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Saturday, 28 February 2015

If you go to the worng lake . . . Ring-Necked Drake Bird Number 155


Saturday 28h February

Have you seen a ring-necked duck this year? I have. Bird number 155 on the year list but what a time finding it. Good gen is what's required but it's not what I had. My fault, a friend had sent details of the bird being on the SW corner adjacent to a footpath at a lake. My fault was in not knowing the name of the lake,
The previous day I had cycled from Braunton to Bampton after visiting the peaceful RSPB reserve at Chapel Wood.
After over 40 miles of cycling a heavy bike along the roads of North Devon, made heavier by my purchase of a tent, I reached a great B and B in the village. Bampton I thought was close to the lake where I thought the bird would be. You know what thought did.
After breakfast at The Quarryman's and after talking with incredible owner, Martina, I cycled north, after seeing dipper and grey wagtail by a stream through the village,
 and pushed the bike up a couple of incredibly steep hills until reaching a car park and entrance to Wimbleball Lake. Down to the dam with my boots to the road to assist the brakes on the steep path down. There I noticed there were no ducks in the SW corner. One little grebe that was all.

Undeterred I took the path around the large lake thinking that it may be at the north end. On seeing that this lake held no ducks at all, 4 canada geese and the same number of cormorants didn't bode well, I realised that I may have made a mistake by using the maps on the mobile to decide my destination. Looking at the screen again, I saw that there was a lake to the east.
After a slice of fruit cake and a hot chocolate at a lakeside cafe, always find a silver lining, I then took roads and back lanes for a few miles to get to a dirt track and boggy public footpath to get to the other lake, Clatsworthy Lake.
Ducks! The first one a splendid, smart-looking ring-necked drake all the way from America. UTB!

So what if it was raining, here was the bird and things were good. In a beautiful wooded valley the lake looked magnificent, as did the duck and here I was with not another soul to be seen.

The big push when back on Brown Lane, I stopped to have lunch and take in the prospect whilst sheltering from the rain under a large tree.
The rest of the afternoon was taken by cycling along the now in Somerset roads. Changing my itineraryand route because of the error over the location of the bird, I made my way to Taunton where a lovely family of 5, Tammy and Paul with 3 delightful young children, told me of the location of a number of B and B's. The rain had made me think that a B and B would be better than the tent. By now it was dark and the rain had returned after a brief respite. On not finding the B and B;s road I saw a Police station and went on to ask for advice over where some may be. Thanks PC Julie and PC Michelle for your help. Lovely chatty ladies!

Today's route and elevations are on here -
http://gb.mapometer.com/cycling/route_4028420.html

Tomorrow it's off to a RSPB reserves Swell Wood, West Sedgemoor and Greylake.
 
Now please have a look at the photographs of the 28th's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015
 
Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx

Friday, 27 February 2015

Flood Fun and a long cycle. Clawton to Braunton, North Devon


Thursday 26h February

Did rain fall on you this morning? In Devon it pelted it down and I did the sensible thing until it stopped at 10.30am. I stayed in a warm conservatory watching birds come to the feeders on view there. And what a mass of birds visited them too; mostly blue tits but also great and coal tits, a male great-spotted woodpecker, dunnocks, robins, chaffinches, house sparrows and a wren.
Off on the bike along a road with masses of destroyed tarmac and streams from the rain. I came to a flooded part down in a valley. Sense should have made me turn back but since when did I have any sense. I thought if I keep to the sides I'd get through. I didn't. It was half way up my thighs! I fell against a muddy bank and clambered out onto it dragging the bike with floating panniers out of the water. Still I wasn't going to have it defeat me. I dragged the bike against a hedge with a rushing stream about a meter wide between me and the road. “Now if I use the bike as a bridge, I can get to the middle ridge of mud and stones,” so my daft thinking went. A Land Rover went past with water up onto his bonnet. A lorry went through also, its surge washed past me. A car had better ideas and turned back. I made my bridge, except I didn't. In I went, deeper this time and more clambering got me to the ridge. I couldn't stop laughing. I felt like a 10 year old again when my brother Paul and I used to go newting (catching newts) by standing in a pond up to our waists waiting for the little creatures to come within a snatched grasp.
At the other side of the flood I panicked. Had water got into my camera? Luckily the panniers had kept the water out. Well the panniers and the thick plastic bags inside those had done so. I was drenched and a stop at a bus stop for half an hour had me drying my feet, changing my clothes for dry ones and placing thick plastic carrier bags over my feet in order to put the wet boots back on.
Hence I cycled the day with a watery sound emitting from the boots every time I got off to push the bike up a hill, and there were plenty of those.
At Holsworthy I went into the bank to pay what was owed to Rosemary and Graham, the owners of last night's B and B. They hadn't got a card facility and so I paid the £15 cash into their account. The rest of the money they kindly gave as a donation to the children of Chaskawasi-Manu. Thanks so much Rosemary and Graham.
Paul Simon's Graceland album was the repertoire for the day's cycling as I made my way to Bideford. Rolling countryside one may call it and I kept rolling then pushing. A group of 4 ravens effortlessly went by, enjoying the strong north-westerly wind; wind that was mostly coming from the side of me. Occasionally it was strong enough to cause a scary wobble.
Into Bideford and a stop by the bridge. A grey wagtail was picking off fllies on seaweed. Then a common sandpiper did the same; a year tick. Now I have 154 for the Green Year list. Brilliant.
Over the bridge and onto the fabulous Tarka Trail, a cycle path that goes along both sides of the estuary there. It goes down to Barnstaple and then along the north side to Braunton. It also took in an RSPB reserve, Isley Marsh. This was the first RSPB reserve since Marazion. Quite a long distance between the two reserves, it was great to see this one. With it being a very low tide there were no close birds.
Over the high bridge at Barnstaple and then along to Braunton. It was almost dark when I arrived there and after a few 'no vacancies' I eventually found a charmingly lovely B and B in a small cottage, The Laurels, with Thelma the owner. In fact as I write this in the lounge, she has gone out bell ringing for the evening, leaving me to my own devices. So it's an evening of washing myself and my wet things and an early night.

Tomorrow it's off to a RSPB reserves I missed today, Chapel Wood.

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 26th's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

St Austell in Cornwall to Clawton in Devon. Fog, rain and hills!


Wednesday 25h February

Not much to report on the day really. It was spent trying to get into Devon, successfully. The cycle from St Austell to near Clawton in Devon was tough with poor weather and occasional low cloud fog. Mind you the day started well with a new bird for the year list. As I cycled north along a B road towards Bodmin there was a clearish stream cascading down the hill. As I came to a clear part where one could see the rocks a dipper was on one particularly mossy rock. Brilliant! Bird number 152.
Or is it?
That Kumlein's gull I saw way back in Littlehampton. It's a sub-species of Iceland gull isn't it? Of course it is so can I count it on the year list as an iceland? I haven't yet and if I can that would be the bogey bird from 2010 out of the way.
In 2010 I remember waiting at Bartley Reservoir on the final evening of the year with friends expecting the Iceland gull that had put in an appearance there for the previous week to do so. It didn't!
Anyway, back to the present.
A 47 mile cycle ride from St Austell to Launceston and on to Clawton in Devon; birds seen included raven, snipe and buzzard with the first winter thrushes, mostly redwings, that I'd seen in days. The weather alternated but was always cloudy. Sometimes there was thick fog, sometimes rain. Still managed it all with little discomfort and arrived at the B and B in good shape.
Now bathed, fed and watered, time to rest.
Tomorrow it's off to two RSPB reserves; Ibsley Marsh and Chapel Wood. I'm still behind on my itinerary but it's mine! I have set a challenging pace and haven't disappointed myself so far.

Now please have a look at my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Two days news and a new Green Year Bird each day. Penzance to St Austell


