I remember a Michael Palin character in Life of Brian hanging from the wall in a dungeon crying out "you lucky . . . . !"
Well that's what every birder living in Somerset can feel. Very lucky.
As my cycling journey through this fabulous birding county comes to an end, I want to share the highlights, highlight what you have and say thank you to so many of you.
Entering Somerset from Devon was a surprise. I thought I was still in Devon and therefore initially thought that I the ring-necked drake had gone as I didn't find it on the Devon list of rare birds on Birdguides! As of that mistake wasn't bad enough, I then found out it was still available and I compounded my error by going to the wrong lake. An agonising couple of hours of white-knuckle braking down hills and back breaking pushes up the other side eventually got me to a footpath leading to the correct lake from the west. Alone I viewed a beautiful American duck. Bird number 155 on my Green Year list.
In case you're wondering, I am cycling to every RSPB and WWT reserve again, as I did in 2010. I am also trying to beat the present Green Year list record of 251 for the UK. My dream would be to get 300 but we'll wait and see about that.
Over the last three days I have been to Swell Wood, West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Ham Wall RSPB reserves. What fabulous reserves they are and the diversity of habitat and species is incredible.
Swell Wood with nuthatch, titmice and treecreeper but mostly with the grey herons nesting was delightful.
The RSPB staff, particularly Michael Wilson, made the day unforgettable with the 'plastic' cranes. The imminent success of the project with breeding maybe within a few years is truly wonderful and praise to the local people in supporting the various agencies efforts should be given. The return of these iconic birds after an absence of 400 years is thrilling, as was the one cycling overhead.
Greylake is superb! To watch 3 peregrines in action causing murmurations of the duck was exciting. The close views of duck in beautiful breeding plumage were stunning. Great white egrets here and then 4 more at Ham Wall.
Now there's a Futurescape in action for you. I run out of superlatives. Over 40 booming bitterns, a scane of 9 bitterns seen flying over the reserve, the little bitterns, and the developments taking place on both the RSPB and adjacent Shapwick reserves are so impressive.
I didn't get to see the starling murmuration for which most people will know of the reserve but I had seen great numbers of them feeding in various fields. I needed to get nearer to tomorrow's reserve, the new WWT reserve at Steart Point.
So after tomorrow I will be heading north into Avon and then Gloucestershire but what memories Somerset will have left me with.
Maybe tomorrow will give me more year ticks; short-eared owl, merlin and Lapland bunting have all been seen there.
If you would like to see the detail of my tour then please access the blog or find me on facebook. Biking Birder 2015.
Thanks Somerset. Brilliant.
You're welcome Gary, and please come again soon. We have so many brilliant places to bird right on our doorstep that we sometimes get a little blase about them. It is great to hear comments like yours from visiting birders, and I am sure that those who have spent so much time creating and maintaining these sites appreciate them too.
Good luck with the second circuit of Britain. Look out for a friendly postman out at Steart - it's Rog's patch and I'm sure he'll help out if possible.
A friendly postman! It would be great to bump into him. The birders I meet on my travels have included some great characters. I am really looking forward to the day.
One last thing. Yesterday at Greylake I started to do a sort of video diary when 2 peregrines attacked the ducks there. I have put a video of this on youtube. The murmuration of duck is incredible and at least the spectacle shut me up.
Thanks Julian and thanks Somerset.
Blasé! Your county has everything.
The last three days blog is now done. More detail and photographs from three wonderful days birding at four wonderful RSPB reserves. Thanks Michael!
The blog detailing yesterday's visit to the new WWT reserve at Steart is done. Please read.
Thanks to everyone I have met during my few days in Somerset. It has been a highlight of my year so far. Wonderful birding. Thank you so much.