed to visit Wallasea Island RSPB reserve as I hadn't been able to get to this one back in January due to the snow back then. Got there and explored the huge expanse that, from the artist impressions in the portacabin, will be a major reserve in a few years time. At the moment there are some interesting creeks with waders such as avocets, grey plovers, godwits etc on them. Otherwise the area is an immense area of flat grassland just waiting to be landscaped.

More cycling filled up the rest of the day and I reached Old Hall Marshes much to the surprise of the staff there who hadn't expected me to be back. Slept there and in the morning, bright and early, I set off for the Stour estuary reserve. Through Colchester and along the main Harwich road, reached the reserve car park in a large oak and sweet chestnut wood, reputedly planted by the Romans. Explored this but very few birds then went to the estuary itself eventually finding the hides and viewpoint. Brents, pintail, shelduck and the common waders seen with goldcrest and bullfinch the better birds in the woods along the way.

Back to Maldon via Colchester, B & B in Langford nearby.

Cycled to Rainham RSPB reserve for the promised return visit and was met by Howard Vaughan by the shop. By now absolutely shattered so accepted the proffered hot chocoalate before heading out along the reserve pathways to 'bird'. Cetti's seen, stonechat and water rail also.

Now Howard had suggested asking for a room at the Premier inn nearby but there was no room there so I ended up sleeping in a 'proverbial' stable near to the reserve [!]. Very comfy too but the heavy frost in the morning was a shock.

Early morning birding at Rainham, lots of birds including sparrowhawk, marsh harrier, many waders and gulls seen. In fact over 50 species by lunch.

Goodbye to Howard, Brenda and everyone, cycled along the Thames cycle path, meeting some people on a West Midlands Bird Club outing from Solihull. Thanks to Mr Boyle for the donation for the RSPB. The cycle along the old A13 with a cycling equivalent of a motorway was great; much better than the sleet and slush negotiated back in January.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Good news and some bad, well for me anyway!

Well now at Old Hall RSPB reserve with a feeling of Deja vu. I've been here before - yesterday in fact. Today is the 9th of December and I've already seen Rossi, the ring-billed gull (bird 249 for the year)and visited Wallasea Island RSPB reserve. Yet I'm back at Old Hall Marshes.

Why?

I missed out a reserve!!!

Stour Estuary RSPB reserve should have been visited after Wolves Wood and before Old Hall Marshes. I forgot so this afternoon was spent cycling back in the direction thereof. Southend to Wallasea Island. Then onto Maldon and a rest at Old Hall Marshes. Still 30 miles to cycle to get to the Stour Estuary reserve.

Blame it on the cold, my age or the fact that I am cream crackered.

Anyway I will be there tomorrow and from there it's a jaunt of 50 miles or so to Rainham to keep a promise made last January.

Thank you to Clare, Christine and Trevor (and family) for their donations.

Also thanks to the hotel Gleneagles in Southend for a great B and B last night. Lovely people.

All the best everyone

Gary

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Now At Wolves Wood RSPB Reserve and on 248 for the year - 4 to go!

Now what could be finer than to sleep in a church porch with the temperature way below zero, to awake at 1.10am and find that the 2nd Test against Oz is all over?

Well it could be going into a library and finding the friendliest librarians for months. No talk of health and safety here; just two lovely, friendly ladies, Charmain and Sarah and a cup of hot tea to unfreeze me. Thanks girls! [Hadleigh, Suffolk - top of the library Christmas card list].

Now the title tells you where I am now and also how many bird species I've now seen this year; with 4 more to go to beat the Non-motorised Year List Record. Here's the details from when I left Norwich.

1st December 2010

A very cold day with a strong, bitterly cold east wind. Metcheck states minus 9 C with wind chill and chill me it did. Found Surlingham Church Marsh RSPB reserve easily enough but not many birds as the marsh and small pools here were completely frozen. Wigeon and little grebes on the river; a few titmice, fieldfares and redwings seen. Spent the day searching for the RSPB reserves in the area, finding them and the few birds available. Five reserves in a small area, the final one was Rockland and here met a local birder, dave who gave me a light for the back of the bike. Another quick theft in Norwich had removed the last one whilst I looked for a book in an Oxfam shop. Birds here were as expected for a lake; gadwall, tufeted duck, good number of wigeon and 4 little grebes. Two redshank actually landed on the water and swam around for a while, strange! A marsh harrier soon got everything flying though.

The cycle to Olton was the coldest I'd experienced this year. Well my memory of last winter doesn't have the wind as bad as this despite that freeze. Got to Oulton and once again many, many thanks to a fabulous family who suffered my company for the night. Marjorie, Kevin, Kerry and Dad couldn't have been nicer and the warm bed and bath, not in that order was great.

2nd December 2010

Cycled to Minsmere along a busy, icy main road and enjoyed the last section of country lane into the reserve; sheer ice and a super slid with wellies to the ground. Light snow falling with heavier snow showers later in the day; still a very cold easterly but not as strong as yesterday, was met by Kathy and given a warming hot chocolate. Off onto this most famous RSPB reserve, trudging through snow a few inches deep, only to be called back to the centre to be photographed by Jon Evans, the local photographer whose fantastic photos adorn the visitor centre's cafe. [Mind you it hurt to see the king eider photos that had been at Minsmere for weeks before I arrived whereupon it had disappeared]

Actually saw some good birds despite the weather : a jack snipe landed on the ice for a nano-second before heading off over the scrape; an adult little gull circled over the small area of unfrozen water on the scrape for a couple of minutes before heading out to sea and 5 avocet came in.

Back at the centre met more people and the site manager, Tim took some details for the Minsmere newsletter. I had intended to get to Dunwich and sleep in the church there but with the snow getting heavier, as light fell and evening turned to night, I set the tent up inside a hide and curled up for the night.

3rd December 2010

Early morning birding at Minsmere but not a lot really. It had been an extremely cold night but the 2nd test kept me warm. That first over had me screaming with delight, which was probably by the couple of tawny owls nearby stopped hooting. Come On England!

In the centre met John Gibbs who told me of nearby woodlarks. Off to an area just south of Eastbridge but the stubble fields he'd mentioned were totally frozen out and covered with snow, with nothing on them. Spent a couple of hours searching nearby fields and came across an area with old sweetcorn crops on either side. Here there were lots of birds but mainly chaffinches and skylarks, red-legged partridges and starlings. Walked down the edge of a very thick hawthorn bush and there were 4 little beauties - woodlarks! Brilliant and another bird added to the NMYL. 247, 5 to go.

Back at Minsmere I attempted to find Caspian gull but to no avail. A superb female hen harrier did come very close though, both when I crossed the North Marsh causeway and again when I was inside the east hide.

4th December 2010

Was disturbed from my latest place of night-time rest by the cleaners arriving, Dave and Lizzie. They gave me a warming coffee and were very embarassed that I couldn't stay in the visitor's centre before it opened.

Actually it was slightly warmer than the previous days and I sea-watched for an hour seeing very little but enjoying the comfort of the shingle bank.

Walked to Dingle Marshes about three miles north and met three lovely young birders from Warwick, Clare, Anna and Dave. Walked and chatted with them whilst birding the sea and adjacent marshes. Red-throated divers and scoter on the sea, avocet, little egrets, a spotted redshank, marsh harriers etc on the marshes. No sign of any snow buntings, twite or shore larks.

On returning to Minsmere saw Jon Evans pointing his extremely large lens at a nearby silver birch. Delighted to see the 30 waxwings on it, the tree that is. Did joke with Jon that if he hadn't been there I would have found them myself. Lovely birds.

