Last Saturday I experienced the worst moment I have ever had whilst cycling. The police are involved but the chances of a prosecution are extremely slim. I can't put any of this onto facebook as my dear Mum is watching my every step/pedal.
So here's my book text for the day.
Saturday 31st October Fresh SE AM to light S PM Very dark, low cloud and rain AM, very sunny & warm (14C) PM Stunning sunset.
The ferry is rocking due to the swell and waves as I awake on the floor of the cinema, my usual sleeping location on the Aberdeen to Northern Isles ferry.
We dock at 7 and by 7:15 I am cycling through the empty Aberdeen streets in the heavy rain. My progress is good and before 9 I reach Newborough and spend some time birding the Ythan estuary. A wader flock, mostly dunlin, reels around like a starling murmuration before landing on the nearby shore. It is incredibly dark for the time of day. The cloud seems to be just a few feet above my head. At least the rain has slowed to a light drizzle. By the bridge there is a group of forty or so whooper swans. I am too lazy to count them. In fact I am not lazy, I am just engrossed with being on the mainland again with trees and corvids, titmice and flocks of birds in the hundreds. A small plantation on the other side of the road, beyond the ***** National Nature reserve, has blue and great tits as well as a number of goldcrests. It has been almost ten weeks since I last saw titmice. The colours seem extra vivid.
Magpies, two of them; I haven't seen them for a long time either.
About five miles north of the Ythan is Meikle Loch, my next RSPB reserve to visit. I find it easily enough, a small loch about half a mile from the main road. There are hundreds of pink-footed geese here and a few barnacle geese with them,
Back onto the main road a small bird crosses it low in front of me and dives into the long grass. On investigation a black redstart comes out and flies along the road before perching on a fence post near to a hedge. Before I can photograph it it dives into the hedge. Patiently waiting it eventually does come out and despite the gloom I get some photographs. Two black redstarts found in two days and both rare birds in their respective locations.
Today is the fortieth anniversary of an immensely sad day for my family. Forty years ago my four year old brother Christopher John was killed; run over as he ran to see his Mum and dad from a child-minders.
Today I very nearly join him. I cycle along the **** road and a bus approaches me from over a small rise. To my horrow a speeding black car comes from behind it to overtake. The driver sees me and takes no action to try to avoid me. There is no room for me and the grass verge is only a yard wide before a barbed wire fence. There is also a rise of almost a foot before one can get on the grass. I scream “no!” and crash over the handlebars and onto the grass. The car just misses me and the bike ends up on top of me.
I look along the road and see that the black car hasn't overtaken the bus. Neither has the driver decided to stop to see if I am alright. The next passing motorist does though. He comes over and together we check both me and the bike. My inner thigh is cut and bruised and the front pannier is completely useless with the connections broken off. The back mudguard is also broken. At least I am alive. Idiot!
I cycle again with the broken pannier hanging from the handlebars. This is by far the worst experience I have ever had on the road when cycling and I shake as I pedal.
No way can I put this onto facebook or onto the Bikingbirderridesagain blog; my eighty-three year old mother watches those and I don't want to worry her. Neither do I phone the police. I have no car number and am relatively unscathed, despite my bloody thigh. I do wonder whether the bus company has a CCTV camera which would have recorded the incident or whether the driver took the number. Whatever.
I carry on and find brake problems which I fix.
By-passing Peterhead, I reach Loch of Strathbeg reserve and after looking at the white-rumped sandpiper present there with a local birder named Derek (thanks for the use of your telescope, Derek), I am given coffee by the reserve's warden, Lorna. I am still very shaky and feel a bit dizzy as we sit and chat.
Lorna has recently come to this wonderful RSPB reserve from Orkney, where she worked for eight years. She has a work party to go and supervise but she leaves me in the volunteer's house kitchen to help myself to another cup. I wash up, dry and put away. It settles me down.
Outside I meet Mrs Meeks, the wife of Eric Meeks who used to be the RSPB man in charge of all of the Orkney reserves. She is about to take a school party out but before she goes we look in the reserve freezer in a long barn and find, not the expected corncrake that I remember from my 2010 visit but a pristine and very freshly dead little auk. She takes it show the children.
I go birding. To the Tower Pool hide, by now the cloud has all rolled away and the afternoon promises to be a very warm and sunny affair. The view from the hide is extremely beautiful and the sun gives everything a golden appearance. There are large flocks of pink-footed geese with a few dozen barnacle geese. Out on the loch itself there are rafts of wigeon, thousands of them and a few hundred whooper swans with more arriving. Four raptors pass; female peregrine, sparrowhawk and merlin and a male kestrel.
As dusk falls and after the best sunset I have seen all year, water rails start squealing and snipe tazz about. A roost of one hundred and twenty five pied wagtails comes on and starlings murmurate. All of this is shared with another local birder, Hugh Addersee. He is obviously very knowledgeable and a very good birder and he shares his views on the RSPB at Loch of Strathbeg.
A couple of hours later all is dark and, with a totally clear sky, the Milky Way is a pathway of stars.
41.5 miles 1405 feet elevation