Friday 27 May 2016

A Day of Rain . . . Titchwell to Somewhere VERY SPECIAL

Wednesday 25th May                 fresh NW                     Persistent rain

Feeling very tired I walk alone around Titchwell and eventually sit alone in the Parrinder hide. 

Six summer plumaged knot are close and a single greenshank out beside a small island where common terns are sitting. A pink-footed goose is sitting out on an island. What is that still doing here?

A lovely French couple come in, the first people I have seen today. They are from Brittany pres de Vannes, and are members of the RSPB who have disparaging comments to make about French birding. Count our blessings (and chickens) for the RSPB, WWT and Wildlife Trusts for all of our resevres. No hides, or very few to be found in France.
I head back towards the visitor’s centre for breakfast. I meet two RSPB staff, the first out to litter pick, the second out to see what birds are around. Both are superb, as usual.
One says he is following this blog and comments that it is really about the people I meet. Now there’s a thought. Every day I am privileged to meet the most amazing people, people with stories, people who in their own way are incredible and friendly.
A story from someone involves a white-tailed sea eagle. One day on Mull. a birder is caught short for a pee when suddenly the huge barn door flies close over his head. What should he do, put away his **** and photograph the road or cover up first.? The birder's dilemma.

Another RSPB staff member must be one of the best ‘Meet & Greet’ people in the RSPB. I tell him that and take his photograph. Ian is the same with everyone he meets, friendly with a huge smile with a sunshine personality.
Breakfast is taken in the cafĂ©, a stilton and mushroom bagette with salad. Two ladies wave through the window. I met them both on Fair Isle last year, Jane and  . . .  I must look up their names in my notes. Great to see them both again. They’re so happy to see me again. Lovely.
Another friend comes to sit with me, Chris. We actually talk about match fishing in the 70s. Back then I used to match fish in the Midlands and met so many famous fishing characters during my teenage years. Chris was a match angler too of some repute and so the names flood back the memories of great days. Clive Smith, Kevin and Benny Ashurst, Ivan Marks, Roy Marlow, Barry Brookes, Tony Reece, Ken Giles ; all fabulous to watch and learn from. Great days.

I return to the hide to watch as avocets have territorial disputes and courtship displays as the cameras click with rapidity.
I fall asleep!
This is bad news as I have received an invitation to stay at one of the most special places in Britain, the lighthouse that was the home of Sir Peter Scott in his younger days in the 1930s.
I text the owners to say I will be late.
Three hours later I arrive, soaked and hot, at the lighthouse that now belongs to Doug and Sue Hilton.

The year list now stands at 248, twenty five ahead of last year at this stage.

35.82 miles                860 feet up elevation     852 feet down elevation

Let's Catch Up Again.......

Monday 23rd May                 fresh NW                     Sunny intervals

The previous evening I spent at Kelling Heath listening to maybe four nightjars churring around me. Before dark, in fact before the colours faded to greys, turtle doves had been purring and a male Dartford warbler had sung from a perch atop a nearby gorse bush.
Nightjars takes the list to 248, third on the BUBO Year list.
The same birds I see again in the early morning. Well I don't unfortunately see a nightjar in the morning but one keeps intermittently singing. This morning's Dartford warbler is a female.
I cycle down to Weybourne and take the road west and bridleway north to access The Quags. Egyptian geese have five well grown youngsters.
The day list grows with common birds and there are a lot of hirundines flying around. I notice that sand martins frequently go past with two following one, closely flying together. I imagine that this may be two young birds learning from an adult.
I walk all the way to Salthouse, not wishing to cycle and instead push the bike so that I can take in the lovely, if rather chilly morning. There is a new hide just off the road as I approch the famous east bank. Time for breakfast, spicy fruit loaf with peanut butter. I read the notices and see that the extension to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Cley reserve, an area of 53 hectares, has cost £2.6 million. I ponder.
Next to the beautiful, Green roof-covered Cley Nature Reserve visitor's centre for a permit. Down to Daulkes hide to watch the many hirundines over the scrapes. A hobby comes past twice just to prospect without hunting too seriously. A small group of black-tailed godwits come down with a couple of knot. All of these delights are enjoyed by myself and a group of Dutch birders.
The last week has been rather exhausting, what with cycling almost 400 miles as well as the two days at the Norfolk Bird Fair. I make my way after  walking around the reserve, to Moreston. Here I enter the church and sleep on a pew for three hours! I hadn't intended to. I entered the Holy place to look at the memorial to the village's War dead.
A cycle ride to Wells, a quick shop for provisions, a short reading session in yet another church and into the excellent Wells Youth Hostel for the night.