Back to Minsmere and a chat with John Gibbs about him and other Minsmere birders doing a BIGBY year list in 2011. John hopes that others will join him, particularly Joh Grant and Bob Card. I really do hope that that gets off the ground and that other reserves will have a go as well. See your birds by cycling or walking, or from your bed, as one Minsmere birder does.

Down to the east hide, chatting to Keith and Christine on the way, saw John running towards me. He'd found an adult Caspian gull and the telescope, commondeered from Ernie and Dave from Felixstowe, ensured that another one was on the year list. Bird number 248 - 4 to go.

Another night sleeping in the hide.

5th December 2010

Watched a marsh harrier feeding on a dead duck first thing. She spent maybe twenty minutes or so doing so. Also watched as hundereds of barnacle geese and greylags left heading north. Muntjac by the hide and 12 waxwings closer to the centre as I went for a warm up and a Horlicks.

Had seen 76 bird species over the time I'd been at Minsmere but it was now time to get going. Just before Snape a male sparrowhawk grabbed a blackbird and landed not twenty yards from me. He sat there with the blackbird initially noisy but soon quiet for quite a while before heading over a nearby hedge, no doubt but to enjoy his meal. Got to Snape RSPB reserve and met Matt, the warden, in the visitor's centre there. Great to listen to him getting a young lady to become a RSPB memebr. Walked the reed bed - estuary area for a while; seeing bearded tits, c.300 avocets, c.1,000 dunlin and others. then was shown the other areas of this reserve and a female black redstart. Snape will have an immense reed bed in a few years time and is another example of the RSPB's Futurescape programme.

Invited to spend the night At Matt's house and met Keiran, the warden of Havergate Island. Brilliant to meet him as he also is passionate about cricket and as England had been demolishing both cricket records and the Aussies over the last few days, the conversation was a little triumphalist. [England win by an innings and a half - and 71 runs!]

6th December 2010

Thick fog and 4 reserves to find, two of them unlisted on the internet RSPB website. Eventually found them all, including Boyton Marshes and Havergate Island. The latter I didn't land on but did see from the opposite bank. Birds very few and far between as everywhere was still frozen and the fog was very thick. A close barn owl was seen hunting and then catching a vole which it soon swallowed whole.

Cycled to Sutton Hoo but the ship barn was closed, apparently only open at weekends in the winter. Instead went to the burial mound area.

To Ipswich to get brake pads front and back at another superb cycling shop - ELMY CYCLES.

http://www.elmycycles.co.uk/

Coffee and sweets provide whilst Harry worked on the bike. Many thanks to Harry and Neil - great people; friendly and helpful.

Supermarket for food and after braving a very busy A road, walked along an icy country lane to Chattisham; finding a country church there with a porch. Soon asleep and woke at 1.10am as previously stated to find the 2nd Test match all over - bar the shouting. Shame about the Villa.

Less than two weeks to go now before reaching Sandy. Will then be cycling home from there.

All the best everyone,

Gary

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Yare Valley RSPB Reserves - Cantley, Buckenham and Strumpshaw

bikingbirder2010@hotmail.com      07988754090

Early in the morning, just as the sun was rising I saw a - thousands of corvids leaving their roost. Surrounded by leaving birds swirling in the pink-grey misty sky. 30,000 birds leaving for the day. Such noise, a great start to the day.

Hid the bike and stuff, better than when my stuff was stolen and spent the morning walking the whole of the Cantley-Buckenham Marsh perimetr walkway. 24 barnacle geese, c.100 pink-feet, a lone Canada goose, a number of Egyptian geese and a few greylags seen and the best views of bearded tits that I've had this year.

No sign of bean geese on the main marshes, searched around the back of the railway line, that is north of it, came across a group of over 60 of them almost tucked away out of sight next to some woodland habitat. Great! Bird number 246 for the year. Only 6 to go to get the record but what's available? Going to be tough.

The weather had made my quest a lonely one. Didn't see another soul until I got to Strumpshaw late morning. Heavy snow showers and heavy snow to trudge through; at least my 8 [!] layers kept me warm.

Strumpshaw was superb, both with meeting RSPB staff, Lotti, Ken and Tim, and birding too. 53 species by the end of the day from the three reserves mentioned, with woodcock and bittern seen, marsh harriers and 6 species of geese the highlights.

Met a lovely lady at the starling roost - Janet, a keen photographer. Flickr - Norfolk Rambler.

Slept in the volunteers house and was fed by Lee. Now he doesn't buy food but gets it from supermarket skips. If only more people made the point of telling these food emporia to stop food waste. Last year I photographed workers at a shop that 'Mums like to shop at' putting masses of food into the skips. They seemed to enjoyed smashing it as they threw it into the skip. Bags of potatoes, loaves of bread etc. A group of smokers at the top of a fire escape stairway told me that the skips here, and remember that this is just one shop, are filled three times a week. I showed the photographs to the children at school, not saying which shop it was but having them shout out the name as they recognised the labels. Something must be done about this waste. You wait until I get home! Anyway, off my soap box and thanks to Lee for the superb meal.

Tuesday 30th November

Cycled to Norwich and met Guy Kirwan. This was after having problems entering both Norwich Anglican Cathedral and Norwich library because of my reticence to leave my box and remaining equipment at cycle racks where there's no security. No such problem at the Catholic Cathedral. Another soap box moment. I'll spare you.

All the very best everyone.

Gary

North-East Norfolk - with 2 great birders

Tim Allwood, his wife Holly and their lovely 2 toddler, Eleanor put me up [and put up with me] for two nights at Sea Palling and very grateful I was too. Lovely people and Tim's knowledge and attitude was so impressive.

26th November 2010

Early out to sea watch with Andy Kane. Andy proved to be a person of forthright views and fabulous skills. A privilege to sit with both on the sand dunes in very cold, wild sea conditions. Red-throated divers passing and various duck species in varying numbers too. Snow buntings closer in, flying past heading south.

After this I cycled to Stalham to search for the mythical Sutton Fen RSPB reserve. Now this place is reputed to have had less people visit it in the past than climbers atop Everest. Down various dirt tracks to get views of the edges of the huge expanse of reed and alder carr; sheltering when necessary from the frequent snow showers. Not many birds; marsh harriers being the best and a superb close by female sparrowhawk.

Back to Tim's for an evening's birdy natter.

27th November 2010

Another early morning seawatch but this time I walked alone to the rendezvous along the beach. Really wild, very windy easterly this morning and the sea was covered with froth from the crashing waves.

A group of 5 purple sandpipers were very approachable and snow buntings were present in small numbers. On getting to Andy and Tim's prefered viewpoint, found them both sheltering from the wind as best as they could and was told a pomarine skua had been reasonably close in. Now I need one for the year so a tad disappointed with the news. Fewer birds moving today and a very distant skua sp. was uncountable. Consolation prize was a close in little auk on the sea.

Said goodbye to the Allwoods and cycled to meat up with a group of people celebrating the 50th birthday of one of their friends. Now I knew none of these lovely people but had been invited to stay because one of their number, Vaughan Evans is a birder and had seen my blog. His suggestion that I stay with them at a superb converted barn complex, was very welcome indeed; as was the food and bath. The party revellers seemed very genuine in their interest on who I was, what I was doing and what my mental state was! Thanks to them all. Special thanks to the birthday girl and Bernie and Lewis, as well as Vaughan. [Ta for the Jaffa cakes]



28th November 2010

Up early and off in very cold icy conditions to Great Yarmouth. Raided the Harry Ramsden rubbish bins to find bags of cold chips, disguarded from the previous evening. Armed with these and in the company of a young campervaner, Tim [how many Tims I've met in the last few days], chips were chucked onto the beach for a good number of Mediterranean gulls. Fabulous to see all plumages amongst these beautiful gulls. Thanks Tim for the donation too.

