Saturday 31 December 2016

The Final Day..... Thanks For Being With Me.

Saturday 31st December very light SW

Very foggy, mild, 6C

The Green Year list finished on 318.

Now a full summary of the day and the year will have to wait until tomorrow. I am a tad tired. Yet I cannot go to sleep before saying a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me, cheered me on, helped in some way, commented, posted, advised, shared moments or donated to one of the charities I have done all this for.

Today at Upton Warren Nature Reserve, the Worcestershire Wildlife trust flagship reserve the amount of money raised for charity was an incredible £711. Thank you so much. It was a very emotional welcome home. Thank you. Xx

On Just Giving tonight there was another £195 donated. Thank you, thank you thank you.

If you have enjoyed following my adventures and would like to make a donation then please use the links on the right hand side of the page.

This is not the end of the Biking Birder. Next year's adventures will be online as usual with the aim of an attempt to beat Dorian Anderson's World record in 2018. I have a general route for that adventure but need to research it by going there for a few months next year in preparation. Needless to say it won;t be in the UK or Europe. I need to beat 616 birds!

So until tomorrow may I say thank you once more and wish you all a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Happy New Year everyone. xxx

About to End Where It Began

Saturday 31st December Light SW

Cloudy, 6C

So here it is, New Year's Eve and the final day of the UK Biking Birder adventure. Today three years, 2010, 2015 and 2016 come to a conclusion.
It is early morning, breakfast is in ten minutes and then it is the cycle to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust's flagship nature reserve, Upton Warren.
I have a bottle of champagne to share the moment with friends. I need to get cake on the way.
To see friends at my favourite UK birding patch, one I have visited for many years, is going to be special.
In the afternoon there is a chance that a final bird will be added to the Green Year list. An Iceland Gull came into the gull roost at Bartley Reservoir on the edge of Birmingham last night. Having only seen half a one this year, the front half, it would be great to see the other end.
OK time for the up and the off.
Reflection and appreciation will come later.

Thanks everyone.


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.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Happy . . Happy. . . Happy

Saturday 10th December Light SW

Light cloud, still mild, 12C

The cycle down the A6 seems easy. With the road heading mostly downhill in long stretches the going is pleasant and I cannot help but sing a repertoire of old comedy songs.

The Sun has got his hat on! It hasn't but who cares?

When you're feeling down try positive thinking. Always do.

When You're Smiling, The Whole World Smiles With You.

I Know a fat Policeman . . . . . ?????

Through Matlock, along a widening river and into Belper. I suddenly spy Olaf!

There's Olaf!” I shout to shoppers on the High Street pavements.

Maybe giving away a secret but I meet Olaf/Kevin who is advertising a nearby store but tells me that he wears the Olaf costume to help some local charities. Good man.

Cycling from Belper to Derby with new songs to sing.......

Bees that buzz; kids will pull dandelion fuzz.

Tale as old as time.....

Hakuna Matata

It might seem crazy what I'm 'bout to say . .

Needless to say my mood is carefree and . . . . . . HAPPY!

Happy Christmas everyone xx

37.19 miles              1386 feet elevation up                     1616 feet down

Sticks and Spokes on a Dusky Day

Friday 9th December Light to fresh SW

Mild, 12C, cloudy, some light drizzle but mostly dry.

There is a wonderful 94 year old man next to me at the breakfast table, John from Chatham, Kent and can he chat. John is fit and very conversational and it is a pleasure to listen to his stories about family and his life as an engineer. John has caught two coaches from his home town to come up to see his sister who is in a care home in Chesterfield. Gaynor, the proprietress of the excellent Acorns Guest House, tells me that John is a frequent visitor. John makes me feel as though maybe I am only two thirds of the way along my own life journey. What a fabulous inspiration.
An extremely rare thrush, a Dusky Thrush, from China has lost her way and is in a small village, Beeley, about ten miles from where I am as today's cycling is started. Will this incredible year ever stop throwing up such rarities. This must be the best year ever for rare birds and next year's Rare Bird Report in British Birds magazine is going to be a must read.
The road through the town negotiated, a turn onto a cycle path takes the bike alongside a large pool and into a small wood. My mood is extremely carefree today with songs and laughs and a stop to chat with a passing lady dog walker cheers her up. She says that she has been feeling extremely stressed recently and hearing singing and whistling from someone with such an unusual collection of friends has helped tremendously. Good deed done for the day, a collection of smiling people stop as a decorated Christmas Tree stops me.

