Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Thanks to everyone who donated to Asthma UK last year.

Happy Christmas and many thanks to the following people who kindly donated to Asthma UK last year.

William Oddie OBE

Andrew Appleton

Avis Cropper

Caroline Dudley

Susan Wilkes

Sarah Jones

Harry Hopkins

Robert Phillips

Trevor Hawkins

Brian Stone

Tony and Beth Gerrard

Jane Outram

Karen Munro

Pauline and Paul Eppy

Bubo bubo

Mark Reeder

John White

Nathan and Jan

Gracefield School

Daphne and Mike

Honor and Ian

Rachel Maynard



David Masser

many thanks to you all,
Gary Prescott

Monday, 19 December 2011

A Wonderful Christmas - thanks to people!

It's started already.

A fabulous weekend with Mum and Dad, going to Arnhem in Holland for them to see Andre Rieu. Saturday.
Great flight over, superb hire car and smooth, empty motorways to get from Amsterdam Airport to Arnhem. [Birds seen on the way included geese and ducks, mostly gadwall, and a few buzzards]. Duiven Hotel, tall, comfortable booked in and tea. Then it was off to the concert for Mum and Dad in a taxi whilst I enjoyed a jacuzzi and Strictly Come Dancing.
Midnight, they arrived back after the taxi driver had shown them around Arnhem for no extra cost; the Christmas lights [yes Mum, I got it - trees covered in white lights!] and the World War 2 bridge; not from the film but the 'actual'.

Sunday. Off back to explore Amsterdam. Beautiful city and one that had never been on my 'must visit' list but it is now. The reputation and colleague's jokes and innuendos had always put me off the place but I was wrong. It was charming! A lovely city with millions of bikes. Anywhere that has a multistorey bike park has got to be doing something right.

Back to Warwick after a flight over London back to Birmingham for Mum and dad to watch Strictly!

Dad was 80 this year and the concert was a birthday present for him and the whole weekend was for me to say thank you to them both for being such fabulous parents.

Speaking of saying thank you for being fabulous. I've spent time writing Christmas cards and sending texts/emails to the people I met last year during my Biking Birder experience. I just wish I had the time to really individualise it and say to each and every one exactly how much they meant to me last year. Also to those people who kindly made a donation on my behalf to Asthma UK, the RSPB and the WWT I'd love to be able to write/email to say thank you. I can't see how to do that though. Thanks everyone for making it the best year of my life.

Next year?

Well building the best Design & Technology department is a priority but away from that there'll be the Green Birding Day competition in May to enjoy. [If you want details please email me at], a year's birding with other members of The Clams [Clear Lunacy and Madness Society]; this being the latest incarnation of the T.I.T.S [terpsichorean inpried Twitcher society] from a Big Year back in 2005, birding holidays to Poland and Fair Isle and cycling to my patch, the fabulous Upton Warren.

Have a Great Christmas Everyone!

All my love to you all,


Monday, 12 December 2011

Long time No Write.... Green Birding and Norfolk.

Sorry about not being on the Blogger scene recently. Pressure of work, family, birding etc.

No excuse I thought I'd summarise recent birding days.

I went to see The Big Year at the multiplex cinema in Rubery last week. I enjoyed it. OK I'd liked to have seen more birds but generally I thought it was fun without the usual 'let's take the **** out of birders and birding' rubbish that we've all seen on TV in the past.
Now how many people do you think were in the cinema with me?
Answer - none. I had it all to myself which made a mockery of my centrally positioned ticket. As a friend texted, i could have moved seat every 5 minutes to change my view. Great, a private showing just for me. No mobiles going off, no hacking cough, no rustled crisp packets. Just me shouting 'go for it' at various times as the quarry was chased down.

Now speaking of Big Years, I went to Cley, Norfolk weekend before last to see the western sandpiper. Din't need it but useful to see another one in Britain. I met two Belgian birders who'd come over from Brussels to see the bird. During our chat they told me of a Belgian gentleman who is attempting to break my record from last year .i.e. the Green Birding Year List record. Seems that this gentleman thinks of it being a European record. In case you don't know what I'm on about, it's the British Green Year list record, previously held by Chris Mills of Norfolk that I broke last year with a final total of 253. So Laurent Raty, so I'm informed is hopefully breaking the 253 number of bird species in his native Belgium. It was fabulous to hear of him year listing in a Green way and I'd love to hear if anyone else is doing the same. Records are meant to be broken and I hope that my record is beaten soon. Get on your bike, walk but be GREEN.

OK, I went to Norfolk by car with 3 great friends; Jason Oliver [Scabby Clam], Steve Allcott [Wham bam Thank You Clam] and Tom [the quiet clam - clammed up for most f the journey there and back]. Brilliant days birding with green-winged teal and rough-legged buzzard seen too.

Went down to Chew valley three weeks ago. Now who would have thought that by swinging your tripod around you could see 4 American waders? Sharp-tailed sandpiper, turn scope rigth 30 degrees, two long-billed dowitchers and keep turning and a spotted sandpiper creeping along the concrete edge. Fabulous stuff. Bewick swans and a very obliging bittern to be seen from the same location added to the avian wonders and a phone call from Chris Craig, the father of the wonderful Mya-Rose Craig to say Hi. Down to Devon to look at the superb desert wheatear and a black redstart so more fabulous birds on a brilliant day.

Away from these pleasures its been amazing at Upton warren to see the Flashes almost without water due to the drought affecting our area. It's emant that work parties could get more islands built for next year's breeding birds but we could do with some persistent rain to get the water levels back to normal.

So, it's Christmas soon and may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks to everyone who helped me last year. This eyar has been very different, what with being back at work but there have been many birding highlights. Jason oliver being back on the scene afetr so many lapsed years being the main one but holidays to Turkey and Greece as well as going birding to Scotland with my recently joined the RSPB daughter Rebecca were other highs.

