Saturday 11 June 2016

The Lads - Albert the Albatross

People look at my bike and smile at the collection of 'friends' I have on it. There is a reason for each and over the next few weeks I am going to introduce you to each character and explain why they travel with me. They provide so mu inspiration and although sadly any conversation with them is one way, I wouldn't be without them.

The Lads on the Bike – (1) Albert the Albatross

The original Albert the Abatross was given to the amazing Mya.Rose Craig aka birdgirl.

Have a look at her blog for details on her birding life. A birding superstar.

Back in 2010 when Mya.Rose was seven years old, I met her with Mum and Dad, Helena and Craig and over an evening meal together I asked Mya.Rose which was her favourite bird. The confident answer of 'black-browed albatross' was a surprise. I had one, like now, on the front of my bike and so he had to go. She still has him.

I got another one for the rest of 2010 and gave it away to another incredible young nature lover who birds Upton Warren WWT reserve, Birder Gladys, Mary.

On January the first last year Mary was there for my start, once more at Upton Warren with her father Tim and other Upton regulars. She brought Albert with her to give to me for the journey. He took his place on the front of my bike and is still there.

Albert is a symbol of the incredibly successful Save the Albatross campaign.

Please access the following web page to find out more:- 

Friday 10 June 2016

Four Hot days (Penny!) and Two New Birds

6th to 9th June light N-NE Mostly very sunny and very hot, 20C+
6th June to Hotoft Bank reserve, north of Anderby Creek

The morning plan of a cycle to Old Moor RSPB reserve, one of my top ten favourites, changes when the news of a singing all dancing marsh warbler, over on the Lincolnshire coast, comes in from The Oracle.
Back along the cycle path east, the superb one I came along yesterday, had me very relaxed despite the about turnaround, listening to Frank Zappa guitar music. I so prefer his instrumental work.
To Horncastle along mostly roads empty of traffic and then along a busy, noisy A road before a turn off towards Alford gave me more peaceful reflective roads. Do people realise how intrusively loud traffic can be?
Arriving at the reserve, I walked down towards the hide with no birds singing but nice spotted flycatcher fly catching close by.
No one else is here and no sign of a marsh warbler. I attempt to string! I even text Phil to say I think I've got it. A warbler is skulking in the bushes.

Sense prevails when I look at a photograph and see a chunky, small acro.

7th June to Blacktoft RSPB reserve.

Time to try again to get to Old Moor RSPB reserve for the little bittern. No it isn't, a red-necked phalarope is at Blacktoft sands!
72 miles of cycling in the heat, over the lump of chalk between Louth and Market Rasen, I reach the reserve to be told by the RSPB staff in the visitor's shed (!) that it has gone. “It hasn't been seen for a couple of hours.”
A lovely, friendly and enthusiastic volunteer, Penny walks with me towards the hide furthest away from the middle, the place where the phalarope was last seen. Two birders coming from there tell us cheerily that it is still there!

Asking permission from Penny, I cycle as fast as I can to the empty hide and soon find it. Bird number 251. The final countdown, 50 to 300 has begun.
The spinning, frantic fly catching bird is distant but easy to see. It's small size is emphasised when a pied wagtail walks close to it and there isn't much difference.
Black spotted redshank, avocets and a group of black-tailed godwits are here too. The latter don't like the small phalarope and peck at it whenever it comes close.
The hide fills up in the early evening and the banter is fun. A mother and son combination brings in a very keen fifteen year old who will become a star. Stupidly I forget to put his name in the notebook, a senior moment I regret as I want to tell you all of the immense pleasure I get when a young person is so passionate about birding and nature. I remember his Mum's name, Karen.

8th June to Old Moor at last!

Into Goole for breakfast and another long, mostly country lane cycle gets me to the Trans-Pennine cycle path that takes me to the bridge into the wonderful RSPB reserve, Old Moor. I love this reserve. It has everything and the thrill to me is that it was created from the mining industry pits and slag heaps. The main reserve is one of a complex of close together reserves which are being added to as more projects come on line.
I am excited but extremely tired so I don't rush to the bittern hide where the barking little bittern may be heard but probably not seen.
Instead I am thrilled to meet the people I have met on previous visits; Craig, Lauren and Matthew, and new RSPB staff faces too; Bill and Joy.
The incredible Dave is here, wonderful man who deserves a lot of credit for the success of the reserve.
I am given cake and coffee and sit on the coffee, writing the cost down in my notebook as a donation. The amount written down is approaching £100. I will be busy on my Just Giving pages and the Chaskawasi-Manu donation webpage when I can get on the internet. Remember I am doing all this for four charities and any gift, like the coffee and cake, is a donation in my mind. Thanks Kevin and Michelle!
Late afternoon and I casually wander down to the bittern Hide. The little bittern is barking unseen at the back of a bush surrounded reedbed.
Three hours of standing on the small bridge with around ten other birders, the little bittern hasn't even shown us one of his resplendent feathers.
A married couple find a way through the tripod legs and birders and head off for the nearby hide.
The little bittern decides it is time to go to roost and climbs up a willow. Unfortunately it does this at the back of the tree and is unseen until it takes off and gives a split second banking view as it heads off to the left.
Birders all rush into the hide to find that the little bittern has disappeared into the far reedbed. The husband of the couple is distraught. He missed it. So did all of we except for one lone person who, despite no interest in birds, had the best view, the wife! Brilliant. One can't but laugh at the vagaries of birding. Those who wanted great views didn't get them. She who didn't really care did.

