Friday 18 February 2022

BIKING BIRDER VI 2022 February 11th Greylake RSPB Reserve to Weston Super Mare

 Baikal Teal to a dip!


          A cold night but warm enough in my heavy four season sleeping bag, I am awoken by the arrival of a birder into the hide at greylake RSPB reserve. Surprised to see that it is past 8 am, I am soon up and searching for the Baikal Teal. I want better views than that of last night, tickable though that view was.

          What a brilliant bird to get for the BIGBY, Big Green Big Year bird list! Maybe, just maybe the birding gods are going to conspire to allow me to get the European record this year and remove the 'dirty' label attached to the Biking Birder by my Spanish Green Birding friends.

Ponc Feliu Latorre, the 'clean' Biking Birder 
and me, the 'dirty' Biking Birder

         Dirty because of my use of ferries during my UK BIking Birder adventures of the past, I haven't and won't be using any form of fossil fuel transport this year. Mind you someone noted that I do use oil when cycling, bike oil on the chain! I'll have to use sunflower oil. LOL.

          Just in time for the sunrise, I walk around to the viewpoint and watch as hundreds of ducks, mainly Wigeon, Lapwing and Teal, fly around when disturbed by a passing Buzzard.

          Masses of birds are always a pleasure and a delight, watching birds close to also...

          Birders arrive and start to search for the Baikal.

          Bill Urwin arrives once more and immediately finds the rare one! Better photos now, I daftly forget to use my own camera as I use my Iphone through the 'scope once more.

          With the main target birds for the Somerset levels all seen, my plan for the day is to head towards Weston Super Mare and try to see the reported Penduline Tits.

          With six of the listed birds on my BIGBY bird list I am feeling great as I say goodbye to the incomparable Bill Urwin, hoping to see him again sometime soon.
          I see him about an hour later! Another attempt at the Tundra Bean Goose. No sign of the goose but a playful pair of Otter cubs spend over an hour being persued by photographers along a dyke.
Amazing to have them so claose and almost totally unperturbed by the close proximity of people. I wonder where Mum and Dad are?

          Time to say goodbye once more to Bill...

"Goodbye Bill!"

. . . I cycle off towards the Pendulines, stopping occasionally to watch and photograph birds and get my bearings over where to cycle next.

          One of these birds I can't count on my BIGBY bird list!

          Eventually late afternoon I arrive at the reedbeds just north of Hutton, Weston Super Mare and a birder I had seen at Greylake, tells me that he had just been photographing the rare tits.

          First though, before going to find the Tits for myself, I photograph some WW2 pill boxes for a friend, Paul Hayesmore.

          No sign of the Penduline Tits, I search the area seeing a pair of Kingfishers streaking their blue lighting along a deep adjacent dyke. Two Water rails show themselves, one flying, the other creeping across some short grass between two small reedbed patches. Snipe zig zag out of the marsh and Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk keep all small birds on alert.
         Talking with a Liverpool birder, Sean O'Hara, who kindly gives me a donation for the two charities I am supporting this year, a coupgh from behind has me turning round and squeeling with delight.
          Cathy & Lee Gregory, one of the most wonderful couples on the planet and close friends, have sneeked up on me! Big hug time!!!

           Best photograph of them comes from a moment when Lee had found Fair Isle's first ever Siberian Accentor back in 2016 ...

          and the bird?

Siberian Accentor at my feet!

          With no sign of the Penduline Tits, dusk begins to fall and masses of Starlings murmer for a while before diving into the reedbeds.


Wednesday 16 February 2022

BIKING BIRDER VI 2022 February 10th Off to the Somerset Levels.


Donations : Acorns 

Many thanks to . . . 

Paul Moseley, Alison Everett, Bill Urwin, Lee & Cathy Gregory, Sean (Liverpool), Lindsey Moore, Anonymous, Lindsey Barthorpe, Julie, Sue, Julie (Upton Warren), Ian "Seagulls" Morris, Larraine Tayleure, Andrew Bayes, Andy Pitt,Andrea, P & P, Moira, Jackie Griffiths, Bob, Keep U, Rosie, Jayne Grosvenor, Jane & Andy Revell, Louise, Stuart Griffiths, M & D Shaw, Dave & Sue White, Janette Lowndes, Bart, Lise Hanson, Maria Hill, Phil V, Chris Elmer, Sue Murphy, Nicky, John Hague, Mike, Kimberley Bills, Norma Hines, Rob Gilbert, Julia, Colin Graham, Sarah Moreton, Lizzy, Lisa Hillier, Rob Leech, &P.

