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.

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