Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Tuesday 8 January 2013

2013 - A New Year and a New Dream

So it's now 2013.

Last night I gave a talk to a wonderful group of people, namely the Solihull Rspb Group. I detailed that fabulous year I had cycling around all of the RSPB and WWT reserves in 2010.

Which brings me to the new dream.

The itinerary is done, the route mapped out and visas/health insurance found out about.

So what's the dream and when does it start. I'll tell you all but don't spread the news - yet!

January 1st 2014 - The USA. All of the Audubon reserves starting with their science centre on the Florida Keys. 2014 to finish in Houston after a cycle ride up the East coast, across to Wisconsin and down the Mississippi and then back to Briatin for a repeat of the 2010 cycle tour only with modifications to try to see 300 bird species in the year and then back to the US for 2016 to finish off that tour by cycling from Houston to California.

Will it happen. I hope so. 2013 to be spent saving up the necessary funds and birding in my usual way.

Now I would love it if you could send me your thoughts.

Can you please either email me at

or go to my facebook page

gary prescott chester college.   Maybe become a 'friend' on there. It would be wonderful to hear from you.

Right, that's said. Off to sleep! Too excited.

All the best and a belated Happy New Year

Thursday 6 September 2012

A Near Perfect Day - Warwickshire Cricket County Champions

Back from my holidays with my daughter Rebecca.

Plans for a new biking birder trip going nicely. More on that once things are more confirmed but if you I tell you that I'm waiting for visa news then you'll realise that my ambition is growing.


Rebecca's birthday. Happy Birthday Angel One. xxxx

Breakfast at a lovely cafe in Wolverhampton with my son, Josh, before dashing to New Road, Worcester to see my team, Warwickshire, win the County Championship. After last year's last day missing out on it, this win today against the 'old' enemy was all the sweeter.

Actually Worcestershire couldn't have done any more to make it a fabulous day. their team capitulated on que with the last three wickets all bowled, the steward at the gate had been extremely friendly and welcoming and the celebrations by the pavilion on the pitch afterwards were dignified and tremendous. weather perfect too.

The only blemish was the lack of the home made cakes in the ladies' pavilion. On tuesday a highlight of the day, competing with getting Worcester out in the first session, had been the the lovely cakes and coffee.

Photos show the celebration scenes.

Chopra - man of the match 
champagne moment for the lads
Ashley Giles joins in
Cometh the Man
King for the day

Clarke's happy
Barker's more reflective

Add the cricket to the still present osprey at my birding patch, Upton Warren, seen in the afternoon performing as well as it has been doing for the last week and you'll understand why it was almost a perfect day.

So - All dayer at The Warren on Saturday, hopefully a sighting of the short-billed dowitcher on Sunday with The Birding Clams [see their blog - google the name] and Lord's the following weekend to see warwickshire CC against Hampshire in the final.

Isn't life wonderful?!

Keep birding.

Keep Green

And all the very best


Ian Bell arrived to join the celebrations but first he had to meet me. [Poor man!]
If anyone want full sized copies of any of the photos then just email -  and I'll email you them.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

New Plans - Let's Go Green.

The last few weeks have been the toughest I've had for many years. Illness has hit and fitness has gone, hopefully temporarily. The British National Health service have been amazing and i can't praise them enough.

It's making me determined though to change my future and get back on the bike!

It's wonderful to look now on the internet and see how the Green Birding movement is growing, albeit slowly but grow it most definitely is.

Now Scott Smithson, a wonderful Green Birder, is planning an Autumn Big Green day. Got to get back on the bike to take part in that.

Personally I've got a new bike and will be birding my local patch more often without using fuel, other than bananas. Upton Warren, Worcestershire England is a fabulous small reserve with salt water habitats, which when you consider the fact that the nearest seawater is over 100 miles away. Recently though the appalling British Summer, in stark contrast to last year's drought, has dealt a cruel blow by washing away a number of Little ringed plover chicks. the same storm that brought down a month's rain in 45 minutes also had me stuck in my car in a flood with the water inside the car rising to almost seat level. Out through the window and wading took me to dry land.

The same weather has given the reserve a record number of Meditterranean gulls though with 10 of them being seen together. The previous record of the species for Worcestershire was 4. The sight of so many of this most wonderful of gull is reward to the many dedicated and brilliant volunteers who work so hard on the site.

Now if any European Green Birders could get in touch over their Green efforts I'd be so grateful as reading of like minded birders would really help me in my present predicament. Does anyone know for instance how i could get in touch with Laurent Raty of Belgium. i met a couple of birder whilst twitching a western sandpiper who told me that he now holds the European Green Birding year List record.

Now there's a thought! What to do next. Create or break some Green Birding records.

Now that sounds good.

Watch this space.

All the best Green Birders and please get in touch.


Sunday 18 March 2012

My Birding Past, Green Birding and The Birding Clams

Well I don’t want the blog to be redundant so what to do with it?

The Biking Birder started out over 2 years ago now and though the memories are still vividly with me, life’s moved on and birding now is restricted to occasional weekends and holidays.

