L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Leighton Moss RSPB - Sunday 13th January 2019

A RATHER BLUSTERY DAY

This was our fifth trip of the season with a new twist as we made it a 'decide on the day' for where to take our adventure and, as I waited for our troops to gather, a song entered my head - this one from the 'Adventures of Winnie the Pooh':
Oh, the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say

That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It seems that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day, today. 


Watch it here on YouTube:

After a short discussion, the hardy souls decided that somewhere with some form of cover to protect us from the weather would be the safe option. So Leighton Moss RSPB seemed ideal.


Warton Crag would be our first stop with views of Raven and Peregrine Falcon hopefully.

On arrival not a bird to be seen. Fortunately we didn't have to wait to long as a flock of Jackdaws some 200 strong returned to the Crag to entertain us with wonderful aerial displays as we continued to search the rock face in search of our goal.


Then the eagle eyed Peter Hodson picked up a Peregrine and it's mate at the far left hand end of the Crag. Unfortunately no Ravens. But a little blip like this would not put our hardy birders off.
So feeling a little more upbeat, although a little windswept, off to Allen and Morecambe Hides just a short journey away.

The Allen Hide produced a strong gathering of 200 plus Black-tailed Godwits and similar numbers of Lapwings, a smattering of Dunlin, and a pair of Shelduck

So onward to the Morecambe Hide. Here we saw Wigeon, Redshank, Pintail, Greylag Geese, a single Kestrel, and two Knot plus many more Lapwings. There had been a Greenshank reported so we set about scouring the satellite islands. Then the rain and wind came with gusto. I'm sure I heard one of our troops singing 'Bring Me Sunshine', after all we were in the Morecambe Hide. Luckily for us, two Greylags forced the Greenshank from its shelter on the leeward side of one of the islands, which gave us good views.

The rain went as quickly as it came, so it was time to head for the main Leighton Moss reserve. After a short break, a bite to eat, and some warming expensive coffee, it was time to go in search of the Great Grey Shrike which had been reported earlier that day.

A quick visit to the Causeway Hide on our way to the Lower Hide. A single Dabchick, the usual Cormorants, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal and Pintail plus a few Mallards.

On the way to the Lower Hide a very tame group of Titmice greeted us in search of seed. Blue Tits, Great Tits, a couple of Coal Tits and a favourite of mine a single Marsh Tit. I even tricked a Great Tit to sit on my hand pretending to have a palm full of seed.

On reaching the Lower Hide area, we searched for a good 30 minutes for the Great Grey Shrike, but alas we dipped. But it was well worth a try. The hide itself produced two Great White Egrets, so all was not lost.


Last port of call would be Lillian Hide. At the entrance to the hide high up in the Alder trees were a handful of Siskin. From within the hide all the usual birds and 8 Snipe, one of which was out in the open right in front of the hide).


45 species were recorded from a big effort by everyone. The weather became kinder as the day wore on, so it was worth the effort.  Well done to all who attende
d and hope to see you all on the February Trip.

Thank you for you company, as usual a great day.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

National Willow Tit Survey 2019-20

Willow Tit at Pennington Flash (c) Martyn Jones
Do you see Willow Tits on your local patch? Here in western Greater Manchester they are uncommon, but not really difficult to see, with their distinctive call, and they do come readily to bird feeders. But they are absent from most parts of the country, and are the second-fastest declining species in the UK, lost in large parts of southern and eastern England. Needless to say, they are Red-listed.

The RSPB in conjunction with the Rare Breeding Birds Panel are organising a national survey 2019-20, with Simon Wotton, simon.wotton@rspb.org.uk at the RSPB being the contact.


You can ask for the tetrad (2km x 2km OS square) into which your local patch falls, and all that is required is the checking of suitable habitats in that square twice between mid February and mid April, playing a recording, which is supplied, every 200m. Full directions, a map and the recording are supplied. For those not quite up to speed with new technology, you can now download the records to a smart phone.

A PDF form to record the Willow Tits called “WT Survey Form 2019-2020” and a PDF entitled “WT Survey methods Information Sheet” can be obtained from Joan Disley - please either ask or email leighos.editor@gmail.com for these forms.

