The 2020-21 Season Approaches ...

As we approach what would normally be our new season, I am sure that everyone realises that things are going to be different for the L.O.S. for quite a while yet. We currently have no plans to hold any Friday night presentation meetings at Leigh Library, but weekend field trips will probably be going ahead. Please use our Facebook group and our main website pages to keep up to date with the details of any L.O.S. activities.

L.O.S. Letter of Objection to Westleigh Waterfront Development

The L.O.S. has sent in an objection letter to the proposed Westleigh Waterfront development. Please seriously consider lodging your own objection of up to 2000 words on the Wigan Council planning portal. Instructions for how to register are on the excellent website. 
Here's the most important section of the letter:
We wish to support the objection made by WWRAG to this scheme for the following reasons:
1. The loss of three quarters of three hectares of mature woodland and 80-90% of tree cover will deprive resident birds and bats of breeding and roosting areas. Some of the birds are red and amber listed.
A bird survey was not carried out by the developer's ecologist as part of the EIA however local residents have carried out such surveys and these have been forwarded to GMEU and is copied in the main objection.
2. Habitat loss. Parts of the site are certainly 'Brownfield' in nature, but this does NOT mean that they have no value – indeed, far from it.
The Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Practice Guidance on Natural Environment (21.1.2016) includes the following paragraph:
“Can brownfield land have a high ecological value?
It can do. A core principle in the National Planning Policy Framework is to encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. This means that planning needs to take account of issues such as the biodiversity value which may be present on a brownfield site before decisions are taken.”
We at the L.O.S. would argue that the land for proposed development at Westleigh Waterfront is of high environmental value because of the diversity of bird species recorded on and around the area, which in turn is due to the diversity of habitat present. This is characteristic of land that has been “re-invaded” by nature in a post-industrial setting.
Vital habitat for nesting and foraging for RSPB red and amber listed birds would be threatened or lost. This categorisation is taken from the internationally recognized December 2015 “Birds of Conservation Concern 4” survey by the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, and several other conservation agencies.
Red listed birds are defined as:
Species are globally threatened.
· Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995.
· Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years.
· Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
The following red-listed birds have been recorded as resident or breeding on the site. Cuckoo, willow tit, starling,song thrush, mistle thrush and linnet.
3 The site is an important part of two wildlife corridorsOn a large scale, the corridor linking South Lancashire and Cheshire Mosses and the West Pennine moors for migrating birds such as the northern wheatear, whinchat and meadow pipit.  On a more local scale, but perhaps even more vital for the borough, it provides a green link between the Country Parks at Bickershaw and at Pennington Flash. Wildlife needs these corridors to be uninterrupted, to allow movement between sites, particularly when there are pressures on certain areas during intense public use such as the Ironman event at Pennington. If these links cease to exist, it is well-known that bird and animal life will leave such areas permanently, in search of locations where they can be less disturbed.
4 The proposed development is adjacent to Pennington country park which is of national importance for birds and wildlife. The building of 450 houses and a through road will inevitably affect those creatures which depend on it for feeding and breeding
5 This proposal represents a further loss of green areas and woodland which not only have an impact on nature but also on local residents for whom such open spaces are an amenity and a resource. We can ill afford to let another green space be taken up by development.
6. This loss of green space needs to be seen in the wider context of the borough-wide threat to such areas. As a reminder in the area next to or close to Atherleigh Way there are approved developments at:
· Leigh north between the Atherleigh Way bypass and Hindley Green: 1800 houses. The developer failed to include recreational space in its application.
· Pocket Nook, Lowton: 600 houses
· Atherton south: 850 houses
In addition, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) includes developments West of Gibfield at the north end of Atherleigh way (550 houses) and of 180,000 m2 of industrial building at Pennington South.
All this development work will destroy green space and this area of Leigh borough must be the most affected area in both Wigan Borough and Greater Manchester County.
Across the UK, people are becoming more and more aware of the value of green space, and all the more in this current crisis where travel is limited and people are needing to find local resources for both physical and mental recreation. The continual infilling of green areas in our borough with housing, business and industrial development is completely out of balance with this change of public opinion, and the increasing desire to leave a green legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Leigh Ornithological Society receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Leigh Ornithological Society (L.O.S.) is a group of volunteers based in Leigh and we have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK. It is the equivalent to an M.B.E.

The Society was founded in 1971 in response to landfill threatening locally important wildlife habitat. Since those early days of eight founder members, the L.O.S. has grown into a highly respected environmental group that has successfully helped reduce subsequent threats by conserving wildlife, collecting/publishing biological data and liaising with local, regional, and national bodies.

