19th to 21st May
Three days of cycling only with birds seen along country lanes; lesser and common whitethroat, blackcap and garden warblers, yellowhammers and chaffinches and the occasional kestrel.
A quality Bed & Breakfast, Pickwick Guest House in Stone le Clare, is as exceptional as booking.com had described. I never book with Booking.com by the way, just find a place via their site and then phone personally.
A night at Dave Lovatt's house in Brandon is the same. Dave has kindly said that the house is available any time I cycle through Brandon. Finally, before reaching the Norfolk Bird Fair, a night in the tent tucked away from prying eyes between two large hedgerows at Fowlsham, near Fakenham.
This day, the 20th of May, I have cycled from Brandon, stopping at a large church for a rest. Imagine the surprise when on entering I find a large model railway! Not every day one finds a very detailed model railway layout with track, trains and cars etc. in a church.
Norfolk Bird Fair Mannington Hall, Norfolk.
Day 1. Saturday
Stand number 52 . . The Biking Birder
Bike is loaded and the main attraction; people want to be seen with The Lads. It is great to see that my stand is opposite the WWT stand and that on it is Emma from Welney.
Emma, not Amanda that I have always thought her name was and have put on my blog and facebook pages. Must change that.
Also opposite is the superb Wader quest group with Rick and Elise Simpson. I can't help but have a chat with these excellent people, new friends hopefully.
The public enter the large marquee and I start a competition with anyone who comes up to the stall; how many bird species, wild ones, have I seen this year? You all know the answer, 247. I have a separate children's competition with the same question and amazingly a young boy, Connor guesses exactly the 247. I tell him to go around the fair and find something he wants for £10. With his Mum and three sisters he goes off and comes back wanting a large photograph of a hare from the B & J Legge stand.
I really want to go to some of the lectures but feel that I can't leave my stand. The first lecture is by Yoav Periman, Director of the National Bird Monitoring Scheme at the Israeli Ornithological Centre. Incredibly after his talk he comes to find me.
He has a proposal. Would I like to take aprt in the Champions of the Skyways bird race in Eilat, Israel in March next year? It would be an honour and a privilege to do so I need to get a team of the best Green Birders. Would Chris Mills be up for it? Nick Moran from the BTO?
Maybe we should have an international field. How about Ponc Feliu, the current European Green Year list record holder and why not ask the World record holder, Dorian Anderson?
Wait a minute, these would be hares to my tortoise but that can't be helped. What a prospect.
I am still in delighted shock at this invitation when another huge surprise occurs. Cath Mendez, a lady who I met on Fair Isle last year, has made it all the way up from South Wales to see the Bird Fair. She stays with me for quite a while and tells me that she is a volunteer at the Fair isle Bird Observatory this year for three months, August to October. Brilliant to see such a great friend.
The day flies by and the evening has a pig roast followed by cheesecake, a favourite combination. I sit with three ladies; Liz Huxley, a bird photographer:-
She has recently been the birder who found the Franklin's gull at Abberton; the bird I was very lucky to add to my list earlier in the week. The other two are bird surveyors from Scotland, Laura and Amber.
Soon time for sleep and I make the mistake of placing my tent in a field too near to the site generator. Two sleepless hours listening to that from Midnight with frequent hoots and squeals from nearby tawny owls. Mind you, I lay in my sleeping bag writing notes from the thoughts buzzing around in my head from the day's events and people met.