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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

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