Judith Smith

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Ainsdale Beach and Lunt Meadows - Saturday 8th December 2018

KEEP YOUR EYES TO THE SKIES AND PRAY

For our fourth trip of the L.O.S. season we met at Doctors Nook at 8.00am on a wet miserable morning. Fingers crossed, we headed off to Ainsdale hoping the window of dry weather promised to us was going to enable us to get some birding in.


On arrival at Ainsdale Discovery Centre at 9.00am we teamed up with three members that had travelled direct this made six in total, with the promise of 3 others to join us at around 11.00am. We had a short discussion about the weather. We quickly agreed that we had only about 3/4 hours and that Lunt Meadows would probably be a bad idea as the afternoon forecast was one of persistent heavy rain. Not good conditions for any Short-eared Owls or other birds for that matter. Also no shelter to escape any downpours and just the prospect of a good dousing.


So after deciding to abandon Lunt we headed out. Firstly to Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Lake. (try saying that after a few drinks) This would give us some shelter from the strong westerly wind and we thought worth a mooch.


The lake produced a stunning male Goosander along with a host of Mallard and Tufted Duck and also Goldfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and a few more of our more common birds. Then onwards to Ainsdale Beach via the sand dunes. On reaching the beach the tide was being pushed along by the strong westerly wind. High tide was only 90 minutes or so away, so a good time to arrive.
 

Along the tide line some 100 yards in front of us we spotted our first Sanderling. To the naked eye they looked like little balls of polystyrene being pushed onto the beach by breaking waves. Then every birdwatchers nightmare, kite surfers setting up, dog walkers along the tide line coming in our direction and two women walking ten dogs between them.

They forced the hundred or so Sanderling into flight and off northwards into the distance. Then they released all ten dogs right in front of us. Time to redirect our plans.

We decided to head towards the sand dunes away from the tide and walk north bound up the beach and beyond the ten frolicking dogs.


Walking north bound hugging the dunes, we saw a small flock of Linnet some fifteen or so in number. But in the distance along the ever rising tide were birds, a lot of birds. Being battered by the strong wind we continued northwards hoping for good views.  We decided to cut into the dunes and use them as a screen between us and what we could now see very clearly where thousands of waders mixed with Gulls and Cormorants. We were now some two miles further up the beach.


After another few hundred yards done with military precision, we literally crawled and scurried like commandos to the top of a small dune by the beach armed with cameras and binoculars for what proved to be a sight worth beholding.


Thousands of Oystercatchers stood like statues some thirty or so yards in front of us. Similar numbers of Dunlin and Sanderling constantly being disturbed by the still incoming tide. Flocks of some sixty plus Knot made short sorties along the tideline. We were in bird heaven, no dog walkers and all the kite surfers had exhausted themselves and long since given up. 
 

Looking further up the beach northwards in the distance were thousands of waders rising briefly from the tideline into the air like plumes of smoke. Tempting as it was to investigate the rain was closing in fast over the sea in front of us, a looming darkness, not something to get caught in. 
 

With the heavy rain almost upon us we made the return journey within the shelter of the dunes. A solitary Kestrel hunting, the odd Meadow Pipit rose from the tussocks of grass. Jeff Hurst helped us identify some of the plant life along the way.


Eventually we reached the vehicles and spent ten minutes chatting about our day, with a sandwich, and a welcome brew from our flasks. With Lunt abandoned and only 24 species under our belts we wound our merry way home. All the cobwebs blown from between our ears, dry and exercised, and ready for the next adventure. Considering the conditions, a great day, in great company. Although we were a little thin on the ground.
Hope to see you all in the New Year. Have a very Merry Christmas.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieltrips Officer

The Annual L.O.S. Shindig at Leigh Rugby Union Club

Members and friends of the Society enjoyed the annual get together at Leigh Rugby Union Club last night, in particular, the wonderful slide presentation by Martyn Jones.

Martyn’s show title was “Adventures in a Birdmobile” he described the idea as a way to get close to birds using the vehicle as both accommodation and a hide, the show incorporated several key birding sites around England and including Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland.

Martyn is a first-rate photographer and put together an educational, informative and sometimes amusing evening’s entertainment, well produced and enhanced with birdsong and musical themes.