Tuesday 24th February

Let's try to catch up. Monday morning was spent mostly sorting out a few matters over issues arising with the bank! All sorted amicably eventually and it was then a cycle to Helston to meet a friend with Upton Warren connections, Stuart Croft. Stuart has worked in Cornwall for the RSPB for a long time now. Initially he worked on the Cornish Chough project but is now involved in the cirl bunting project.
At Helston Boating Lake, we enjoyed a long chat, a pasty in a shelter and then hot chocolate in the cafe. Just outside the whooper swan swan around and hence became bird number 150 on the Green Year list. Do I get a round of applause like in cricket?
Great to see him but with the need to get going, we said goodbye and I cycled along the A road towards Falmouth. After 6 miles I deceided to take the smaller country lanes and enjoyed this far more than the noisy traffic strewn road, despite the frequent ups and downs. Into Constantine village and out again, over to Mawnan Smith and to Maenporth. With an hour or so of light, I started searching for the reported king eider. All along the coastal path I went, masses of gulls resting on the water, I saw a great northern diver but no eider. I then found the female eider but not the king, Samuel Perfect arrived just after 6 with very little light and I found a duck that could have been the king eider. Through his Swarowski we could make out the paler breast and head shape but I wasn't satisfied with the views. Samuel said it was the king eider but I decided to come back in the morning.
In darkness we rode together to another local birder's house, Dan. He had kindly offered accommodation for the night and the evening was spent talking birds. Dan had done a Big Western Palearctic year in 2011 and after looking and discussing his bird book collection, I heard about his efforts that saw him get over 550 in that year.
Next morning, after saying a big thank you to Dan and his lovely partner, Suzie. Samuel arrived and together we went back for the king eider. We stopped off at Swanpool and had very close views of the long-tailed duck and ring-billed gull there.
At Maenporth we spent around an hour searching for the king eider and eventually found it. It was a long way out and directly in line with the sun's reflection. Moving fruther along the headland, we came across it again in better light and now with the female eider. At last, views that I could say yes I've seen the bird, Bird number 151.

By the time it was to get cycling Samuel and I had had a slavonian grebe and a great northern diver and Falmouth's reputation was secure. Great birding.
A portion of cheesy chips and hot chocolate ended my time at Maenporth in the beach cafe there.
 
Then it was a long cycle to St Austell, via Truro. I reached there about 4.00pm and feeling absolutely cream crackered, I found a pub that had accommodation opposite the large church there. I must have been a tad tired for I just lay down on the bed for a minute and heard myself snoring. That woke me up.

Today it's a cycle as far as I can get in daylight towards North devon. I am behind my itinerary by at least a couple of days and with 2 RSPB reserves up there and a male ring-necked duck to see I need to try to catch up a bit.

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 24th's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx

Monday, 23 February 2015


Sunday 22nd February
Go West! That was the demand from finding out that Porthgwarra was a RSPB reserve. So despite the weather forecast and despite the already falling rain, I set off in that direction along the A30. Cycling to within a mile of Land's End, I turned left towards Porthcurno and reached Porthgwarra at around 10.am.There was the toilet block that had helped me remove material on my first visit here back in 1982.
Not a pleasant story, with no happy ending but here goes.
I was birding on the Isles of Scilly and an amazingly rare bird, a chimney swift, had been seen at Porthgwarra. I took the helicopter to Penzance and the bis to Porthcurno. Thinking that I would walk the coastal path to Porthgwarra I hid my rucksack and camping gear behind a holiday house there and started the trek. Another birder started a conversation as we found and looked at 2 firecrests together and he offered a lift in his car to 'Gwarra. On retrieving the rucksack, I placed it on my lap as I sat in the passenger seat. The smell that emminated from somewhere had us thinking that the muck spreading going on must be ongoing even in October! It turned out that someone had had a private toilet moment behind that holiday home and my jeans were covered in ****!
Four hours of scraping, washing and cursing in this same toilet block that I dried myself in now left me reasonably free of the vile stuff.
The chimney swift never showed!

After making a repair to the front brakes, the cable had slipped lose as I was coming down the hill (!) I went down through the tunnel onto the beach with a strong southerly wind in my face and tremendous waves and a large swell to enjoy. Gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots were all passing close by, with fulmar being a new bird for the year.
With 11 O'clock approaching, I went up the private road towards the coastguard and came to a gate with the usual format RSPB notice on it. So it was a reserve. Here was the proof. Not on the official spreadsheet but here it was in front of me.
As I birded the adjacent bushes, Jen, the RSPB assistant warden I'd met the day before at Marazion, who had told me about Porthgwarra being a reserve, arrived. She came with coffee and her smile. Now I did feel a little guilty that she had come all the way out here to bring me a coffee. The weather for normal people was appalling. She said she didn't mind.
The coastguard arrived and Jen drove up to the Gwennap Head Coastguard building as I pushed the bike up the steep road to it.
Jen left and I started to try to seawatch with stinging rain and strong wind blowing in my face.