Cycled to Breydon Water RSPB reserve and walked the sea wall. Very low tide and most birds, particularly duck were out on the mud some way off. The early morning sun had by now disappeared and mist was descending. Phoned my Dad to discuss the England turnaround in the First Test - Come on England!

Found a way to get to Bernay Marshes without having to walk the four miles from Breydon along the sea wall via a brilliant medieval church at Wickhampton. Sheltered in here and was delighted to see amazing large medieval paintings on the walls of the church.

www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/wickhampton/wickhampton.

All alone I explored the edge of Bernay Marshes with marsh harriers, various waders and a good number of pink-footed geese seen; the snow and mist adding to the 'Snow Goose' atmosphere. Now I say this as this must be the sort of place that Paul Gallico thought about when writing his wonderful novel, The Snow Goose. I could almost imagine Frith running along the bridleway holding the injured goose.

Got to Buckenham and then Strumpshaw RSPB reserve to see the starling roost; the best one I'd seen this year. Around 10,000 starlings wheeling tightly because of the attentions of two sparrowhawks and a marsh harrier.


Back to Buckenham in the dark to find a place to sleep.

All the very best to everyone,

Gary

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cley - 3 days but no new birds

Arrived at Cley in drizzly rain and found a reasonably comfortable place for the night.

Met  Colin Miller, a local stone mason, who showed me the inside of Cley's church and told me something about the churches inhabitants - bats; three varieties. He also showed me Richard millington's stained glass window of the white-crowned sparrow.

Tuesday 23rd November

Photographed nancy's on the way to 'Coastguards', meeting Gary Haddon there. gary and his group are from the Isle of Wight and together we chatted and seawatched. Nothing new but good numbers of common scoter on the sea, with pintail, teal, wigeon and brents passing. Further out were a few auks and gannets and a couple of divers.

Retreated from the appalling weather to the lovely and warm Norfolk Ornithological Trust Centre nearby. News of a Hume's yellow-browed trapped at Holme. Should I go back. I decided to wait and see if it was seen again.

Instead cycled to Blakeney Quay and found the golden plover flock facing away from me some way out over the mud. No chance of seeing an American golden plover in this lot. Need a 'scope not bins. Heavy showers passed over during a three hour wait and from these I sheltered beneath an upturned boat nearby, lying down on the grass and almost falling asleep here. Did see a female hen harrier though.

At around 2.30pm the golden plover flock flew even further out and my chance of a new bird for the year disappeared with them.

Wednesday 24th November

Well my spine problem from last March has reoccurred and painfully I repeated the routine from yesterday, searching for the American golden plover whilst also searching for a possible pomarine skua on the sea.

Weather colder but less wind with heavy showers scooting through.

Once again no luck with either of the target birds but a couple of bearded tits were seen.

A big thank you to Sandra in the Centre for the painkillers. Should get me moving a bit better.

Met Richard and Hazel Millington in the church and jokingly blamed Richard for my [imaginary] woes. It was his book, A Twitcher's Diary' that inspires one to try to get 300 birds in a year. Brilliant book and hard to believe it was written 30 years ago.

Thursday 25th November

After a night watching[!] the First Ashes Test on the phone's internet, up and at them but missed a pomarine at Coastguards by 15 minutes.

Sheltered from a heavy snow and than hail storm but felt warm with my multi-layering. Cycled to Sheringham where I found that the youth hostel is closed to individuals. Most annoying as it doesn't state this on the internet. It just says that 'internet booking is not available'. Oh well, carry on Pres!

Right 24 days to go before I reach Sandy and it's going to be fun with the weather forecast for the next two weeks. Must stay positive.

Think I'll learn the 'Learning to Fly' song by Pink Floyd.

There's no sensation to compare with this.    Suspended animation in a state of bliss.

can't keep my eyes from the circular skies.   Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth bound misfit I.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Titchwell RSPB Reserve

Many, many thanks to Steve and Ann of Hunstanton for the bed and food. Also for the company at Ticthwell.

Whilst saying thank you, many thanks to ANTON HUNKA,  friend of my brother Paul who has helped my cause. Very much appreciated Anton. Thanks!

Saturday 20th November

Arrived at Titchwell early in the morning with thick fog and limited views. Met Steve and Ann and walked to the Fen Hide. A chiff was amongst the bushes here.

A coffee break and the fog had lifted when we came out of the cafe. 74 species seen during a whole day visit; excepting a look for a reported Tundra bean goose. That wasn't seen but the pink-footed geese flock had 2 whitefronts. Highlights of the visit included a number of marsh harriers and two hen harriers.

Work on the brand new hide along the new sea wall looks to be almost completed and one must admire the fortitude of the workers. It was very cold and there they were atop the roof in the cold north-easterly wind.

Sunday 21st November

A lovely, bubbly, friendly lady; Flo heated my milk for a strong mug of Horlicks to warm me after my cool night sleeping out. She was fabulous and if you want to meet her and say hello, just go in the cafe at Titchwell. She's easily recognisable as her blond hair has many purple highlights. If you do see her, please thanks to her from me.

If one need thawing out in the coming weeks, then go into the cafe and see how many bird species are on the diarama there. Ross' gull and spotted crake are just two to be seen.

Off to Burnham Overy and a long walk along the sea wall looking for the reported rough-legged buzzards. Now I've had some bad luck with this species this year so I was thrilled and grateful to David Bradnum for pointing one out to me. This was after saying that we'd met on Fair Isle a few weeks ago. Also saw John from Lakenheath here. So RL Buzzard on the list, at last and now on 245 for the year. 7 to go.

Cycled around to Holkham Gap, searched for the shore larks to no avail and then went to the Tower Hide. Two barn owls, marsh harriers etc seen. Then whilst on the phone to dad, bemoaning the latest Villa defeat, an adult rough-legged buzzard flew past the hide and landed on a nearby bush. Great bird, a zebra crossing of white/black/white/black - head to belly, belly, tail, terminal band. Superb view of a super bird.

17 little egrets came into roost in an area of trees adjacent to a pool where dozens of cormorants were doing likewise. A small bat flew around the hide too. Must have had his thermals on because I needed mine.

Monday 22nd November

Cycled to Holkham Hall after watching the thousands of pink-feet leave. Barn owl, sparrowhawks, marsh harriers and kestrel seen before doing so.

Walked around the Hall's grounds but no sign of a lesser-spotted woodpecker. Hundreds of fallow deer though and Egyptian geese, including some perched on the branches of a dead tree.

Next to Wells to find two Black Brant on the football pitch there.

Will be cycling to Cley this afternoon and getting nervous because of the weatehr forecast of the next ten days; colder with possible snow showers. Great

27 days to go before I reach Sandy. I wonder if the RSPB will greet me there?

All the best everyone

Why not have a BIGBY New Year?

Gary

xx

Friday, 19 November 2010

Firecrest at Lynford Arboretum - bird 243 for the year

And a male golden pheasant at Wolferton Triangle yesterday evening, 18th November 2010. Now are these true golden pheasant or is there some doubt over their purity. This male walked out in front of me, then flew over the road before disappearing under the rhododendrons. First time I've seen one fly; tail streamers streaming in the air. Can anyone say whether I can count it on the year list please?

