Saturday 15 January 2022

12th January 2022, Martin Mere Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Centre, WWT.


The two charities I am supporting this Biking Birder year. Thanks to those who have made a donation so far. Every donation is wonderful. Thanks everyone.

        Up early with an incredible long-lasting sunrise to light up my room as I pack and prepare to move on.

        The cycle ride to Martin Mere W&WT Centre is negotiated reasonably quickly and I arrive at the centre at 9.30 am, perfectly timing my arrival with the centre's winter opening time.

        Outside to bird once the bike is stored away and having met the centre's curator for the first time, (thanks for the safe place for my bike and all my worldly goods) I am soon in the Discovery Hide. A Beautiful sunny day, there are birds aplenty, ducks of course with Pochard, Tufties, Mallard, Wigeon, Shelduck and lots of superb looking Pintail*. Whooper Swans*! New bird for the BIGBY list, Big Green Big Year, the beautiful yellow-billed swans are feeding nearby and a star goes next to the name on my notebook list next to their name, another star goes next to Pintail too. Another new bird is Greylag*

        Black-tailed Godwits* are the next new bird for the year and one is incredibly close on the water's edge, probably searching for any grain that the ducks and geese have missed amongst the stones. Birds are regularly fed grain here and watching the daily feed, watching as shovelfuls of grain are thrown out for the birds by a W&WT staff member from a wheelbarrow, is always a delight.

        I take the path to my left on leaving the hide and go to the next bird hide that overlooks a corner section of the large Martin Mere. Eleven Ruff*, new bird, are on the gravelly mud in front and a female Goldeneye is out on the water.

        An Oystercatcher*, a magpie carrying a carrot, is amongst the large Lapwing flocks on the grass around two edges of the mere. A few Meadow Pipits* are disturbed from the grass and take flight as a Buzzard flies over to land on a large straw bale. A Little Egret* is slowly making its way along the nearby water edge. I wonder by how many Little Egrets outnumber Grey Herons these days, if indeed they do. The perception is that the Little Egret population has exploded since their arrival in the early 1980s. (Looking at the BTO Heronry survey data for 2019, occupied nest-wise, Grey Herons still have the upperhand; 9,940 Grey Heron nests and 1,103 Little Egret nest. )

        A birder, Barrie Cooper, comes into the hide and the next hour or so is spent nattering birds and sharing birds on view. Barrie is a Naturetrek group leader and has incredible bird knowledge and a wealth of stories. Barrie is also a Green Birder! 

        To Ron Barker hide, which I can't think of as anything other than the Miller's Bridge hide, so named many decades ago, back when I used to bird here whilst living in nearby Southport.

        At least three Marsh Harriers* are flying out over the now W&WT nature reserve grasslands. A nearby female has her legs contstantly down, talons exposed but seems not to be effected by this unusual stance. A Great White Egret* takes off in the distance and disappears behind a large reedbed. Barrie then finds a Stonechat* in the field containing a huge long-horned bull to the right.

        Time for lunch, into the W&WT cafe where a lack of vegan options is disappointing, especially when I compare the menu to the one proferred by the W&WT HQ at Slimbridge but what the hey, life's too short to worry about this.

        Through the wildfowl collection area in order to get to the Janet Kear hide, I remember having the opportunity to meet Sir Peter Scott many years ago, when he and Dr Janet Kear came into the Miller's Bridge hide. I wanted to go over and say thank you for a letter that Sir Peter had written to me when I was a scabby ten-year old Brummie kid but I was too shy! Ridiculous looking back, an opportunity to say thank you should never be missed, like telling your wife how much you love her a million times a day! Regrets, I have a few...

Karen, my beautiful late wife. I dedicate all Acorns Children's Hospice donations to her. 

        Titmice, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches are taking advantage of the food on offer in the feeders and then two of one of the target birds here comes and joins them, Tree Sparrows*, one of my favourite birds. Unfortunately there is no sign of the other target bird, Willow Tit.

