Friday 31 December 2021

The Day Before Tomorrow Biking Birder VI - The Quest for the Records - Redemption and Repentance


So, this time tomorrow, it is 6.00 am as I type this, I will be up and listening, listening for the bird outside in the Oak woodlands adjacent to my Mum & Dad's house in North Worctesrshire, listening for a Tawny Owl.

Back in 2010 on the morning of January the first of that year, to start my first ever Biking Birder adventure, can't believe it was eleven years ago! I walked out of my sister's house at the time just around the corner from here. It was very cold and icey and I wanted a Tawny Owl to hoot and so be the first bird on my Green Birding year list, the first bird on my BIGBY, Big Green Big Year, list.

Carefully I made my way in the dark of that perishing morning down a steep country lane listening for the plaintive hoot, the too-whit to be followed by the to-whu.

A Carrion crow cawed!

Then a Tawny hooted, relegating itself to second place in my pristine notebook.

I walked back to my sister's beautiful home and prepared some breakfast whilst waiting for both daylight and a phone call from BBC Radio West Midlands.

Was that Crow a portent of doom or was his raucous Caw more a call of admiration? Cor!

Well, in the following eleven years I have been on five Biking Birding adventures. Not alone of course, I have my lads and lassies with me on the bike for some stimulating conversation, one way of course and company.

Sid the W&WT Rainforest Frog & Albert the RSPB Albatross
These two have been on every BB adventure with me!

It's good to be crazy!

Three whole year cycling-birding adventures in Britain - BBI to III, BBI =2010 was planned around visiting every RSPB and Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Nature Reserve. (W&WT) 

The Sunshine RSPB girls of Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, 2010

Sing along now!!!!

BBII-2015 was to be a repeat of 2010 but there were a lot more RSPB nature reserves to visit that I hadn't known existed back in 2010. There was also a huge new and exciting saltmarsh creation project in Somerset by the W&WT to visit.

By now I had found out that there were actually listing records for what I was doing. Chris Mills and Simon Woolley back in 2005 had competed against each other by counting how many birds each could see in the respective home counties, Norfolk for Chris and Hampshire for Simon. 

Chris had the advantage of being in the better birding county and won, seeing 251 different bird species and so a British Green Birding Year list record was created.

Chris Mills with friend

Chris now runs a superb bird guiding business in Norfolk - Norfolk Birding and is a highly respected birder and all round brilliant bloke!   

In 2010 I saw . . .  251! Amazing to equal Chris and not beat him.

Bluethroat at Setter, Fair Isle of the home of my late best friend, Gordon Barnes

Citril Finch, Holkham, Norfolk
Now that one has a story!!!!

BBII- 2015 would change that. I visited over 230 RSPB nature reserves, 10 W&WT centres and Steart Marshes W&WT nature reserve and saw 290 different bird species.

290 though wasn't the European BIGBY record. That was held by Ponc Feliu Latorre of Spain. Ponc saw an incredible 304 bird sp. around his home area of Catalonia in 2013.

Ponc Feliu Latorre - as handsome as ever!

Green Birding records around 2015-16 were available on Jim Royer of California's website : 

I wanted to beat Ponc's European BIGBY record and so I just kept cycling into 2016 - BBIII.

I ended that year on 318 birds!

Siberian Accentor - Fair Isle
found by Lee Gregory!

Siberian Stonechat, my 304 bird of 2016, equalling Ponc's European record

Tawny Owl seen in the daytime at the fabulous Old Moor RSPB Reserve, Yorkshire

BUT . . .      I had used fossil-fuelled transport. I had been on a lot of ferries, ferries that took me to Mull and Coll of the Inner Hebrides, ferries that took me to Shetland, Orkneys and the Isle of Wight, ferries that took me to Paradise - Fair Isle! 

A) GREEN BIRDING BIG YEAR (365 day period, starting any day):

1) World: 618 species, Dorian Anderson, 2014, U.S.A. (**)
2) North America: 618 species, Dorian Anderson, 2014, U.S.A. (**)
3) Canada: ??
4) Catalonia: 304 species, Ponç Feliu, 2013 (G)
5) U.K. (Europe): 318 species, Gary Prescott, 2016, (F)

Notice my relegation beneath Ponc and that big incriminating (F) after my name.

So, omitting BBIV-2018, a magnificent half a BIGBY, that is six months on a Green Birding adventure in Peru, where I saw 634 different bird species, a new World Record and omitting BBV-2019, a fantastic visit to the Ebro Delta Birding Festival, where I met the above-mentioned Ponc and his Green Birding friends but which ended when my back wheel practically exploded on me as I descended a steep Pyrennean road! I get to BBVI-2022.

