The Weekend 6th & 7th February 2016
Saturday - very strong gales, 55mph plus, heavy rain
Out into the gale, the quest is for the ferruginous duck that caused me such a problem last year. I arrive at Kingfisher Pool and am immediately cheered by the view over the pool. Gone is the thick ivy covering of the wire mesh fence and instead looking across the water is easier despite trees between me and the birds. Another local birder has been searching for the duck also. Tim hasn't found it but I do. The fudge is out in the middle of the pool drifting left. I try to get Tim's telescope onto it but I can't get it to focus through the mass of branches and twigs. I look again and the bird has drifted off. I can't see it. I am frustrated. Will I get a photograph of this bird or not?
I start scanning again and find it again sitting beneath the bushy island; the same one that it had hidden under for hours last year. I watch it, photograph it and video it.
Tim is happy with the views and leaves me to watch it more. It starts to dive for brief moments.
I move off, pushing the bike along the footpath and back to the main road. There's a thought in my head that the gale will bring down a branch onto my head.
Into the hide at Iblsey Water, a group of four lady birders are there and together we bird, finding a close black-necked grebe. One of the ladies finds a yellow-legged gull close by on a spit. Boom, boom, boom another one on the list.
To the nearby visitor's centre and to the hexagonal hide, the birds massed outside the darkened windows are mostly siskins. With them are a couple of bramblings and lesser redpolls, nuthatch and, more numerously greenfinch, blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, blackbirds and chaffinches with a few reed buntings. There's one open window where three photographers are chatting in the language of the photographer; isos and shutter speeds, records shots and memory cards. One of them comes over to watch the birds near to me and we start to chat. He asks if I am The Biking Birder and I find it confusing when he says that people ask him whether he is also. I ask his name. “Gary, with two r s.” What's your surname? I can't believe my ears. Garry spells it . . . P r e s c o t t !
Once my disbelief is dispelled we laugh at the coincidence. This is the first Garry Prescott I have ever met. I knew there were others but meeting one is special, especially as he is a birding photographer. Absolutely brilliant bloke.
Back to the Iblsey Water hide with the weather getting worse. Two brilliant birders are already in their scanning incoming gulls with scopes, Alan and Lee. Lee points out a bird on top of the osprey pole on the far side of the lake, an Egyptian goose. I have totally forgotten about this bird knowing that they are a definite see in East Anglia.
Alan is a big World bird lister with a World total of over 8,000. He tells me of a weekend where he twitched a bird, a pochard species in Japan. A flight, a plane and a bus, see the duck and return. The World's highest carbon expenditure for one bird? Possibly. We are different sides of the same I Love Birds coin.
Lee comes up trumps again when he finds the last of the three target birds for the day, a first winter Caspian gull. Thanks to these two wonderful birders I now have four new birds for the year list despite some of the worst weather of the year.
The cycle into Ringwood is tough, gale in the face, darkness and rain, spray from passing cars. No problem. Now on 154, things are good.
8.26 miles 144 feet elevation up 145 feet elevation down
Sunday sunny light SW AM, heavy rain, fresh SW PM
Into the New Forest, I search open moorland first then deep into woodland seeing common birds such as redwing, titmice, great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatch and treecreeper.
A text tells me that a great grey shrike is near Beaulieu Road Station and I arrive there within an hour of cycling. The bird is down west of Pig Bush car park and I have to push the bike along a very muddy pathway to get to a ridge that overlooks the area. I can see the shrike some distance away and carry on along the path down to where three birders are just leaving having had great views of the bird.
Another birder is walking close to the shrike to get a photograph. He flushes it and it flies away over a high fence and for a couple of hours I search before deciding to try for hawfinches elsewhere. As I start the big push back to the road I see the shrike has returned to a few low bushes but still a long way away. Rain starts to fall and gets heavier as I cycle to the house of two wonderful friends, Kerry and her son, Dominic. An evening with great friends is a delight. Dominic is an incredible young naturalist and their house is a fantastic smorgasbord of books photographs, artefacts from around the World and artworks. It's fabulous and every way one turns there is something to delight, amuse and wonder. Autographed photographs of David Attenborough, Chris Packham and Kate Humble, amongst others, shows how Dominic's commitment to wildlife has brought attention to this superb young man. We have a wonderful evening.
29.89 miles 1222 feet elevation up 1240 feet elevation down
Year list now at 155, twenty one ahead of this time last year.