First - thanks to Hayley, Rhys and mark at ASDA in Weymouth. I've been having a bit of trouble getting in at supermarkets, won't name them - ASDA at portsmouth for instance, Tesco Express in Chichester [I'm not bitter!] due to the bike. Here though these 3 wonderful people were fantastically helpful. Thanks and hope you get the credit you sdeserve. THANKS!!!
Now before I get to the trip news a word of warning and apology. My email address - strobble etc, has been hijacked by someone advertising a phone. I've been told that the emails that this person has sent contains a virus. All of contacts have been deleted otherwise I would have got in touch with all of you to say - IT WASN'T ME. Any advice on what I can do please get in touch. I'm setting up a new email account. I'll put the address on here when I've done it.
OK back to the story - Sunday got to Swanage after 2 days rest. Great to see Perry, wife of the late Gordon of Fair Isle and great bustard fame. Told her about last week's events with the stuffed Fair Isle bird. She was thrilled that it was still around. Also saw a fabulous friend, Pete who put me up in his caravan that night. His slideshow of bird photos he'd taken on Lesvos last year contained some great images, especially of flying squaccos.
An early morning cycle to Middlebeare via the back road to Corfe castle from Swanage on Monday, arriving at Middlebeare a group of young sica deer came very close being very curious of a man on a bike. From the hide the tide was coming in well and 8 spoonbill and hundreds of waders were on view. Avocet, black-tailed godwit, grey plover, know and dunlin were the most common with a few redshank and curlew. The best however were 10 bar-tailed godwits, including a bird in full summer plumage. When I used to bird at Middlebear a lot 6 years ago and more, bar-tailed were very rare here. Thanks to 3 Salisbury-Ringwood birders who gave some money as donations into the pot on the front of my bike. Thanks lads.
To Arne, met Mark the warden and various other workers, brilliant enthusistic people all. Cycled down to Shipstal Point and just couldn't make the very distant duck out in Poole Harbour in the probable long-tailed duck that had been reported. A closer black-necked grebe was easier, as were 6 red-breasted mergansers. Up on the viewpoint a very close male hen harrier comes close to being the best birding moment of the year so far. Fabulous bird and so close. A dartford warbler buzzed and came close too. Down towards Shipstall hide a group of Sica were feeding out on the marsh and the shelduck, wigeon, pintail etc settled down after the harrier flyover. Back towards the centre a large group of sicas jumped the barbed wire fence, around 40 animals and another larger group wer mostly static in a field adjacent to the main path.
Puncture! Won't embarass myself by going into all of the details on how I eventually fixed it but let's just say it took 2 hours!
A lovely ride on the rejuvenated bike to Weymouth and easily found WILTON GUEST HOUSE, where Craig and Claire had offered accommodation for the next two nights. A beautiful B & B in the centre of Weymouth and Craig's chilli concarne was also gratefully received. It's been tough on the finances the last 2 months because the weather has been so bad and most of the Youth Hostels contacted have been shut. So a million thanks to them, and I will find those promised Villa programmes Craig.
Tuesday 23rd - off to Westfield Art College, Weymouth. What a wonderful school; MLD children and brilliant staff. had a wonderful morning extended because the next school that i was going to visit was closed due to a broken boiler. An assembly with the children then a tour with 'Gladys and Betty' then a chat with a class and email sent to 'my' school in Worcestershire - Rigby Hall Special School, Bromsgrove. I hopt the link between schools will be maintained.
Off to Radipole Primary School and 2 exciting sessions with 2 year 5 classes. These school visits contiue to be a major highlight of the trip. Wonderful to see the eco work and commitment. Thanks to both schools, staff and children for allowing me the privilidge of visiting.
Cycle past Lodmoor and down to Radipole to see the hooded merganser, now a beautiful adult and quite close with a group of tufted duck. Can't count it as doubt over origins but good to see anyway. On the car park were 14 med' gulls of various ages, mostly 1st year birds or adults; with some some posturing by the latter. Met Dave Chown, the local gull expert who said that there are around 300 meds around Weymouth.
Thanks to Nigel at Halford's in Weymouth for his help with the bike and advice. THANKS!
Wednesday 24th February - met Nick Quintrell, one of Radipole's wardens and together we went around a strangely mostly birdless reserve. Exceedingly few birds but interesting chat with a smashing birdy bloke. Noisy cetti's and a single water rail call heard, the hooded merganser seen again and also seen flying.
Photographed very speedily by a local paper - the Dorset Echo. Then interviewed on the phone by the same paper.
Cycled like the wind, well it was behind me, to lodmoor and once again walked aorund the whole reserve with nick. A spoonbill and a kingfisher were highlights here but once again a lack of duck apparent.
Back to Radipole, a bit slower now as the wind was hitting my face. 7 1st year meds on the car park.
Problems as said with the emails meant that a couple of hours was spent trying to sort it then decided to cycle in the heavy rain to Ferrybridge. Along the superb cycle path, the Rodwell way and almost no birds once getting there. So cycled on to Portland and down to a surging sea at the Bill. Photos and kittiwakes, loved the violence of the sea and the beauty of the gulls riding the wind. 3 shags going past makes the year list now 142.
Called in at Portland Bird Obs but Martin cade not there. Paid my respects at the Peter Cowdray memorial on the wall of the lighthouse then cycled back to Weymouth.
Another great day. Another opportunity to meet the amazing RSPB volunteers who no matter what the weather get in where it's cold and wet to do the conservation work necessary. Good luck to all of them.
Buns and bed!