BBVI - the Road to Redemption. Starting tomorrow I will be setting off towards, hopefully, the Belted Kingfisher, an amazingly rare Mega that has set up his home along a canal near to Preston Lancashire.

On this adventure I won't be using ANY fossil-fuel transport. I will be sticking the UK mainland, cycling most likely along the East and south coasts with visits to Scotland as necessary.

All for charity of course, the incomparable RSPB, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and also for a magnificent Children's Hospice, ACORNS in my beloved home city of Birmingham, UK, links for donations, if you could please do so, are to be found above on the right of the page near the top. 

So, PLEASE support me by making a donation and follow me on my coming adventures.

All the very best to you all, Happy New Year, stay safe and thanks for being here with me.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Back to 2010 - BIKING BIRDER I - Birds, Birds, Birds!


2010. My first spectacular Biking Birder adventure, a, gruelling at times, twelve month cycle around every wonderful part the UK, visiting every amazing RSPB nature reserve, each so individual and every incredible W&WT centre, whilst listing the many birds seen.

Stories of the fabulous 'sunshine' people met will come later.

So, in a series of posts where I delve deep into the memories I will retain forever of each Biking Birder adventure. 

There is a book of this unforgettable year still to be published. One day it will be but before that important day, here is a sprinkling of momentous moments . . .

If you know the words, moisten your vocal chords and sing along now - and yes, Eels have given me permission to use their music!

If you're small

And on a search

I've got a feeder for you to perch on

Did you spot the three mistakes?        

Next year, as in 2010, I will be doing the BIGBY, the Big Green Big Year, to try and raise money for my favourite environmental charity, the RSPB.

To finish today's post, here is their beautiful and atmospheric Dawn Chorus video . . . 

                                   BCNU xx

Monday 13 September 2021

I'm back!!! Biking Birder VI starts on January 1st 2022!

Whilst enjoying going around the UK, visiting the RSPB nature reserves, I realised that my legs are still reasonable and that at my age, 65, I may not have many years left in which I would be able to cycle for a whole year.

Do it again!

Do what?

Another Biking Birder year.

Previous Biking Birder adventures have been to achieve various targets.

BB I - In 2010 I cycled around the UK in order to see every RSPB nature reserve and every W&WT centre. 

BB II 2015 - try to become the British BIGBY - Big Green Big Year - champion whilst still visiting every RSPB nature reserve and W&WT centre. A Big Green Big Year is a challenge where one birds and keeps a list of all bird species seen during a whole year but no fossil fuel transport is to be used. More on that aspect later.

BB III 2016 - British BIGBY record broken, next target was the European BIGBY, held by Ponc Feliu Latorre of Catalonia, a year list total of 305 would be required to beat Ponc.

BB IV  2018 So with the European BIGBY record UTB, under the belt, why not go for the World record? Why not indeed but where?

Britain would not provide the number of bird species required to beat the incredible Green Birder, Dorian Anderson. Dorian had seen 618 bird species by cycling around the USA. More on that later.

My first idea was to do the same, that is cycle around USA and visit all of the Audubon nature reserves whilst doing so. I even bought a road atlas of the US and mapped a route! I still have it and who knows, one day maybe.

In 2013 though I had been to and fallen in love with Peru. I visited Peru again in 2014 travelled around for around three months. I was smitten. The country had everything I loved in life; nature in abundance and found amongst a wonderful diversity of biomes - oceanic, desert, montane and rainforest. Then there was the history with Machu Picchu being an ultimate destination, of course but not the only site of fascination. The people! Wonderful, friendly, colourful, fun-loving people. Everywhere I went I met such wonderful people, yes, Peru had the lot and I haven't even mentioned the frequent festivals and the music.

So the US trip was dropped and the destination for my Biking Birder IV adventure would be Peru.

BB IV 2018 World BIGBY record attempt.

BB V - 2019     It had to happen sometime but despite the words from the Apollo 13 film, failure was an option.

After a fabulous long weekend at the Ebro Delta Birding Festival with the fore-mentioned Ponc Feliu Latorre, the cycle back from south of Barcelona to Britain was stopped by a huge blowout of the back tyre when in the Pyrennean foothills. No replacement to the tyre could be found and all replacement inner tubes were quickly used up. I left the bike in a park beside a bench and took train, coach and ferry back to Britain.

Which brings me to today and tomorrow I will be detailing my plans for 2022, the reasons behind my sixth Biking Birder adventure, BB VI and how you can all participate and help.

Just over 100 days to go . . . 

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...