L.O.S. Fieldtrip to mid-Lancashire - Saturday 24th November

For our third trip of the L.O.S. season we are visiting a number of sites in part of Lancashire which include Conder Green, Glasson Dock, Pilling and Knott End. We are meeting at Doctors Nook car park (on the other side of the main road from Leigh Library) at 8.00am prompt.

Car sharing is a must on this trip as some of the stopping points only have enough parking for around eight to ten cars. This trip involves little or no walking, and is very suitable for people with reduced mobility. We will basically park up, get out of the car and birdwatch, although there will be opportunities to walk a little further if required.

On leaving Leigh we will head to Conder Green picnic area (LA2 0AN) and the journey takes approximately 1 hour. Anyone who wishes to go directly there should be at this point at 9am but please let me know). We will birdwatch from Conder Green for about an hour. Then I will give directions to the next stopping points and things to look out for. 

There is an expected high tide at 11.30am and this will hopefully push the birds towards us. Our final destination will be Knott End at about 3pm. 

A recent revisit produced 46 species so the prospects of reaching 50 species are very good. A scope will be very helpful on this trip but by no means essential.

Leigh Ornithological Society Hit the Beach Running for their Hilbre Jaunt

Saturday 27/10/18 1000-1645 hours -  Bright and Sunny with a Northerly Blow

Society safely shepherded shore-shore solely scintillatingly steadfastly by our surefooted shore-man ‘Young Kenny’, our lone Hilbre guide for the day who happily welcomed Team LOS to his spiritual home…this gemlike plot of tranquillity and episodic isolation to which Kenny often safely and skilfully negotiates those of us landlubbers such as on this particular visit who admittedly are governed by the inland tides offered by such as Pennington Flash and the Ship Canal!

The launch time of our first footfalls was set at 10am sharp but the responsibility of ensuring that wet feet were avoided as ever weighed heavily on Kenny’s shoulders, especially as his right hand men were unable to turn out today and as much as his Mancunian H&S obsessed sidekick for the day made his role slightly easier, the full responsibility hovering about Kenny’s head put him into Shepherd mode....and within a few minutes the comfy corral in Morrison’s breakfast bar was emptied and all were inducted into the ways of safely negotiating our route to splendid isolation....

The weatherman had done his best to paint the day with a virulent colour of fearful conditions but in reality the northern blow that accompanied this crossing carried with it blue skies dominated by the sun....step by step over admittedly a ruffled carpet of sand (caused by as Kenny explained ‘wind over sea condition’) we absorbed energising life....arrived at and crossed over Middle Eye with ease and with careful steps moved over the rocky way that led us to our temporary Desert Island home.

Observatory reached, most of the Team settled to elevenses whilst others set up their cameras ready to capture the images that a lively sea whipped up by the persistent northerly blow...a truly refreshing sprite that didn’t bite too deep to lessen our love of this late October visit to this often unpredictable isle which may not deliver birds in a big species spread but impresses with its bank of natural history that always gives impressive memories.

A wander over to the slipway at the northernmost tip of the isle was populated with images of a roaring seascape, elusive Grey Seals which played hide and seek in their wave rich habitat and Common Scoter which bobbed about on energetic white horses.

A vigil at the slipway which with ease refreshed the Team, as if all had committed to a week at an expensive Spa, gave few additions to the day list but all were made abundantly aware that the health of the surrounding sea as a larder was more than capable to feed a swarm of Cormorants and satisfy the ever present marauders of the sea, Great Black Backed Gulls.

A return through the private sections of the isle added a lone but vital mammal addition to our wildlife list and I’m sure that the Short Tailed Vole was happy to put a smile on the faces of our gathering before it retreated into the undergrowth.

Lunch, chat and lounging about in the relative comfort of the obs occupied the next hour. Kenny then put on his Hilbre Isle Historian/BTO bird ringer/Comedian hats after which, as with all street performers. passed round the Obs hat round. He must have been good for this was generously filled to the brim.

