Tuesday 5 April 2016

The RSPB Member's Weekend pt 2 - David Lindo!

Sunday 3rd April

I am never comfortable when I meet one of my 'heroes'. I remember failing to say thank you to Sir Peter Scott way back in the early 1980s. He came into the Miller's Bridge hide at Martin Mere with Dr Janet Kear. I desperately wanted to say thank you to him for answering my schoolboy letter sent when I was around 10 years old. My shyness was maybe a little due to my attire. Birding in a bright lime green floral shirt with shocking Bermuda shorts; well I'll leave it to your vivid imagination. 
That return letter was so special.
So it was today when David Lindo, the Urban Birder passed my table. No one has done more to promote Urban Birding than David and his philosophy inspires thousands. Birds are everywhere no matter what the location. Just look up!
At Christmas I asked for the two autobiographies of the solo rower, Roz Savage. I was incredibly disappointed with the first and the second has gone to a charity shop unread.
David's though I found unputdownable. 

I hope he will forgive my copying from his website but he puts it so much better than I ever could:-

I’m David Lindo, also known as The Urban Birder. I’m a broadcaster, writer, naturalist, photographer, public speaker, tour leader and oh, I have been known to do the odd bit of birding!
Born and raised in London, I love anything nature, but for as long as I can remember birds have been my particular obsession. When I was three I went missing during a family party and caused my mum great panic. The police were called and a search party dispatched and I was eventually found standing outside a graveyard watching some Magpies.
I never switch off when it comes to urban birding, I’m forever on the lookout. If you saw me strolling down a street you’d think I was in Manhattan for the first time, gazing up in wonderment. The sky is my canvas and it’s amazing what you can see when you look up; birds of prey, swirling swifts, migrating thrushes, raucous crows. It’s a beautiful world up there.
My main passion is for urban birds and I spend my time doing as much as I can to promote the appreciation and conservation of the birds that share our city lives. I now travel the world encouraging citizens and organisations to step outside wherever they may be to enjoy urban birding. Through my TV appearances, writing, talks and tours I try to inspire people to re-look at their urban environments. I believe wildlife in urban areas is so easy to engage with. All we have to do is open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds and soon we will be linked into the nature around us.

A few urban birding tips to get you started:
See your urban environment as how a bird would: The buildings are cliffs and any green areas are an oasis for nesting, resting and feeding.
Don’t stress about learning the names and songs of all the birds you encounter, just enjoy them.
Learn at your own pace.

You don’t have to wear green anoraks; you can look cool and fashionable, I find the birds prefer it too.
Get your friends involved.
Find a local patch to regularly visit.
Think that anything can turn up anywhere at anytime.
That still works for me to this day.
Don’t go out expecting to see anything. That way you’ll never be disappointed but most likely be surprised.
My message is simple – #Look up!
I saw someone I thought was he on Saturday but failed to say hello. That innate shyness with 'celebrities' again. Today I managed to ask him over to say thanks for being such an inspiration. The hug received was bear-like and appreciated.
Now someone equally as inspiring came to sit with me by default. A lady needed a chair and a table upon which to write her thoughts on the weekend comment sheet. And so i met the lady i spent most of the rest of the day with, 93 year young Mary from Stevenage.
Mary immediately told me how she loved cycling and only stopped at the tender age of 89 because she was worried about how to get off safely.

Together Mary and I, arm in arm went to see David Lindo's talk. Brilliant and I won't give anything away except to say i hope you like Long-eared owls; that is if you are lucky enough to go to one of his presentations.
Next to the final presentation, a final mobilise the troops collection of films and talks, the first of which was by two incredible young people from Northern Ireland. 

First Matthew Scott, tall and lucid told of his many RSPB volunteer experiences. It was like a list of my favourite reserves. The Orlagh McLoughlin showed the cutest photograph of a determined toddler eager to love nature before describing her way into the nature loving, conservation world. She is about to have some children's books published and I promise to say when they are available. I will be first in line to buy them. Two superb, strong and eloquent young advocates for Nature. I even heard from Seamus,an RSPB staff member from Northern Ireland that the politicians at Stormont are nervous of meeting them.
Preceeding this had been a powerful short film on the creation of the new and immense reserve at Wallasea Island. Amazing.
Next was some fun with not only news of the very large Sherwood Forest project but a Robin Hood ' Play Your Cards Right' quiz. Mary and I won a Robin Hood hat.
The CEO of Birdlife International gave a talk. What a fabulous organisation.
Finally Mike Clarke, the CEO of the RSPB wrapped things up with a speech that included the good news that RSPB membership is still rising. 
Mary and I went to lunch together. It was my crafty way of getting two helpings of apple crumble and custard. Well I had to take a small and a large portion for her to choose from to our table didn't I? Luckily she chose the small one for herself. I forced the large one down.

