Sunday 3 July 2016

Into Scotland.... Land of the Brave

Sunday 3rd July fresh to strong W/WSW 12 - 15C

So after a week that has seen me cycle over 250 miles, 261 to be exact with an elevation up of 8,498 feet (!), I awake this morning feeling a tad tired.
I don't think I have ever talked about the physical aspect of the trip, the actual wear and tear (tears!) that cycling almost every day as far as possible or necessary does to me.
Every day is painful. I never know exactly where the pain will be but the usuals are my knees, my thighs and especially my hands. The weight of the bike ensures that I can only go at around 8 to 10 miles an hour so try to imagine six hours plus that I manage every day.
The weather over this last week hasn't been kind. Nearly every day there has been wind in my face and the last two days have been particularly tough with a fresh to strong westerly. According to the forecast today's wind will be the same.
Oh well . . . . .

Thursday 30th June

Breakfast in the beautiful dining room of The Sun Hotel, Zoey, the staff member, is one of the wonderful sunshine people it is great to meet every so often. Zoey tells me of her passion for rubber ducks. She has over 500 of them! I give her an enamel badge of one.

On the road north the sun is shining and the way isn't too bad. In fact it is stunningly beautiful with views of castles and Holy Island passed. Bamburgh Castle must be one of the best in Britain.

North of here a cycling American, Beau, stops me for a chat. He is brash and confident and laughs about the condition of the cycle path . Route 1 that he has just followed south of Berwick. I know it well. Last yearthe way disappeared into a field of cows and mud. Beau is from Florida but works as a ski instructor in Montana. Fascinating man.

I reach the cycle path that Beau had mentioned and find sheep this time. No tarmac or grit, just a six inch wide mud pathway to negotiate. It reminds me of those death defying cycle pathways that are high in the mountains.
Reaching a tarmac road once more after a couple of miles of sheep dung, I hear a quail. Stopping I try to ascertain where exactly the bird is calling from and text a message to Jason Oliver, a Birding Clam, to ask him to alert Rare Bird Alert.
I miss a turn of the cycle route and end up on the A1. This takes me to Berwick where I stop for the night. Finding a Bed and Breakfast I find that the bumpy cycle way has snapped the back pannier rack. I will have to do something about that in the morning.
I am asleep by eight.

Friday 1st July

Kenny, the owner of the B and B, has repaired the snapped rack! Thanks Kenny.
I cycle along the A1 north. Traffic isn't too bad and the wind is mostly from my right.
Into Scotland.

After twenty miles or so I reach a cycle path crossroads and with head down due to strong wind now in my face, I take the route 1 which is actually a footpath adjacent to the main road. Suddenly it ends with a large fence and looking up I see extensive road works. All this is opposite Torness Nuclear power station.
I cross the road to the cycle path there and two workers in a van come to tell me that I have missed the cycle path closed signs. They advise me to walk to the end of the cones and rejoin a different cycle path. Once there I meet two police officers who check me out and once satisfied that I am genuine, point me in the direction of a cycle path that after fields and gravel, takes me to Dunbar.

Some way further, with rain falling, I go into a lovely cafe, Voradani, in East Linton. Mince and tatties (potatoes) for lunch and the best carrot cake I have had in ages. Donations too from the owner, Jane and from a customer, Lynda.
By six o'clock I am shattered and I pitch the tent in long grass beside a field of oilseed rape hidden from the roads by a long line of conifers. A hare and a roe deer career off.
I am asleep by eight with the book I am reading, The Big Year, still in my hand.

Saturday 2nd July

Early morning, it is raining. The book is unputdownable and I want to stay here for the day.
I get up and pack.

The hare has come back and doesn't run off as I approach.
Eventually it does and the day's cycling begins. The wind is strong and westerly and I am heading west.
Around every hour or so a heavy shower passes by as I shelter beneath trees waiting for them to pass.
Through Edinburgh, and after being stopped by a young man eager to make a donation, Jethro who runs a RSPB Phoenix group locally and does bat an bird surveys for a living, I find the cycle path out of the city that takes me to the firth of Forth suspension bridge. To the west the new cable stay bridge has three large sections yet to be joined up to each other. 

To the east the railway bridge looks as magnificent as ever. I cross over the bridge for the first time on a Biking Birder trip and reach Rosyth.

Last two days mileage :-

76.6 miles 3111 feet up elevation 3055 feet down elevation

Sunday morning . . . .

