Sunday, February 06, 2005

"I ride down the Highway 101" - bursting with pride! 101 species in total

Ton up day today – in more ways than one. 133km on the clock, and the species total crept over the century.

I set off at 0720, on the now familiar route via Bishop’s Waltham to Fareham, and then east along the northern shore of the harbours, reaching Hayling Island in just under two hours. Red-breasted Merganser was the first new bird, quickly followed by Oystercatcher, Curlew, Grey Plover and a rather distant Black-necked Grebe. I was later gripped off by a message from George Spraggs telling me he’d had a Slavonian there too!

I pedalled on down to the south Hayling shore, and headed still further east to the south-easternmost corner of the county, Sandy Point. Unfortunately, the 1st winter male Black Redstart was totally unfindable, but two Mediterranean Gulls were very showy (and new) around the groynes.

I met Andy Johnson on the beach, and he told me he’d had a Razorbill this morning, a species I needed not only for the year list, but also (very embarrassingly) for a county tick! So with high hopes, I headed off round to Black Point.

No Razorbill! Several Sanderlings (at their most reliable Hampshire site) and a Bar-tailed Godwit provided some recompense, plus a long overdue Redshank.

It was at this stage that I had to make a decision – stick around and try for the Black Redstart, and have a very long uninterrupted ride home, or head west and go to Southsea? I decided on the latter, and was quickly at the west of end of Hayling, trying for the regular Shag by the yellow buoys. No luck at all with that, but a fly past Sandwich Tern was both new and deeply unseasonable!

(Don’t tell anyone – I took the ferry across the 150m gap to the Portsmouth side – it was that or a 55km detour! Chris said it was OK.... I did think about trying to charter a rowing boat – but common sense prevailed!)

At Southsea, the weather was sunny and warm, and there were far too many people about for me to have a great shot at Purple Sandpiper – but I didn’t expect to dip Turnstone too! But the site did provide one of my targets for the day: a Razorbill close inshore, taking me to the round 100.

I headed off at about 1445, reckoning on not spending too long pedalling in the dark, and was well on target when I reached Fair Oak and Fisher’s Pond. So I decided to try a hot tip I’d had in the week, and headed off into the sticks. Result! A Little Owl showed brilliantly right by the road on an old chicken shed.

Elated and knackered, I cycled onwards, towards the Morestead Road and home. Disaster! BANG! Rear wheel puncture! Although the tyre only appeared to be flat at the bottom, where it touched the road, it was quite unridable, so I had to make a decision. In the gloaming, attempting a repair would have been tough to say the least, so I opted for discretion, and had to walk the last 8km or so home, including the heinous Morestead Hill. Was this divine retribution for my ferry ride, I wonder? Home at 1820, absolutely shattered!