Setting Off From Sandwell valley

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.