All the very best everyone,



Friday, 30 September 2011

Environmental Concerns

Hi again,

Long time no blog but have been busy at work. Yes, work. After last year's sojourn it has been a huge shock to be back at the chalkface teaching a subject I've never tackled before - Design and technology to all ages 6 to 18!

Right, I'll be placing some highlights of birding this year on here soon. Holidays in Turkey at Easter and Greece in the summer, as well as a couple of twitching trips - dipped the 'robin' but saw the 'dove'; if you catch my drift.

Right, just a quickie before lunch.

Found this on the 'net - and bottled water is more environmentally unfriendly than I thought :-

Tap Water Is Cleaner Than Bottled Water (And Other Shocking Facts)

by Beth Buczynski

September 29, 2011

Today, as I stood in line at the grocery store, watching the woman in front of me haul a huge case of bottled water up to the conveyor belt, I felt that familiar twinge…a combination of frustration and confusion.

All I could think about was those 24 unnecessary bottles ending up in the landfill. And the unnecessary oil it took to make the bottles. And the unnecessary mess that was made while extracting the oil.

“Why, why, WHY?” I wondered. Why would you pay for bottled water every week when perfectly good water flows out of every faucet in your house?!

And then it dawned on me. The answer was right there on the packaging. “Purified water.” One of the biggest reasons people buy and drink bottled water is because they think it’s cleaner than tap water.

But 40 percent of all bottled water in the U.S. is actually taken from municipal water sources. Bottled water companies are literally bottling up the same water that comes out of your faucet, jacking up the price, and laughing all the way to the bank.

Also disturbing is the fact that far less testing is done on bottled water than on tap water. It turns out that unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t tested for e. coli. And it can be distributed even if it doesn’t meet the quality standards of tap water. Unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t required to produce quality reports or even provide it’s source.

Feeling that anger and confusion yet?

Have a look at this link for further details.

All the best everyone, Have a great Autumn.


Read more:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Make Your Nature Count Week

Just a quick blog about a survey the RSPB are asking people to do this week.

Make Your Nature Count

I'm doing this at Mum and Dad's today before the Test Match starts.

More details on how to take part may be found at :-

As you can see Mum and Dad's garden is a small surburban one in Warwick. You can see their bird table and there a couple of feeders in the bushes and on the fence to the left. Already this morning song thrush, dunnock, goldfinch, house sparrows and starlings. Our swifts seem to be taking a break from parenting. They're proably at Draycote Reservoir abou twenty miles away, feeding up on the buzzers. They'll be back later.

Right now for the survey.

All the best everyone,


Saturday, 4 June 2011

What a Fabulous Day. Thanks Sainsbury's and Thanks to the people of Warwick


So arrived at the Sainsbury's store dressed as a siskin. Normal day I suppose. Great response from the people coming from off the car park to enter the store and boy, they didn't know what I had in store for them.

The all singing, dancing and welcoming 6 foot tall siskin.

In fact the good majoroty of people either smiled or laughed which was just the sort of wonderful reaction that keeps one going. The children in particular were brilliant. Well, honestly one did scream with fright and a couple of tiny tots were a little scared but the rest, dozens of them accepted a RSPB LOVE NATURE sticker and a small chocolate coin. I couldn't lay any chocolate eggs. I am a male siskin.

The things people ask when you're collecting for the RSPB. "Have you noticed the lack of willow warblers?" [No actually] "Did I make the costume for myself?" [no but the person who made it must have spent hours doing so. Beautifully made.] "Where can I get squirrel proof feeders?" [try the RSPB shop - online or the catalogue.] The perennial question - "when are the RSPB going to do something about magpies. They're eating all our small birds?" [As Bill Oddie says, "If in doubt, blame the cat!"]

Then there's the lovely pride people have in their garden birds and in how much they spend to attract them. I heard about the usual suspects; titmice, sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. I heard about great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers and grey herons. Then there was the "I spent over £50 on bird food this week. [brilliant.]

Away from birds there was a distinguished older gentlemean who waned to tell me of his time in the RAF special forces. Over ten minutes of hearing of his exploits. He even tried to teach me Arabic. I had to repeat his phrases. Brilliant! Mike, the scout leader security man; Lucy, a Sainsbury's employee training to be a teacher and a display of another employee breaking 100 rook tiles [big thick ones] with his hands in some martial arts performance for Myton Hospice; all great people who helped the day along.

Joined at 11 o' clock in the morning by Alastair, together we stood and listened, said hello and goodbye and collected for the RSPB. Great bloke.

Alastair, Lucy and I

Then there were the donations counted carefully by Dad and I at the end of the day. Now not taking into account a one Euro coin, an American cent, 2 very old halfpennies; the total came to

Drum roll, Trumpet call, Open the curtain.........


So many many thanks to the people I met, thanks to Sainsbury's and thanks to the staff at the RSPB MIDLANDS HQ at Banbury who made and sent such a fabulous costume.

Brilliant day!

All the best everyone,


Friday, 3 June 2011

A Couple of Cracking Finds and then ...... LOVE NATURE WEEK for the RSPB

I'll leave Mum and Dad's photo until last so don't scroll down just yet.

Had a great Sunday a couple of weeks ago with a couple of ex-pupils who are still birders after all these years. Jason Oliver and Steve Allcott were pupils of mine over twenty years ago when I was a secondary school science teacher in Wolverhampton. Imagine my thrill at seeing them both again and knowing that they are birders.

Well, I'd walked to junction 2 on the M42, which is about 5 miles from my little abode. We'd arranged to meet at 5.00am so I'd set off at 3.30. Along the country lanes towards Alvechurch, down Cobler's Hill and over the canal bridge when amongst the singing skylarks I heard a quail. 'Wet my lips'. Just a couple of times but unmistakable. I haven't heard many in Worcesershire so was really pleased with this one.

Norfolk. Red-necked phalarope gone from Burnham Norton and a gale force wind a-blowing. Visited Titchwell and saw a very few birds but the company was good, especially in the cafe where Flo was still working. Now Flo had been fabulous last eyar, heating up some milk for my Horlicks and for a couple of baguettes. Great to see her friendly face again.