The coastguard man invited me in, John and the next hour was spent with him telling me and showing me every little detail of the coastguard operation. Instruments, monitors and charts showed shipping in the area, weather statistics and the like.
Outside into the gale, gusting to over 50 miles an hour so a speedometer-like gauge had shown me, and horizontal rain, to initially take the bike back down to the small cottages down near to the car park. It was now very foggy yet down in the valley the strength of the wind made the area quite sheltered. The wind had turned to south westerly and this now gave the beach area a little shelter also. Leaving the bike in a secret hideaway, I once again went through the tunnel and onto the beach. This time though \i went and clambered over the rocks, photographing the violent sea and some passing gannets and fulmars. No more auks were seen which was a pity as razorbill would be new for the year list.
 
The granite rocks gave great friction and clambering over them was easy. I wouldn't like to have a fall on them though so I was extremely careful. Then it was up onto the coastal path to search for the lonely female chough that Jen had told me could be seen in the area. For the next hour I searched around all of Gwennap Head, marvelling at the blowhole, before descending once again to retrieve the bike.
Well, Donna of BBC Cornwall, I tried to see the iconic Cornish Chough but the weather had defeated me. Next time.
As I went up the hill with the wind now coming from my left side, I came across a deformed toad on the side of the road. It had a red jelly-like area around the mouth and its leg was out at an angle. It made no attempt to move as I approached it and allowed me to pick it up. Not being sure how the poor thing had got into such a sorry state, I carefully placed it in a field.

A cycle ride to Land's End, sometimes with the wind behind me, other times in my face. I reached the almost empty famous landmark and spent some time in the Shaun The Sheep Experience!
Now I love Aardmaan Animations but haven't seen their last two films so all the Shaun artefacts, especially the characters other than Shaun, were new to me.
I had it all to myself but I wonder what it would be like in the summer. Anyway I enjoyed it all, especially the actual sets from various films and the original Morph from the 70s (?) TV show. The photographs I took will show you what you can expect if ever you visit.
Now speaking of photographs, they have a green screen camera machine and a set with a Land's End signpost. I sat in front after pressing the relevant buttons and had my photo taken with Shaun The Sheep by my side. Interestingly the yellow cycling helmet that I was still wearing and the hi-vis jacket all became see through and you can see the scenery behind me.
To the Land's End signpost for photographs and then to the last house in England headland. I could just make out the lighthouse in the mist and spray some miles to the west.
The cycle back to Penzance Youth Hostel was brief. The gale blew mw back. No problem with hills for a change.

One last thought, I love this sort of weather even if I arrived back at the hostel soaked to the skin (I must get better waterproofs!) yet I wonder if that was the case with the 40-odd migrants workers picking daffodils that I had seen on the way to Porthgwarra? They were bent double working hard in this appalling weather and on a sunday too. I wonder how much they earn for their efforts?

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 22nd's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Snakes, BBC and Marazion RSPB Reserve, Cornwall.


Saturday 21st February

A, in my mind, well deserved rest for the last 4 days was over and with an interview on BBC Cornwall completed, it was off to Marazion RSPB Reserve.
Arriving at a viewpoint over the reed bed, an enterprising freelance photographer, who had heard the interview, was there waiting for me. His thought was to take a few photographs of me and send them to the local press. He said that last week one of his photographs was published in the times and that he was a beginner as a birder.
Tamsin arrived shortly later, the RSPB staff member who had been kind enough to put up the poster of my journey at Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve and who had emailed me to arrange a morning's birding with her and other RSPB people. Soon Jen, the assistant warden and Peter, a local volunteer arrived and so we all chatted and watched the birds from this roadside edge view. Snipe, little egret, little grebes, teal and a flying bittern were all seen, together with a nesting grey heron.
Both Tamsin and the photographer left and the three of us remaining adjourned to a station wagon where Jen had a flask of coffee. I had the biscuits so the birdy chat continued. It was during this chat that a too frequent statement made me realise that I may be a little late arriving at the next itinerised reserves.