Jo, Hugh, Christine, Pauline, Val, Laura, Nancy and Ian

The Chesterfield Nordic Walking Group are Nordic walking their way back into town; as lovely a group of people as one can meet. Laura seems to be their leader and she tells everyone the story of how a family started to decorate this evergreen tree in the wood and that it has become a local tradition ever since. It is gratifying to see how many decorations are on the tree and that no one vandalises it. With photographs taken and reasons exchanged it is time for goodbye and to carry on.
Through the village of Holymoorside, the hill to the west towards Beeley seems never ending; a rise of 600 feet in one and three quarter miles. At least the long push gives chances to watch winter Thrushes in the fields, hundreds of them with a lot of Starlings too.

More unusual is a fantastic male Hen Harrier that crosses the road in front of me before heading off southwards.
The quickest route to Beeley has a road blocked off for repairs. A car stops to offer advice, two young Chinese tourists, their English perfect, tell me that they think I will be able to get through.
The blocked off road descends towards the destination village and I am relieved when the two workers, sitting in their van having a cuppa, tell me that it is OK to cycle through.
Into the village, it is soon apparent that the Dusky Thrush is a very rare bird. There are birders everywhere. 

Around eighty of them are gathered by the broken down dry stone wall of the village orchard. Fruit on the floor beneath the old fruit trees is attracting Fieldfares and Blackbirds, Redwings are flying overhead but there is no sign of the Dusky. A couple of hours pass.
Suddenly birders are on the move. Some walk, some run. I do the latter. Up a short hill, through a courtyard, negotiate a fence and ditch and into a field where around a hundred birders are gathered watching a distant mega. 

Dusky Thrush goes onto the Green Year List, bird number 317. A lovely couple, Malcolm and Lynn lend me their telescope to get great views of a rlly beautiful thrush. It is just a shame that my camera isn't good enough to take good photographs at this range.

Happy after watching the bird for an hour or so and having had chats with birders, I need to head off to get a bed for the night. The first attempt on finding a bed & breakfast has me cycle on. I am sorry but I cannot afford £148 for the night.

11.11 miles         1138 feet elevation up                      1070 feet down

Thursday 8 December 2016

A Bit of a Niggle, ASTHMA!

Thursday 8th December

A day sorting out my health! A few birders have been in touch to ask why I haven't rushed to the mega rare dusky thrush only ten miles from where I am in Chesterfield. Well, now that all is sorted I can reveal that needed to see a doctor. As I hope you all know, one of the four charities I support, and I hope you may give a donation to, is the wonderful Asthma UK. As is usual when one supports a charity it is often because of a close personal link. I have been asthmatic since being a young child. I cannot remember a time when I was anything but and memories of asthmatic attacks in my past come flooding back as I type. Paris, when I was twelve years old on an exchange programme and a doctor called out in the middle of the night to help me. Driving a car around, also at night, with all the windows open to try to force air into me when in my twenties.
Anyway, recently it has been niggly tightness not helped by a lack of Salbutamol. I ran out of my 'blue' inhaler and so today a doctor's appointment at the superb medical centre here in Chesterfield and a brand new inhaler to keep me going.
Couldn't explain before; my loving Mum is watching my every move on the blog and Facebook and she, bless her, worries about her eldest. Being from Birmingham I will always be her 'Bab' no matter that I am sixty years old!
Sixty! Free prescriptions. Yes . . . . free medicine for the over sixties. Thank goodness for the NHS. Never did understand why asthmatics aren't exempt from prescription charges as are so many debilitating conditions. Oh well, I am getting old.