Off to Lakenheath and still that wind. An RSPB group from Southend were looking for the singing golden oriole. Having seen on the notice board that 2 males and a female are there I looked for myself but had to do with the sound of that beautiful call. I did manage to see a couple of hairy dragonflies and a few variable damselflies.

A week at work. Don't want to talk about that!!

So to Upton Warren for a night in the Flashes hide. My reward came at ten to seven the following morning. A small wader came from the direction of the third flash being chased by the avocets. I thought it was a turnstone at first but then realised it was a smashing red-necked phalarope. The first one I've ever found myself and only the seventh for the new Fetlar, Upton Warren. Phoned and texted like mad and soon the first birding friend arrival, Andrew Pitt; soon followed by Dave Walker, John Belsey, Andy Warr and Mike Wakeman. Phil Andrews and Arthur Jacobs, eventually all the Upton regulars were either there or had been and seen this beautiful bird.

I stayed overnight again and couldn't believe it when just after six in the morning it turned up again on the second flash. Time for home I walked the six or so miles and started school work.

Monday, rain at last and a day of planning for school. Then news came in - two red-necked phalaropes at the Warren! Amazing and brilliant! Chuffed for the reserve and for all the dedicated people who watch the place. Add the fact that 2 people saw a scarlet rosefinch in the car park, just shows what a small reserve can have if regularly watched.

Now it's Friday night and I've gone over to my parent's house to prepare for LOVE NATURE - RSPB WEEK.

Prepare is so apt as a very large box had arrived there on Wednesday. Dad wasn't too pleased but all tension changed as we had a great day watching the Test match on TV, watching the scorecard as Warwickshire beat Yorkshire in the Twenty20 and then the large box was opened to hilarity.

Is there nothing I won't do for the RSPB? You want more?
Someone spent a very long time making this costume of a siskin and many thanks to them. So tomorrow I'll be dressed in this and will stand outside Sainsbury's in Warwick, starting at 9.30am. Here's hoping it's successful.

Finally another donation for Asthma UK. Thanks to Gary Birchill.

All the best everyone,


PS. anyone know of any available female siskins?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Take a look at Birdguides and see Green Birding Take Off

A superb feat by two with superb feet.

Have a look at the webzine article on birdguides.

Now to be named between the two mighty Green Birding warriors, Chris Mills and Simon Woolley is a privilige but if you look at any photos of the three of us, you'll realise that I'm an old battered statue surrounded by two Greek Adoni. Now add to that list the name of Nick Moran and there are the three most wonderful Green Birders that I know of in Britain - unless you know different.

Speaking of records, Dave Walker is getting close to beating the year list record at Upton Warren in Worcestershire. This brilliant reserve has avocets and LRPs breeding. The record stands at 143 and I think dave has only 10 or so to get with six months to go.

Right time up at school. Must leave to get my fish and chip supper at Morrison's before heading down to the Warren for the night in the hide.

All the best everyone,


Sunday, 15 May 2011

What a Strange Day! A Message perhaps.

At Mum and Dad's today, visiting and enjoying watching the Wingy Wenger beaten by Brave Bent. Warwickshire won too! A perfect day.

So why strange?

Well everytime Mum and Dad put on the TV there was a programme reminding me of last year. I'd woken from a dream this morning where I was cycling in Turkey and was actually feeling tearful over things. Not depressed or unhappy just tearful thinking of certain days and places.

Then there was Mark Beaumont on TV. Film of him cycling, climbing the highest mountain in the USA and reaching Patagonia. Reduced to tears, he sat contemplating hsi massive and magnificent achievements.

Then there was an old Last of the Summer Wine programme with Compo, Cleggy and Foggy, with Nora Batty of course.

Well I went there last year; sat in the cafe and even went in Nora Batty's house!

Puffins on the Pembrokeshire Islands - been there. White-tailed sea eagle on North Uist - I might have even seen the same bird as I saw them there last year too. Lough Erne - was there last June.

The day went on with reference after reference to last year.

Then my youngest niece, Maya arrives with my brother, Paul. She's two years old, just and Dad said that when he was Maya's age there was no such thing as Tele. Paul joked that there were no cars as well!

What will our planet be like when Maya reaches 80 in 2089? Think on and the full effects of climate change will be felt in that year.

So is it a message? Do I need to get back on the bike. YOU BET I DO!


there's money to think about; family too.

I've got my health. I've got the dream - again and the passion is returning to do something again.

Roz Savage is back at sea again.

Mark Beaumont will definitely be planning his next venture.

Now to start planning mine.

How about - well let's keep it under wraps for the moment.

Back to school tomorrow and back to reality but tonight in bed it will be dreams of a reserve list approaching 100 over a two year span with a bird list of  over 500.

Any ideas.

Dream on Prezza and hold on to those tears.

Love to all,


Thursday, 12 May 2011

12th May 2011 - Donations Still Coming in

And sincere thanks to those people who have made donations.

So thank you to :-

Andrew Appleton - for Asthma UK.

Avis Cropper - for Asthma UK

William Oddie OBE! - for Asthma UK. [recognise the name folks!?]

Terry Hinnett - for Asthma UK

Andrew Pitt - for Asthma UK

James Fiddock - RSPB

Phil Andrews - RSPB

Bubo Bubo - RSPB

Thank you - you wonderful people!

I'm now colelcting all of the information about the Green Big Day event to send off to Simon in Calfornia. To be honest I've been thrilled with everyone's efforts and lists. I know that next year we can make it an even bigger event but can I ask you to email me at  if you have any thoughts and comments about it? Thanks.

Personally I would like to see a designated weekend or day instead of the two weeks that Simon suggests. I feel that would give it more of a focus.

So my next blog will have details of that and I've still got to tell everyone about how I enjoyed a fabulous birding holiday in Turkey this Easter.

All the best everyone

Stay Green - or at least start being so!

