Sunday, 10 January 2016


It's been a slow start to 2016 for me. Usual excuses mostly work. Despite that I've squeezed some birding in of sorts, my daily round trip commute to work (14.6 in total) comprising mostly of purpose built segregated cycle paths, very small road sections and passing by some interesting habitats Stortons Gravel Pit nature reserve, the canal and the patchwork of habitat that is Swan Valley/Pineham industrial estates.
Been getting 50+ Golden Plover on one part that's due for development, 400+ Starling, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Little Owl and loads of Pied Wagtail.
But I wanted to take my new bike out for a proper 'test' and get out with the camera. Despite the cloud (then sun briefly) and really sodden conditions I was looking forward to it, all 16 miles of it!
The stats and map of my route with a plan to to add Firecrest hopefully at Brixworth sewage works to my cycling list, ah the glamour lol.

The path way was as usual littered with huge puddles and the cyclists coming back looked like yetis covered head to toe in mud, oh dear!
I opted to stop at the second bridge at Merry Tom crossing. A convenient bench with views over the sodden fields which had pools of water which in turn had sizeable flocks of Redwing, Starlings, Fieldfare, Pied Wagtail and the odd Grey Wagtail,Mute Swans, a heron, Lapwings and circa 60+ Golden Plover all feeding and bathing. The river was flowing quickly and quite high (obviously muddy too) under the railway bridge but had a Kingfisher dart through. The hedge (or what's left of it) had all the common species and as a reminder of my quest four Goldcrest. I opted to sit here for an hour as there was plenty to see and not many people the huge muddy puddles at the station deterring the sane.
The best encounter was this Redkite also searching for food as it drifted down the field towards me. I still had grey skies in front of me but the sun was breaking through the clouds behind me giving just enough light to make it worth snapping.

Distant at first it drifted towards the farm and I thought  that was it, I focused my attention to the Pied Wagtails as they were closer and happened to glance up and notice it was now gliding parallel with the railway line towards me.

It came very close and flew over my head into the other field. Think it's a young bird, it was smaller and lightly marked on it's underside. Which might explain why it came so close, best bird of the day?

Sadly yes as the I failed to locate the Firecrest at the Brixworth sewage works but did get more Redwing and Fieldfare, more Goldcrest! (seem to be a lot along the pathway/Valley) a female Sparrowhawk and Grey Wagtails. In my mind/opinion it could be so easy to have missed the bird as there's plenty of bushes for it to hide in and some of it on private land. I searched for a good hour.
I then cycled up towards the Saxon church and a what was once a killer of a hill but my bike did me good and despatched it brilliantly and onto Pitsford reservoir where the Red Necked Grebe was in the bay near the overflow. I parked myself in the carpark for one last breather before heading home and directed a pair of birders to the Grebe. Good first cycle up the valley and much needed.
So the bike, it's a Carrera Kraken and a real beast.

I opted for a more serious bike as the 'cheaper' bike couldn't cope with my demands. Front wheel bearing collapsed, the old fashioned brake pads are rubbish in wet and muddy conditions.
It's 27 geared which even though only 3 more then my previous bike makes a huge difference. A case of not how many gears but the gearing/ratios. Downhills no longer sees just coasting due to over pedalling, flat and level ground has given me an increase of 4mph on average and uphill sections a hell of lot easier especially since I'm carrying a dslr, 500mm lens, binoculars, bike pump and tools ie a lot of weight.
The suspension on the front (don't like rear suspension) is fully adjustable which is vital for me. For my commute to work I'm normally travelling light and on mostly easy terrain so can firm the suspension up. Or as like yesterday make it a bit softer, the camera bag is really heavy (check the first image out).

The big difference for me is the disc brakes and the 27.5 inch tyres
The big tyres contributing to the increased speed. I was considering 29 inch but they come with a compromise as they're a bit clumsy turning in tight corners at slow speed, which considering the number of 'gates' on my route meant 27.5 inch was a better compromise for my needs. The Continental tyres are amazing as is the 50psi needed to inflate them..dead smooth running and plenty of grip. Though the problem came getting "Slime Tubes" for the size. These are essential for me as my cycling takes me over a whole host of inner tube shredding litter from thorns, branches, nails and glass. As soon as you pick up a puncture the slime in the inner tube forms a rubber like solution in the puncture sealing in it in seconds and just involves pumping the tyre up and no exchanging of an inner tube.
As for the disc brakes, invaluable. No more haphazard brake fade in the wet and no more mud getting clogged up between wheel and old fashioned brake pads.


  1. Bloody 'ell, bikes have come on a bit since my old Raleigh.
    That's quite a route there Doug.
    Good shots of the Kite; beautiful birds.

    1. Thanks Keith. Bikes have advanced, sometimes a bit OTT, but some things like disc brakes and gearing have become essential really. No more worrying if in the rain I can stop safely if a car pulls out on me being the most vital.
      The route looks bug but I did stop four times for a spot of birding which made it easier lol.

  2. Great Douglas, a state of the art bike and a Red Kite.

  3. Cracking new 'mud plugger' Douglas, I hope you cleaned it well after your ride?
    Not too sure about the seat though, still I guess you've got plenty of padding in those Lycra shorts?
    Those conti floatation look the biz.
    With a nice flyover from the Red Kite and and a good tally of 'ticks' not a bad ride, I'd say...[;o)

    1. Interestingly that saddle had me worried at first but I have to say it's the most comfortable saddle I've had so far. NO LYCRA HERE. lol

  4. Wow! That's some bike, Doug! I hadn't realised that you could get bikes with disc brakes these days - what a difference to safety that must make. If I was younger I'd be hankering after one of those myself. Really impressed by your cycle-birding.

    Best wishes - - Richard

    1. Cheers Richard,
      The disc brakes are fantastic the stopping power is truly amazing especially in the wet though I am waiting for ABS lol