Monday 21st March light NW sunny intervals, cool 2C to 8C
I open the tent flap to find a cloudy day and quite cool. Packed I am off towards Haweswater. The views along the bridleway to Rosgill and the stone-walled country lane downhill to Brampton are superb. I can see Haweswater from this elevated position and to the south the valley where I failed to find ring ouzel last year. The golden eagle ridge is just peeking above more nearby hills.
It is all so lovely with snow still on the tops in the distance.
I get to the RSPB offices at Naddle Farm.
I leave and head for Leighton Moss. The less said the better.
Up and over Shap, the highest A road in England and boy does it feel it, and down to Kendal where I find a hotel to collapse in for the afternoon and evening, The County Hotel. Brilliant, it has a deep bath in the ensuite.
So the year list is still on 189, which is twenty five ahead of this time last year. Migrants will be here soon. Yippee!
27.38 Miles 1751 feet elevation up 2479 feet elevation down
Tuesday 22nd March light W sunny intervals, cool 2C to 8C
To Leighton Moss RSPB reserve involves a shortish cycle along the A6 south from Kendall.
It all seems to be downhill and a smooth ride gets me to the Arnside area quicker than expected. I reach the reserve and am greeted by Lesley and Sophie in the RSPB shop. They want a photograph of the Biking Birder for the reserve's twitter page.
Out onto the reserve there are plenty of black-tailed godwits to see from Lillian's hide, some are in beautiful summer plumage. With a small group of redshank are a couple of spangly-backed ruff and a couple of little egrets walk around the reedbed edge.
Next to the Grisedale hide where a couple of female red deer are quite close before quietly walking and disappearing into the reedbed.
A female marsh harrier is sitting on a branch away to the left of the hide and I sit and relax, enjoying watching the duck on the water, wigeon, pintail and teal and the occasional group of up to four over-flying buzzards.
With the afternoon drawing to a close I head off for the causeway where a couple of bittern were seen last sunday.
A couple of residential volunteers, two young girls, are also looking for the bittern. They were the birders who saw the bittern on Sunday but report that to them the birds seemed to be leaving. Darkness falls and water rail pig squeal but no bittern are either seen or heard. All I get are a number of insect bites on my neck and head! Oh well, it would have been nice to get bittern at Leighton Moss but there's a couple of months in East Anglia to come.
19.16 Miles 976 feet elevation up 1119 feet elevation down
Wednesday 23rd March No discernible wind cloudy, cool 6C
I get to the reserve very early and enjoy birding around every trail and from every hide. The insect bites from last night have blistered and the lumps are hot and swollen. Ouch. These are worse than any bites I had last year but need to be far worse to beat the ones I received from horseflies back in 2010. Sausage lips!
I keep a day list and by the time I reach the Lower Hide at the far eastern end of the reserve I have forty-nine on the page. An adult mediterranean gull flies past, fifty up.
Back to the centre for a drink in the superb upstairs cafe, I meet Kevin who was the laughing RSPB staff member to my right in the photograph from last year.
He is going to Fair Isle this Autumn and it's great to know that we will meet up there on the magical isle.
Before leaving the reserve to start the long ride back over the Pennines I go to the top of the high sky tower; a strong steel construction from which one gets a panoramic view of the whole reserve.
It is superb to be above a male marsh harrier flying past.
Leaving the reserve, it has been lovely to visit this favourite RSPB reserve; well one of them. It has everything; great birds, lovely staff and diverse habitats as well as a great ambiance and cafe. What more could one want? A broadwalk? There's a long new one which takes one to the causeway through the reedbed. A tower? Already mentioned and fabulous. Nature's Home garden ideas? It's all there. A superb RSPB reserve.
6.66 Miles 352 feet elevation up 323 feet elevation down