The day had started at Santon Downham looking for lesser spotted woodpeckers and then looking for woodlark. Neither seen and if anyone can point me in the direction of either I'd be grateful. Only thing of note on tyhe Brecks was a very close muntjac.

Lynford Arboretum and 2 hours spent looking for the firecrest that had been reported a couple of days previously. Had stopped for some lunch, sitting at a picnic bench next to the archways when the treecreeper and the goldcrest I'd seen a few times whilst searching came onto a tree in the dell nearby. Went over and pished the evergreen shrubs there and out came the firecrest. Brilliant. One of my favourite birds and this one was a bright one. well appreciated and another for the year list. 8 to go to beat the record.

Cycled from here to Snettisham; after buying a cable for the iphone charger and saw the pink-footed geese flocks arriving for their roost; thousands of them.

Met two birders at this time, one of whom, Paul Searle has a great blog

http://www.chatterbirds.com/

Slept in the hide here. Actually had a very long sleep, 12 hours.

Friday 19th November

Woke around 6.00am and looking out of the hide window saw a 'half-moon Venus' if you get what I mean. It soon clouded over but not before seeing thousands of pink-footed geese leave their roost on the Wash.

Now I'm pleased to say that I now check every bird and it paid off this time with a close by black brant with a small group of brents.

2 peregrines were seen hunting over the mud and a white-fronted goose was with the greylags on the lagoon, as were around a thousand wigeon, small numbers of goldeneye, gadwall and mallard. 58 egyptian geese were here to and single great-crested grebe, little grebe and kingfisher.

Now I'd lost my last wooly hat somewhere yesterday and cycled back to Wolferton Triangle to search for same. Luckily for my slaphead, there it was, just along the road near the first triangle turning.

In the library at Hunstanton now and will be arriving at Titchwell a couple of days early. Hope they don't mind.

Sorry about the lack of photos but the thieves got the cable to my camera too.

Right, North Norfolk for the next week. Here's hoping.

All the best everyone.

Gary

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I've been Robbed!

Now, who in their right mind would steal one panner but not both? Who would take all the cycling tools but leave the expensive cycling helmet? Who wouldn't steal the lads - Barnaby, Sidney, Albert and Alberta? [the cuddly toys on the bike. Who indeed? The collection box on the front of the bike; well I understand the motive there. Now if anyone can give any information on who took these items whilst I stupidly looked over Ouse Fen RSPB reserve then please get in touch. How naive can I be? Maybe Shetland and it's no crime outlook had lulled me into a false sense of security but I wasetty stupid having locked the bike near-ish to the main road.

The panneir stolen contained some clothes, food, maps and the mobile phone charger. The cycling tools stolen from both panniers outside pockets.

Now am I downhearted over this. Not really. Frustrated that I will never meat the perpetrator[s] I can't be too down because people; friends and RSPB staff at Ouse washes, have been so fantastically wonderful. A tent was found for me as half of the one bought for me by my dear daughter Rebecca had gone with the pannier. A few tools were also given and some gloves too. Thanks Jon and Liam. Nicola brought me a sandwich box and, bless her, she even wanted to cycle home, cook me some pizza and chips, cycle back to the reserve and then cycle home again. I couldn't accept such kindness but was very grateful for the thought. Super people. Friends from home volunteered to buy what had been stolen and bring it to me from Wolverhampton and Worcestershire! Thanks Ian and Phil. Another very dear friend, Diane phoned to insist that I stay in a B & B on her. I didn't but once again was grateful and appreciative.

Now if I put a positive light on the experience, I've only had three such negatives in a whole year. The collection box being stolen in Kenilworth, my MP3 player stolen whilst in the library in Fort William and now this. Also my bike is now a lot lighter!

OK, let's talk birds.

Have been to Nene Washes, Fen Drayton, Ouse Fen [!] and Ouse Washes RSPB Reserves and Welney WWT reserve. The latter was the final one of the WWT's nine reserves to be visited so my first target for the year has been achieved.

Highlights bird-wise include stonechats, peregrine, hundreds of whoopers and bewicks, marsh harriers and thousands of ducks.

Joined in with the WEBS count at Ouse Washes; getting up at 5.15am to be out in my alloted hide for first light. The eventual co-ordinated count was around 7,000 whoopers and 1,200 Bewicks.

Now at Lakenheath RSPB reserve after a comfy night in another church porch. This one had a motion sensitive light!

Saw 5 cranes, 6 marsh harriers, a barn owl, some beardies and water rail and an adult yellow-legged gull amongst the 40 species on the day list. Superb people here met too. Dave White and Steve, Liz [thanks for the pork pie] and John. Great people!

Next on the itinerary is to search the Brecks for woodlark, lesser-spotted woodpeckers and firecrest. Wish me luck as I need all three to get near to the non-motorised year list record.

Right time to go.

All the best,

Gary

North Norfolk for the next 10 days. If anyone can spare a bed please phone 07988754090 or email bikingbirder2010@hotmail.com     Thanks everyone.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Frampton RSPB Reserve to Rutland

Friday 12th November

Early morning start, birding at Frampton with Tony. What a difference to my previous visit. Now a superb maturing reserve with scrapes, hides and a growing reedbed. Then, four years ago, a pile of manure and a field with pipits, linnets and finches.

I explored the whole reserve for the whole of the day and ended up with 60 species including kingfisher, little egrets, good numbers of ducks and waders, four different sparrowhawks and only my second view of grey partridge this year. Ten of them right outside the fabulous visitor's centre windows.

Loved chatting with the folk of Barnet & Potters Bar RSPB group and other birders including

Saturday 13th November

Cycled from Framton to Fineshade Wood/Top Lodge RSPB reserve via Spalding [!] and Stamford. Arriving there met by a good friend's brother Chris Andrews then spent the late afternoon birding. 26 species seen in this massive forested area, with brambling and marsh tits, goldcrest, nuthatch and woodpeckers.

The evening was spent cycling to Rutland to try for long-eared owl.

Sunday 14th November

Up and at 'em early but no long-eared owls in the roost there. Now I must be honest. First rule of birding - CHECK EVERY BIRD! I hadn't and was embarassed when Matthew Berriman, Tim McKrill and Tim Appleton arrived to say that one of the teal I'd scanned over was in fact an american green-winged teal; my second of the year.

Paid my entry fee of £5 and birded the fabulous Rutland Bird Reserve. Mind you a reported grey phalarope had me cycling to Hambleton to search it out and I was pleased to find it just as another birder, Barry came over to say he couldn't see it and that it would be a new bird for him. Had very close views of this smashing bird.

Saw a large flock of Egyptian geese [bird 242 for the year] and a flock of carefully checked golden plover, around the thousand mark.

Back to the centre and 64 species seen and 3 very large rats under the feeders near the centre. Now I like rats and think that they are fascinating creatures. These three were particularly large and confident.

The evening this time was spent cycling to Brian, Karen and Alex Stone's house near Peterborough and many many thanks for the fabulous meal, bath and bed. A wonderful evening with this very kind family talking birds over the dinner table, watching Attenborough's latest programme and listening to the men play piano and guitar. Brilliant. Thanks again.

Right, now a bit nervous because Brian, who is doing a cycling only year list around Peterborough, is going to cycle with me to the Nene Washes. Now I only hope that this mega fit cyclist wont be too harsh over my cycling speed!

Thanks to Martin for the donation to the RSPB. Much appreciated.

Will be cycling to the Nene washes, Fen Drayton, Ouse Fen and Ouse washes over the next two days. I'm still behind my itinerary because of the weather and the day at Rutland but have a window of free days coming up where I'll be able to hopefully add to the year list and catch up with the reserve list.