Then, as all drifted about the Isle there was the additional bonus for Kenny and myself, as the son of the original owners (they generously donated the building to the obs group decades ago) paid us a visit...memory lane was then walked for many a mile before we bid Nick a fond farewell.

Middle Eye held its usual massed choir of Oystercatchers with some legroom left for Herring Gulls and possibly another species or two which could have been noted if effort had been made to look beyond the spectacle of so many assembled ‘Pied Clad Redbills’...

Wandering over and about our isle ...yes the tide was still holding us happily captive...took place for a further hour or so with some of the Team finding small gatherings of Turnstone and Ringed Plover whilst others simply allowed the isle to hold us in its welcoming arms before the waves parted and invited us to leave.

Then as the odd Little Egret swept by no doubt carrying a sign to Kenny that the dry was coming the bird log was called after which belongings were gathered and off we trooped over to west Kirby...

Breezy chatty footfalls then took all back to our start point within the hour and after a fond farewell to the Hilbre Team of One and his temporary Right Hand Man...All left with Hilbre isle smiles…it always does that to you!

Dave Steel

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Hilbre Island, Wirral - Saturday 27 October

Our next L.O.S. Fieldtrip is on Saturday 27 October to Hilbre Island on the Wirral. We will be meeting on Doctors Nook car park at 7.45am opposite Leigh Library. Please note that this is a Saturday trip and that parking is currently free for anyone wanting to leave their car in Leigh and car share.

For those going directly there could you please let Paul Pennington our Fieldtrips Officer know, as we will be meeting at the Wirral Sailing Centre building at the north end of West Kirby Marine Lake, opposite Morrisons on the junction of Dee Lane and South Parade (postcode CH48 0QG) at 10am prompt. Leave your car anywhere on South Parade which runs alongside West Kirby Marine Lake where parking is free.

At 10am we will be guided across the estuary by one of the birders who run the bird observatory there, Kenny McNiffe. Ken will give us some of the Island's history and show us round. It is important that we all take a packed lunch and wear suitable waterproof clothing in case of poor weather. It would be a good idea to wear wellingtons if you have them as we may need to walk through some shallow water enroute and especially coming back.

It takes roughly one hour to reach the Island from West Kirby Marine Lake, so it's a bit of a walk. On reaching the Island Ken will take us to the Bird Observatories Council (B.O.C.) building which is the base for bird recording and ringing on Hilbre. There he will give us a short briefing before the tide comes in and then we will be marooned on the Island until it goes out again.

High tide is at approximately 1.15pm and it will be just after 4pm before we can return to the mainland. There was some talk of a vehicle to take our equipment over to the Island, but chatting to Ken this cannot be guaranteed, so please be aware that if you are taking cameras, scopes, tripods etc that you may need to carry them all the way there and back.

Useful Websites:
Birds of note which could be seen include Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Brent Geese, huge flocks of various waders, and Atlantic Grey Seals at close quarters. There have been recent sightings of a Yellow-Browed Warbler and if we are lucky we may get to see a bird or two ringed in the B.O.C. building.

This is a bit of an adventure, and one not to be missed if you haven't visited the Island before.

Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

The Manchester Raptor Group – its History and Work

The group began life as the Mosslands Barn Owl Conservation Group, founded in the mid 1990s when it was clear that Barn Owl numbers were at an all-time low in Greater Manchester. Not much was known then about distribution, other than a few well-established sites where pulli had been ringed by the Leigh Ringing Group, which had put 96 boxes up in the 1970s or before (per former L.O.S. Conservation Officer, Roy Rhodes).

Boxes were made by Dennis Price and members of the Leigh Ornithological Society and Wigan RSPB. The only surviving documentation I have from the 90s mentions Jeff Hurst, Ian Bithell, Jim Disley, Eddie King, Alan Whittle, and Peter Johnson (from Radcliffe), as contributing boxes. There may well have been more. By 1999, 20 new boxes had been installed, mostly on the mosslands, and these complemented about 20 still existing from the Leigh Ringing Group.

Over the years since, some of these older boxes have been replaced and others have been relocated, either due to non-use or development. Some were lost where barns fell down, or were redeveloped unknown to us.