Have you been to Porthgwarra? That;s an RSPB reserve.” Now whenever I hear this sort of thing from a RSPB warden or assistant warden, my initial reaction is 'oh no!. Then it's an almost immediate reaction of 'oh well'. Then it finishes with the decision that it has to be visited. It has happened to me a number of times before this year; on the Hoo Peninsula when I was told of more reserves on the west and east sides of Cliffe Pools that I hadn't heard about. Also at Aylesbeare Common I was told of a reserve about 7 miles away. I always have and always will go to any reserves that I am told about. No question of me thinking that as it isn't on the original spreadsheet of reserves sent to me by RSPB HQ Sandy people I won't visit it. I will visit every reserve and would feel a fraud if I didn't.
Positive thinking had me reasonably soon thinking that at least the location of this reserve would give me the opportunity to also go to Land's End and possibly see the Cornish Chough. I had felt so bad on the radio earlier when I had been asked whether I would see this iconic bird for Cornwall and a bird that a friend from back in Worcestershire, a birder from Upton Warren Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, Stuart Croft, had worked so hard with the RSPB to resestablish. I had said that I hadn't got time to go to see them. Tamsin had increased my feeling of guilt over missing them here by giving me a Cornwall chough keyring! Now I would go in search of the few around Land's End.
So thanks Jen! A 2 day detour in the opposite direction to where I had been heading and with a weather forecast that states a very rainy, windy day.
You ….........!”
Having arranged to meet Jen at the reserve at 11.am the following day in order to ensure that she got as wet as me, we said farewell, parting is such . . . .
Into the reserve for a bit of birding, I went to the accessible gate, went through and photographed the bike and lads with the large noticeboard there. Then negotiating a flooded area in order that I didn't have to lift the bike over a stone stile, I came across a superb basking adder. Before I could react and take photos, the beautifully marked snake slid ff it's sunny grassy knoll and went into the undergrowth. So fantastic to see one so early in the year.
A walk pushing the bike along the public footpath that bisects the reserve, there were few birds, just a few titmice, a couple of goldcrests and a robin. Then, having turned around and retraced my steps after reaching the railway line, I saw two birds cross the path in front of me, one obviosusly a reed bunting, the other a chiff but very silvery white and grey. I pished and it responded with a few calls, a siberian chiff chaff, a sub species of the chiff chaff.
Now my attempts at a photograph were laughable as it kept to the reed bed margins with a strong wind blowing reeds all over the place. Good laugh trying though.
Missed!
Back to the place where I had seen the adder an hour or so before and searching along the slightly raised bank I found a larger adder which I presume would be the female and possibly the original adder looking small in comparison to the other. Being so careful not to disturb them now that I knew they were there, I took photographs and told other birders of their presence.
 
Leaving the reserve I took the cycle path to Penzance. Now this is an unfinished, large stoned pathway adjacent to the beach with a good last section reaching the railway station. Good luck to the cyclists of Penzance in getting the council to finish it properly.

On getting back to the Penzance Youth Hostel and after having a repair to the gear cable and spring mechanism I spent the evening party in the company of a group of Spanish lads over here to build a solar farm near to Falmouth. Trying out Spanish was a laugh and Maria in Peru would cringe at my attempts.

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 21st's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. Thanks.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx


Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Look back at Valentine's Day birding in Devon


Saturday 14th February

To wake up alone on Valentine's Day is sad maybe, especially when one has slept the previous night in a barn. Now as much as I might like a relationship I can't see one happening at the moment. So turning away from dreams of such I got up, packed and started the next cycle journey in the dark. No one will ever know I was there. I was careful to leave the barn the way I found it.
Back on the A road between Totnes and the A38 I came across the worst section of pot holes that I had yet come across. These were not pot holes, these were deep trenches were the tarmac had disappeared. I was lucky to get through this section.
Onto the A38, I stopped for a drink at a garage and met Amanda, an ex-Brummie who had been on Opportunity Knocks, a talent finding TV programme from the 70s when she was younger. Two lovely chatty ladies, an hour went by as I drank a litre of milk and chatted.