        My lovely visit to Martin Mere W&WT Centre ends with my day list of birds standing at 48, so close to the magic Fifty but not to be today. Last year I went around the UK, visiting RSPB and W&WT nature reserves, over 130 of them and I made day lists at each. As last year was an Olympic year, I thought of fifty species seen as a Gold medal, 40 silver and thirty bronze. So a silver medal today for Martin Mere.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

BIKING BIRDER VI 2022 10th January Cycle Paths and New Birds, Rock Star and Camping


Week Two – January 10th 2022

Hello Sunshine People! xx

Breakfast at the table with Dennis and Madelaine starts my day, cereal with soya milk, coffee, toast a homemade marmalade made by Dennis. Madelaine is soon off work in a Save The Children charity shop and I am soon off on my bike.    

Heading towards Warrington centre to cross the Mersey, the weather is drizzly and without yesterday’s early morning sunshine, rather cool.

 After crossing the River Mersey, the route eventually goes along a cycle path, adjacent to most waterless, vegetation-filled canal. Decided to do a diary video as I cycled along . . .

         Just before Sankey Valley Viaduct, an impressively tall, nine-arched railway bridge,


I meet a brilliant and extremely interesting gentleman, Les Glover, a singer/songwriter who plays in a band, plays guitar and lead vocals, with none other than the drummer of Slade!

         Les asked what I am doing as not only is he curious because of the overladen bike but I am also busy photographing a skein of Pink-footed Geese (65) as he approaches. 

We talk of Rock and Pop Music, favourites and concerts, gigs and personalities and I would have loved to find out more but time becomes pressing and we both go on our way, with me starting to sing a Pink Floyd number, One Slip.

         Singing! I always love to sing and whistle as I cycle but hadn’t been able to do so at the beginning of the BBVI tour. So unfit then, I must be getting fitter! 

Through the more built up areas, the cycle path continues and a Goldcrest (66) flies across from a garden into a nearby bush in front of me. I pish but sensibly the Goldcrest ignores me.

Into Lidls to buy a bit of food, I come out with a packet of supposed to be microwaved lentils, which I always just eat straight from the packet, a punnet of grapes and some mango juice. Looking back, I should have bought more but at the time I thought there would be another shop in the village I would be spending my night in.

An older, Santa Clause-looking gentleman stands in front of me and tells me that I should have been photographing him, I have a camera around my neck, when he was at work. Apparently he is a labourer on a construction site and he starts to tell me how useless Polish workers are. He isn’t wearing a mask so I say to him, “sorry but I don’t want to be too near to him as he has no mask,” or words to that effect. “I’m OK”, he says showing me his exemption lanyard but I walk away saying, “I am trying to keep you safe.” Covid times, was I right?

 I do love these cycle paths and the way that I have hardly been on any busy road since Winsford. Eventually though it does end and the road carries on beneath the extremely busy East Lancs road. Glad I will not be cycling in that!  

The suggested by Siri route suddenly takes me onto a muddy bridleway and I get off and push for half a mile or so. After reaching a main road, another bridleway is straight and mostly well surfaced and I reach the village of Rainford with a dilemma, where to sleep.

Having booked an Air B & B for the night, with no alternative B & B available in the area, I had received a message earlier in the day that unfortunately the house owner was away. This is a feature of Air B & B, they give a possible 24 hour delay in confirmation, which is no good when I need to be flexible over where I am sleeping any given night. Sometimes I just have to try and book for a night at short notice and trust that everything will be OK. This time I have a problem.

I find a local church and see that the porch is too small for shelter and adjacent to a busy road. I chat with a lovely lady in the church’s extensive graveyard. She tells me of how Covid nearly killed her and her NHS mask shows of her delight in the fact that thanks to the NHS, it didn’t.

         After searching for a quiet place to sleep, away from the roads and out of view and having found nowhere, I head out of Rainford northwards and find a narrow, muddy public footpath that heads into some arable fields. 

After pushing the bike I find a section of wall along a field of short stubble remnant from a  wheat crop and decide that to camp next to it would give me some break from the light wind. 

A large Silver Birch tree has come down and is spread across the field a few hundred yards away and deciding that camping next to it would make me more obscure from any person walking the footpath, I push the bike along the field edge and within the hour I am comfortably and warmly deep inside my sleeping bag eating grapes. 