I am in a bed and breakfast and appreciate the comfort. I try to think positively about the coming months. Aesthetically these will be the most beautiful with the Scottish island and highlands providing the backdrop to my cycling days. The birds will be incredible with the autumn migration months to be spent on North Ronaldsay, Orkney and Fair Isle.
Before then there are target birds to get on the Scottish mainland and Mull:-

black guillemot
hooded crow
white-tailed eagle
golden eagle
crested tit
rock dove
wood warbler

There may be a chance of a spotted crake and then there are two rare ducks near Aberdeen; king eider and an extremely rare, I need it, white winged scoter. This last one is a vagrant from America. Ten birds is the target for July.
The target for June was five so I am thrilled to have seen nine.

Statistics for June 2016 :

718.73 miles at an average of 39 miles a day

17.165 feet elevation up

4,403.89 miles cycled in 2016

The year list now stands at 258, twenty one ahead of last year at this stage.


  1. Ok, as requested via birdforum (and I'm so glad my post served as a boost!), here is my green list thus far this year. Since I wrote on the forum, I've added our other cuckoo - yellow-billed, a real treat!
    1 Downy Woodpecker - first bird of the year.
    2 Hairy Woodpecker
    3 Pileated Woodpecker
    4 Blue Jay
    5 Common Raven
    6 Black-capped Chickadee
    7 Red-breasted Nuthatch
    8 White-breasted Nuthatch
    9 American Goldfinch
    10 Barred Owl
    11 Purple Finch
    12 Hooded Merganser
    13 Bald Eagle
    14 American Crow
    15 Brown Creeper
    16 Northern Shrike - sat outside living room window. Wow.
    17 Pine Siskin - first year we've had any in the garden, and they ate us out of house and home!
    18 Red-tailed Hawk
    19 Common Redpoll
    20 Canada Goose
    21 Turkey Vulture
    22 Ruffed Grouse
    23 Mourning Dove
    24 American Robin
    25 European Starling
    26 Bohemian Waxwing
    27 Dark-eyed Junco
    28 Red-winged Blackbird
    29 American Tree Sparrow
    30 Cooper's Hawk
    31 Red-shouldered Hawk
    32 Fox Sparrow
    33 Wild Turkey
    34 Northern Flicker
    35 Golden-crowned Kinglet
    36 Sharp-shinned Hawk
    37 Winter Wren
    38 Song Sparrow
    39 Great Blue Heron
    40 Common Grackle
    41 Hoary Redpoll
    42 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
    43 Eastern Phoebe
    44 Ring-billed Gull
    45 Mallard
    46 Common Merganser
    47 Hermit Thrush
    48 Wood Duck
    49 White-throated Sparrow
    50 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    51 Osprey
    52 Chipping Sparrow
    53 Broad-winged Hawk
    54 Common Loon
    55 Herring Gull
    56 Tree Swallow
    57 Barn Swallow
    58 American Black Duck
    59 Common Goldeneye
    60 Yellow-rumped Warbler
    61 Bufflehead
    62 Blue-headed Vireo
    63 Red-necked Grebe - Lifer. Raft of 11 seen from Kayak on very blustery day. Magic!
    64 Pine Warbler
    65 Black-and-white Warbler
    66 American Bittern - flyover whilst in Kayak.
    67 Belted Kingfisher
    68 Northern Waterthrush
    69 Spotted Sandpiper
    70 Ovenbird
    71 Black-throated Blue Warbler
    72 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
    73 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    74 Blackburnian Warbler
    75 Cape May Warbler
    76 Black-throated Green Warbler
    77 Palm Warbler
    78 Magnolia Warbler
    79 Warbling Vireo
    80 Bay-breasted Warbler - new to me. Lovely little warbler.
    81 Chestnut-sided Warbler
    82 Rock Pigeon
    83 Common Yellowthroat
    84 Yellow Warbler
    85 White-crowned Sparrow
    86 Swamp Sparrow
    87 Nashville Warbler
    88 American Redstart
    89 Red-eyed Vireo
    90 Veery
    91 Swainson's Thrush
    92 Baltimore Oriole
    93 Wood Thrush
    94 Scarlet Tanager
    95 Canada Warbler
    96 Eastern Wood-Pewee
    97 Great Crested Flycatcher
    98 Northern Parula
    99 Alder Flycatcher
    100 Indigo Bunting
    101 Black-billed Cuckoo - Lifer. Great views, seen on Father’s Day walk with Dad.
    102 Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Lifer. Woke me up, took twenty minutes to find it, but well worth it.

    Ridiculously long comment, but hopefully that's ok! Good luck in Scotland.

  2. What a fabulous list! Thanks for posting it. 51 lifers for me on it!


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