Back on the road I was soon down at the Tamar Bridge and whilst crossing it a cyclist came alongside and asked where I was off to. On replying he invited me for coffee and toast. David, for that was his name did make a coffee and superb thick chunks of wholemeal bread toast and even read from a book about the reason for Valentine's Day being on this day. Apparently it's because birds pair up on this day, so Chaucer reported centuries ago.
David cycled with me to the Country Park where the next year tick was hopefully avaiable, an American wigeon. It hadn't been reported during the morning but it was practically the first duck seen through the thick oak branches that obscured the view of the Tamar Estuary at this point. Photographing it quickly, I realised that my sleeping bag had gone from the back of the bike! How it had come lose from the bungies when both cuddly toys, which had been atop the bag, were both still there, was a mystery. Rushing back to the road, there it was beside a pathway. I had been thinking about going to search for a shop selling them in Saltash but no problem; retrieved and secured.
Back to the Country Park to wait for a good friend, Lee Dark. We'd only met once when I was Biking Birder 2010 and was at the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale. Yet we had been in frequent text contact and more recently on Facebook. Our mutual love of birds and cricket meant that we always had a reason to message each other over the last 5 years.
Lee arrived and it was down to see the wigeon. I was worried that it might not be there as 4 canoeists were heading in the direction of the bird. Sure enough there was no sign of the American wigeon, just a couple of greenshank and grey herons with a few European wigeon in a small bay on the other side of the water. We went in a bird hide and met a couple who gave a donation to one of the charities, thanks 
Then Lee and I went down onto the shore where I noticed that a few wigeon had climbed onto the grassy bank and although they were almost totally hidden, I could just male out the head of the Yank. So a new bird for Lee was seen eventually very well as it went onto the water. It then started to do a display dance with 4 other European wigeon males with it's primary feathers held high. Fabulous to watch.
Back to the Country Park's visitor's centre for hot chocolate and tea and a chat. Lee told me about his serious motor bike crash and all of the operations that he has already had, ones he is about to go through and the effect of these on his PhD and work life. Lee is an incredible man, so positive and brave. He has had such a terrible time of late and yet he is still upbeat and his love of Kate is lovely to hear about. Stay strong mate.
On getting on the bike yet another inner tube puncture! A new tyre and inner tube at a nearby cycle shop might just stop all of this trouble.
Goodbye to Lee and with darkness falling I got into the first B and B I saw on the way out of Saltash. Owned by Ted, the B and B was what I would call cosy and interesting, with rooms with mostly wooden panelled walls and lots of Navy memorabilia. An old cannon wheel on the ceiling of the living room, lots of large pictures including one showing the Royal Tournament that Ted had been involved with at Earl's Court in London. This wonderful old sailor cooked me a meal, Aberdeen Angus meatballs and veg for free and we sat with him talking about his old Royal Navy days and of his children.
Thanks Ted.

Sunday 15th February

Up early and off after a great breakfast from Ted. A long way to cycle from Saltash to Redruth was the plan but the cycling was so good that by the time I reached Redruth I decided to cycle on to Hayle, a distance of over 60 miles. Not bad for an old slaphead asthmatic with a heavy laden bike.
The road, mostly the A38 and A30 was always busy with Sunday traffic but lacking, luckily lorries. To Liskeard it was a series of steep hills. After that to Bodmin the road went down a narrow, dark river valley. Once Bodmin was reached it was a cycle down the A30's dual carriageway. The best bit was a section of contraflow where there was a lane for me and another lane behind a concrete barrier for the carbon vehicles.
Just before Redruth, as I pushed the bike up yet another steep hill, a police car was waiting for me with a tall police officer pointing for me to stop. “Are you OK?” he asked to which I replied that I would be if he had some coffee and biscuits! After he'd complimented me on how bright both myself and the bike were, he left and I carried on to Hayle.
Now Hayle is a very special place to the Prescott family. When I was very young we had a few family holidays there in a small cottage overlooking the fabulous beach. We all have wonderful memories form there and phoning Mum and dad was a delight. Mum didn't believe I could have got so far.
Straight into a busy pub which had 'accommodation' on the outside wall. No accommodation but a friendly group of people including one lady who phoned a nearby Bed and Breakfast, The Mad Hatter.

After a pint it was off around to the cosy B and B and an evening relaxing in the bath. Pauline, the owner was a lovely friendly lady and she, together with a fisherman named Mark made for a great evening's conversation.

Now I wrote this after writing the blog for the 16th of February so sorry for the lack of chronology. The Green Year list still stands at 148. Next it's an appearance on BBC Radio Cornwall at 7.20am on Saturday the 21st followed by meeting RSPB people at Marazion RSPB reserve. I hope that between the two events I can get some photographs of the Pacific diver.