The weekend was over. Yet another demonstration of how much the RSPB is such a powerful force for Nature and is therefore working for all of us. The audience may have been made up of young in heart people but the people running the show were young and vibrant. Such caring, enthusiastic and up for fun, wonderful young people. None more so than Sarah Houghton. This was her first time at organising the event and she can hold her head high and know that it was a job extremely well done. 
Then it was pack up time and to the pub after all of the goodbyes and thanks. What happened next can be summed up by .....

6   6   6   6 

An RSPB Members Weekend Experience pt 1. York University Friday and Saturday April 2016

After a fabulous stay at a Bed & Breakfast run by a great couple, Christine and Chris, The Old Presbytery Guest House at Barkston Ash, (thanks to you both . . . brilliant to meet you), the cycle to York is simple enough and flat and I reach the university with plenty of time to get everything set up. That is put the fully laden bike against a wall and put a couple of items in front of me.
The days I spend meeting so many people, listening to their stories and visiting each of the stands. I am next door to the Overseas RSPB workers and their albatross campaign results are stunning. Over 90% reduction in albatross deaths due to long-line fishing, some way still to go but what a successful result.
Oli and Kate
Then there's the wildlife crime stand with booklets on the facts and figures of the appalling destruction of too many birds, particularly birds of prey.
A change of mood with first the ladies of the York Local RSPB Group who greet everyone with such friendliness and enthusiasm.
Then more of a challenge with placing various archeaological artefacts in chronological order. Have a look at the photograph and if you can see the letters on each piece see if you agree with the order that I placed them in. (G H B A E D C F). I will post the answer later on today.
Thanks to the York Archaeological Trust for the fun.
For the children there was the fantastic Wildfowl Explorers table . .
and it all culminated with a visit to my table of the CEO Mike Clarke!

A Full Day at Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve.

31st March 2016       Light NE        Very sunny and warm

Early morning sunshine with lots of bird and beautiful views, who would believe that I am so near to so many urban conurbations? I adore Fairburn Ings and such a start bodes well for the rest of the day. In fact the weather looks too good, too sunny for migrants to drop in.
Sand martins do drop in at around 8.00am.
I cycle to the visitor's centre and am greeted by the staff. Photographs are required and so we all go into the kid's garden after a rather formal few are taken by the centre itself.
With the thought of the frog face RSPB advert in mind it is decided to do leap frogs. Great talent is displayed.

Onto the huge wooden dragonfly for more fun, my waterproof trousers don't allow me to slide down the tail and it is rather a painful journey down to the ovipositor.

I need willow tit for the year, as The Oracle constantly reminds me. My promise of 'I will get one within the hour' sent at 9.00am is broken but at 11.00am one comes onto a feeder and onto the list this scarce titmouse goes; bird number 191.

Willow tit secured, I leave the hide to explore the rest of the reserve and actually walk around 5 miles in order to cover every inch. I go first to the high ridge to the south and follow the path along the largest lake side, through the birch woodlands and visit all of the hides. Spring blossom is out, chiff chaffs are chiff chaffing and it is a beautiful day.
The walk back takes me to a new pathway that circumnavigates a few high rise, reed-fringed lakes. I sit on a path and think that a bittern booms, just a couple of booms and I wonder whether I have imagined it. I carry on along the path and do hear water rail and cetti's warbler.
Arriving back at the previous bench I hear what is definitely a bittern and again and again. Bittern bird number 192 onto the list.

On leaving Fairburn for the ride towards York I cycle along very quiet country lanes, thankfully and the first swallow of the year flies over a large ash tree, bird number 193.

To Fairburn Ings, Fifty Miles Downhill All The Way

Dipper and grey wagtail from the Earby Youth Hostel garden early doors, I pack and head off towards Skipton.
With the wind, light to fresh coming from behind me the cycling is easy despite hills. Actually most of the way is downhill with long stretches of just relax and hold on.

Through Leeds and down to the river, the evidence of the immense floods recently is draped high on every riverside tree; plastic and lots of it. The cycle path is extremely muddy in places and badly damaged in others. Eventually though I reach Astley Lake and enter the excellent bird hide overlooking it. A garganey has been reported there but no one in the hide believes the report. Two sand martins fly past, year tick number 190.

The oracle texts me to say that there is an osprey over Fairburn Ings NOW!
As fast as I can I cycle there but it has flown on, probably it went over my head whilst I cycled here.

It is wonderful to be at one of my favourite RSPB reserves again with tree sparrow covered feeders and mating toads to carefully step over and I explore the lakes to the east as the sun sets.

An Attempt at Catching up with the details . . . .

Right. I am having a day in the library in Beverley, Yorkshire whilst my laundry is being done. So let's go back to Earby Youth Hostel, Lancashire/Yorkshire (depending on how you feel about the constituency changes Maggie did) where I stayed for a few days week before last.

