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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Two Days, 3 RSPB reserves, 3 new year list birds and 3 fabulous people encounters.

Wednesday 28th January

From a comfortable night at Fishbourne, near Chichester, in a room called Tiberius, the cycling was tough as there was now a strong westerly wind hitting my face. Please let me have the wind behind me one day.
To Thorney Island and the checkpoint for the Ministry of Defence. I was given instructions from the officer on charge on where to go and found the west seawall that would lead me to Pilsey Island RSPB reserve.
A lovely lady allowed me to hide my bike and belongings at her house and despite torrential rain and a strong gale, I set off. Getting through the security fence, I found it difficult to stay upright as the wind battered me and the mud on the path was deep and slippery. Great fun!
At West Thorney I found a greenshank, Bird number 124 for the year, and as the weather was improving I took a few photographs.
Further along the path were a dozen or so red-breasted mergansers, bird number 125.
Finding the sign eventually for Pilsey Island after a hour or so trek was a cause for celebration as now I could retrace my steps and have the wind behind me for a short while.
More rain and stinging hail in it too.
Stopped at St Michael's church to look at the WW2 graves and noted German as well as British dead. So young,
Collecting the bike, the long ride into the wind continued to reach Langstone Harbour RSPB reserve. The temperature had changed throughout the day. What had been a mild day was now bitterly cold. Still that's what I am out of the comfort zone for.
Into Portsmouth and a stop at the football ground to look at details of the Portsmouth Pals, deaths and actions during WW1. 6,500 dead from Portsmouth!
To Southsea and a meeting with an incredible woman, Lez Hannibal, a woman full of life, opinion and with a past! She is now a photographer but in the past was in the Geisha Girls band. Her ex partner was in Quadrophenia, Spider (Gary Shail) and she approached me to ask about whether I could do something about the macho men who tazz their radio controlled speed boats around the park pond, disturbing the birds.
Lez told me about film locations in Southsea, especially for The Who's Tommy! A brilliant person to meet.
Thursday 29th January
Over to Gosport to see the ever present, well almost ever present ringed-billed gull. The bird did try to camouflage himself by hiding his ringed bill in very black mud but his yellow iris gave him away. Well, that and the fact that he was the only bird on the emptied pool's mud other than black-headed gulls.
Back in 2010 he had eluded me but today he became bird number 126 on the year list.
Next it was over to the Isle of Wight to get to Brading Marsh RSPB reserve. Here I had been looking forward to looking over the sewage works there. In 2010 there had been a number of birds on the biological filters, the circular pits full of stones that has the effluent sprinkled over them by a rotating boom. No chance this time as both filters had been dismantled. Progress!
It reminded me of when I used to live in Swanage, Dorset. A new sewage works stopped sewage going directly out to sea and ruined the birdwatching off Peveril Point. A very good friend, Gordon Barnes and I, went to the sewage works to ask for sewage to be allowed through once a week!
Along the bridleway having views over the reserve, I made my way eventually back to Ryde via the back roads, all the time looking out for red squirrels unsuccessfully.
Back at the hotel I received a phone call from a great mate from Upton Warren, Vern Hughes. His son, Daniel and Daniel's girlfriend, Katie would be visiting me at 7.
What a shame that two smashing young people had to sit with an old fart like me but we spent an hour or so with a drink and a chat. Now what was the chances that Katie would mention that one possible study at university was of tapeworms in sticklebacks? My thesis 37 years ago had been on the parasitology of the three spined stickleback, gasterosteus aculeatus and when a secondary teacher in Wolverhampton I used to show the students tapeworms emerging from dead sticklebacks collected from the local canal. Strange coincidences.
The lovely couple ended the visit by passing over a £20 note given to them by their Dad, Vern to give to me with the strict instructions that I buy myself a good meal!
It's wonderful to have wonderful friends.
The third friend I have yet to meet. An ex student from that school in Wolverhampton messaged me on facebook to arrange a coffee tomorrow. We haven't seen each other for 31 years. Brilliant.


  1. Brilliant stuff Gary - keep up the great work, sounds like you are already having an adventure. Good luck, see you, when you hit Norfolk ,hopefully i will be around!

    1. Great to hear from you Chris. Cycling is always an adventure isn't it? Add birds and people and what a fabulous mix.