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,