Gary xx

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Big Green Day - lastest news

A fabulous email from Susan Rowe yesterday detailed how she'd taken on the mightly Lee Evans. Sue and her birding partner, Tina Perry spent their Green Big day birding around their patch - Tring, Hertfordshire. In fact they walked 12 miles birding at such locations as Tring Reservoirs, some nearby flooded chalk pits, the woods on the Chilterns and the tops of Ivinghoe Hills; all with their local nature reserves. Sue said that local birders were brilliant in helping her and Tina and to add spice to the day, the best known British twitcher, lee Evans was in friendly competition with them both, he using a car - carbon twitching. 
Now neither of the girls would call themselves listers or twitchers but they ended up giving Lee a good run for his money. Lee, the gentleman that he is, gave the girls lots of advice prior to their event, with suggestions for their route and where to find those tricky extra birds. Good on him!
Now the girls I hear celebrated the day with a good bottle of wine [is there any other sort?] and toasted both their success and the Royal Wedding.
How did they get on?
Well both Lee and the Sue-Tina combination finished the day with 84 bird species each; a tie! Brilliant and full marks to both teams for their efforts.
It's great to see that Sue and Tina are the only UK reprentatives [at the moment] on the official Big Green Day website :

Have a look and see.

Now please with only days to go before the end date of may the 8th, consider doing a Green Big day this weekend.

We're going to be doing ours on Saturday at the fabulous Upton Warren nature reserve in Worcestershire. Black terns are there today so here's hoping they stay around for the big day.

It's going to be a great day. John, Phil, Dave, Mike, Des, Paul will be there very early to get things going. Gert will be walking the 4 or so miles to get there and I'll be sleeping in the hide the night before to be there to get things going at midnight Friday.

Bacon sarnies and birding in great company. Brilliant.

As usual we're going to be in competition with Belvide reservoir in Staffs, where Steve Nuttall will also be doing a Green Big day.

So please, if you can, register on the Green Big day website and get another UK flag on their map of the world!

All the very best and well done Sue and Tina!


Monday, 4 April 2011

A Green Birding Day Competition

A comment sent to the last blog entry, yes I know it's been a long time since I last blogged, was about a GREEN BIRDING DAY competition. Well I know I'm up for it and I hope you will be too. After another successful Earth Day organised by the WWF it would be fabulous to see that birders are doing their bit to stop catastrophic climate change. Every little helps.
So, on May 7th I'll be walking the 8 or so miles to my patch, Upton Warren RSPB Worcestershire Nature Reserve, birding the day; then spending the night in the hide and birding then next day too. I wonder which day will record the highest number of species?

Please consider having a GREEN BIRDING DAY.

Have a look at

for further details.

Speaking of, I've texted a few friends, some of them met whilst cycling last year and have already heard that some of them are going to do it. Brilliant! Also heard back from Gert; the man who gave me the bike I rode last eyar, and he's going to do the GREEN BIRDING DAY with me at the Warren. I can't wait, a birding day at the Warren with friends, chat and birds.

In my mind I see this becoming like the RSPB's Garden & School Watch. That started small and look at it now. Hundreds of thousands of people spend that hour in January listing their garden birds, sending in their data and the RSPB gets fantastic coverage in the media for it.

Look at Earth Hour. Another small local Eco event that started a few years ago in Sidney, Australia and look at it now. A massive Global message that people want to do something about the threat of climate change.

Now let every birder, just for one day, go GREEN BIRDING. You never know, you may enjoy it so much that it may become a way of life. I know that now it is for me. Yes I still want to see every bird in the World but doing that doesn't diminish the sheer delight of seeing the first swallow back at the farm where I reside last night.




Friday, 11 March 2011

RSPB - Stepping Up For Nature

The more isee of the RSPB the more I am impressed. They really are a fabulous conservation organisation with the best people throughout.

On Wednesday of this week I was priviliged to attend the reception being held in london for the start of their biggest campaign ever - Stepping Up For nature.

For more details go to the RSPB's home page at and click on the amazing picture of a tiger. The picture is made up of thousnads of the names collected during last year's Letter for the Future campaign. 355,773 signatures were collected and delivered to 10 Downing Street by two wonderful children, Dominik Reynolds and Charlotte Handing.

Please have a look at the RSPB blogs about the day at :-

Dominik was later the absolute star of the shop with a breathtakingly good speach delivered to a room full of people. Now remember that Dominik is only ten [Yes Dominik I have remembered that it is your birthday on Monday and you'll be 11. Happy birthday Superstar!!!] Dominik was there with his Mum, Kerry, a really lovely lady and she must be so proud of him He was GREAT!

Two lovely ladies, Joan and Gill also gave a talk about their role in the Cliffe campaign in North kent. A brilliant pair these two. I really enjoyed meeting them and talking with them over my experiences of the North kent reserves last year. They live in a great birding area and it's worthy of protection. There are talks of Cliffe airport being looked at again. We've got to get together and fight that.

I had my turn and I tried without the aid of a written speech. I had written down lots of notes and had 6 main things i wanted to say. I probably got a little excited but I do hope that what i said about the RSPb hit a cord with the people who are going to campaign on all of our behalves.

In the evneing we all met the amazing Kate Humble. A energetic, articulate celebrity and an honour to chat with. Her talk was eloquent and well received; as was that of the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

There's so much I could add but I'll let the professionals say it all on the blogs on the RSPB website.

PLEASE have a good look at the campaign. Everyone can do there bit to


and with the challenges ahead we need everyone to do so.

One last thing  . . . .


Monday, 28 February 2011

A Tribute to Gordon Barnes

It was five years ago last week that my dear friend, Gordon Barnes, died a few days after returning from a birding holiday to Luxor.

Gordon was the most wonderful friend. A fellow Brummie, he escaped city life by setting up home on Fair Isle in 1960 ; initially as an assistant warden at the Bird Obs and then as a crofter. There he met his wife Perry and together they lived there for fifteen years.