Earby Youth Hostel

Previously the home of Katherine Bruce Glasier, an evangelical socialist who helped form the Labour Party. The day's spent in this small, very quiet youth hostel included spending time reading up on the life of both her and her husband, John Bruce Glasier. If you're of a mind for a love story about two passioniate socialists then there's obviously an entry on wykopaedia but by no means does it tell the whole story. Called The Enthusiasts the book was a superb read abut two such influential members of the pre-Labour Party Socialists.

It felt incredibly special sharing a living room with the original furniture with the ghosts of such great people. George Bernard Shaw asked her to marry him on a number of occasions before John succeeded in getting the hand of the strong, independent woman.

The oil painting on the wall in the lounge shows a real stateswoman and one can only imagine how marvellous she would have been if in the current Labour Party.

After one day when I woke up to heavy snow falling eventually it was time to carry on to Fairburn Ings. Fifty miles later . . . .

Sunday 3 April 2016

Now in York and on 193 for the year

The last week, since Carnforth I have been mostly in a youth hostel in Earby, near to Colne in Lancashire. It had no Wifi, no TV and no mobile phone signal. 
Since leaving there I have been to the magnificent Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve and had four new birds for the Green Year list, namely sand martin, willow tit, bittern and swallow.
I am now at the RSPB Members weekend at York University, an incredible event.

So detail of the cycle from Carnforth to Earby today and when I get Wifi access I'll catch up with the details for the days since leaving the hostel and tell you about my adventures at Fairburn and the RSPB weekend.

Friday 25th March light to fresh SW sunny or sunny intervals warm 11C

Carnforth is full of giant eggs attached to houses and businesses. Well it is Good Friday.

It is a pleasant day with some warm sunshine and only a light wind. The route back towards the East coast over the Pennines takes me to Kirby Lonsdale. I had wanted to go another way but the bridge over the River Lune must have been damaged in the December storms as the road that way is closed.
I can tell that it is going to be one of those tough days where my inner voice dwells to long on the negative things from the past and every part of my body that has ached over the days and months of cycling seems to be doing so once more, especially my left knee. I could do with some music on the MP3 player but I never listen to it whilst cycling on the road. Eternal Sunshine!

The A65, the road from Kirby Lonsdale heads south-east towards Skipton, is horrible. A sign states that Skipton is thirty two miles away. Not that the road isn't beautiful. The landscape is superb with Ingleton and other high flat Pennine and Yorkshire Dales peaks providing a gorgeous backdrop. The greenery at this time of year is muted awaiting the Spring blush. The trees are still bare and distant woodland looks grey.
No, I can't fault the scenery. It is the traffic. Constant traffic of cars mostly with a lot of motorbikes and the occasional large lorry keep the decibel level extremely high. At no time do I feel in danger though as I tuck in along the kerbisde.
A couple of texts arrive with one changing the mood completely. Carphone Warehouse's offer can be deleted but the other is a Happy Easter message from a very dear friend, Diane. The dark mood of guilt, blame and shame of relationships past are immediately replaced by a flood of memories of adventures and scrapes with Diane. Sunrise over Beachy Head, somersaulting car on black ice near Thurso, when 'hit me with a peat bog' became a mantra for anything surprising for a few years, just as 'well forgive me' was the same in the film, Fisher King.
Another text of Easter wishes from my cousin, Rosemary and her son, Paschal; it is great that these arrive when I am feeling my lowest.

I push the bike up a steep hill where the lane is an avenue of tall ash trees. I wonder how long these magnificent trees will be here with ash die back on it's way. There is alo a single wind turbine slowly turning near the top.
Things come in threes and a car stops me and a silver-haired gentleman starts a conversation and is reluctant to leave. His name is Steve and he tells me that he was a violinist. I mention some of my personal favourites; Ian Underwood, Jean Luc Ponty and Stefan Grappelli yet Steve was a string quartet player before arthritis set in. He was also an advertisement photographer and is now retired. Steve is eager to talk and the conversation includes his love of opera, particularly Wagner. Indeed Steve has a ticket for the ****** Wagner festival. The cost of the ticket, £5,000 means that I will have to give it a miss.

I reach the charming, small youth hostel and Earby, near to Colne where my first ever experience in front of a class of children occurred over forty years ago. My first teaching practise at Colne High School back in 1974 was an adventure. A group of teacher training students had been minibused to the nearby Nelson and put up in a bed and breakfast. I remember the mass of food the landlady gave us all as one evening we watched an England football match on the TV; memorable to me as an Aston Villa player, Brian Little came on for a substitute cameo. This was the first Aston Villa player I had ever seen play for England.
A memory from the teaching practise was when the head of science had me kill and dissect an earthworm in front of all of year 10's students! At 19 I wasn't much older than this crowd and this baptism of fire with boiling water to kill the worm dispelled any nerves for future lessons.

41.74 Miles 2336 feet elevation up 1878 feet elevation down

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