Saturday 8 January 2022

Week One Biking Birder VI 2022 The Birds



Week One – January 1st to 7th 2022, 

Biking Birder VI and Biking Birder History

          A week goes by and birding opportunities have lacked because the focus of the week was getting as far north as my unfit legs would take me, heading towards the long-staying and hopefully not leaving Belted Kingfisher.

          January 1st And He’s off!

Birds in Mum and Dad’s back garden in Romsley, North Worcestershire, UK include Norman, their beautiful Aston Villa-coloured Nuthatch. Always brilliant to see Norman come to their bird table. Titmice include Blue*, Great*, Coal* and Long-tailed* and a lovely male Great-spotted Woodpecker* fed on the RSPB fat blocks.

          Buzzard* and Raven* are added to the list as I cycle away towards Stourbridge, Stock Dove* too.

          The first day ends with my BIGBY, Big Green Big Year list standing at 26, a total that reflects the lack of any visit to a nature reserve.

          Back in 2010, the year of my first Biking Birder advneture BBI, my first day of birding was at the excellent Sandwell Valley RSPB reserve. I ended that wonderful day with my bird list on 39.

          In 2015, my second Biking Birder adventure, BBII, started at Upton Warren, a superb Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve just south of Bromsgrove, my ex-patch from a time when I was a Special Needs teacher and I saw 53 bird species. Great to start with so many friends to have a natter with. Life as a Biking Birder is often very lonely.

        2016, Biking Birder III, BBIII, a very fit Biking Birder started his New Year’s Day birdwatch at Upton Warren once more. Actually I had slept in a hide there to try and get Tawny Owl on the year list. Successful with that aim, I videoed one hooting early in the morning. Sixty-four bird species seen that day included an extremely rare back then in 2016 Great White  Egret. Jack Snipe put in an appearance and of course it was a lovely start to the New Year being at such a favourite place     

January 2nd and 3rd   

Heading towards Aqualate Mere, Shropshire.

From Stourbridge High Street on the 2nd to Aqualate Mere, arriving there at 3.00pm on the 3rd, each day involves a short distance cycling compared to my previous exploits with a sleep in an unused, fortunately, disabled toilets. Rain had started to pour on the afternoon of the 2nd and finding the toilets was lucky. I sit and watch my beloved Aston Villa lose to Brentford and afterwards slept well.

Cycling had been tough and the mountain bike that I had instead of my usual touring bike was sluggish, partly because of the lack of muscle on my legs but also because of the gear configuration and overladen weight. Maybe a bike change will be required in the spring.

Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rook and Mallard were the only birds added to the BIGBY list on the 2nd. The day ends with my Bigby list now at 30.

Back in 2016 I had seen a Hoopoe in Kingswinford!

The cycle to Aqualate Mere on the 3rd is mostly along small, narrow country lanes and bird seen includes Lapwing*, Grey Heron*, Pheasant*, Sparrowhawk*, a lovely big female that flies across an adjacent field at head height before crossing the lane in front of me, Wren*, Song Thrush* and Moorhen*.

Aqualate Mere, a reserve I had never been to before despite my living for ten years in nearby Wolverhampton, turned out to be large with an excellent bird hide and nearly all wildfowl were on the far side of the water! I had come here to try and see a reported Ferruginous Duck but without a telescope the chances of seeing it were slim indeed.

Birds I did see here include new to the list birds; Cormorant*, Mute Swan*, Great-crested Grebe*, Canada Goose* and Tufted Duck*, Gadwall*, Goldeneye* and Coot* on the water, together with Marsh Tit* on the nearby feeder. Cetti’s Warbler* and Water Rail* Mozarted and pig squealed from the reedbed.

Lovely to watch so many Titmice, Nuthatch and Robin close by attracted by the large feeder.

A couple of close Tawny Owls* keep me awake in the night!

The Bigby list ends the day on exactly Fifty.

January 4th to 7th   Peddle, Peddle, Peddle!

More birding at Aqualate Mere in the morning of the 4th, a small boat came on the water, apparently the Environment Agency doing some sort of survey and this moved the duck around the lake closer to me. Scanning the large flocks of duck and Coot, Pochard*, Shelduck*, Little Grebe*, Teal*, Wigeon* and Shovelor* were listed but no sign of the Ferruginous. Two birders with scopes arrived but had no luck with the rarity. We had a sort of disagreement over the identity of the Marsh Tit. I was convinced it was Marsh. One of them said it was Willow. His friend refused to say, preferring to sit on the fence over the identification. Marsh Tit* it remains on my list.

Biking Birder III - 2016

Looking back at 2016, the year of my last UK Biking Birder adventure :

Grey Phalarope at the superb Slimbridge W&WT centre on the 4th of January, 2016 was the highlight bird of a location I am always thrilled to visit, no matter what birds are there.


The next few days involve pushing and cycling, going from small Shropshire and Cheshire towns such as Newport, where a small number of Pied Wagtails* came in to roost in the trees of the Parish church, Market Drayton and Middlewich until I reach where I am now, comfortably ensconced in a lovely big double bed in Winsford. The last time I was in this town was back in 1975 when I met Noel Edmonds whilst hitchhiking from Chester to see Aston Villa!

Sleeping quarters over the last few nights varied between a lovely hotel in Newport and a shed in Adderley. I kid you not, I was lucky to meet Barry the gardener of the local church, who told me of the shed. It was minus 5C that night and there was nowhere available within my cycling range.

 Inflatable mattress and a very good quality four season sleeping bag meant that I not too cold overnight, as long as I keep myself tucked down deep inside the bag and rub my thick socked feet together occasionally. It was so cold that I didn’t even peep my head out to watch the Test Match on my Smartphone. Those who know me know of my obsession with world’s best sport, other than Green Birding that is.

Another night is spent in a fabulous Air B & B, the first Air B & B I had ever spent a night in. The owner, Sarah was just brilliant, conversational and kind with her offers of drink and food. Sarah didn’t need to give me a bowl of cooked beetroot to add to my lentils but she did. The place was spotless and her small cockapoo or whatever they call them, DiDi was delightful if rather randy! LOL.

Birds seen en route includes a nice flock of Golden Plover*, two Treecreepers* in a roadside Oak tree, a single Mistle Thrush* on a school field, small flocks or individuals of Fieldfares*, gulls in one field includes Great Back Backed Gull* and a lane when approaching Winsford had Greenfinch*, around twenty of them. At the end of Friday the BIGBY list stands at 63.

The aim in week two of the Biking Birder VI adventure is to get to Samlesbury, the location of the Belted Kingfisher, hopefully see that bird and then head towards Southport’s Marshside RSPB Reserve, my local patch back in 1977 and 78 and Martin Mere W&WT centre.

I have a history of dipping Belted Kingfishers in Britain and seeing them in Florida has never been much compensation for that!

Wish me luck.

Love to you all, Gary

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