All the very best everyone. 47 days to go!

Gary

Friday, 12 November 2010

Hasn't the weather been exciting?!

So I set off from my visit to my son, Josh, and with an easterly blowing strong and the rain falling got to Donna Nook - eventually. Hail fell and heavy rain and dispite sheltering a kind motorist decided that soak the cyclist by going through a large puddle was the fun thing to do. Thanks.

The cattle egret had gone to roost so after a chat with John and Mel, the local farmers whose cows were the egrets main attraction, I camped in the car park, sheltering from the strong wind against the sea buckthorn hedge. A comfy night and an early start. No cattle egret first thing so spent time looking at the large colony of grey seals that this place is famous for. Lots of very newly born pups too, some with umbilical cords still attached.

9.00am and back to the cows. My cheers could be heard for miles. Bird number 241 for the year. 11 to go to beat the record, unless someone is also going for the record. Maybe I'm just becoming [more] paranoid.

Cycled to Langford lowfields, near Newark. Met Paul, the RSPB warden and together we went around what will be the reserve in 2017. Merlin, sparrowhawks, a water rail and some bearded tits heard. At the moment the reserve has gravel pits being excavated by Tarmac but watch this space because this is going to be a fabulous huge reserve. Paul was fabulously kind, with soup and coffee whilst chatting and then off again to find a place to sleep. Dark by now I found a beautiful church, St at Brant Broughton. I'd just got into my sleeping bag with my silver paper wrapping, intending to sleep in the porch, when five bellringers arrived for a practice. What a fabulous, totally unexpected evening up in the belfry of this beautiful church. Many thanks to Katharine, Karen, Lindsey, Trevor and especially to John who showed me certain things about the church before the others arrived. They even had me ringing a bell! Great fun.

Up early and the overnight frost had turned to gales and rain once more. Now I haven't had too many terrifying moments but cycling the A17 towards Sleaford in the very strong wind, the rain and the spray was just that. [sorry Mum!] I got pushed over onto the grassy verges a few times by the buffetting by the passing lorries. Not their fault but the wind was so strong and the road so narrow in parts. The rain fell heavier as I got to Boston and I went into the 'Stump', the large parish church.

The afternoon, now a bit sunny but still windy was spent cycling the RSPB reserve at Freiston. One problem, I'd left my wet binoculars in the church. Met Graham and Jenny, both RSPB staff and they took my panniers etc on to Frampton whilst I peddled as fast as the wind in my face would let me to retrieve my bins. Luckily still there so I cycled to Frampton. Met at the door of a brand new visitor's centre by Wendy Morris, a volunteer reserve assistant, then Tony, Jenny, Graham and Simon. A photo was taken outside the centre, which hadn't been here on my previous visit to the reserve four years ago. On that occasion Ian Crutchley and myself sheltered against a huge manure pile from a very cold east wind whilst looking and eventually finding a buff-bellied pipit found by the previous warden, Paul French.

Right time to go.

Thanks to Wendy and her dear Mum June for putting me up for the night. Really appreciate it.

Love to everybody,

Gary

Monday, 8 November 2010

Old Moor RSPB Reserve

Need to catch up again on blog news but just to say that I am now sheltering from the stormy weather in Hull, visiting my son, Joshua who's at Uni there. [November 8th]

Meanwhile going back a few days:

Arrived at Old Moor RSPB reserve after a lovely cycle from Castleford and was greeted by a group of around 10 or so RSPB people who were having a meeting in the visitor's centre. A round of applause from them as I lent my bike against the wall. Lovely.

Liane took me around to the office to meet people and I really appreciated her welcome. Next as darkness fell, a ew RSPB vols and staff and myself went for a bat search around the perimeter of the reserve. Only one daubenton's heard but a ghostly barn owl was seen quite close.

Thursday 4th November

Up early the next day to go birding. The aim was to beat the 66 bird species seen at Fairburn Ings. Rain first thing, brightening later, birds of the day included spotted redshanks, 5 green sandpipers, a ruff, a superb peregrine that drifted in causing panic amongst the duck and waders and good numbers of duck and waders such as golden plover and lapwing. The set up of the reserve is superb with fabulously situated hides giving great views over scrapes, lakes and reedbeds.

Mid morning and a ride around three nearby reserves with a number of RSPB people, Craig, Liane, Nicola, Katie and Pete. A really enjoyable ride and great to share the experience with others. They hire out bikes here for people to do likewise; a wonderful initiative.

Katie, the assistant warden, showed me the oldest hide in Yorkshire in the afternoon; a great hide with historic birding moments written on the inside walls; details of rarities etc. above the windows. Great idea.

Down to the wader hides to try to get to 66 but alas the light went and rain started to fall and I ended the day on 61. A fabulous day with great people on a fabulous reserve.

Friday 5th November

An early morning cycle along the Trans Pennine Trail to Doncaster and then to Beckingham Marshes, a very new RSPB reserve near Gainsborough, meeting Paul Bennet and the warden with two volunteers Dave and Graham. A couple of hours birding and chatting before setting off to try for the rough legged buzzard at Hatfield Moor. Now I'd had a couple of days in rain dipping on this species and this day was no exception as rain feel and the immensity of the area defeated me. Mind you I'd enjoyed the day's cycle of around 40 odd miles in very warm weather.

Saturday 6th November

Cycled to Blacktoft Sands from Wroot, arriving at around 10.00am. Met Mike and Bill in the visitor's centre before heading off birding. Beautiful sunny day with great bird views including a very close fly by by a male hen harrier. Other birds seen included 11 marsh harriers; some having been seen during the day but 11 counted going in to roost; also 3 barn owls, 2 ruff, over 70 snipe, a water rail, 3 bearded tits, 16 black-tailed godwits, 2 peregrines, 3 sparrowhawks - the day's list ending at 52 species. Brilliant. Also saw a very close fallow deer, close enough for a reasonable photo.

A very cold night with intermittent sleep; camping at this time of the year is going to be tough and if anyone who can help me by offering a warm bed would be greatly appreciated. [07988754090 or email bikingbirder2010@hotmail.com] Really I'm getting very nervous about this. 41 nights to go before I get to Sandy, it's only going to get tougher but I'm not giving up now when I'm so close. Please look at the itinerary for the approximate route. [Tetney, Langfield Lowfields, Frampton/Freiston, Top Lodge/Fineshades, Nene Washes, Fen Drayton/Ouse Fen, Ouse Washes, Welney, Lakenheath, Snettisham, Titchwell, Sutton Fen, Berney Marsh/Breydon, Buckingham, Strumpshaw, Surlingham, Rockland, Dingle Marshes, Minsmere, Halvergate, Wolves Wood, Stour Estuary, Old Hall Marshes, Wallasea Island, Rainham, Rye Meads, Fowlmere and Sandy.] Please if you can help get in touch.

Sunday 7th November

A very old frosty start but very sunny also. Two close roe deer seen and a large skane of over 600 pink-footed geese flew overhead. In fact lots of birds seen in large flocks; gulls going inland along the river, thousands of golden plover and lapwings, starlings and geese.

Same waders as yesterday but more of them due to a high tide and 13 dunlin and 9 spotted redshanks as extras.

Two lovely volunteers in the visitor's centre; Myrra and Trevor. {Thanks for the jokes and Yorkshire sayings, Trev'. Example?

yy ur     yy ub   ic ur  yy 4 me.  

Also met Pete, a very knowledgeable birder and site manager for Blacktoft, Reades Island and Tetney. Brilliant bloke.

