Friday, 30 December 2016
Christmas with Family and then . . . . .
Christmas with Mum and Dad, a chance to relax, recharge batteries and enjoy the company of people I love. A day before Christmas with two dear friends, Lee Gregory and Cath Mendez is followed by a day's birding at my patch of old, Upton Warren Nature Reserve.
A meal with my Son, Joshua; wonderful to see him. I am so proud of him.
Boxing Day with my brother, Paul and Dad is spent watching Aston Villa beat Burton Albion 2 – 1. This is the first time we have sat together at Villa for a very long time. We arrive early, an hour before kick off and once we find our seats I leave them to go and stand closer to the pitch. Memories of years as a fanatic Villa fan over the years flood back as I stand there with occasional tears and occasional laughs.
Days pass awaiting a bird; an Iceland Gull turns up one evening at Chasewater in Staffordshire but doesn't show the following one. A Blyth's pipit is at Blagdon, a black-throated thrush at St Asaph. Both are just too far to go and see. A promise to spend Christmas with Mum and Dad needs to be kept.
Then . . . . . .
Thursday 29th December No wind
Very cold, minus 3C, very sunny
An icy road and a clear sky, thick frost covering every twig, blade of grass and hedgerow, I cycle south towards The Cotswolds. There is a blue rock thrush, maybe only the seventh ever to be seen in Britain and to finish the 2016 Biking Birder adventure with such a mega rare bird will be amazing.
It is so cold and the roads aren't too safe as ice patches are quite frequent.
The sunrise is beautiful but soon the sun shining on the road is blinding. I have only one gear and along flat sections my legs are a blur with them looking like roadrunner! Beep beep.
I stop and try to get the gear system fixed. Probably corrosion but after twenty minutes of poking and adjusting I manage to get four gears.
Through Mickleton and onto the start of hill after hill as I reach The Cotswolds escarpment.
Steep hills keep me pushing and the twenty two miles I needed to cycle start to feel like fifty.
Stow on the Wold is eventually reached and I soon find the massed ranks of birders from near and far. There is a film camera filming me as I cycle up the lane; Rob Williams, a famous National Geographic and freelance film maker is going to film me today and I laugh as I realise that, despite feeling very self conscious, this is going to be fun. His ten year old son, Oliver is the sound man and what a joy it must be to work as Father and Son.
The blue rock thrush isn't on view. It was last seen on nearby rooftops. Rob tells me of his Peru adventures. Rob spent ten years there and Oliver proudly says that he was born there. Rob spent a lot of time in Salvacion, the village where the children's charity that I am supporting this year is located. As well as having a massive Peru Bird list of 1651, Rob is also famous on TV for having bought some rainforest with Charlie Hamilton Jones. It turns out I have been to the village where they did so and can see it all in my mind's eye.
An hour passes and suddenly birders are moving away en masse. The thrush has been seen.
I cycle to the spot to hear that it has just flown away. Minutes later it is back and the Blue Rock Thrush goes onto the Green Birding list at 318.
This may be removed though as there is an undercurrent of birders who think that this bird is an escape. I will have to wait and see. In the meantime I can enjoy the company and the bird.
The most famous Carbon Twitcher, Lee GR Evans comes past. I stop him to say thank to him for the encouragement he has given me over the last two years and Rob asks us to chat for a while as he films us. Carbon Twitcher meets Green Birder, both of us have the same focus, a love of birds.
Birders who either know me or know of this my exploits come up and say hello, sometimes saying where we met this year. One couple, Ethelyn and Richard from Northamptonshire tell me that they remember meeting me at Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve near Inverness back in 2010. A lovely couple and wonderful to meet again.
Maybe a little more affluent, the housing estate brings back memories of the chaos of trying to find a Golden-winged Warbler on a town housing estate in Maidstone, Kent back in 1989. Not such a crowd today but enough to show how rare this thrush actually is.
The great birding couple, Lee Gregory and Cath Mandez turn up and the thrush comes very close. I can't wait to see the photographs that they both will have got.
Having given Rob's son, Oliver one of The Lads from off the bike, Bruce the Snowman, I give another one away to another young ten year old birder, Bethany. Bethany is with her Mum and Dad,
Mum is a Villa fan same as I but Bethany follows her Dad's team, Sheffield Wednesday. I give Bethany, appropriately, Spiggie the Owl. After all the nickname of Sheffield Wednesday is The Owls.