In 2006, the first nest trays for Peregrines were installed on buildings in Manchester City Centre, and as I was involved in this initiative, as County Recorder, and also because Barn Owl box installation was moving out of the Chat Moss area into the rest of Greater Manchester, it seemed sensible to re-name the Mosslands Barn Owl Conservation Group as Manchester Raptor Group to reflect this wider sphere of interest, and this took effect from 1st January 2011. This also enabled us to bring other local raptor studies under the aegis of the group. Important studies of Long-eared Owl, Kestrel, Little Owl and Tawny Owl were ongoing elsewhere in the county and I was aware of these through my work as County Recorder 1992-2011. Since 1999, Peter and Norma Johnson have monitored 690 Tawny Owl chicks, 487 Kestrel chicks and 75 Little Owl chicks fledging from their boxes in the Bury and Bolton areas, whilst Bob Kenworthy monitors a population of Long-eared Owls in the east of the county.

It was also decided to affiliate to the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF) and our breeding results are published in its Annual Review in November each year at the always-oversubscribed conference. Older copies of this can be seen on the website www.raptorforum.co.uk

I was able to devote much more time to Manchester Raptor Group when I ceased to be County Recorder in June 2011. In 2016, a group of Barn Owl enthusiasts in the south Manchester area, led by Jamie Dunning and Chris Sutton, formed a sub-group of the Manchester Raptor Group and tackled areas in the county that we had been unable to visit, through lack of time and manpower. These included Carrington Moss, Dunham and the Mersey Valley. They have erected many Barn Owl boxes in those areas and have also provided boxes for Kestrels, Tawny and Little Owls. Similarly, in the Bury, north Bolton, Rossendale and Rochdale areas Rob Archer, helped by Craig Bell and Brian Kirkwood, have built and put up many boxes and established a breeding population of Barn Owls at altitudes which had previously been dismissed as unsuitable for them.

Following the success of the Peregrine nest trays in Manchester, which itself brought a number of enthusiasts into the group, trays were erected at Rochdale and Bolton Town Halls and Oldham Civic Centre. Pairs were discovered on mills, and in quarries, where they have had mixed success. The fledging rate at safe urban sites is high, and has been echoed throughout the country, providing a reservoir of non-territorial birds which can quickly move into areas where birds are shot. Indeed, the appearance of immature birds at a nest site in the breeding season is usually an indication of persecution.

The Manchester Raptor Group therefore specialises in Barn Owls and Peregrines throughout Greater Manchester and extends, since 2016, into those 10km squares in which the county boundary falls. Currently we have erected 114 Barn Owl boxes and monitor 31 others provided by landowners or other bodies; 5 quarries, and 6 buildings which are disused, dangerous or in ruins which host Barn Owls. However, the west of the county still holds the majority of the sites, with 90 falling into the Leigh Ornithological Society's recording area. 2017 saw a record number of 120 Barn Owl chicks fledging, and in the same year we monitored 14 Peregrine sites which fledged 26 young. Most of our Barn Owl and Peregrine chicks are ringed – we have two ringers and hope that another can join us in 2019.
Judith Smith

All photographs taken in the L.O.S. Recording Area by Martyn Jones (c) 2016-17

We are the Custodians of our Environment

Here is a short excerpt from the video of Dave Wilson's presentation about the history of the L.O.S. and its involvement with Pennington Flash.
We, as individuals and as society, are the custodians of our environment.
It’s my firm and unconditional believe that we should all strive to ensure that those who come after us will be able to inherit at least what we inherited and have the opportunity to enjoy their surroundings and the creatures that they attract.
We can’t keep passing the buck onto somebody else, certainly not councils or other professional bodies. Already this Society, the L.O.S., is heavily involved in positive ventures, visits, active conservation work, involvement with schools, and so on.
If, at any time in the future we don’t have the answers to a simple child’s question, “Where have all the butterflies gone?” or “Where did the Skylarks used to sing?” then we will have failed in our work.
We have to triumph for the sake of ourselves, those who come after us and certainly those who came before us.