Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Gronant, Black Grouse and the Dee - hopefully.

Camped and Gronant and a whinchat outside the tent greeted me as I opened the flap. Nice start to the day but still that nagging NE wind. Met Mike Ratcliffe, a local birder and together we went down onto the sands to 'have a look'. Little terns, lots of them flying high and landing inside the electrified fencing made it 192 for the year. great to be with a talented, dedicated birder and the conversation was appreciated.

To Point of Ayr and after a meeting with a local OAP poet, whose work was recited over a coffee, met Geoff, the warden of the reserve and his wife Jude. A fabulous couple of hours with maybe few birds; whimbrel being the highlight, but what a great couple. Brilliant to meet them.

A carvery for £3.50. Food!!!! Afetr a few days of Primula sandwiches [I wonder if they'll sponsor me for the plug I've just given them?] it was a delight to have 3 different meats and as much veg as wanted.

A visit to the lovely St Asaph's Cathedral, 12th Cathedral I think on the tour, and two about 10 year old girls looking around too. One of the girls was there because her Grannie had just died and she wanted to come to the Cathedral to think of her.

Slept at the Black Grouse site, meeting Ian the owner of the Mountain Bike Centre, as I set up the tent. Now how to make one feel humble. Ian has cycled over the Himilayas and his travels made my trip look like a bike ride through a park, which of course it is. Fantastic bloke and his Mountain Bike Centre is brilliant.

Up at 4.30am; packed away quickly and soon meeting Julie, the RSPB guide, who was to prove to be excellent throughout the visit, and Frank, a local volunteer whose wife turned out to be the cousin of my assistant headteacher back at the special school where I am a teacher, namely Rigby Hall Special School, Bromsgrove, WORCS.

Julie took the group which included a couple from Southampton, a father and two lovely children from Epping Forest and some birders from Stevenage, up to the Black grouse hide. She was great with very good ears for the calls, a good manner with beginners and 'experts' alike and good eyes, spotting whinchat, siskin and crossbills quickly.

The black grouse males were leking as expected [193] and not far away too.

Breakfast [thanks Ian 'Badger'.] and chats then cycled to the Dee Estuary.

Now I love fate. Call it Karma but things do seem to happen which are beyond coincidence. take this for example.

Lost in Connah's Quay. Well, couldn't find the cycle route to the new bridge over the river so I knowcked on the last door of a line of three houses just north of the town. Explained what I was looking for and the reply was "you're not the bloke with the robin on the front of your bike are you?"

Yes I am so invited in and a 2 hour tour of the garden, lots of water and squash [thanks!!!] and I'd met Steve and Margaret. Steve had been on the internet the night before to look up ospreys and had seen my photo at Glaswyn on their blog. Uncanny coincidence or what?

So much to tell but almost time up at the library.

I still need to talk about the fabulous group of people I met at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB reserve but time is against me.

So, I'm now in Congleton where I am visiting a friend who I haven't seen for 10 years or so. taking a day out to catch up but tomorrow will be on the way to Combes Valley RSPB reserve, Staffs.

Year list now stands at 196 - wood sandpiper at Sandbach following yellow wagtail and common tern at Inner Marsh.

Thanks to all who follow me, all who donate and all who think "I think I'll get on my bike and get out there". Love to you all and finally

Have a look at Roz Savage's blog. Google her name and prepare to be amazed at her exploits. She's eloquent, beautiful and a true inspiration.

All the best everyone



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