Monday 9th May fresh ESE Sunny and warm 21C
An early morning start today, 4:30AM with not a cloud in the sky and a superb sunrise. The wind is fresher than yesterday making it cooler than the last few days.
Lots of news to catch up on. The year list is now on 239, 22 ahead of this time last year. I am now in the cafe at Titchwell RSPB reserve, North Norfolk, having cycled from Kent to here via the Lady Amherst's pheasant.
Let's go back a few days . . .
Tuesday 3rd May light NW sunny, warm
A cycle to Rainham RSPB reserve for lunch. I couldn't miss out one of my favourite RSPB reserves, could I? The cycle path along the Thames took me straight there and also took me away along the great river before I head inland for Dagenham.
A crash . . and my fault. I have sunglasses on for the first time this year and the traffic is stuck along a long road. I cn get through along the inside, just. Unfortunately to avoid a drain hole I swerve and hit aside mirror. I immediately stop and so meet Marcia. My fault, my cost. Sorry Marcia.
The cycling is rough due to going through the north-eastern edge of London.
Reaching the Lea Valley reservoirs gives me a break from suburban roads and, after watching a fox strolling around a large horse field, a cycle path heads due north along the canalised river to some prism shaped lodges that make up a youth hostel.
Wednesday 4th May light SW getting hot! Sunny
Off early in the morning to get to the lady Amherst's pheasant location. This is the only one, a male, left in Britain so I need to see it. It will soon be gone.
A stop in Hatfield to see one of my very best friends was as wonderful as ever. Coffee and chat, catch up and deep friendship.
Arriving at the village graveyard, I push the bike up through it and out along a grassy footpath. Finding the pheasant's haunt, I peer into the scrub, searching for this amazing looking bird. It calls repeatedly; a three note call softer than the double note common pheasant. I don't see it and camp nearby.
Thursday 5th May light S sunny and hot 24C
Up early after listening to the Lady Amherst's coaxing me out of my sleeping bag. It proves almost impossible to see and yet doesn't seem to be moving around the dense undergrowth. Garden warbler and blackcap sing in bushes adjacent to the wood and a cuckoo flies over. Three more birders arrive to help with the search; Laurence and John from Cirencester, and Peter from Cornwall.
Around 8:00am I find it! Lady Amherst's pheasant onto the list as it shows in a less-than-a-metre area next to a tree trunk about forty yards in front of us. A photograph of this bird is a rare thing these days.
Bird secured I need to get to Norfolk.
The rest of the day is spent cycling to the Ouse washes RSPB reserve. Once there the evening is spent in the brilliant company of Steve, the RSPB farm stock coordinator there. Together we sit in the office and he tells me every tale of cows over the ages for about two hours.
As the sun goes down and darkness falls I hear and watch drumming snipe.
Friday 6th May fresh E very sunny and hot 24C
Early morning birding at Ouse Washes RSPB reserve, moving from hide to hide to view over the wet grassland and pools. There are a number of male garganey and I count five before reaching the visitor's centre for an early cup of tea with Steve.
A short-eared owl is a surprise for this time of year. Fifty species of bird before breakfast, always a good sign.
The oracle sends a text detailing a purple heron at Heacham. I set off but I am too tired, shattered by the recent cycling distances. I reach Welney WWT reserve and decide to stop for some lunch. News from Gill and Amanda bout a temminck's stint having just been found takes me to the hide where the bird can be seen. Bird number 230 and another good one to get. A great white egret pokes ot head out from behind some tall rushes behind it.
Back at the WWT cafe I just get some soup when Amanda comes up to me again to say two curlew sandpipers have been seen right at the far end of the reserve. We both walk there but the birds aren't on view.
Leaving Welney, after eating my soup eventually, wonderful carrot and coriander soup, I leave but can only cycle as far as Downham Market. A bed is available at the best value Bed & Breakfast in Norfolk and I am soon in bed. Only after having a relaxing bath though, and drinking a mug of hot chocolate. I am truly bushed!
Saturday 7th May fresh E sunny and very warm, 24C
After an immense breakfast I set off for North Norfolk. One last word on this Bed & Breakfast; in a county renowned for B and Bs being expensive, at £35 a night, Chestnut Villa is superb value for money. A lovely bedroom with ensuite, coffee, cup a soups, tea and hot chocolate, chocolate bars and milk. The bathroom has anti-antiperspirants, shampoos, creams and shower caps. June is a lovely host and so welcoming and helpful.
OK, advert over.
I soon reach the cycle path that takes me off the main road and allows me to sing along to Quadrophenia on the MP3 player.
Dotterel are today's target and to get to Choseley quicker I take the back roads after Sandringham. It is very hot and soon two litres of milk have been drunk.
Reaching the spot that dotterel seem to have made their migration resting stage, I join others and search the distant stubble fields for the special birds with a terrific heat haze making viewing almost impossible. Someone says they have one in their telescope and proffers the eyepiece for me to get a view. There is a bird in the centre of the view but there is no way I can say it is a dotterel. An eyestripe, a bit of breast and maybe a wing, all shimmering and indistinct. A view of a different,closer bird is better and so dotterel can go on the year list.
I cycle along the lane towards the famous barns and stop on the hill adjacent to the dotterel filled stubble. Here at last I get excellent views of four dotterel.
There are only three of us at this spot and I can't remember how or why but the discussion goes onto suppression. I mention to one gentleman, that a famous case of acting against suppressors was when an Essex birder claimed he had seem an extremely rare hermit thrush. He hadn't but was so fed up with certain Essex birders surpressing the news of rare birds that he made up that he had seen the very rare North American thrush.
“That was me,” says the other gentleman in our trio.
Unbelievably it was too. Nigel Pepper, who in 1994 did such a birding 'crime'. He claim clean in Birdwatch magazine with a double page spread explaining his reasons. A hero for making a stand against suppression or a villain for carrying out the birding cardinal sin of a hoax? Take your pick but here is the man standing right here with me. Now what shall we talk about? I heard his explanation.
To Titchwell for the afternoon, a little gull there in the morning has moved on. Both temminck's and little stint are here.
I go to the beach an see a number of little terns, bird number 232. I return to the hide to find that a wood sandpiper has just flown over. Missed it.
I head for the reed bed where a grasshopper warbler was reeling this morning.
A text from The Oracle.... alpine accentor at Gibraltar Point nature reserve near to Skegness; about ninety miles away. With the sun setting I set off.