One thing that Gordon may be remembered for is the finding, and the subsequent looking after of a great bustard on Fair Isle in 1980. He looked after the female bird by feeding it mice and cabbages. The bird became part of the first great bustard release on Salisbury Plain. Unfortunately the project didn't succeed and the bird was put into a zoo where it crashed into a fence and died. Here are a couple of items from that time :

I met him in Swanage in 2000. By then they both had set up home there. I met him one day when going seawatching at Peveril Point. A more fabulous friend one couldn't wish for and I miss him still. I just know he's been watching over me throughout all of last year.

When I get the chance I'll write about him in more detail for his is a story that deserves to be told. A magnificent man.

all the best everyone,


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Fabulous Sunday Birding - Radipole RSPB Reserve with an Unsung Birding Celebtrity

Back home from Saturday's successful twitch for the love dove, a text and up at 4.30am the following day. The text was from an ex-pupil of mine from over 20 years ago. Jason Oliver had been one of the best teenage birders back in the 80s but had lapsed because I flushed a red breasted goose. Well, that's how I'll say it but other things probaby caused his birding passion to demise; girls probably and the fact that his best friend had the same goose tattoed onto his forearm! Maybe it was also becuase I didn't just flush it once that fateful dipping day but twice. I, Alex 'the Bear' and Richard saw the bird. Jason didn't. I popped my head up and off they went. Refound but flushed again as we came around a sea wall too close to the flock we hadn't known were there. Long time ago.

Alex, Jason and Richard were pupils at Coppice High School in Wolverhampton and very keen members of the YOC [Young Ornithologists Club]. So keen were they as birders that local experts used to take them birding all over the country and the adventures they had deserve a book. Hurricanes on Scilly, sleeping in the Coastguards Hotel at Cley and birds that many are blocked by now - little whimbrel anyone? They had it on their lists. These were the schoolboys who pointed out a strange duck to John 'Black Country' Holian, who noticed that although scaup like it wasn't quite right and so the first lesser scaup for Europe was found.

Jason had asked whether I wanted to see the long-billed dowitcher that seems to be a permanent fixture at Lodmoor RSPB reserve in Dorset. I'm back!!! And so we were off; me accepting another carbon twitch.

Lodmoor but no sign of the dowitcher on a walk and search around the whole reserve. A small flock of 13 dunlin, a couple of blackwits, a few cettis calling and a number of year ticks all seen and listed.

Off to Radipole and the easily seen mediterranean gulls on the car park and on the water outside the superb RSPB visitor's Centre. Met Gwynne and Michael, Dan and Tony, RSPB staff whose friendliness was appreciated. Remembered how fabulous everyone had been last year at Radipole and so very helpful. Wonderful people at a wonderful RSPB reserve. One of my favourites last year and improving all the time.

Jason and I decided to go to Portland Bill, stopping at Ferrybridge on the way. 14 Med' gulls, a black brant and a couple of hybrid Brant/brents amongst the brent flock but no waders here. Very high tide, where were they all?

Portland Bill, usual welcome from Martin Cade and then a few books bought from the Portland Bill bookshop, my favourite bookshop as it makes money for the obs. 2 black redstarts down by the lighthouse, the usual irds off the Bill, gannets, shags, guillemot, razorbills but where were the fulmars?

Back to Lodmoor after lunch in the cafe and a meeting with Nick Quintrell, the brilliant assistant at Lodmoor and Radipole and a superb RSPB volunteer, Will Scott.

Will Scott, me, Jason Oliver and Nick Quintrell
Chatting and looking at the dunlin I tapped Jason on the shoulder, not wanting to interrupt Nick's conversation with the news that the dowitcher had just come out from behind a bush and was probing mud not 30 yards in front of us. Great views of a Yankee and a lifer for Jason. Perfect.

Goodbyes and a quick trip to Middlebeare gave we two a flock of around 700 black-tailed godwits, a couple of little egrets but little else. Very quiet with the tide receeding.

To Arne and a short walk into the woods to see a tawny owl roosting above us in a pine tree. Always good to see a tawny in daylight hours. Down to the shore going past the large field sown with finch attracting crops, past a herd of maybe one hundred very close sika nd then views over Poole Harbour with the most mud exposed tha i can remember seeing. Waders aplenty including godwits, knot, redshank, oystercatcher and dunlins; red-breasted meragnsers on the water.

So, with darkness falling back to the car and back home. A fabulous birding day with fabulous company and superb RSPB reserves visited.

All the very best everyone,


Monday, 21 February 2011

Saturday 19th February 2011 Happy Birthday Son!

A massive HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful son, Josh. Happy Birthday Son!

On the 19th day of February my true love gave to me . . . .

Early morning dash down to Chipping Norton with Steve Allcott, an ex-pupil birder from Wolverhampton, to join the queue in the rain. Enjoyable chat about birding queues from the past and same housing estate birds; golden-winged warbler, black-throated thrushes, rose-coloured starlings, Baltimore orioles.

An hour or so of the same and then a rush of wet waxed jackets. I slightly touched a closing umbrella as I tried to join on to a watching crowd from the side and was greeted by profanity from the umbrella owner. I gently asked him to grow up [subtle] and moved around the birders to kneel down at the front, next to someone with a 'scope trained on the bird - crafty! Rufous turtle dove on the list and no £5 paid to the RSPB via the bedroom entry fee.

The bird was good and a lifer too yet better than that was seeing friends who I hadn't seen for years; 'Black Country' John Holian and his lovely wife, Sharon were greeted with hugs and excitement. A fabulous couple, John was instrumental in the identification of a small duck found by two schoolboys on Chasewater back in 1986. That was Europe's first lesser scaup and more about the schoolboys later on. John was on fine form, happy and chatty as was Sharon and news of them now having four grandchildren reminded me of how old we're all getting. Eric Phillips, another cycling birder was there too and Dave Walker from Upton Warren, my beloved patch. From last year's epic there was one of the talented Essex lads met on Fair Isle and Mya and Chris, the Chew Valley birding celebrities, famous from their TV appearance in a programme shown last year called 'Twitchers'. Other people recognised me and chatted and congratulated. John Fortey, a dear ex-Midland birder who died last year was talked about with respect and generally the atmosphere amongst the 200 or so was happy. All excepting two idiots who squared up to each other over getting a clear view. Sense prevailed as their stupid actions were shown up for being just that - stupid.