The year list now stands at 248, twenty five ahead of last year at this stage.

34.83 miles                1165 feet up elevation     1348 feet down elevation

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Norfolk Bird Fair Day Two

Sunday 22nd May Norfolk Bird Fair

Manninton Hall, Norfolk.

Day 2. Sunday

Stand number 52 . . The Biking Birder

Elis of Wader Quest and Emma of the Welney WWT with passing naked alpaca!

The WWT are so lucky to have such a sunny personality in Emma. She is here again and has lots of children making badges. I have a feeling Sir Peter Scott, the amazing Man of the 20th Century founder of the WWT Wildfowl & Wetland Trust, will figure large in today's Fair experience.

WWT 70th Anniversary. Sir Peter inspired so many, young and old and according to Sir David Attenborough, Sir Peter is the 'Father of Conservation.'…/our-appeals/anniversary-appeal/

Still opposite are Rick and Elis Simpson. It is such a privilege of travel to meet amazing couples that show so much love for each other. Not withstanding the fantastic work they both do for waders around the world, they exude a passion for each other and their cause.

I buy a book off their stand and join, make a donation too as I feel the £5 joining fee is a little 'as cheap as chips'.

As yesterday, a great start with friends old (sorry Emma . . . Happy **the birthday – half of my soon to be age) and new.

247. A winner, Michael with his wife and two boys, has guessed correctly and has Dave Gosney's superb DVD to go home with.

I go to some of the lecture, Rick Simpson's from Wader Quest. I am a little late and he is showing a variety of waders that are found in New Zealand and explaining their problems. Elis, his wife is there and she prompts him when he forgets to say the name of a particular wader. Brilliant.

Lewis ----- Carol, no not a typo but the names of a wonderful couple who come to meet me. They have followed me via the frequent Birdforum updates that The Oracle, Phil Andrews posts. Birdforum name Jabberwocky, they kindly make a donation and share the same laugh as we chat.

Speaking of the Biking Birder Birdforum thread, I can't always update the blog, Facebook page and Twitter and one may find out about my progress via the thread. Thanks Phil, as ever.

Phil and I got together a few days ago, Great to meet up, we hadn't seen each other for almost two years.

Mike Linley comes to my stand! An immense personality is chatting with me. Mike worked with Sir Pter Scott on the survival series and with Sir David Attenborough on Life on Earth. Forty minutes pass by in a flash. WOW! Star-struck Biking Birder.

Penny Clarke, with lippy and hair done, comes over, hugs! Another Mega Celebrity. Wonderful woman. 

Talking to Rick (Wader Quest), another birding legend approaches, David Tomlinson. Birders of a certain age will remember the iconic Big Year Race, British variety of course, where two teams raced around East Anglia back in 1982 and the book of the race documented in two witty sections according to the teams, became a must-have birding classic as well as opening up British birders to the whole bird race for charity and fun craze.
In fact a the Secondary-aged students of a Wolverhampton school with a certain teacher were so inspired that the annual Coppice High School Bird race day became a feature.
I gabbled away, star-struck again, with both David and his wife. Charming and approachable; so many heroes in an afternoon.
Rick Simpson of Wader Quest, David Tomlinson and I

The day draws to a close, massive thanks to Jill and Robert, the event organisers, and time to go. 

A quick scoot around to the RSPB stand and the Marine Conservation Stand. I had just joined the latter for the sake of Ophelia the Orca on my bike. 'An orca is a dolphin not a whale'.

A young man comes over with tattooed arms, Stuart. He is an accomplished mountain runner in Scotland and birder. He tells me that next year he is going to do a running Big Day. Can he see over 100 bird species in a day? Looking at him and hearing of his enthusiasm for the project I am sure he will. A mega Green Birder!

Anyone with a tattoo of a Wilson;s petrel on his arm deserves respect.