Now if you meet me please don't ask how many punctures have I had. I always have one straight after someone asks me. No exception here but inner tube repairs were no use as the wall of the tyre was abraded and this was what was causing the punctures. Eventually managed to get to A1 Motors - CYCLE LIFE SCUNTHORPE in Scunthorpe by pumping the flat tyre up every couple of miles or so. Stuart and Richard helped by changing the tyre for me and they gave me a couple of brand new inner tubes. So many thanks to you lads. I'd also managed to drop my binoculars some where along the road. OK so they should have been around my neck but with all the pumping I put them in one of the panniers. Now I need to say thanks to Mal Shipley who helped me find them, thank goodness. Now Mal is famous for being in the Guiness book of Records for having pushed a wheelbarrow from Land's End to John O'Groats for Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The day ended with me cycling over the Humber Bridge and negotiating the maze of Hull's streets to find my Son, Josh.

Right time to go.

Please if you can help please get in touch.

Meanwhile all the best evryone,

Love

Gary

Monday, 1 November 2010

Hello to the Rigby Children xxxxxxxxxxxxx See You All Soon - ish

Hello children - and staff.

Especially a very big hello to :-

Anees    Danielle    Grace    Louisa    Richard     Sadie    Sam     Sian    Tom and    Tyrone [Shoelaces]. . . hello to Sara and Jean too xx

Here's a picture for you Tom :


It's a photo of that osprey that was sadly dead in the Lake District Tom.

Here's a photo that will make you feel happier :

                       It's Barnaby Bear on top of Scarfell Pike.

Can you guess where I have been sleeping most nights?

And my bike has been fantastic :


And so have been the people I have met :


video

How are these faces feeling ?


This was a very windy day on a boat :

Now is the time to say     goodbye ........
Love to you all

Mr Prescott


OK everyone. That's just me saying hello to the children and staff at the school where I am a teacher - Rigby Hall Shool, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. England.



Saturday, 30 October 2010

Fairburn Ings 28th - 29th October 2010

Another brilliant RSPB reserve! I hadn't been here for 20 years and how those years have been kind to the area; thanks to the RSPB. A superb visitor's centre, miles of walks with fabulous autumn colours, lots of birds and a special group of great RSPB people.

Met by young Joe, who was exited over having just found a common waxbill. Ah sweet youth and naivity. Me, old cycnic that I am. I wasn't too upset at not seeing it.

Now Joe [Joseph!!!] was fabulous. In fact he has been the first person that I've met on an RSPB reserve who has actually asked whether I was a member! I showed him my membership card and gave him my complimentary one - signed. You should have seen him blush. Brilliant.

A great welcome. Met Zoe, a keen roseate tern fan with a tattoo to show her love and Duncan, a peat bog man.


A quickish walk around part of the reserve with Graham [Thanks!] with kingfisher coming close and lots of tree sparrows, goldfinch and itimice, including willow all seen.

An evening spent in the company of three smashing lads in the RSPB house. Condition of my staying there for the night was that I watched Kate Humble on Autumnwatch. No hardship there.

Friday 29th October

A day of fun with the photo session on an Halloween Theme. The reserve is having a Ghostly evening and from all of the preparations going on in the centre's office I know the children who attend, and their parents are in for a spooky time. I'll put some photos on when Joe sends some that he took to me.



A superb drystone wall is being built and thought you might like to see the progress:-

Thanks to Darren Starkey and everyone who I met there.

Off around the reserve, both in the morning and again until sunset, with a long walk after viewing from the hide near the centre. A beautiful walk surrounded by the golden leaves of silver birch. Goosander, pintail, shelduck, goldeneye and six black swans [bred here this year - future British Bird?] on the water with 100s of coot and other more common species; kingfisher, green woodpecker, willow tits, tree sparrows, siskins, lesser redpoll amongst other titmice, finches etc. Birds of prey also seen, peregrine, sparrowhawk a few times, buzzards and kestrels.Great day's birding with it ending at sunrise with snipe tazzing about and dozens of cormorants coming in to roost. 66 species over the day - the best day's birding numbers -wise in Yorkshire - so far. Will Old Moor RSPB reserve give a better total?

So now for a short rest before the final stretch from Fairburn to Sandy via Lincolnshire, Notts, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, etc. Just a short jaunt really!!!

Thanks to everyone who's donated and thanks for all the messages of support.

All the best everyone,

Love,

Gary

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Now on the way to Fairburn Ings - Thursday 28th October

Arrived at Wheldrake Ings yesterday at around 11.30am and had a relaxing day. Thrilled to meet an Upton Warren birder Tim Jones who's moved up to York University. [Thanks for the donation Tim and good luck at Uni'] We were both here to see an american wigeon and after a few hours of enjoying peregrines and common ducks and geese, the am wig was found and three great lads let me have goodish views through their scopes. Bird 240 for the year. 12 to go for the record.

Had had a seawatch Tuesday early on but not a lot seen. A woodcock off the sea, a couple of unid'd skuas and a few fieldfare coming in. Rain was falling so an invite back to Richard Bains house with Ben Green [artist and Villa fan- good lad!] and Duncan Poyser, for a warming cup of tea was welcome. It's great to be in the company of birders for a couple of hours. Guess what the conversation was about?

Over to Phil Cunningham's house to collect the bike and stuff that had been left there during the seawatch. Thanks to his Mum in Law and her brother, Brenda and Jack, for the donation.

Early morning rise to get to Fairburn Ings today. Lovely to meet Paul Doherty and his directions were perfect. Great bloke.

http://www.birdvideodvd.com/

Right time up at the library.

All the best to everyone. 2 months to go.

Gary

Monday, 25 October 2010

Post Saltholme and on to Bempton RSPB Reserve

Well say my beautiful, funny, exhilerating daughter Rebecca for the evening. An evening of new culinary delights; namely a 'Parmo' - cheese on chicken and a DVD of Terry Gilliam's film Dr Parnassus.

Now I love Gilliam's other films; Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits etc but my favourite is Brazil. The scenes when Sam flies amongst the clouds with those wonderful silver wings. [OK I like the bit with the ribbon too but my Mum might be reading this!]

Great to see 'Rebs' again and I'm very proud of her. Love you Angel.

Next day, Friday, got to Commondale to try to see a rough-legged buzzard. Just missed it when I arrived and then the whole of Saturday was spent doing the same. Well, not quite the same as most of the day was heavy rain. So by dodging the rain sheltering in the village pub, a little birding gave a sprog but no Rough-legged. Oh well. Should see one sometime this winter.

Moved on a good distance on Sunday. In fact cycled 56 miles through hail, rain but with a northerly pushing me first to Whitby [lovely], then Scarborough [likewise] and eventually to Bempton. Now Bempton is one of my favourite reserves. When I was first with my wife so many years ago, we all, that's Karen, the children and myself, used to stay at a caravan near to here so I got to know the area quite well. Now Bempton has a huge chalk cliff for its main habitat and although the nesting birds might have all left, it's still a very impressive sight. Met Jonathan, the information assistant; Nick, the retail manager and Sue, a local volunteer. Nice people one and all. After I'd apologised for being early - three days early! I went out to have the first look from the cliffs. The cold north wind was still blowing but gannets were passing and a good number fo kittiwakes too. Arriving as I did at around 4.00pm I only had an hour or so.