The bird? Well it sat near the top of a tall ash tree, occasionally preening which showed neck pattern, silvery grey tail and darker primaries and secondaries below the warm brown edged coverts. Well seen and appreciated despite the weather; the rain having not stopped despite the BBC's promise of it doing so.

On the way back to the metal box came across three enterprising young girls with a canopy, a table and a wide selection of home made cakes, coffee and tea. These brilliant young maids were selling their wares for the RSPB! £7.00 spent from my pocket and the RSPB got their fiver after all. A photo with Mya and the girls was taken and heaps of praise for their endeavours given in this poor weather. More chatting before heading off for Rainham RSPB reserve. The slaty-backed gull had been seen again and Ste decided that we should go for it.

Now some of you might think that a biking birder should be saying "Nay" to such activities but the chance to see Rainham again was the real lure. Love the place and the two visits from last year had been wonderful. Arrived in good time, the M25 car park being relatively empty and after a quick snack walked around the reserve. Had met Dave and the cafe ladies who I remembered so well before going out. No views of the penduline tits seen the previous day and then news that the gull was at Pitsea refuse tip. Oh the romance, a gull on a tip! A dash in the car but only lesser blacks and hundreds of black-heahed gulls seen. A group of disgruntled twitchers spoke of a group of birders who'd had the special one in front of them but hadn't put it out on the grapevine because they couldn't identify it. Oh well, next time.

Darkness and home. A smashing day in so many ways and it didn't end there. A text from a very special friend asked whether I'd like to go for the RSPB Lodmoor dowitcher on Sunday? What could I say?

all the best everyone,


Friday, 18 February 2011

Off to see a Turtle Dove - hopefully!

Haven't been birding for a bit but tomorrow will change that as Ste' and I will be joining the early morning Chipping Norton queue to try to pay our fivers to see the Rufous turtle dove. Fingers crossed.

Busy at school and have a really enjoyable time. despite that I've been working on a few cycling dreams. Well it keeps me motivated. See what you think. Pie in the sky at the moment but so was last year at first.

1. Cycle to Sumatra where the RSPB have their only foreign reserve. Now what way to go? Overland via the Ukraine and the Himalayas or over the sea? Fun planning and oh what birds on the way.

2. Audubon Centres in the US. Around 100 of them. Would it be possible to cycle to them all?

As I said, dreams but we have to have them.

Speaking of dreams . . ..

Have just watched the Susan Boyle 'Dream' song again on youtube [59,000,000 views!!!]. From it found a lnk to a beautifully sad piece of artwork. Have a look at

and see what you think.

Seems to be a theme this week as I also spent an evening watching the dvd of Days of Glory.

Have also finished reading both the romantic and sensitive book by Rory Mcgrath - Bearded Tit, thank goodness it ends happily, and Alan and Ruth Davies' Biggest Twitch. In fact this book was so good I got to the end and started reading it again. Wonderful. What a fabulous couple they must be. Such love for each other is inspiring.

Earth Hour is coming up soon. I love it, watching the images of cities having their one hour of Green concern, turning off those lights and going dark.

One last thing - sorry to everyone for the spelling errors on the blog last year. I've been going through it to add to my notes for a book I'm writing about last year and I'm disappointed by how many errors my text contains.

Right time for dreams.

Love to all,

Save the planet.

Gary x

Friday, 28 January 2011

RSPB Garden Birdwatch Weekend

A weekend to relax and see Mum and Dad. Also it's the RSPB Garden Birdwatch weekend so an hour will be spent watching and recording. Nice to see Emily Sanders name on the School Birdwatch page's blog links. Met her at Sandy last year and she had organised the people who met me that day and contributed to it being so memorable.

Hope you're all having a go, well if you live in the UK that is. If you don't then why don't you have a go in your garden. I'll post what species we have and compare notes if you want. Hope you do and will.

Mum and Dad's garden is small but does have a couple of bird tables and a few feeders, half apples and the like dotted around it. Satrlings are the most common, with goldfinches not far behind them. Also house sparrows, collared doves, song thrush, blackbird, great and blue tits, dunnock, wood pigeon, wren and occasional lesser redpoll. Can I count what flies over?

On there's now over 300 of my photos from last year. Sorry for the lack of birds but some of the views are stunning. Having a great time going through them all; so many memories.

Seeing these photos has made me realise how many cathedrals, castles, stone circles, famous sites and places I visited. How many birds, moths, butterflies, orchids, mammals, flowers, ferns and other wildlife I saw. How strange I didn't see a live snake!

I migth have to do a list of them all someday.

All the best everyone.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Back to Work and a New Book - The Biggest Twitch

Busy at work after such a lovely welcome back from pupils and staff. Don't feel bad about the 'daily grind' [nowhere need a grind] as it's the next step on the way to the next project.

Last night sat going through my notebooks and found yet another bird that I'd had last year - great reed warbler near Ilkeston. Must be old age! How could I forget that bird. Had brilliant views of it as it sat out on a reed, bending it down almost to water level. So the year list last year was 253. I don't think there'll be any more gems that I've forgotten.

Have spent some of the weekend enjoying the cricket, England v. Australia 50 overs. Despite the loss, really enjoyed the game despite the 3.30am start. Also have placed a lot of photos onto If you want to see them then please use this link:-

Now please remember that I didn't have a super camera with long, phallic lens; only a small but indestructible digital camera. I can remember it bouncing along the road just before Anglesey last year. It still worked fine. So there won't be stunning close up of birds. Insects yes, some orchids to but mainly it will be the places and the poeple met, once permission has been granted. Now I took around 10,000 photos last year so I'll be putting a few on at a time. lot of sorting to do.