Goodbyes and an empty marquee.Andrew, oh blast I have forgotten his surname, senior moment, comes up to me. He has something to show me. Now there are trophies that sport's fans hold as sacred; the football World Cup trophy, The large plate for Wimbledon whatever that is called, Golf's Rider Cup trophy and my personal favourite, the little Ashes Urn. In British Birding there is the original Big Bird Race trophy. Andrew has it in his car. His team has just won the Norfolk Big Bird Race 2016 back in April, all in aid of Wader Quest, and David Tomlinson has given Andrew the trophy. Together Andrew and I hold the trophy with reverence, as excited as two giddy schoolboys, which i suppose we both are at heart.

Sir Peter Scott completes the Norfolk Bird Fair with his presence. Within the Holy Grail shaped trophy is the egg of an Hawaiian goose, a Ne-ne, signed by Sir Peter Scott.

Monday 23 May 2016

Norfolk Bird Fair Weekend

19th to 21st May

Three days of cycling only with birds seen along country lanes; lesser and common whitethroat, blackcap and garden warblers, yellowhammers and chaffinches and the occasional kestrel.

A quality Bed & Breakfast, Pickwick Guest House in Stone le Clare, is as exceptional as had described. I never book with by the way, just find a place via their site and then phone personally.
A night at Dave Lovatt's house in Brandon is the same. Dave has kindly said that the house is available any time I cycle through Brandon. Finally, before reaching the Norfolk Bird Fair, a night in the tent tucked away from prying eyes between two large hedgerows at Fowlsham, near Fakenham.
This day, the 20th of May, I have cycled from Brandon, stopping at a large church for a rest. Imagine the surprise when on entering I find a large model railway! Not every day one finds a very detailed model railway layout with track, trains and cars etc. in a church.

Norfolk Bird Fair Mannington Hall, Norfolk.

Day 1. Saturday

Stand number 52 . . The Biking Birder

Bike is loaded and the main attraction; people want to be seen with The Lads. It is great to see that my stand is opposite the WWT stand and that on it is Emma from Welney. 

Emma, not Amanda that I have always thought her name was and have put on my blog and facebook pages. Must change that.

Also opposite is the superb Wader quest group with Rick and Elise Simpson. I can't help but have a chat with these excellent people, new friends hopefully.

The public enter the large marquee and I start a competition with anyone who comes up to the stall; how many bird species, wild ones, have I seen this year? You all know the answer, 247. I have a separate children's competition with the same question and amazingly a young boy, Connor guesses exactly the 247. I tell him to go around the fair and find something he wants for £10. With his Mum and three sisters he goes off and comes back wanting a large photograph of a hare from the B & J Legge stand.
I really want to go to some of the lectures but feel that I can't leave my stand. The first lecture is by Yoav Periman, Director of the National Bird Monitoring Scheme at the Israeli Ornithological Centre. Incredibly after his talk he comes to find me. 

He has a proposal. Would I like to take aprt in the Champions of the Skyways bird race in Eilat, Israel in March next year? It would be an honour and a privilege to do so I need to get a team of the best Green Birders. Would Chris Mills be up for it? Nick Moran from the BTO?
Maybe we should have an international field. How about Ponc Feliu, the current European Green Year list record holder and why not ask the World record holder, Dorian Anderson?
Wait a minute, these would be hares to my tortoise but that can't be helped. What a prospect.
I am still in delighted shock at this invitation when another huge surprise occurs. Cath Mendez, a lady who I met on Fair Isle last year, has made it all the way up from South Wales to see the Bird Fair. She stays with me for quite a while and tells me that she is a volunteer at the Fair isle Bird Observatory this year for three months, August to October. Brilliant to see such a great friend.

The day flies by and the evening has a pig roast followed by cheesecake, a favourite combination. I sit with three ladies; Liz Huxley, a bird photographer:-

She has recently been the birder who found the Franklin's gull at Abberton; the bird I was very lucky to add to my list earlier in the week. The other two are bird surveyors from Scotland, Laura and Amber.

Soon time for sleep and I make the mistake of placing my tent in a field too near to the site generator. Two sleepless hours listening to that from Midnight with frequent hoots and squeals from nearby tawny owls. Mind you, I lay in my sleeping bag writing notes from the thoughts buzzing around in my head from the day's events and people met.

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...