Monday 11th May
At the moment it's impossible to keep up the blog on a regular basis due to the following reasons:
- every daylight minute is either spent birding or cycling.
- Daylight is now from 5.00am to past 9.00pm so that's a lot of birding time.
- Opportunities of getting on the 'net are limiyed in the area of Norfolk I'm in.
- I fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow!
- I am camping at least 3 days out of every 4 and the B and Bs and youth hostel I have stayed at recently either hasn't had Wifi or it hasn't worked very well.
So please forgive me for the lack of updates. I am now in the one place I have found in Norfolk where there has been a great internet connection and that is the local library.
Now I am going to give a detailed account of yesterday first then return to give the highlights of the days since the last update so long ago.
5.00am up and out to explore Bernay Marshes RSPB reserve. 42 species including a couple of whimbrel and a lovely, almost calm morning with sunshine. A lovely change to the previous day's gales. Wind from the south as well, a new direction that may bring in some new birds. My plan was to enjoy the area, have a good look at the large windmill and then head off to Cantley and Buckenham RSPB reserves not to far to the west.
9.15am, a phone call from Phil Andrews and all those plans went out the window. In Phil's usual roundabout style he announced that there was a lifer for me. Then he said where it was before saying what it was, not by giving the name but by saying it was a small mountain finch!
Citril finch I screamed.
I started to pack and say many thanks to Jim, one of the the Bernay Marshes wardens. Jim, an old guard RSPB warden wih a twitching history, understood my panic and helped by suggesting the route. OS maps out, we plotted the way back to the north Norfolk coast, the way back to Holkolm.
The phone went again.
Antony Barter, a Birding Clam and another great friend, almost unintelligible with his excitement and poor signal told me of the bird. Yes, I did know and I would be on my way soon.After a very quick up the windmill and down the windmill, I was off over the dirt track bridleway, over the concrete road after the first double gated level crossing and, after stopping to quickly see 7 whimbrel, over another double gated level crossing and onto the busy A47.
Acle, South Walsham, Wroxham and Stratton Strawless, I cycld through them like a man possessed. There had only ever been one citril finch in Britain before, a few years back and that had been on the remote Fair Isle.
Lunch quickly scoffed whilst sitting beside a main road; smoked salmon, Maltesers, jaffa cakes, cheese and milk.
Onward to Corpusty and then Thursford; I had left Bernay at 10.00am and I kept it in my mind that I would be at Holkham about 5.00pm. Would the finch still be there. I asked my guardian angels to ensure it would.
Texts and a couple of VERY IRRITATING phone calls told me that it was. I could just imagine the chaos there with hundreds of birders making the trek from Queen Anne's drive along the footpath to the extreme west end of Holkham Woods. I had been there just a few days ago, all by myself after pushing the bike over Burnham Overy's sand dunes looking for a ring ouzel.
A wrong turn bit no problem. I told myslef that the road to Wells via Binham and Warham was probably flatter than the more direct Walsingham road I'd missed somehow.
Into and quickly through Wells. Down to Queen Anne's Drive and onto the public footpath west. Birders were greeted with a hello as I weaved through them pedalling as fast as I could. A group of 5 straddled the whole path! “Get out the way! I need this bird!” I laughed at them. They understood, laughed back and I was through.
On reaching the mass of birders, I went to the first birder. “Where is it?” “Second sykamore back, to the right on the ground. I couldn't see it. I could see the Malteser-headed dome of Bart and rushed over. Jumping on his back, he asked the bloke in front to show me the bird.
CITRIL FINCH!!!! UTB.
What a bird, a male, blue-grey nape, green mantle and head, bright yellow rump, wing bars, yellowish orange breast. An absolute stonking CMF mega.
As quietly as I could I gave a fist pumping YEAHHHH. Birders around understood but couldn't have known that I had cycled over 50 miles to see this and had arrived at 3.45, not 5 o'clock.
More Midland friends arrived, Steve Nuttall, Steve Richards and the cycling birder Eric Phillips. I went to see them and then crawled under a pine closer to the bird and lay down under some branches to get my 'record shots' and hopefully the one minute video for Youtube. The bird wasn't too far away. From my horizontal position I could see it but standing birders around me couldn't.
“Left of the second sykamore, find the small hawthorn behind a bramble. Follow the hawthorn trunk up until it goes towards 11 o'clock and then when it goes to 12 again look behind. It's on a small bit of a sandy bank.”
I photographed what I could see. I videoed it too. I watched this mega of a bird.
Time to celebrate with Bart and the immensely brave Steve, another Birding Clam.
The more local birder whom I had met at Weeting Heath, Ollie was there.
As were the Midland friends mentioned before.
A birder, Bert Mitchell, talked of his 20-odd visits to Fair Isle and had known of Gordon Barnes. We talked about him and I promised to try to send him a copy of Gordon's autobiography, 'An Unforgettable Challenge'.
A gentleman with a BTO jumper came over, I recognised the face bit couldn't remember the name. “Hunstanton,” I said. It was Steve Neuman from Hunstanton. In 2010 Steve and his wife Anne had put me up for the night and then accompanied me to near to here back in late November of that year to see a rough-legged buzzard. Replete with views of the citril, the Clams, Steve and I wended our way back towards Queen Anne's drive with birders who knew of my travels stopping to say hello, to say that they were following me on the net and in a couple of cases giving donations.
One such birder was a lady, Joan, who had come with the famous Lee Evans. She came and sat on a bench where the Clam, Steve and I had stopped to give Steve a well deserved rest. Another brder to ask how I was getting on was Somerset birder, Julian Thomas. We talked about what I had put on the Somerset bird blog back so long ago when I had cycled through there and laughed together at how I had gone to the wrong lake to get a ring-necked duck.
Donations, laughs and chat, the mood was definitely celebratory.
Phil Andrews, the brilliant birder and bloke who texts me all of the news, and who had phoned me to say of the citril in his cryptic manner arrived and quickly went past after a quick chat. He needed the bird.
Back at the Clams car and just before they sped off home, the Craigs, Chris, Helena and Mya.Rose arrived all the way from Chew Valley, Avon. The famous three shook hands and posed for photos before quickly heading off. They needed the bird.
News came from Phil via a text, a wood sandpiper was at Stiffkey Fen about 8 miles away. Had to see it and did. Bird number 219. What a day!
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.
All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx