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

A Trip with Twite a Good Ending

Saturday 24th November

After the 8.00am meet at Doctors Nook, we caught up with the rest of the group at Conder Green Picnic Area at approximately 9.00am. The trip members began with a flurry of sightings, clocking up 35 or so species in the first hour, including Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Greenshank, Goosander and a pair of Common Sandpiper, just to name a few. A great start to our day's birding.


Then we moved across Conder Bridge to the pools just beyond. Here we added Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and a solitary Pink-footed Goose, along with some Redwing and Fieldfare in nearby Hawthorn bushes. After this brief stop off we headed off through Glasson Dock and on to Bodie Hill


On reaching Bodie Hill viewing point, high tide was due. Here we were greeted by the magnificent view looking towards Sunderland Point across the Lune Estuary. The salt marsh was buzzing with birdlife. Hundreds of Lapwing and Golden Plover with huge flocks of Linnet, many Starling, Shelduck. Also picked up in the scopes, a resting Peregrine Falcon.


Two Brown Hares appeared in the field below. The highlight for me were the Golden Plover in many numbers twinkling against the green backdrop, illuminated by the low winter sun that made a brief appearance. High tide came and went and the party meandered its way towards Pilling Amenity Area. On the way we saw Whooper and Mute Swan grazing in the unused fields. 


On reaching Pilling Amenity Area, we were greeted by a good number of Pink-footed Geese. We parked up adjacent to the shoreline. Curlew, Little Egret, and Linnet were observed with good numbers of Redshank once again. The real highlights of the hour we spent at this spot was a leucistic Linnet which caused some discussion on whether or not it was a Snow Bunting, but alas the over all verdict was Linnet


Then the spot of the day a Ringtail Hen Harrier putting up a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits whilst scouring the now receding shoreline for prey. Credit to Alan Wilcox for picking this wonderful bird out. 


Getting a little cold it was decided to head for Knott End our last port of call. On reaching Knott End the group headed to the ferry slipway hoping see the Twite, which are regular visitor to this spot. Good close up views of fighting Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Redshank and Oystercatcher and a distant male Eider spotted moving out with the quickly receding tide. 


Some headed for the cafĂ© and a welcome warm and hot drink whilst others bravely scoured the promenade in search of the elusive Twite, after all they would be a fitting end to our trip. 

A Kestrel kept several in the group entertained whilst hunting over the salt marsh.  Eventually it landed on the rocks without any prey, but on the next glance it had caught a mouse.  Either it had done this without us noticing or it had stashed ether prey there from a previous kill.
After a short break and the happy wanderers returning, the remaining members of the group regathered at the top of the slipway. A Pied Wagtail entertained us on the statue of L.S. Lowry as we waited. It was rather narcissistic as it seemed to like its own reflection in the shiny surface. I don't remember him painting matchstick birds, just matchsticks cats and dogs!


Then after a brief wait the Twite appeared, gathering around a mooring ring on the slipway for a drink of fresh water contained in the little depression where the ring was fixed. The flock of Twite came and went a few times. Lovely to see. 


With light fading and the ever receding tide taking the birds further from view, we as a group slowly dispersed and headed home, having had a great day in excellent company as usual. 51 species were recorded in total - a great day's birding. 


Thanks to all who attended and hope to see you all very soon on the next adventure.

Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to mid-Lancashire - Saturday 24th November 2018

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.