Monday 25th October

Up with the lark and straight down to the cliffs. Keep it short, saw 41 species of bird including my first sooty shearwater of the year [year list 236] and a lapland bunting. Also met a non-typical local birder. Here's the conversation I had when i approached him and I quote :-

"Good morning" [silence] "Anything about?" "Who said you could come in here?" Sorry I didn't know" "You knew you couldn't!" "I didn't. I'm not from around here. Listen to my accent" "Read the notices, ...Private."

At this he turned his back and walked off. Now I'm a friendly chap and all I'd seen was a birder, and according to people I met later they all say that this 'gentleman' is a brilliant birder, and I'd gone up to ask what he'd seen. There were no signs to say that I was indeed out of the RSPB area. Indeed the gate had a notice saying what common hedgerow birds might be seen here. Nothing else. So ended a meeting with the most ignorant and bad mannered birder of the year - allegedly. So I say this to you Terry Nolan. Lighten up and join the human race. Good manners cost nothing and I feel sorry that you feel the need to be so disgusting towards other people. You sad, lonely, little man.

Right I've got that off my chest. there's no need to be like that. I wonder what makes Terry behave so.

Back to the birding.

Enjoyed the walk around the whole of the reserve. Corn buntings and stonechats; a goldcrest in the Dell. Red-throated divers on the sea and dozens of tree sparrows [good fun gently pishing them] at the feeding station.

Met Ian Kendall, the site manager and Allan Dawson who I'd met earlier by a watchpoint. Smashing people.

Off to Flamborough with 4 target birds for the year list. Met Phil Cunningham and Andrew Malley along the Lighthouse road and immeadiately saw a target bird on a telegraph wire. Waxwing! [237]. Lunch in the cafe, thought I deserved a treat, and then seawatched with Phil by the foghorn. Now there weren't many birds but I did find a little gull [238] and a couple of little auks [239], as well as a passing possible glaucous gull. Looked good to me with my Opticron bins but Phil said he could see a small greyish smudge on an inner primary. A number of red-throated divers were on the sea and a couple of great northerns flew past; as did a sandwich tern. Great 3 of the 4 target birds and a growing year list 3 closer to the record.

Phil left as the sun went in and it grew immeadiately much cooler. He was replaced by three birders who went further down the cliff to the famous seawatch ledge, Richard Baines and two Cambridge birders.  Richard Baines gave a donation to the RSPB on the behalf of the Flamborough Bird Observatory [Many thanks for that]. Not a lot of birds moving now but a snow bunting landed on the grass just behind us. Nice.

Sundown and a shortish ride back to Bempton.

Now you may remember Roz savage; she of rowing the Atlantic and Pacific fame, well she has put some words of advice on her latest email message. Check them out -

http://www.rozsavage.com/2010/10/19/goal-setting/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rozsavage%2Fblog+%28Roz+Savage%2C+Ocean+Rower%29

Reading her emails is always a pleasure and her fortitude has been an inspiration for me over the year.

Thanks to everyone who has been looking at my blog. Seeing who is following me on Twitter and the like is a real motivation and I am very grateful to you all.

Right, time for bed for tomorrow will be another very early seawatch at Flamborough day.

All the best,

Gary

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Most Amazing and Wonderful RSPB Reserve - Saltholme

After a quick visit to Saltholme in the afternoon after leaving Washington WWT Reserve and after having cycled down the busy A19, slept nearby with a view of the opening Bladerunner scene. The lights of a nearby oil refinery shone brightly as an almost full moon rose with Venus at its side. How romantic.


21st October 2010

Got to Saltholme RSPB reserve early and met a lovely volunteer, Barbara, who was doing some birding herself on the way in. A little egret was in Bottom Pool, along with shovelor, teal, a good number of gadwall and a few teal. Nice start to the day.

Met the warden next and then was taken in over the swingbridge into the reserve centre. Now I've seen a few impressive visitor centres before but the one at Saltholme takes some beating. A large modern centre with awards for its 'green' credentials.

http://www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk/article.php?article_id=572

The reserve centre was busy with dignitaries from English Nature and the higher echelons of the North East RSPB but dave Braithewaite gave some of his time to show myself and the English nature photographer around the reserve. Dave was brilliant! A hugely charismatic enthusiast, Dave told me of breeding success for this year and their future plans. All these were discussed with much mirth and I enjoyed his company tremendously.

He left me in the Pool Hide where I met up with hide wardens, Dennis and Adam as well as meeting up with the delightful Barbara again. Sat there for a couple of hours watching the birds; black-tailed godwit, a few dunlin, a few hundred golden plover and a variety of duck including pintail and goldeneye. Also met people here from York; part of the 'University of the third Age' [U3A] group. Lovely people who certainly knew how to enjoy their birds.

http://www.u3a.org.uk/home.html                 is the link for their home website.

By now 37 species and a male sparrowhawk hunting in front of the cafe made it 38. Speaking of the cafe!!! Many, many thanks to Dave Braithewaite and to the wonderful Anne, Dawn and Angela for the fabulous dinner. After a few days of pitta breads with jam and peanut butter, it was great to have soup, then dinner of such a superb quality and quantity. Thanks so much. Very much appreciated.

Whilst enjoying these culinary delights, met a fabulous young girl, Lyndsay, who was working with local school children from Yalm Primary School on an art/bird project. She showed me the children's creative work on her laptop and we chatted fro half an hour or so about such projects. One of their projects is viewable on you tube :-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8NQ6xzkrT8

Eventually off and onto the Transporter Bridge. Well over the river and back. Then along the cycle path and onward. Another fabulous RSPB reserve visited.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Washington Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Centre - Wednesday 20th October 2010

19th October 2010

What a brilliant place! OK call me a dude [my friends do] but I enjoy having red-breasted geese waddle up to me whilst I sit enjoying the autumn sunshine. I like hearing the sexy call of eiders close to and I love watching people, who may not be super birders, enjoy birds.

This is my first visit to Washington WWT Reserve and the people here couldn't have made me more welcome. I arrived three days early because the migrants on the Northumerland coast had disappeared with the westerly winds. Also the RSPB have, thank goodness, got 2 more reserves that need visiting and therefore I need to push ahead of schedule for a bit. So a surprised staff greeted me very warmly and so my visit began.

Now the centre was just a few empty looking farm fields back in 1975 and now? Well it looks a fabulous place for children with many features of fun for them. There's the usual collection birds but not too many and there's woodland to explore, a brilliant feeding centre with hide for close views of woodpeckers and willow tits and a wader scrape down by the river, where recently over 750 curlew have roosted. After a lovely chat with Jane the Centre manager and Leanne, the marketing manager, and after having enjoyed watching the cranes chasing off a grey heron that had wandered into their enclosure, I went for a late afternoon walk around the grounds. I ended up at the wader scrape and checked all of the teal there and generally just enjoyed the peace after a day of hair-raising cycling down the A1, the A189 and the A19.

Once the centre was closed I was lucky to have a fabulous evening in the company of three great ladies: Gill, Leanne and Giselle {whose surname is Eagle and who will be working as an ornithologist on Bardsey with her boyfriend. Well, she will be once she gets a ride over to the wonderful isle.}. A million thanks for the evening girls.

20th October 2010

No cloud, a cold northerly and lots of late autumn sunshine. A quick look around the collection part of Washington and then a series of ridiculous looking photos of me with a toy flamingo for the Sunderland Echo and an interview with a reporter from the same. All great fun and my embarassment over doing such things lessening - slightly.

Have just returned from exploring the wilder areas of the reserve having seen 28 species in an hour and a half. Siskins, great spotted woodpeckers, willow tits, goldcrests and bullfinches were the highlights of a very enjoyable time. Wonderful light and lots of birds close to. Might not be the rarities that so many crave but I like it.