My thanks, to all who were involved in the evening, quiz suppliers, raffle organisers, prize givers and of course the audience, a special thank you to our presenters Fairy Nuff and 'Elf & Safety' (Anne Johnson, Brian Fawcett and Tony Bishop) not forgetting the caterer Amanda’s Pantry for providing delicious hot food.

The evening concluded with a monologue from Monica King “Joyce the Librarian” and a singalong of Christmas songs led by Eddie King.

On a sad note, Tony has informed us that after Brexit the elves and fairies who reside of course in the E.U. will not be allowed to perform on this side of the water, so next year’s visit is on hold.

A Merry Christmas and a prosperous Brexit, thanks to all for your valued support, David.

'I'm Going to Tell a Little Tale' by Dave Wilson

I'm going to tell a little tale. It's not about rare events or rare birds or spectacular happenings. It will be an attempt to remind everybody of what natural treasures we are able to find wherever we go and what we may lose if we cease to appreciate and protect them in an ever-uncertain world. I begin across the Channel in Normandy and finish with thoughts from home and the uncertainties for our future.

Not far from my eldest daughter Helen's family home stands one of Europe's most impressive coastal attractions - the ancient island abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. Between two and three million visitors a year attest to its appeal - to the genuinely devout; to painters and photographers; and to many who are taken there as willing, or unwilling, members of coach tours.

Commercialism there is rampant, and, whenever possible, I prefer to spend my time by a huge marshland, Le Marais de Sougeal, upstream from the tourist gatherings along the dawdling Couesnon River which, from where I choose to wander, resembles a great flood plain rather than the true marshy habitats which are more plentiful further south.

I have never met another soul on my mooches there, and so it was again on a fine early October morning when I made my most recent visit.

As usual, before reaching the spacious greenery where horses and cattle mingle, and glancing at the familiar towering poplars which play host to large clumps of mistletoe, I begin to think back to previous visits and some of the surprising encounters which have come my way - Cattle Egrets sticking close to grazing calves and mothers; frogs in crystal-clear ditches; Spotted Flycatchers with newly-fledged young; gorgeous Beautiful Demoiselles at rest; a delightful selection of motionless butterflies, among them Painted Lady and Marbled White; and an unconcerned Muskrat, seemingly seeking a morsel from the track I was following.

Sadly, when I reached my first vantage point, the misty marsh appeared devoid of life with no signs whatsover of even the regular largest inhabitants - Mute Swan, Cormorant and Grey Heron. And then I remembered that, in this region, Thursday is the day when "hunters" roam about, practising their pot-shotting and my doubts were confirmed when loud cracks sounded from the other side of the marsh - and the ricocheting calls of hidden, startled Jackdaws disturbed the silence.

Thereafter, I concentrated on the tinier wonders at my feet and by my side - crane flies everywhere; occasional resting spiders near empty webs; late summer's sparse floral show and eye-catching autumn tints among the brambles; resting Small Coppers, Speckled Woods and a solitary Comma among leaves of changing colour; a Common Darter on the path; a hidden creature moving about near a cluster of fallen sweet chestnut fruits and shells and, as I left this place of refreshing solitude, a couple of Goldfiches tinkled by, rested briefly, and then flew together towards a clump of inviting thistles.

Chestnut shells and Goldfinches came to mind again a couple of weeks ago as I stood with others at the cenotaph in Atherton on Remembrance Sunday. By eleven o'clock the sounds of marching feet, brass band music and voices giving whispered greetings had ended for just two minutes - as silent now as when I rested by the marsh a month ago. And then, before the reveille was played and the flags raised, gentle Goldfinch music was heard from far away and a Grey Wagtail made a rapid flypast.

Whatever thoughts the assembled folk were having as they stood in respectful silence, some would perhaps have tried to imagine the horrors of past wars with battlefields of carnage, ruined lives, discarded weapons and shell cases.

Thankfully, even at this time of political turmoil, there are too many good and caring people around to ensure that the only discarded shells in future will be Mother Nature's - on the Normandy beaches and other friendly shores; by the secret anvil of Song Thrushes here and there; and beneath bountiful chestnut trees everywhere!

Dave Wilson