Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cliffe Pools and Northward Hill Sunday 17th January Day 17

OK. I know I'm having trouble keeping up with the blog but I'll keep adding to it as and when I can.

Please go to my website   as the links for donations have been fixed on the 'charities' page.

A ride with Dave Saunders taking the lead on his mountain bike and a puncture to my back tyre quite early into it.

Another cyclist in trouble with the same meant that we took our time getting to Cliffe. Soon cycled around to where a small crowd had gathered to see the reported shore larks. Not on view so chatted. To my right the nearest bloke, David Rolfe, was a cyclist. He was soon discussing my broken back brakes and noticed that a small spring was broken.

"What's this small bird with a yellow face?" said Dave Saunders. 4 shore larks on a muddy shore. Good one to get and onto the year list they went with grey plover [95], knot [96], the larks making it 97.

Cycled to Northward Hill, via Jules Holland's house/caste at Cooling. Beautiful castle which it's just a shame that one can't look around it becuase of Jules. maybe you can but the house gates were locked and heavy curtains were drawn.

Cooling Church and there's the 'nine lozenges', the graves of Pip's brothers according to Dickens but there are actually a lot more children's graves in two rows, 13 in all. Photos taken by Dave.

To Northward Hill and a meeting with the site manager, Julian, an Arsenal fan and immediate fun.

Off around the reserve and just one thought - how come no one else was there to see the 6,000 odd corvids [crows, jackdaws and rooks] coming in to roost? The sun had gone down, Dave and I had walked over the meadows to the viewpoint just inside the woods and 4 tawny owls were calling. A large owl came over but I couldn't get any detail on it. had been told that long-eared were around but couldn't honestly say it was one so it's not on the year list. Almost silence as we looked at the thinnest crescent Moon and jupiter through the scope. Then it was heard, a distance sound of many cawing, chacking and calling birds. Over they came filling the sky and what a cacophony! Many times they landed on the trees in front of us only to rise and circle again and again. Truly a wonderful spectacle and all just for Dave and I. 9 grey heron came over in formation and 14 woodcock came out, a couple so close that features could be seen. Do yourself a favour if you live close - go and see this event.

Thanks Dave. A perfect day ending in a fantastic spectacle. Great birds and company.

Back to Strood and an uncomfortable night in a 'hotel' which was overpriced at £18! I won't dwell on it too much but the landlady's request for me to name the place when I was interviewed by the local press was a bit too much for her to expect.

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