It's incredible what they've done with this place. For the local people it must be great to have all of this on the doorstep and tucked down in a tree surrounded valley, one can't see the large offices just up the road. What one can see is a green roof covered centre, pools and trees both large and small with autumn colours and lots of birds. A brilliant place - or have I said that before. I'll be back.

Now to get back to the A19!!!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Vane Farm RSPB reserve.

What a great reception from everyone at Vane Farm. Thanks for it. Much appreciated.

What a great reserve too. Brilliant facilities with a cafe overlooking the Loch, a lovely pond dipping area with classroom sized hide and a combination of habitats that gave me 50 bird species in the morning. What with the arrival of a few thousand pink-footed geese, a good number of whoopers and a female hen harrier amongst the commoner birds, it was a great visit.

The early morning up gave views of the leaving pink feet from the hides and then I walked to the top of the hills behind the excellent visitor's centre. The view atop was wonderful; Bass Rock on view as well as Largo Bay and a few smaller islands. To the north a line of autumn coloured hills looked resplendent in the early sunshine. A very close by roe deer stood uncertain whether to depart but did so just as the camera focussed.

The staff at Vane Farm are of the usual standard for the RSPB i.e. the best!!! So what better place could their be for a relaxed day's birding? Great birds, superb views, great cafe with superb, friendly people to meet.



Was thrilled when a local cyclist [I hope I'm right when I say Linda] came in to say that she's come to the reserve to meet me. I was honoured.

An afternoon ride down to Largo Bay unencumbered by panniers didn't give any views of the scoter species I'd wanted but the 30 miles covered were actually fun.

Leaving was fun too. The ladies came out to push me off 'Conga' style! Brilliant.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Fowlsleugh and loch Of Kinnordy RSPB Reserves - and J.M.Barrie!

A quick summary of the last two reserves visited. Inbetween each enjoyed strenous cycling in order to cover the miles so I wont bore you with the details.

Fowlsleugh RSPB reserve

Early morning seawatch - 1 great northern diver, a number of small flocks of eider, a few gannets, 1 kittiwake and a number of gulls.

Along the cliffs - 7 tree sparrows, c.40 yellowhammer, a few chaffinches and meadow pipits and a number of song thrushes and robins.

Interesting cliffs made of a large-boulder filled conglomerate. I wonder why the stream hasn't eroded its way down to the sea? Nice waterfall instead into a large crevice in the rocks with a large cave by its side.
Next onto Loch of Kinnordy via Montrose to have a look in the basin. Wanted to go to the Scottish Wildlife Centre but the £4 admission charge would be a day's food so cycled on.

Arrived at Kirriemuir and met Heidi, a local member of the Kirriemuir Heritage Centre. She told me of J.M. Barrie's birthplace and 150th anniversary celebrations.
By now it was almost dark but found the birthplace and a house named 'Window of Thrums', made famous in one of his books.

http://guide.visitscotland.com/vs/guide/5,en,SCH1/objectId,SIG49357Svs,curr,GBP,season,at1,selectedEntry,home/home.html

http://www.barrie2010.org.uk/

13th October 2010  Loch of Kinnordy RSPB Reserve

Early morning birds included sceins of pink-footed geese going over in their hundreds heading east. A flock of 143 landed on a recently harvested cereal crop nearby.

At 7.15am a few hundred jackdaws left their roost in conifers on the far bank of the loch.

On the water - lots of mallards, a few teal, 2 pochard and a few mute swans. Greylags and canada geese as well.

Now in Glenrothes library having a rest after a 40 mile cycle, which included riding over the Tay Bridge.
Just a few miles to get to Vane Farm RSPB Reserve. have been here before and looking forward to seeing it again. One of my favourites.

All the best everyone,

Gary

Monday, 11 October 2010

Aberdeenshire - Loch Of Strathbeg RSPB Reserve

Can't be a better antedote to having come off Shetland than visiting Loch of Strathbeg RSPB reserve. 3 pectoral sandpipers [year list bird], and around 10,,000 pink-footed geese, as well as over 70 other species.

Had got off the ferry from Lerwick Thursday am and cycled to Rifigi farm to look for the pec sand there. Couldn't see it, did see 2 ruff and 87 curlew, so cycled 40 miles north to get to Strathbeg. Stopped at the Ythan Estuary to revive memories of my last time there 20 years ago when I twitched a king eider. Beautiful place.

Donughts [how do you spell it?] from Morrisons at Peterhead and an early arrival to the Loch. Was due on the Friday but wanted to see the geese arriving for the night.

Met Mark, Dave and Dominic and relaxed in the superb visitor's centre and the tower hide. Fabulous views of thousands of pink feets coming in for the night.


Up early next morning to join the Goose Watch. A strip of orange sky brightened as the geese took off and Dave told jokes and statistics to the members of the public who'd likewise wanted to see the spectacle - and hear it.

To the plantation next and a couple of yellow-brows with a few other migrants. ( lapland bunting were seen next adjacent to the sand dunes. {!}

About to have breakfast/lunch when the news of a black tern at the south end of the loch got me back on the bike. The RSPB people took the car but when I arrived the bird had gone to the other end. Oh well, more peddling and eventually views of a black tern [year list bird] through a telescope.

Now I have decided that the Scottish crossbill that I'd counted is no longer valid. Aberdeenshire/North east Scotland only count them if proof of a sonograph is available. Not having one on the bike I've decided to remove that so with the pectoral sandpiper and black tern the year list now stands at 234.

Stayed at the Fen Hide after the rest of the people had gone and whiulst looking at the tern saw a hen harrier land in the distant reed bed.

Exactly 70 bird species seen during the day.

Saturday 9th October 2010

Cyled to Troup Head but first saw the Goose Watch again, with larger numbers of geese taking off at one time than the previous morn. Also stopped at Crimond Church to see the 61 minute clock and the beautifully engraved windows celebrating the writer of the music to the hymn of the 23rd psalm. Was invited into the local church hall by Ann, after being shown around the church by Marlene [many thanks to both] where a Macmillan's coffee morning was taking place. Had a great time chatting with local people, drinking coffee and eating 'Rowie's'. Thanks to George for the information about the area.


Also many thanks to Marlene, Ann, Elma, Olive, Rachel and Eileen for their donations to Asthma UK.

Also thanks for the donation from 2 citizen wardens in Aberdeen - thanks.

Got to Troup Head and had an early night.

Sunday 10/10/10 - I like that.    Troup Head RSPB Reserve

Had a morning off and read Bill Bryson for a bit. Eventually got up and explored the valley by the RSPB car park, finding lots of song thrushes, a few chiffs, a blackcap, a willow warbler and a reed bunting. Nothing special but I love finding migrants.

To the cliffs and sat watching the gannets on the cliffs. wrote down some specific behaviours observed - love and marriage.


5 wheatears on the way back to where I'd left the bike.

Cycled to Pennan, the location for the film Local Hero and had my phograph taken to the red phone box there.


http://www.scotlandthemovie.com/movies/pennan.html  http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/home/scotland/tales/hero.html

Next stop was for a huge burial cairn at Memsie.


http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=109

Then back to Fen Hide at Strathbeg but surpirsed to come across a Stock Car racing meeting. Enjoyed watching tha last three races; a ladies go-cart race, a 4 car saloon race and finally a demolition derby where the last car going out of around 30 was the winner. Chaos and mayhem, smashes and bashes. A winner and everyone homeward bound.


Now at Petehead cycling towards Fowlsheugh RSPB reserve, my next port of call.