Monday, May 17, 2010
This should be a short one.† I was up and out of my Bangor Travelodge by about 9:15 this morning.† I had my ham, cheese, bread, and yogurt that I had gotten at Tesco the day before, and it made a really good breakfast for me.† My dinner the night before, which was chicken, cheese, bread, good veggies, and too many little fruit pastry thingies also went down very well, and I felt much better today as a result of the two home-made meals.† They were much better for me than the too much fat, too little protein meals from restaurants.
My timing was perfect, as I wanted to stop at the Conwy RSPB reserve again, to look for the Goldeneye that had been reported yesterday.† I got there just after they opened at 9:30, but the Goldeneye hadnít been reported yet this morning, although someone had made the rounds and there was a list of species on the board for the day.† I asked about the Goldeneye, and it turned out that there has been only one of them hanging around, reported to be an immature male.† I gather that they are uncommon that far south, although I expect I will see lots of them in Scotland.
So, I went out onto the reserve, carrying my scope this time.† Nothing from the first viewing screen.† Nothing from the first hide.† At the second hide I didnít see anything at first and was about to leave when I thought I saw it.† I got the scope on him, and sure enough, Goldeneye.† I have seen them many times in California, and there was no doubt of it.† He looked exactly like my book pictures a first winter male.† He was feeding, and since they are a diving duck, that meant he was underwater for 20 or 30 seconds at a time, then surfaced for 4 or 5 seconds, before diving again.† I watched him for several dives, and then I packed up my scope and trudged back to the car.† I told them in the visitor centre that I had seen him, and I think the guy put it up on the board as I left, which gave me pleasure.† It was a 45 minute diversion, right next to the freeway, and I had a nice little walk in the sun.† And, I had added species number 149 to my Britain list.† A great start to the day.
So, after that, it was about two hours of freeway driving,
easy to do and easy to navigate.† I got a double Whopper and some fries at a
Service area for my lunch, and then I stopped at a place called Hest Bank,
which is on the edge of a big bay, Morecambe Bay.† The tide was high, which is
significant there.† When it is low, the water is up to 7 miles away!† And, the
birds, too, of course, since they feed along the edge of the water.†
The tide was so high, in fact, that the birds were mostly roosting, rather than feeding.† They do that when the tide is too high to expose the sand/mud.† I scoped the roosting birds, in two places, but didnít see anything interesting. †The difference between the high tide and the low tide was about 9 feet today.† They say that when the tide comes in, it moves faster than a man can walk.† There are patches of quicksand out there, too, and people regularly get stuck in it and drown or have to be rescued.† The best birding is in the hour or two just before high tide, as the birds get closer and closer to land.† I might go back there, or to another viewing place, tomorrow.† High tide is about 2 PM tomorrow.
Next, I wanted to visit a well-known RSPB reserve near here, called Leighton Moss.† It is the reason I am spending two nights here, so I can spend tomorrow there.† I wanted to check it out this afternoon, though.† I had two or three sets of directions to it, and a couple of sketch type maps, but they seemed confusing and even contradictory.† As I got close, though, I passed a Tesco supermarket, and I took advantage of that to stock up for my dinner tonight.† I got some cooked chicken breast, some more good veggies (again, baby corn, broccoli, green beans, and carrots, in a nice little pack), and a bottle of Aussie wine that was on sale.† It is only about 5 miles back to that town, and I will probably do something similar tomorrow night.
After stocking up on food, I wandered out into the back roads, trying to find Leighton Moss.† I went through a couple of villages with extremely narrow streets, and was on a number of narrow country roads.† At least they didnít have stone walls, and they were so small that what little traffic there was had to go very slowly, so it wasnít stressful, only slow and confusing.† Eventually I got there, and I can see now by looking at an online map that I took a very roundabout route.† I checked out the reserve, watched a few birds from three of the hides, and took a few bird pictures, which I wonít even try to put up on the website tonight.† About 4 oíclock, I called it a day and headed cross country to find my latest Travelodge, which is located in still another motorway Service Area.