And also many thanks to the person from Llandudno who sent money directly to Acorns Children's Hospice, stating 'The Biking Birder' in the letter. Brilliant! Thanks. 

Acorns Children's Hospice 

Total so far . . . 

£870 plus gift aid


Donations : RSPB 

Many thanks to . . . 

Lynn, Bill Urwin, Lee & Cathy Gregory, Sean (Liverpool), Lindsey Moore, Julia, Nicky M, Karen and Richard Blackburn, Paul Moseley, Susan, Jim Royer, Anonymous, Foz, anonymous, Phil (Upton Warren), Dad and RSPB Badges sold, P & P, Moira, Jill from Dorking, Nicky M, Terri Akers, Anne Beckett, Maria Hill, Mark Carter, P

Gary's RSPB Justgiving page link

Total so far . . . 

£476 plus gift aid


          On the road again, I head off towards the Somerset Levels to the east of Burnham on Sea. Feeling great having seen the Kentish Plover, the cycling is fine and a phone call stops me as I sing my usual Yes songs . . . 

           Eventually the caller identifies himself as the famous birder Bill Urwin and he says that he will meet me at the location of a reported Tundra Bean Goose. On the way there, a cyclist stops me and chats for a while about here cycling tours at many places around the world. What a fantastic woman! Thanks Suzanne. Great to meet you.

          At the Tundra Bean Goose site Bill is there but sadly the goose isn't. A dip, as they say in birding parlance, but one that I am reasonably sure I will pick up later in the year in Norfolk, if not before.

          Bill is fabulous company and he talks not only of his birding now but of days long gone when he was part of the Big Bird Race back in the Eighties.


          This book form 1983 beautifully captures the race between two teams of famous back then birders. Bill was one of the team members.

          Having dipped the goose, we retire for a coffee at the Avalon Nature Centre, stopping first at a Little Owl site Bill has found. 

Little Owl* goes onto the BIGBY list

There we meet Ali, the superb RSPB warden for the nearby brilliant RSPB reserve, Ham Wall. 

          Poor girl having to sit with two old birders!

          Onward, I cycle to Shapwick and after walking and talking with my birder-in-arms comrade, Bill, surprisingly I find the reported male Ring-necked Duck*, an American rarity, at the back of the decoy pool. Unfortunately it swims off behind some reeds before I can get a photograph. At least Bill will be my witness that I saw it! Another good but expected to see bird goes down onto the BIGBY list, bird number 122.

          A birder comes up and asks if we have seen the Ring-necked. She has been in the hide and not seen it. Bill explains that it cannot be seen from there as it is down a cut away area of reed to the right of the hide. We talk about local birds and luckily she tells us that catcott Nature Reserve will be closed tomorrow because of some tree cutting. My intention had been to go for the Baikal Teal at Greylake RSPB reserve first, sleep there and then go for the Glossy the following morning. With the news about the reserve being closed that plan has to change and I head towards Catcott into what had been a stiff behind my back all the way to here.

          Bill is waiting there when I eventually arrive. Cycling into wind is never fun but the Glossy Ibis* is briefly on view so goes down onto the BIGBY list. It hides away for a time amongst the rush about fifty yards away and then flies out into the middle of the marsh in front of the hide. 

          Once again my photographs won't win any prizes but Bill is eager for me to get back on my bike and get over to greylake RSPB reserve before dark and get the mega rare teal.

          The sun has set. Bill and I are searching the marsh, searching amongst the hundreds and thousands of Teal and Wigeon for the rarity. It looks like I will have to see it in the morning.

          Bill coughs. Bill offers me a look through his telescope. In the gloom of dusk I can make out a duck tucked in beside some isolated rushes, a duck with three elongated scapulars draped across its back and flank. 

          Sleep comes quickly and the very cold night is tempered by the warmth of knowing that I have just added Baikal Teal to the BIGBY list!
          What a bird!   What a day!  Thanks Bill!!!     


Charity Pledges 

These are the names of people who have made a pledge to pay so much per bird species seen at the end of the year to either one of the charities I am supporting or to both.

Suzi Scarlett, Lee Dark, Mary & Brian Prescott, Joshua Prescott, Rebecca Prescott and Les Oxley-Stoker, Donna Prescott. 

Massive thanks to everyone who has either made a donation or made a pledge.


If anyone would like to make a pledge, say 1p for every bird specie I see this year, with the thought that I think I will see around 280-90 different species, then please message me. It would be fabulous to hear from you. Thanks.

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...