The Biking Birder

Posted on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Al Dawes, cheapest release-site manager, stomach reports:

The GBG was delighted to host a surprise visit today by Gary Prescott, information pills aka The Biking Birder. For those who haven’t heard about Gary’s quest in the news, he has set out on an epic journey to see as many birds as possible in a year and visit every RSPB and WWT reserve in the UK… by bicycle! As we found out, Gary is a passionate birder and is raising money through sponsorship of his journey for three charities he is equally passionate about: RSPB, WWT and Asthma UK.


Gary Prescott the biking birder
The Biking Birder, Gary Prescott, calls in to GBG.
Lynne Derry was able to show Gary five Great Bustards


Gary hopes to see more than 250 bird species, the current record for a non-motorised year list, during 2010. On day 47 of his adventure the Great Bustard became species number 140. Gary’s visit to the GBG wasn’t special just for adding one more species to his year list though: the GBG were proud that these were the first Great Bustards that Gary has EVER seen – despite spending weeks in Spain looking for them in the past!

Gary’s visit also took an unexpected turn when he learnt the history of one of the taxidermy specimens of Great Bustard at the GBG Release Site. The specimen in question is a female which landed on Fair Isle in 1970 and was eventually taken into captivity under the care of the now-folded Great Bustard Trust. When the bird finally died it was mounted and obtained by the GBG. It turns out that 40 years ago, almost to the day, it had been Gary’s dearest friend Gordon Barnes that had found this very bird in its exhausted state on Fair Isle! Having admired a single framed feather of the bird in Gordon’s house for many years, Gary couldn’t believe it when we told him this was the bird the feather belonged to, the same bird his friend had found and had so fondly talked about ever since.


Gary Prescott the biking birder

Gary Prescott pictured with the adult female Great Bustard found by his friend on Fair Isle on 11th January 1970. It was later caught on the 16th January and released on the 24th February. It was caught again on 5th March and kept in captivity until the 6th April when it was removed from the island. Unable to survive in the wild it lived out its days at Whipsnade Zoo.


In addition to raising funds for the three charities, Gary is also calling in to over 100 Eco-schools to share ideas with children and staff about being green and raising awareness of what effects climate change will have on all of us and how we can do our bit to fight it.

Actually, Gary’s visit has produced a little soul-searching of our own, as part of Gary’s mission is to promote a greener form of transport for birdwatching. Birding is a pastime which in theory is quite green but does admittedly produce large amounts of pollution when twitchers dash around the country chasing brief glimpses of rare birds or when we take flights to remote corners of the world on birdwatching holidays – or indeed to conduct the census and survey work in Russia and the Ukraine that is vital to the work of the GBG.

From a conservation perspective it is a fact that we all need to be more aware of our personal impact on the planet – perhaps walking more, consuming less, and offsetting our travel via a donation to the GBG might be one way to salve a worried conscience…


Gary Prescott the biking birder
With another species on his list Gary sets off for the next RSPB reserve.
Luckily the winterbourne had stopped flowing!


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Categories: Great Bustards, News

Charlie Moores

Posted by Charlie Moores

Charlie is the Great Bustard news & Otis (the official Great Bustard magazine) editor, as well as being an authority on birds worldwide & writing for several online blogs.

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