Also have sorted out the total raised for charities last year and here I must say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who did make a donation. I haven't yet figured out how i can thank you personally via the names on the JUST GIVING website but I will do so once I've figured that out. In the meantime please accept my most sincere thanks. The total as of today is £3,600.

Right, it's lunchtime and the pupils are about to come back in from their dinner so must be off.

Thanks everyone,

all the very best,


PS. shame the slaty-backed gull was a weekend lifter. Would have been great to go back to Rainham RSPB reserve again. As if it was long time since I was last there. [Yes, I intend to do a few 'carbon twitching' trips this year.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Biking Birder 2010 Year List

A great day's work party at Upton Warren Worcs Nature reserve yesterday. 17 people working on shrub removal and coppicing. A pink-footed goose was our reward.

Thanks for the donations from:-
Dave, Gordon, John and Ray.

Well here it is - the complete list of birds seen by me last year :-

1. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata

2. Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica

3. Great Northern Diver Gavia immer

4. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

5. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

6. Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena

7. Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus

8. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

9. Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis

10. Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

11. Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus

12. Northern Gannet Morus bassanus

13. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

14. European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis

15. Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris

16. Little Egret Egretta garzetta

17. Great Egret* Ardea alba

18. Cattle egret

19. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

20. Glossy Ibis* Plegadis falcinellus

21. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

22. Mute Swan Cygnus olor

23. Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus

24. Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus

25. Bean Goose Anser fabalis

26. Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus

27. Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons

28. Red-breasted goose

29. Greylag Goose Anser anser

30. Canada Goose Branta canadensis

31. Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis

32. Brent Goose Branta bernicla

33. Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus

34. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

35. Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

36. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope

37. American Wigeon* Anas americana

38. Gadwall Anas strepera

39. Eurasian Teal Anas crecca

40. Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis

41. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

42. Northern Pintail Anas acuta

43. Garganey Anas querquedula

44. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

45. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

46. Common Pochard Aythya ferina

47. Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris

48. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

49. Greater Scaup Aythya marila

50. Lesser Scaup* Aythya affinis

51. Common Eider Somateria mollissima

52. Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis

53. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

54. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca

55. Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula

56. Smew Mergellus albellus

57. Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator

58. Goosander Mergus merganser

59. Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis

60. Red Kite Milvus milvus

61. White-tailed Eagle* Haliaeetus albicilla

62. Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

63. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus

64. Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

65. Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

66. Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

67. Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus

68. Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

69. Osprey Pandion haliaetus

70. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

71. Merlin Falco columbarius

72. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

73. Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse) Lagopus lagopus

74. Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix

75. Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa

76. Grey Partridge Perdix perdix

77. Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

78. Golden Pheasant Chrysolophus pictus

79. Water Rail Rallus aquaticus

80. Corn Crake Crex crex

81. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

82. Common Coot Fulica atra

83. Common Crane Grus grus

84. Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

85. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

86. Little Plover Charadrius dubius

87. Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

88. Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus

89. European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

90. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

91. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

92. Red Knot Calidris canutus

93. Sanderling Calidris alba

94. Little Stint Calidris minuta

95. Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos

96. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

97. Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima

98. Dunlin Calidris alpina

99. Ruff Philomachus pugnax

100. Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus

101. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

102. Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola

103. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

104. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

105. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

106. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata

107. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus

108. Common Redshank Tringa totanus

109. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

110. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

111. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

112. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

113. Buff-breasted sandpiper

114. Pacific golden plover

115. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres

116. Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius

117. Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus

118. Great Skua Catharacta skua

119. Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus

120. Little Gull Larus minutus

121. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

122. Bonaparte’s gull

123. Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis

124. Mew Gull Larus canus

125. Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus

126. Herring Gull Larus argentatus

127. Yellow-legged gull

128. Caspian gull

129. Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus

130. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus

131. Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla

132. Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis

133. Common Tern Sterna hirundo

134. Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea

135. Little Tern Sterna albifrons

136. Black Tern Chlidonias niger

137. Common Guillemot Uria aalge

138. Razorbill Alca torda

139. Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle

140. Little Auk Alle alle

141. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica

142. Rock Pigeon Columba livia

143. Stock Pigeon Columba oenas

144. Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus

145. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

146. Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri

147. Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

148. Barn Owl Tyto alba

149. Little Owl Athene noctua

150. Tawny Owl Strix aluco

151. Long-eared Owl Asio otus

152. Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

153. Common Swift Apus apus

154. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

155. Green Woodpecker Picus viridis

156. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major

157. Wood Lark Lullula arborea

158. Sky Lark Alauda arvensis

159. Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

160. Sand Martin Riparia riparia

161. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

162. House Martin Delichon urbica

163. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis

164. Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

165. Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus

166. Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta

167. Buff-bellied pipit

168. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

169. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea

170. White / Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba

171. Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus

172. White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus

173. Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

174. Hedge Accentor Prunella modularis

175. European Robin Erithacus rubecula

176. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica

177. Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

178. Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus

179. Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

180. Stonechat Saxicola torquata

181. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

182. Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

183. Common Blackbird Turdus merula

184. Fieldfare Turdus pilaris

185. Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

186. Redwing Turdus iliacus

187. Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus

188. Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti

189. Common Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia

190. Pallas’ grasshopper warbler

191. Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

192. Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

193. Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

194. Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria

195. Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

196. Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis

197. Garden Warbler Sylvia borin

198. Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

199. Syke’s warbler

200. Arctic warbler

201. Subalpine warbler

202. Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus

203. Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix

204. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

205. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

206. Goldcrest Regulus regulus

207. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla

208. Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

209. Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva

210. Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

211. Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus

212. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

213. Marsh Tit Parus palustris

214. Willow Tit Parus montanus

215. Crested Tit Parus cristatus

216. Coal Tit Parus ater

217. Blue Tit Parus caeruleus

218. Great Tit Parus major

219. Wood Nuthatch Sitta europaea

220. Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris

221. Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor

222. Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius

223. Black-billed Magpie Pica pica

224. Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

225. Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula

226. Rook Corvus frugilegus

227. Carrion Crow Corvus corone

228. Hooded Crow Corvus cornix

229. Common Raven Corvus corax

230. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

231. House Sparrow Passer domesticus

232. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus

233. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

234. Brambling Fringilla montifringilla

235. European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

236. European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

237. Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus

238. Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina

239. Twite Carduelis flavirostris

240. Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret

241. Mealy Redpoll Carduelis flammea

242. Arctic redpoll [Hornemann’s] Carduelis

243. Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

244. Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus

245. Common Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula

246. Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

247. Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus

248. Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis

249. Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

250. Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

251. Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

252. Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra

Now all I need to do is write up all of my notebooks and check where I missed out a bird from the list I kept in the back of them.

