Saturday, 20 February 2016
This was published in the RSPB Fundraising Newsletter for The Midlands :-
The end of December brought down the curtain on Gary Prescott’s epic year-long cycling mission around the UK.
As you will have read in previous editions, Gary aimed to cycle to every RSPB and WWT reserve in the UK, five years after his original journey. Whilst doing this, he was raising funds for four charities (the RSPB, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Asthma UK and the Chaskawasi-Manu Project in Peru).
This year, Gary added an extra target; to try and surpass both the British and European Green Year birding records, which at the start of the year sat at 251 and 304 respectively.
Gary set off on New Year’s Day from the Upton Warren WWT reserve before heading to Oxfordshire and the RSPB Otmoor nature reserve. He then embarked on a tour around the reserves of the south east.
February saw a tour around the south west, taking in reserves such as RSPB Arne and RSPB Radipole Lake nature reserves, and then taking in the Welsh reserves during March.
Easter was spent taking in a trip to the Northern Irish reserves (via ferry and then pedal power), before heading back to the north west of England. Visiting the east of England, Gary’s highlight was an epic 50-mile dash on the bike to see the citril finch in Norfolk.
Spells in northern England, a stay in Scotland (including the incredible Fair Isle) and a trek through the north east followed before a last dash to see as many species as possible before his return home to the West Midlands. His trip concluded with visits to RSPB Middleton Lakes and RSPB Sandwell Valley nature reserves before Gary returned, on New Year’s Eve, to where he had started 364 days before, Upton Warren.
During Gary’s green year, he saw 289 different species of bird; surpassing the British record which was previously shared by Chris Mills in 2005 and Gary’s previous attempt in 2010. This was just fifteen short of equaling the European record held by Catalonia’s Ponc Feliu.
I spoke with Gary at Sandwell Valley and he told me, that of the 289 birds he had seen, exactly 200 had been sighted at RSPB reserves.
As of 12 January, Gary had raised nearly £1,200 for the RSPB; a magnificent achievement and a great amount has also been raised for his other chosen charities.
2016 will see Gary set out on his bike again in an attempt to surpass 300 species seen. He is also attempting to surpass the European record, although this time, he will be taking a different route.
Focusing primarily on the south and east coasts, Gary will be heading back up to Scotland and returning to Shetland and Fair Isle in the autumn.
He has seen 132 different species (as of 19 January), and is ahead of where he was this time last year.
Gary can be followed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015, where updates and some fantastic photos are uploaded on a regular basis.
He has set up a brand new blog for the 2016 challenge which can be found at http://bikingbirder2016.blogspot.co.uk/.
To support one of Gary’s chosen charities, you can do so online by making a donation at the following pages:
RSPB - https://www.justgiving.com/gary-prescott3
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust - https://www.justgiving.com/gary-prescott4
Asthma UK - https://www.justgiving.com/gary-prescott2
Chaskawasi-Manu Project - http://www.chaskawasi-manu.org/en/donation-for-chaskawasi-manu-project/
This is an incredible achievement, and we want to say a huge well done and thank you to Gary for all his achievements and support of the RSPB during 2015 and for this challenge taking place this year.
We wish Gary all the very best in his quest to surpass the magic 300; you can do it Gary!
Friday, 19 February 2016
Thursday, 18 February 2016
Why do some birders have to make up records? The red-flanked bluetail supposedly at Lymington a few days back, a bird that had been important enough to have me cycle ten miles towards it, turns out to have maybe been a hoax.
RBA (Rare Bird Alert) tactfully states :-
Making a sterling effort to usurp two national #1’s from the top spot this week was the reported discovery of what would have been a guaranteed show-stopper in Hampshire - Britain’s second-ever wintering Red-flanked Bluetail allegedly located in the wooded glades of the New Forest, in the Norley Inclosure across the weekend of 13th-14th.
The first over-wintering example of this ever-delightful Tarsiger came just two years ago, thanks to the super-showy bird that hopped from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire from February 3rd to March 9th 2014 and this report from Hampshire could have been the focus of attention for bird photographers and birders alike…but was it real? No one seems to know…but the “H” word wasn’t far from many locals lips.
The only acceptance of this increasing, more-frequent-than-ever forest dweller for the south coast county came in the more traditional mid-October window of opportunity; one spending six days in and around Sandy Point in 2010.
(…oh how we wished it had been a wintering mainland Western P. Rubythroat tho’…)
Details will come out no doubt but it brings back memories of other such incidents; the hermit thrush in Essex and the Siberian thrush in Worcestershire for example.