Warm enough this evening, 8C outside, I watch Aston Villa lose to Manchester United in the FA Cup on my iPhone. How unusual of VAR to support a ‘Greedy Six’ club in a very controversial moment in the match, a Villa goal struck off by a VAR decision that takes over three minutes to be sorted by the corrupt system. Pundits agree that it should have been a goal.

UTV!    Up The Mighty Villa.

Thanks to everyone who has donated to either of the charities I am supporting this year. 

If you could please make a donation then go to the links on the top right of this page. 


Wish me luck.

                      Love to you all, Gary

Monday 10 January 2022

9th January 2022 Cycle Paths and Special People


Week Two – January 8th 2022

Hello Sunshine People! xx

Best day of the year so far yesterday, a lovely sunny morning and not too cold, with a lovely cycle path following the River Weaver north for seven or eight miles.

          Lovely people to chat with occasionally, one couple in particular, Jocyln and John were fabulous. Chased by Spot the dog, it was funny to hear Spot's owner shouting Fenton-style behind me as I peddled on.


            New bird for the BIGBY list, a Grey Wagtail* - bird number 64, came onto a nearby branch just above the water level as I negotiated a gate by lifting my bike into a vertical position and shuffling it through.


No wind at river level, the cycle path was muddy in places but having a mountain bike at this time of year on this Biking Birder adventure, made negotiating it easy enough. Beautiful blue sky and birds showing spring intentions, seemed to be paired up already, be they Crows, Cormorants, Mallards or Robins.


        North of Northwich, the front wheel starts to make an intermittant sound that means that the wheel is slightly out of skew. Pulling over I see that one of the bolts there is loose and when I go to my tool kits I find that I hadn't closed the zip and my spanner is missing.

         I start to push the bike, not wanting the wheel to come off as I peddle for obvious reasons. I well remember the photograph Ponc Feliu Latorre showed me of his face after a fall off his bike over the handlebars when he landed on it and almost lost his nose! Ponc, you will recall, is the Spanish BIGBY European record holder, well the ‘clean’ Green Birder anyway. Remember, I am the ‘dirty’ Green Birder because of my using ferries in each of my three Biking Birder UK years.

         After a mile or so and after a local couple had offered to walk to there home and fetch a spanner for me, a gentleman doing a repair on one of his VW Dormobiles, two were on his drive, each looking immaculate, on my request got out his tool kit and gave me a large adjustable spanner. It was frightening how loose the bolt to the front wheel was! He kindly insisted I keep the spanner! 

Kindness of Strangers. A theme of travel occurs once more. 

Reaching my Air B & B for the night, the late afternoon and the evening is a delight, spent with Madelaine and Dennis. Dennis is a cyclist, as can be seen by a line of circular Welsh slate plaques celebrating a cycling event in Wales that Dennis organises. Madelaine tells of her charity work, which includes making a range of jams and preservatives, Dennis makes marmalade and sews coronavirus masks. 

In the last twenty one months, can the pandemic have been going for so long? Madelaine has sewed 3,500 masks, raising a lot of money for her chosen charities, Care UK and Refuge Support EU    

A truly wonderful, magnificent couple, Madelaine tells me of the many times she has been over the Greece to help the refugees there, working in refugee camps.

Now I am not sure of the protocols and expectations with Air B & Bs, this is only my second one but a Vegan meal was not expected but it was appreciated and delicious. 

Kindness of strangers, it pops up again. 

Tomorrow I will be heading towards Martin Mere. It looks like the Belted Kingfisher has done a flit, headed off home, the Americas if it had any sense but obviously this is a large disappointment to me.  

To make up for the disappointment what better than a day with thousands of birds? A visit to the fabulous W&WT, Wildfowl & Wetland Trust, centre at Martin Mere is just what I need, a full day’s birding, perfect!

Thanks to everyone who has donated to either of the charities I am supporting this year.


If you could please make a donation then go to the links on the top right of this page. THANKS.


Wish me luck.

Love to you all, Gary

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...