Back at work, teaching a new subject for me, Design & Technology at Rigby Hall Special School in Bromsgrove, I have little time for such intense birding.

One recent development that gives me real pleasure is the coming together of The Birding Clams. We have our own blog that tells of twitching trips [4 or 5 to a car, eco people] and birds seen The Birding Clams [google it]

For how this came around we’ve got to go back a few years, back to the mid 1980s.

At that time I was teaching at a large secondary school on a very large council estate in Wolverhampton, Coppice High School; teaching mostly science with biology as my main subject. Teaching in those days was less stressful than today and I ran a number of after school clubs, fishing for instance, as well as running year 7’s football and cricket teams according to season. [There was even a fabulous staff football and cricket team. We still meet up occasionally to reminisce and enjoy each other’s company again. It’s the Greyhounds next week! Back then staff socialised and enjoyed their company more than just on the Friday lunchtime sojourn to a local hostelry. Has all this now gone? Has staff goodwill been smashed away by the demands of National Curriculum, league table emphasis on results and other such wonderful educational developments? It’s gone from the places I knew, replaced by deadlines and stress, paper work and monitoring. Staffrooms have become vacant as lunchtimes have been replaced by work half hours with a grabbed bite to eat and a cold coffee.]

Anyway I started a YOC club [Young Ornithologist’s Club] and soon had around 70 members; young working class teenagers desperate for something different, boys and girls of all ages. We began birding the local area, walking en masse after school either through the estate to get to Essington and The Dandoes, an area of fields, scrubby woods and a few small fishing pools; Small Heath with its large expanse of silver birch and alder woodland and many small newt-filled pools or to ‘The Tracks’, a disused old railway line, which lead back in those days to cereal crop fields, a couple of blocks of mature sycamore-dominated woodland and a covered tip which in May would be covered with thousands of common and marsh orchids. The orchids have now gone as the trees planted in the same area have now matured.

Health & Safety people would have kittens if they’d seen one young, I was then, teacher leading around 20 to 30 mixed age school children, boys and girls along streets, over bus roads over stiles and through bramble thickets and the like, paddling in pools and standing close to deep waters. In all the years of doing so there was not one accident and no real incident. No first aid was needed and the mood of the children was one of excitement and exploration.

We saw good birds on the many walks that we enjoyed. Ring ouzels became a regular feature behind Black Cat Woods in April each year. Up to 8 I remember stopping off on their way to their breeding grounds, maybe some on the moorlands of North Staffordshire. I imagine they’d crossed the expanse of industrial desert, The Black Country and needed to clear their lungs of the smoke before continuing. Now the Black Country is an industrial desert of another nature as big industry was decimated by the Thatcher years to be replaced eventually by cleaner production lines.

Another highlight, and one that attracted numbers of local birders and twitchers for many years, was the nesting of a pair of merlins on an electricity pylon almost overlooking the edge of the estate, Ashmore Park, Wolverhampton if you want to goggle map it, alongside Kitchen Lane. Merlins with up to 4 young used to be so easy to see and many did. Lines of scopes lined up along the roadside bemused the working class locals many a time.

Each half term we would go out for a day’s birding on a 50 seater coach, destined to bird a distant nature reserve or outstanding natural area. Helped by a couple of newly converted birding teachers and a small collection of local birders around 40 children would give the coach driver and me hell as we sped along the M6 or M5 depending on the direction to be taken.

Over the years we went to the Dee Estuary, with a walk out to Hilbre Island, Slimbridge and Martin Mere WWT reserves, the latter included Formby Point and the red squirrels of Freshfields. Down to the New Forest on a day when I was desperately ill and spend the whole day sleeping on the length of seats at the back. The children bought me a small present as I hadn’t cancelled the trip. I missed the birds they saw though, dartfords and hobbies.

One year we went and stayed at the youth hostels of Norfolk to spend a few days birding the North coast before heading back home via Minsmere.

Now from this YOC club came a group of really dedicated local patch loving lads. In phases they came [I never forget a phase], some to become twitchers, some to branch off into dragonflies or nature conservation, [one even started his own wildlife park!] and others to lapse as other teenager pursuits took precedence – girls and booze, football and martial arts.

Phase one, the time of Gobbler and Smoothie who together with a few of some very well known local or local-ish birders, John Holian, John Higginson, Paul Tippler, Geoff Russon, Frank Dixon would get to bird Britain and learn the ropes of identification and location.

Phase two, well, now there was a group! Three young boys, Alex [The Bear] Barter, Jason [Ollie] Oliver and Richard Southall, simply know as South.

Bracknell, 1985, an olive-backed pipit was found in the back garden on a town house estate and soon became a national celebrity. Smew down the road at Wrasbury and a ferruginous duck in residence at Paddington Gate, Uxbridge; we had to see them. An early morning, 3.00am, pick up in a bright yellow Datsun Nissan Cherry from outside the Broadway pub and a drive down the long road, before the ease of the M40 remember, to Bracknell and a view of the pipit.