L.O.S. has developed over time and now has several offshoots. We have a volunteer group who dedicate much of their time on maintenance projects around the 1971 landfill site, now Pennington Flash Country Park. We run a Young Birders' group which has a team who visit local schools and clubs as part of a community education programme to enlighten young people about the benefits and joys of the natural world. We make and erect bird nest boxes, create wildflower meadows and plant trees throughout the Borough. We hold open days and a series of monthly indoor meetings and field trips to promote the society’s work and to engage and educate the public.

L.O.S. is one of 230 charities, social enterprises, and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations has increased year on year since the awards were introduced in 2002, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Representatives of Leigh Ornithological Society will receive the award from Sir Warren Smith KCVO KStJ JP, Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from the Society will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

Leigh Ornithological Society Chairman, David Shallcross says: 
“This is a wonderful achievement, it is a major honour to receive this prestigious award on behalf of the Society I am delighted that the group has been recognised in this way. I would like to pay tribute to hard work and commitment of the Officers, committee, valued members and volunteers past and present not forgetting the society’s founders of 1971”.
It is a major honour and an acknowledgement of the hard work and enthusiasm of our volunteers in promoting wildlife conservation in the local area over the last 49 years.

Important Notice

L.O.S. Fieldltrip to Mere Sands Wood and Hesketh Out Marsh - Saturday 14th March


Nuthatch (c) Paul Pennington
Saturday14th March saw an abrupt end to our fieldtrip season due to the Coronavirus. Our trip to Mere Sands Wood would be our last hurrah for the season, with our April and May trips cancelled for the obvious health reasons. Although only nine birders attended, it would prove to be a great outing.

Six of us gathered as arranged for 8.30am at Mere Sands car park, with Raymond, Linda and Joan set to join us a short time after.  We would head off in an anti clockwise direction along the Blue Trail. Our first port of call would be the Marshall Hide over looking The Hollow. Here a small flock of Black-headed Gulls noisily prepared for the upcoming breeding season, and a dozen Tufted Ducks in all their finery, but the best spot was a single Water Rail that skulked among the waterlogged Willow Trees, proving very difficult for a number of our crew to pick up. Eventually all located the bird and left the hide looking forward to the rest of the circuit.

Next, the Ainscough Hide, here much of the same really, Canada Geese, Mallards, and a Kingfisher heard from the previous hide finally made an appearance giving good views. Moving on, and to the small Holmeswood Corner feeding station, Chaffinches and our first Nuthatch, in the field beyond the feeding table, a Song Thrush and a Redwing in excellent condition, happily picked around in the search for food.
Moving along to the Redwing Hide, Shovelers about fourteen in number, pairing up. Across on the Twin Island, five or so Snipe snoozed along the waters edge, accompanied by a couple of pair of Gadwall and Teal. To our left in one of the more mature trees a roost of some ten or so Cormorant.

Next would be the Rufford Hide, which proved very popular with the group. The Snipe were closer to observe, but amazingly three Kingfishers flitting back and forth, with one posing for photographs right in front of the hide.

We took a slight detour from the main Blue Trail and along the White Trail on the outer edge of the woods, here we would see Jays and a fleeting glimpse of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, both of which, we would get better views further along. We then cut off trail and headed through the majestic Scots Pines, here we would see Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit and the odd Coal Tit. Eventually we reached End Lake Platform. A Jay gave us some lovely close views.

Across the lake a Buzzard rested on a solitary pine tree in the warm morning sunlight. Over on Mere End, a Great Crested Grebe looking for a meal close to the remains of the burnt out Cyril Gibbons Hide. In the meadow by the visitor centre a Chiffchaff endlessly called in search of a mate.  Other birds of note on our circuit of the reserve were, Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, Goldcrest and Treecreeper.

So it was time for a spot of lunch. With some 44 species logged on the reserve, well deserved and quite impressive. After lunch we headed off to Hesketh Out Marsh over looking the Ribble Estuary.

At the end of Dib Road we parked up and walked the short distance to what was the so called Bus Stop viewing shelter which is no longer with us after a storm. It is now basically a platform with a couple of benches from which to observe the salt marsh. 

On our way up to the shelter a Hen Harrier flew from the fields and out towards the Marsh. Also in the distance a small gathering of Whooper Swans which eventually moved along to pastures new. Two Avocets gave great viewing in the pool directly in front, with a number of Redshank, and one Black-tailed Godwit. A Peregrine Falcon flew from the outer Marsh and away over the farmland swooping down for a kill in the distance. Other birds of note on the Marsh were Oystercatchers, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Curlew.

Eventually the tide came and went, and a happy crew headed off home with some 62 species recorded along the way. 
As usual great company, some excellent banter and a good time had by all.


Finally with a heavy heart I'm afraid to say, our recent somewhat frightening pandemic has prematurely cut our season short. Thank you all for your support, advice and company for season 2019/20.

I will plan our next seasons trips as usual, September through to May. Here's hoping we all stay healthy and safe. Hopefully all can return to normal very soon, and more birding adventures can be enjoyed as a group.

Thinking of you all.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer