31 Dec 2021

31 Dec 21 - A Completed New Year's Resolution

I wonder what percentage of people who make New Year's Resolutions actually complete them. Well today I completed my 2021 New Year's Resolution. The plan was a Birders take on the Lands End to John O'Groats walk, which is around 870 miles depending on the route. That seemed something that needed improving both to make the route more applicable & interesting to a Birder & to make it more of a challenge. A bit of checking distances a year ago confirmed that it was possible to work out a route from St Agnes to Hermaness taking in three of the island groups well known to Birders, as it also included crossing the Orkney Islands. This also brought the distance up to 1001 miles (38.2 Marathons) which seems more of a challenge. That is 2.75 miles a day, so still not that challenging a distance to walk each day. In the end, I lost 68 days to work, weather etc when I couldn't get out, which meant I averaged 3.4 miles on walking days.

Given the logistic factors of still working & lockdown, then it clearly wasn't going to be possible to walk the actual route in 2021. However, it could still be walked as a virtual route with the rules allowing distances walked while birding. I wasn't counting distances walked on supermarket visits. In the end, only 27 miles were walked outside of the Historic Isle of Purbeck. I had hoped to complete the full distance within the IoP, but work & the weather towards the end of the year stopped that wish.
The 1001 Mile Challenge
As I was planning the route, I found a number of websites quoting the distance from Lands End to John O'Groats for cyclists or walkers, but I couldn't find any which provided a good route to follow. As a result, I ended up using Google Maps to plan a route which ended up with a lot of virtual walking on motorway hard shoulders. In the real world, this wouldn't be legal or desirable, but it made it a lot easier to work out the distances & the checkpoints along the way.

The other advantage of it being a virtual route was being able to catch virtual boats from beaches for the sea crossings. The exception was a virtual helicopter from North Ronaldsay to Sumburgh Head: as a virtual boat would have meant having to climb the cliff & that would have been a silly idea.

One of the bonuses of the walk is I'm a lot fitter than I was a year ago. Additionally, I've also lost a reasonable amount of weight & the BMI has been in the healthy range for the last 3 months. Still more work to do on the BMI for 2022, but it's going in the right direction.
I left the Scottish mainland at the end of October. At that point, my sister was so impressed with the way the virtual walk was going, that she suggested I needed to walk back South again next year. As a result, the 2022 New Year's Resolution is to walk back from Hermaness to St Agnes which will help will lowering the BMI as well.

The final thought having completed the virtual route was it might be fun to have a go at this for real in the future. That works out about 16 miles for two months, which doesn't seem impossible to complete during the summer months. Clearly, a lot more planning would be needed to work out a nicer route that avoided walking along the M4/M5/M6 & through the centre of some fairly horrible cities like Birmingham & Glasgow. It would also involve having to carry my lightweight bivi tent, a sleeping bag, thermarest, spare clothes etc to make it an unsupported walk. But it might be a fun challenge.

20 Nov 2021

20 Nov 21 - Reflections

Last weekend, a Little Auk was found in Weymouth Harbour, but I didn't hear about it till it was dark. It was relocated in the channel around the old town, but there was insufficient light to get there before it got dark. It was still around a few days later, & I tried for it one lunchtime. Unfortunately, it was AWOL for the limited time I had. While I connected on an early pre work visit on Friday morning, it was fishing actively and the best views I had was as it swam past me underwater. Keen to have another attempt, I had to wait till the Saturday lunchtime, thanks to a poorly timed flu jab. But this point, it was clear it was also spending time in the main marina: which perhaps explained its absence on the first attempt. I arrived to hear it appeared to be swimming back into the old town channel. Other Birders spotted in just down channel of Westham bridge & it finally stopped fishing & spent a few minutes on the water's surface. Unfortunately, it wasn't that close, but it was good to finally get some photos. Even better, were the reflections of a turquoise sign on the Southern quayside.
Little Auk

25 Apr 2021

25 Apr 21 - Nice, But Not Tickable

Whilst out today on one of the quieter back roads in the historic Isle of Purbeck, I came across three male Reeves's Pheasants. Their status in this part of Dorset is a bit of an oddity. Clearly released, but they are either still being released or seemly surviving OK. I was seeing them erratically & occasionally from 2008 to 2013 in this area, but it's an area I've largely neglected for several years. The other interesting comment I can make is, I've never seen any females. Have they been released as well, but are more likely to be mistaken as a Pheasant by the Pheasant-shooting brigade in this area & shot. Perhaps they are just more skulky. Either way it's a shame as they look cracking.
Reeves's Pheasant: Male. Turn the sound on