I knew the right way to do it was to head back south to get onto the motorway, since the Service area is only accessible from the northbound lanes, but I had a plan to ďbeat the systemĒ again.† I had looked very carefully and closely at the area using Google Maps, before I left home, and I had printed out a very local map.† I thought I could sneak into the Service area by a back route, and save myself going back south 3 miles, to get on the motorway properly.† The trouble was that the roads are very inadequately signed, and it took me 15 or 20 minutes of more backroad driving to finally work myself to the place where the ďback doorĒ to the Service Area is.† It meant more villages with very narrow streets and lots of parked cars, and more very narrow country roads.† I had plenty of time, though, and it was a challenge to find my way.
But, after a couple of backtracks and wandering around a lot, I finally got there.† I could see the Service Area, 100 yards away, and there was a road connecting it to where I was, just as Google Maps had shown.† Unfortunately, the road was posted with do-not-enter signs.† It is one-way, out of the Service Area, and you are not allowed to use it to enter the Service Area.† Iím sure I could have snuck up the road, it was only 100 yards long, but I abided by the law, and I drove the three miles south and got onto the motorway, then coming back north, so I could legally enter the Service Area.† So, this time, the system beat me, but I had fun trying, anyway, and no harm done, other than some wasted petrol, at US 7 bucks a US gallon.† If I wasnít such a law abiding citizen, I could have saved about 7 miles of driving.
I checked into my latest Travelodge, and it is the nicest one yet.† It is either newer or has been remodeled more recently than the other two.† The actual eating places are across the parking lot, and I havenít checked them out, as I have my dinner.† There is a Burger King and probably something else, and a coffee place.† Iíll have to check it out in the morning.† I got a little yogurt cup for the morning, and I have cheese and apples, but no protein for breakfast, other than the cheese and yogurt.† I might just have one of my bars that I brought from home for my protein portion.† I have some protein ones that have plenty of protein in them for my breakfast.
Today as I was walking around Leighton Moss, I reflected on the concept of bird hides.† I donít know if I have made it clear, but a hide is a structure with windows that open and seats to sit on (usually), looking out over an interesting birding site.† Usually they are located near some water, but not always.† They have a roof, which is nice since it rains quite a bit over here.† They are usually a bit of a hike from where you leave your car, though, so you might get soaked getting there, if you didnít have the proper rain gear, as I donít.† The idea is that the birds wonít get spooked, since the people inside are not very visible, if they donít lean out the windows.† I imagine that British birders take them for granted, but I donít think I have ever seen one in the US.† I have only birded the West Coast in the US, really, and I am sure there are hides (they may be called blinds in the US), but I havenít ever seen one that I can remember.† That makes sense, when you think about it.† There are many times as many birders over here, and they are crowded into a much smaller area, so it makes sense to provide an infrastructure for them.† I very rarely see another birder when I bird on the West Coast, but over here there are always crowds of people at any of the popular reserves.† Australia is much more like the US, although I have been in several hides over there.
So, that was my cultural observation for the day.† Iíll sign off now and put this up on the site.† Oh yes, the weather seems to be changing.† Today was beautiful, for my third not-a-drop-of-rain day in a row, and it got up to almost 60 degrees F.† They are talking about continued improvement, maybe getting into the high 60ís by early next week, even up north in Scotland.† We will see.† It can change fast, and I have learned not to trust their weather forecasts.
One more thing, too.† I want to once again thank my faithful readers who email me or put up comments to my Facebook postings.† I really need to hear from people, to keep the loneliness of traveling alone from setting in, so I appreciate the emails and comments very much.† Birder1944@aol.com will reach me.† A special thanks to the British friends I have made over here, some of whom are following along with me as well.† I find it very interesting that it matters to me so much, to feel like I am in touch with people and not all alone in a strange land.
Life rolls onÖ