Tomorrow, hopefully, the dusky thrush will become bird number 317 on my year list; a list that is already replete with incredible birds.

Speaking of birds . . how about a few more from my Peru days?

Tambopata, near to Puerto Maldonado, July 2014.

A selection of birds and other amazing creatures.


Wednesday 7 December 2016

Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and into Derbyshire.

Wednesday 7th December                   Fresh SW

Very mild, 12C

Reaching Chesterfield, the town with the crooked spire atop the town’s main church, sitting in the town library listening to Quadrophenia by The Who on headphones, I am desperate to sing along.
Knowing that the other library users would complain, I sit and type instead.
Today’s cycling was different to the last few days in that there was wind in the face and steep hills to contend with. There was also a security guard, Ash, to contend with at entrance to the library and for the first time for a long time I wasn’t able to leave the bike and The Lads anywhere securely and so had to find tonight’s accommodation by other means.
Saw this in a shop window whilst going to the Chesterfield Tourist Office :-

No problem, find it I did, and after leaving the bike and possession there, I made my way back to the library to catch up with this blog.
Right, what has happened since last I typed?
………………………………….. >
Monday 5th December                      
A day off! Stayed in my superb farmhouse bed and breakfast room and sorted out emails and organised some projects for next year. A really lazy day! Fabulous and boy, did my back and joints deserve the rest!

Tuesday 6th December                       No apparent wind
Very thick fog and very cold, 2C
I cycle to Retford taking as much care as possible due to the tricky weather combination of frozen roads and thick fog. A stop in Kirton in Lyndsey to admire the World war memorial and read of the local RAF heroes.

Tough going it may have been but it was fabulous when a motorist came alongside me as I cycled, well careered down a steep hill. He opened his window and laughingly said I was going 40 mph! (miles per hour) I doubted that but laughed at his cheek.

Good to see that Tigger found it a laugh too in the next village.

38.91 miles    1085 elevation feet up       1099 down

And so to today. 24 days to go and a new life starting at the end of those; volunteer jobs, Israel and Peru. It is going to be interesting but first the little matter of seeing the dusky thrush.

Today’s mileage 25.33 miles  1351 elevation feet up   1108 down

Sunday 4 December 2016

Over The Humber Bridge.

Sunday 4th December Light E-SE

Mostly sunny, cold as sun went down, 4C to 2C

I cycle to and through Hull and over the Humber Bridge. Not a lot happens except for an exciting moment when a male sparrowhawk almost hit me as it came from behind a hedgerow beside the road!

38.31 miles          928 elevation feet up                 625 down

Pallid Harrier Goes onto The Green Year List

Saturday 3rd December Almost no wind

sunny, Mild, 6C

Flat landscape again and a lack of wind make the cycle from Beverley to Welwick easy enough. Through eastern Hull and along the main road I leave my panniers at a bed and breakfast just before Patrington. 

Reaching Welwick saltmarsh nature reserve beside the Humber estuary, there is a group of birders looking over the grasslands. The reported pallid harrier had been seen just before Noon. I stand and wait and chat.
In three hours there are few birds but those seen include many birds of prey; merlin, kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard and both hen and marsh harriers. 

There are even a few short-eared owls quarter the marsh.
Light is starting to fade when I make the mistake of going for a stroll to warm up my frozen feet. I only walk a hundred yards or so but when I return to the birder group, they are all celebrating the pallid harrier having flown past! Some birders start to leave happy in their distant views.
Ten minutes later a ring-tailed harrier flies towards us. Pallid harrier UTB! Bird number 316.

It flies over fields in a large circular route before appearing in front of us over the saltmarsh again.
Brilliant. Anther great bird goes onto the Green Year list. Will this bird be the last addition to the list?

32.42 miles                 524 elevation feet up               550 down

BB 2010 Oops, crash and a motorway Abominable Snowman in Hemel Hempstead January 5th

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...