Ooops! Also missed out the Great Reed Warbler that I saw at a country park, near Ilkeston.

So the Non-motorised Year List stands at 253.

Also seen but from boats so not counted was Storm petrel. [dozens of the little blighters but none from land!]

Sub-species – not counted

Black brant

Greenland whitefront

There you have it. Sorry the italics on the latin names didn't transfer over.

All the very best everyone,


Saturday, 8 January 2011

I have broken the Non motorized Record!

It's 4.40am and I'm awake! Couldn't sleep so I'd decided to transfer birding notes onto my computer. Came across my original possible bird list, created before last year. On it was 287 bird species from divers to buntings. Well I started deleting birds I missed and added the ones I'd not expected, for instance hobby was removed; didn't see one and syke's warbler was added. Finished it and the total was 252. A new British record. I've read it through again and again; can't see any mistakes. Now I've got to go through all my notebooks and find out which bird wasn't listed. I'll put the whole list out on Monday for you to see. If only I'd realized this on the last day.

Upton Warren work party today. Will be good to be back on my patch. At the moment my year list, non motorized of course, is on 41.

Thanks everyone.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Last Day - Sandwell Valley and destiny?

After enjoying the previous day with the long-eared owl at Park Hall Country Park, near Stoke on Trent and then cycling to my old patch, Belvide reservoir; where chatting with the main Belvide man Steve Nuttall was fabulous and the 23 Bewick's swans that flew in at dusk gave me a Belvide tick, the last day of the year was going to be exciting.

Would the non-motorised year list record be broken by the iceland gull that had been seen at Bartley Reservoir for the last three evenings be there in the afternoon? Who'd be at Sandwell Valley RSPB Reserve to celebrate my journey?

So, set off from Steve Allcott's house on Ashmore Park, Wolverhampton early morning. Steve was a pupil of mine when I was a secondary teacher at the school his house overlooks 21 years ago. Steve became a very keen birder back then and has been a close friend, together with another ex-pupil Ian Crutchley who lives around the corner. Nattering with both had only stopped at 1.00am; shared memories and talk of birds and birding.

Got to Sandwell Valley at around 10.30am and cycled along the path beside the river to enter the reserve down by the lake. Willow tits, goosanders and bullfinches but then the devastated visitor's centre, burnt down earlier in the year greeted me. Gutted out by fire and gutting to see; what local vandals do to so many reserves has been depressing over the year. So many times the actions of so few has affected the pleasures of many.

Alan, the local Express & Star newpaper photographer arrived for the last media photographs of me for the year. Nice bloke with an interest in classic British motorbikes, Alan took a few photos near t the Sandwell Valley RSPB display board.

Lee, the reserve warden, Fen, the RSPB media officer for the Midlands, my daughter, Rebecca, my brother Paul with my little niece, Maya and some friends - Dave, John, Phil, Steve and Tim all arrived to celebrate the end of the biking birder 2010 year. A pressie from Fen was much appreciated as were the sandwiches, cookies and coffee, eaten as we stood in the hopefully secure and unburnable offices near to the entrance to the reserve.

Off at 1.00pm to try for the iceland gull, cycled through West Bromwich and Blackheath before coming across a gentleman walking down the middle of a very busy main road, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, screamimg "help me, for God's sake someone help me." Not one car stopped to do so; everyone of them slowing down to avoid him before carrying on. I got him to come to the roadside verge and on asking what I could do, he just kept apologising and saying nothing else. He had large, bleeding sores on his legs and arms but I couldn't get any sense out of him and he limped off into a housing estate. I phoned 999 and an ambulance was sent out for him.

Got to Bartley Res' at 2.30-ish and met up with Tim and Steve who'd gone on ahead with their 'carbon transport' to look for the iceland gull. Steve Whitehouse came a bit later and Phil Andrews and together the five of us searched, watching every gull come into roost o the water. Time went quickly and at around 4.30 I had to acknowledge that the iceland gull wasn't going to be seen and that therefore the record was to be equalled but not beaten. C'est la vie!!! Actually it feels good to have equalled the record. I just hope that my efforts, and Chris Mills' exploits in setting up the record in the first place, inspires someone to go for it next year. If you do please get in touch with me. I'd be thrilled to know how you get on.

Hand shakes all round and New Year wishes; then a not uneventful cycle ride to my sister, Donna's house about 5 miles away. Cycling down a steep, narrow country lane in the dark suddenly came across an area of icy slush and the back end of the bike skidded one way, then the other with me clinging to the handlebars. In the split second of the whole event I thought on the second skid that at least I'd fall onto the grassy verge but actually managed to stay upright and the slush stopped and I skidded to a halt, shaking like a leaf. The bike was damaged in some way but I couldn't see how with my torch. My left leg was also hurt so I walked the rest of the way. Amazing. A whole year and so very nearly a bad crash. Very lucky! My leg has luckily turned out to be nothing more than nastily bruised and an ice pack eased the large lump.

A wonderful evening with Mum and Dad, Donna and her fabulous husband, Charlie and my little neice Emily. A great meal, a few games and then the most brilliant fireworks over the Milleneum Eye, London on the tv to see the New Year in and bring closure to a most wonderful year.

Wonderful people met, beautiful birds seen, brilliant reserves, amazing weather [!] and inspiring scenery and landscapes. What a superb year! Thank you everyone for being there for me.