The hermit thrush was 'seen' by a sole observer. He later admitted his hoax through the pages of Birdwatch magazine, a double-page spread, apologising profusely for his false record, explaining that he had been goaded by being surpressed from real bird news by other Essex birders.
The Tewkesbury Sibe, on the foothills of Breedon Hill goes back to the late 1970s or early 1980s.
On a wet, cold day birders attracted to the area like bees to a honeypot. The honeypot in this case was a male Siberian thrush, still a mega rarity in the UK, couldn't be found. “No problem,” stated the hoaxer, “I've got photographs of it.” Weeks later photographs if a Siberian thrush did come out, a stuffed one or a model placed in a tree! Allegedly.
Every year in the British Birds magazine there is an issue devoted to 'Report on Rare Birds in Great Britain in . . ' At the back there are always a number of rejected reports. People make mistakes. I know I have made many and will no doubt make many more. People might not have noted every feature necessary for acceptance. Thankfully the birder who feels the desperate need to hoax other birders to increase his credentials and standing in the rarity finding world are few and far between. Yet the pressure is on. Thankfully actual hoaxes are extremely rare.
Nowadays nearly every record of a rarity is accompanied by a photograph. Of the rarities I have seen I have managed to get a photograph of nearly all of them. Of those I haven't then I have got the names of the witnesses. Here are a few of the rare birds I have seen this year :
Those with no photograph (yet) with who was with me when I saw it :
lesser scaup (Chris Craig), Pacific diver (Roger Butts), Ring-billed gull (no one).
The Year list can be viewed on Bubo on the BUO 2016 year list :-
Wednesday, 17 February 2016
Wednesday 17th February
My rest begins. A few days in which to visit my cousin, Rosemary and her son Paschal and then back home via train, leaving the bike at a repair shop for back brake replacement and a service. It is my son, Joshua's birthday on Friday and my daughter, Rebecca is coming down from Newcastle for us all to meet up for a celebration meal. I will also be seeing Mum and Dad. Both are in their eighties and remarkable for their age. Just a few days to catch up with family.
I also need to prepare for the RSPB AGM at York. I am invited as one of the speakers and have been sent emails with attachments. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity to promote Green Birding and will prepare the photograph slide show, the talk itself, a display board and leaflets as well as I can.
Once the leaflet is done I will publish it on here for you to peruse and criticise for me. Any advice would be gratefully and humbly received.
So today will be a carbon day; another 'Fifty Shades of Green' moment in the Biking Birder year. As I have said, the bike will be left at the exact spot where I arrived yesterday after cycling through very quiet, and icy in places, country lanes from Alton to Ash Vale, east of Aldershot. Does this detract from the Green Big Year mantra? The way I see it is that in every way I try to be as Green as possible whilst still occasionally seeing family. When your parents are in their eighties you want to cherish every moment with them. They've already been jokingly told by my sister that last Christmas was their last!
As for being Green, I don't have a house, a car, masses of electrical appliances just a tablet, I recycle as much as I can, even collect recyclable items I see whilst cycling. I pick up litter especially on beaches and nature reserves. I could never have the time to pick up the mass of litter, much of it recyclable I see whilst cycling. Why do people have to throw this stuff from their car windows whilst going along roads? I camp around 150 to 200 times a year. I consider food miles. My clothes are usually from charity shops. All in all I hope that you understand my Green Year. I would love to have a totally fossil free year but this is the best that I can do.
As for what we can all do, we've got to reduce, reuse, recycle. (repair)
The Year list can be viewed on Bubo on the BUO 2016 year list :-
16.72 miles 657 feet elevation up 769 elevation down
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Monday 15th February Fresh N sunny!
With a day of cycling ahead and after having received the very sad news of a great Upton Warren friend, Simon Vickers, having died at too young an age, I think about the people who I have met because of my passion for birds and nature. Some of the most inspirational and fascinating characters are the young people who ooze enthusiasm; children like the phenomenal 13 year old Mya.Rose Craig, Bird-girl ( http://birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk/ ) and Dominik Reynolds who puts on events for wildlife through establishing the Dominik Wildlife Fund. The next one is an evening of merriment -
Now that would be a wonderful evening to get to. Meanwhile I need to visit the cressbeds of Alresford, Hampshire to search for water pipit. The wind is in my face and despite the almost no cloud, blue sky, the going is tough. Hills are reached and as chalk starts to appear in the fields as I reach the top a group of red-legged partridges, nine of them, become the first year tick of the day. 165.
Thoughts of other chalk downs birds come to mind and maybe a yellowhammer will be added to the year list at last. I text this thought and the news of the partridge to Phil Andrews, my task master and news provider. The reply states that grey partridge and corn bunting might be possible. There are corvids and a flock of around thirty stock doves but no small passerines. The agricultural desert of wheat stubble continues. The constant disappointment of the British countryside. How much have we lost?
A large bird in front of me is obviously raptor, one bird species that we have gained over the decades due to reintroduction. A red kite goes onto the list.
Into and through Alresford, I cycle along the beautiful river and find a small cressbed. No pipits here, there is just a single lesser redpoll and a few moorhens.
A local man tells me that there are more cressbeds down a road to the north and so I find large cressbeds of commercial nature along Bighton Lane. They are surrounded by large fences with padlocked fences. My memories of visiting cressbeds in Dorset back in the years when I lived in that fine county are dispelled by the present problem. How can I search for such a small bird without access. I go to the offices of Alresford Salads and am told by a friendly gent that there is a public footpath along the northern edge of the largest beds.
Two green sandpipers are the first birds I see once I get to the path and after walking along the eastern edge, outside the fence of course, a group of pipits fly from further down the beds and land in front of me, though at the other side. I start to search and find at least one, maybe two water pipits. There is a grey wagtail with them too. Mission accomplished and a hat-trick of year ticks.
The year list still stands at 167. This is twenty two ahead of where I was this time last year.
Up to 9th! The list can be viewed on Bubo on the BUO 2016 year list :-
30.03 miles 1875 feet elevation up 1583 elevation down
Monday, 15 February 2016
Sunday 14th February Fresh NE sunny intervals
A milestone reached yesterday, 1,000 miles cycled this year so far.
Today starts with more of a push than a cycle. Along the canal path from Titchfield village, which is a beautiful brook-like waterway instead of a traditional tow path and barge wide canals that I am more used to, I stop when a birder shows me a barn owl sleeping in hole on a twisted tree. It is a beautiful sunny day and the light is clear and fresh.
The way deteriorates into a muddy swamp with places where the canal is overflowing. There is a target bird that has been reported somewhere along this mire and so I persevere, laugh and push, curse and wade. The bird is a water pipit and after an hour of searching and getting extremely wet and muddy feet, and getting the bike clogged up also, there has only been one pipit. It flies up from a wet area of grassland with rushes but disappears without giving views.
I continue to search. I continue to push.
A phone call from Phil Andrews can only mean one thing, a very rare bird is somewhere nearby.
“Forget the water pipit,” he shouts. “There is a red-flanked bluetail at Lymington!”
The final half mile of mud and water are negotiated and once on the road again I cycle towards Southampton. I get to Warsash and check the phone for messages. There are two; a voicemail from Sue at Titchfield Haven and a text from Phil.
Phil's is “Sods law mate. Pendulines are showing at Titchfield. Sue's voicemail declares the same. Sue, one of the wonderful staff at Titchfield, had heard of my visit yesterday, knew I needed to see the birds , found my blog and then mobile number and then sent the message. Partly it is Sue's kindness in letting me know but it is also the fact that I think that I will have more chances to see red-flanked bluetails later in the year, I turn around and cycle as fast as possible to Titchfield Haven,
On arriving at the reserve, the bike is stowed away in a shed once more and I run along the path and broadwalk towards Meadow Hide.
On turning towards the hide I see a small group of birders looking towards an area I know to have the necessary reedmace. I put my thunb up to ask whether the birds are on view. A positive thumb comes up from one of the volunteers and I run the final thirty yards, well float there really.
A female penduline tit is on a reedmace head plucking, feeding and releasing wafts of fluff towards us.
Over the next two hours birders and interested general public come and go and the birds, two of them, both females stay on view busily feeding. One group of birders are the young at heart RSPB Dorking group. Lovely people.
Just past 3:00pm the birds go and I head back to the visitor's centre. I thank Sue profusely and sincerely for her message and head towards Fareham. I have seen forty one birds species today including barn owl, cetti's warblers and black-tailed godwits. The penduline tits though are a 'good one to get.'
The year list still stands at 164. This is still nineteen ahead of where I was this time last year.
The list can be viewed on Bubo on the BUO 2016 year list,:-
19.68 miles 556 feet elevation up 3543 elevation down