Rural Reading: 100 birds on a bikeBy Adrian Lawson
May 18, 2012
Every year about this time I take part in the Berkshire bird race.
Basically a simple concept, teams spend the day looking for birds and the one that sees or hears the greatest number is the winner.
Berkshire is a long and thin county, but for a few years I have done it by bike.
Now two of my favourite things are birdwatching and cycling, so once a year I have a great excuse to spend the whole day doing both.
In previous years we have got more than 90 species of bird in the day, and last year we had 99.
Obviously the target should be 100 – even if we were last we had a mission.
At 4am we were at Snelsmore Common, in the dark, with tawny owl, woodcock and some of the more common birds singing as the light woke them.
Then on to Winterbourne, where we struck gold with a pair of ravens and a little owl flying down the road towards the rising sun.
By 7am we were cycling into Newbury, and we were soon approaching 50 species as we headed up the hill to Greenham Common, where we spotted tree pipit, woodlark, stonechat and several other birds in the vast areas of gorse.
Then it was down into the Kennet valley among the gravel pits to look for ducks and wading birds.
Common Sandpiper, pochard, Little and Great crested grebes were added before we headed east.
By lunchtime we were into the 80s, but the remaining 20 birds would prove elusive.
We had to work hard to find the tiny and rare firecrest, partridges and the gaudy but maddeningly difficult bullfinch.
We struck pure gold with a pair of dunlin and a lesser whitethroat, which took us to 98.
We cycled back to finish, and realized we hadn’t counted blue tit or jackdaw, both of which we had seen.
We had done it, 100 birds in a day on a bike.