Now please have a look at the photographs of the 14th's photos on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. Thanks to those who have done. It really is appreciated.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Fabulous Birding Day in Cornwall. Monday 16th February,


Monday 16th February
An amazingly wonderful day started with a large breakfast at The Mad Hatters B and B in Hayle, with lovely Pauline, the proprietress sitting on an opposite table chatting away. With her two boisterous dogs under control, I enjoyed the breakfast which included a bowl of strawberries as well as the full English and cereal.
Leaving by the back door as the bike had been stored in a building behind the house, I took a couple of photographs of the creek. Here a few years ago now, an adult ring-billed gull had been an almost permanent resident there. Being an American gull, the ring-billed is still a very rare bird in Britain.
After sorting out a few financial matters at a bank, I cycled around to the Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve and was delighted to see a poster advertising my journey on the wall of the breeze bloc hide there. Inside I met Peter Walsh, another birder who I had last met on Fair Isle when I was cycling another Biking Birder trip 5 years ago.
Into the hide came a wonderful older lady, Mary with her Staffy terrier and we had fun trying to get photos of me with both.
After these had left, a couple came in with the gentleman, Paul Hopkinson showing me some of his bird art works. Using water colours Paul had some beautiful pieces. www.devonartist.co.uk
Whilst chatting away, as I am prone to do, a little egret came very close to the hide and did the soft shoe shuffle to dislodge tasty morsels.
On leaving the reserve and getting back to the main road, I saw a group of three birders scanning over the low tide estuary. Asking what they'd found, I was told that they were on a 1st winter ring-billed gull and they offered me a view through their Swarowski telescope to have a look. I took a couple of photographs and then scanned the area myself to see a good number of gulls, including more lesser blacks than I had seen in the past two or three weeks.
Onward to Long Rock car park to look for divers in the bay. 3 great northerns were easy to see with binoculars but a smaller diver was more of a problem and a scope was required. That arrived with a fabulous birder, Steve Rowe from Newquay.
Before his arrival I had been scanning the sea hoping that the reported Pacific diver, one of the rarest birds in Britain at the moment, would swim my way. I had also been photographing herring gulls coming down for the crusts from off my Paddington Bear sandwiches.
Standing with Steve and another local-ish birder, Luke Harman, we saw at least 8 great northern divers, distant eider and purple sandpipers and a diver that was too distant to assign to specie.
Moving around to the sea wall adjacent to the railway station at Penzance, a male eider was reasonably close and we had more views of the great northern divers.
It was after moving around to the area by the monument, west of the Scillonian harbour that the birding excitement got to fever pitch. Two divers were quite close in; to the left a black-throated diver and to the right, the Pacific! Steve was brilliant by repeatedly handing over his telescope for me to get great views of both birds. Now with s strong breeze and a rough sea I couldn't get any sort of photograph of the latter bird and only managed a back of the head shot of the former. The sunlight coming from just to the west of the direction of the birds didn't help and focussing was a problem. Anyway I had superb views of both birds and was over the moon, as they say.
Indeed, out of all the rare birds that I have seen on this leg of the Biking Birder trip, I have only failed to get a photo of two of them; this Pacific diver and the ferruginous duck at Ringwood. I will be doing a summary posting of the rarest birds seen so far later on.
I took a photo of both birders together with a newcomer to the group, Kevin and left to get to Gulval.
A quick cycle to the kale field and a chat with two birders from Lichfield and there was the reported little bunting to add to the year list. At first it was deep in the bush, where I took a short video of it as evidence. Then it came further out and allowed some better photographs.
Four year ticks during the day and two '54's, birds I didn't see in 2010 have put the year list on 148. Brilliant.
On getting to Penzance youth hostel, a message from Maria in Peru later in the evening saying that she had found some land, 30 hectares of it, that I could buy in Peru was a thrilling prospect to end the day on. A truly fabulous day.

Year list still stands at 148. Next it's a rest for three days. Having reached the end of the south coast part of the trip, it seems appropriate to have the rest I need. I'll be back in the saddle on Saturday morning, starting with an interview on BBC Cornwall at 7:20am. Then it's to Marazion RSPB Reserve to meet RSPB staff and volunteers. There are still birds available in Cornwall to see and I will be chasing these on the way north.

Now please have a look at the photographs of today on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015