9th June Old Moor RSPB reserve

All funds have been placed into the various Just-giving charities; the RSPB, Asthma Uk and the WWT, as well as 32 euros into Chaskawasi-Manu so my notebook figure is deleted until more donations are given.
I have arranged to bird with Dave and together with a number of birders we are all gathered once more on the bridge.
The little bittern is barking once more and decides to give everyone the best views as it climbs a willow in front of us. I take a video of it doing so. Bird number 252 and what a bird. 

Another great bird to see, a common one but one not often seen well, is sitting in a large tree, a tawny owl.

A privilege today as I am given permission to join the greater bittern monitoring team. Think about this. This is a nature reserve almost completely man-made and here we have two pairs of nesting greater bitterns and a calling little bittern. Add nesting avocets, cetti's warblers and the presence of a lot of little egrets to the mix and who would have thought such was possible in industrial Yorkshire. Well done RSPB!
In the hide with Foggy, Clegg and Compo, oops I mean Steve, Paul and Gerry, we four sit and map all movement of the female bitterns as they return to the nests and go off to either get more food or relax in the heat.
There is cricket test match today and I use my smartphone to see how England are faring against Sri Lanka. TMS, Test Match Special is asking for photographs to show where people are playing cricket whilst at work. There are already two boring office type photographs. Surely we lads could do better. A stick is found for a bat, a kestrel pellet for the ball and a rucksack for stumps, plastic bottle for bails, myself in to bat, Gerry waiting for the snicked catch as wicketkeeper, Steve bowls a reverse swing with Paul on camera to capture the action.

The first ball is hit straight at Paul, a fair straight drive. He shells the easy catch. The next ball/pellet is pulled through the shutter for six!
The final pellet, another one found on the floor, is hit straight back at the bowler who also drops the easy catch.
The resulting photograph is emailed to TMS at the BBC and at 12:33 appears on the Live Score feed. Result!
Twice bittern once shy cricketers of Old Moor RSPB reserve.

Lunch in the superb cafe and procrastination over leaving. This reserve has so much and I would love to have the time to see all of it again and again. Springwatch should come here!

I eventually head off once more along the Trans-Pennine way and get to Doncaster. Here I get a bed at my favourite Doncaster B and B, The Balmoral. Here Nurse Gladys was almost trapped by Arkwright many years ago.

3 day mileage . . 163.62

last seven days mileage … 362.96 which is a new seven day record for me with an average of 51.85 miles a day.

Monday 6 June 2016

Cycle, cycle CYCLE!!!

3rd to 5th June light to fresh N One day of cloud and drizzle, then . . Sunshine . . what is that blue stuff in the sky? Warmer …. to 20C

3rd June to Brandon

To Dave's bungalow at Brandon via a cycle ride of 47 miles. Car-nage, WW1 memorials, WW2 pillboxes and interesting weather vanes punctuate the journey as I stop to photograph them all.

Hares, pheasants, blackbirds, foxes, rabbits . . all dead and mangled by the side of the road. How many creatures are killed on our roads?

WW1 memorials show slaughter of humans and one day I will put all of them onto a facebook group/community page. I have been photographing as many as I see around Britain for the last seventeen months. Horrific lists of the dead; “For the Glory of God and for Country/King” Variations on a theme. Sons, brothers, fathers, uncles . .

The pillboxes I photograph are for a man I met in Kent last year. Another reminder of war. In a lighter vein, the weather vanes show a household's main interest.

Brandon reached, laundry, shower and an early night.

4th June to Frampton

Blue and yellow, the sun is a shining to welcome the day! Warm t-shirt weather, the vagaries of the British weather, it was only a couple of day since I was wearing thermals and waterproofs.
61 miles today, though not all of it intended. I thought I would reach Long Sutton and camp there but the weather is so conducive to cycling that I carry on.
Retracing the tracks of a few weeks back, I reach the final A17 bridge before the turn off towards Frampton. Realising that dusk is falling I think about the possibility of a little owl being on a telegraph post.

Around a corner and there on the very next telegraph post, a little owl. It stares at me in the gloom.
A mile or so on after the sun has gone down, another one.

5th June Frampton to Lincoln.
Close avocets, one pair with a lone tiny chick, grebes and gulls; after chat with Sarah, the resident staff member in the visitor;s centre, I am off again and once more into the wind. 

When will this constant northerly turn? Day after day of cycling into this is not doing my mental state any favours. Sun is shining again though so count blessings and get on with it. Flat landscapes and reasonably empty roads, I reach a fabulous nine mile cycle path that follows adjacent to two large canal like features. With a tarmacked surface, theis is the best cycle path I have been on since the Exe Estuary one way back when.
A weasel comes out in front of me and stretches his neck to check me out. Unfortunately I am not quick enough to get photograph but my mind's eye will remember this smashing little creature. With yet another forty mile plus cycle ride completed I find a hotel and what a hotel, The Old Palace behind the cathedral. Luxury room and screaming peregrines around the cathedral tower. I am asleep by eight!

3 day mileage . . 149.79

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...