The smew were never seen as we chose the wrong reservoir and got locked in for 4 hours! Four hours of circling the massive high banked concrete lined reservoir looking for a way out after the worker who had been painting the main gates had left, locking those gates behind them. Our escape was only due to the diligent public reporting to the police that some lads were trying to remove the gates from their hinges. Police duly arrived and laughingly promised that someone would be along with a key to let us out. 3 hours later that person arrived; a little old man on a push bike! The smew meanwhile had been smiling at our missing them by hiding on the adjacent smaller gravel pits Back then there weren’t the pagers, mobile phone text alerts and the Satnavs that pinpointed every bird and made a birder’s life almost as easy it is for the

Gricer using his railway timetable and notebook. May birding never become that easy. At least birds fly!

The fudge duck refused to be found despite a couple hours searching the many pools in the area and collecting carrier bags full of old Victorian bottles discarded by the Cockney collectors, who having dug their large pits into the ancient rubbish tip, had taken away the choice items.

It turned out that the duck [well drake actually] had been hiding under the overhanging branches of the gravel pit right next to the parked car, less than 50 yards from where we would have ticked it off as we all needed it at the time.

Our first twitching trip! Eventful yes, and with a fabulous new bird for all of our British life lists. This started a few years of reasonably regular early morning pick ups and speedy headlong rushes to places across the British Isles. As the lads grew from young boys to young men so their birding knowledge grew, as did the friendship and my pride in them likewise.

They birded passionately. Alex I remember recorded 500 visits to his patch, ‘The Tracks’ and Black Cat Woods in one year! Morning and evening straight from school the Bear would bird. Richard would join him and together they found birds; white stork, black redstart, pied flycatchers, wheatears and the like, together with the regulars, little owl and willow tits.

They started to go with other birders and take their own trips by bus and foot to the nearby birding hotspots, Belvide and Chasewater, Cannock Chase and Blithfield. Indeed Alex and Jason found a first for Europe!

1987. A small duck couldn’t be identified by them or anyone else after being found by them at Chasewater. Male lesser scaup identified after a trip down to Slimbridge by Jason, Alex, John Holian and John Fortey and according to the West Midlands article of the event [] Graham Evans, who makes no mention of the lads, attracted hundreds of national birders as this male American duck was present for the first time this side of ‘The Pond’.

Who but a bird-obssessed teenager would skive off school and take a train to Aberdeen, a boat to Shetland and a hitch to Hermaness to see Albert? Alex did and I covered for his absence at school by writing his absence note. A bad case of abdominal worms it said.

Then Jason lapsed. The team had seemed inseparable yet maybe their coming of age brought with it the temptations of pre mentioned more ‘normal’ attractions. I’d like to think that it wasn’t the disastrous day of a double dip for him when we missed out by one day on a long-staying little crake at Cuckmere Haven and I flushed a seen by three of us red-breasted goose in Kent not once but twice! Norfolk geese never got so spooked! The crake had also got national attention due to it boldly taking worms from birder’s hands.

Eventually we went our separate ways as the lads left school, formed relationships and had children. I went through a divorce and found a new love, Karen who took me away from birding for a while into the bedroom.

Then in 1998 Alex died suddenly. An undetected heart problem took him from us and it seemed that the three of us would meet for the last time at his funeral and burial amongst the bushes of Lower Goral Cemetry, near Dudley. Only years old, the mightly Bear was gone. His funeral had been attended by hundreds of birders from across the Midlands and body builders; the puny mixing with the mighty with standing room only at Wednesfield’s main church.

Years passed, Richard lapsed to a domestic life of Julie, his son little Richard, gulls and dragonflies and I, birding again, moved to Worcestershire to bird Upton Warren and travel and bird abroad with Karen and the four children. We moved down to Dorset and birding took on another level as Swanage has so many habitats within a 15 mile radius of it. New friendships formed, one of such intensity with the most wonderful man I was ever to meet, Gordon Barnes, and contact was lost eventually with Richard.

Then in 2011, due to contacts formed by the Biking Birder experience, the rumour went around that Jason was back, birding with renewed vigour. Phone numbers found and phone calls made and the team was back. New members in the shape of Phase 3 border, Stephen Allcott and Ian Crutchley, previously unknown birder and friend of Jason’s, Tom and even Alex’s brother Anthony who’s taken up the gauntlet and Alex’s bins to bird with the Barter enthusiasm of old.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present The Birding Clams!?

Wow, got that off my chest! As or this blog, I’ll use it from now on to tell of some of my travels, starting with a fabulous trip to Turkey last year and to promote Green Birding with news of this year’s Green Birding Day in the forthcoming May.

Speaking of The Green Big Day, last year teams from Britain, Australia and mostly the USA competed by birding in a Green fashion.

Now the event is on again and if you want tto find out more please go to:-

Please register a team and tell your birding mates. Organise a local competition and if you could get school children involved all the better.

Earth Hour grew from a small local event in Sydney, Australia into a massive international event - March 31st this year i believe. Here's hoping that The Green Big Day [GBD 2] will do the same for birding. Surely we are the closest people to see the effects of climate change on our birds so let's all do our bit to stop it's devastating effects.

So May the Fourth be with you – well fifth and sixth as well.

All the very best everyone.


Now for a few Turkey photos to whet the appetite:

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,