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 WirralWe 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 Friends of Hilbre, 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.
Once 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. 


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.

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.

Busway Poppy Memorial

https://www.leighobserver.co.uk/news/tribute-at-busway-in-leigh-is-blooming-beautiful-1-9317104

L.O.S. Move Westward to Little Woolden Moss

Date: Saturday 9 September 2018
Time: 0800-1315 hours
Weather: Rain - Grey Skies - Rain Grey Skies followed by a drop of Dry - Grey Skies!

Was this a day to invite regret at perhaps too much hoping for things that, once they appear, cause us to hear that refrain..."be careful what you wish for"... Let me explain ...


The schedule of life said that this was the day on which that enthusiastic team of birdwatching stoics from L.O.S. had requested a wander about Chat and Little Woolden Moss (LWM) having recovered from their wander over Barton Moss last winter thus up I rose to that which I have craved for this summer of relentless baking sunshine .... Rain..glorious rain...err but thought I, not today please! Well didn’t you so wish for such weather, said the contrary sky.

OK it’s true I craved rain because I have watched the ‘wader life force’ that has sat out on LWM become a desiccated sweep of uninviting barren peat which should at this time of year be giving life sustaining rest recuperation and rewarding snippets of refuelling food to migrating waders but with the ironies of ironies here was my beloved rain not yet capable of creating pools of delight for wildlife but otherwise ensuring that it could but only create a damp squid of a day out on these ‘my’ sweet Mosslands whilst not bringing in birds to delight in seeing by our visitors...such is the way of all things ... it will be overcome for whomsoever meets me on the moss cannot help but find a gleaning gem of landscape which is so underrated by those who wear life limiting blinkers.

Windscreen wipers on full alert, off I trundled to Moss Farm Fisheries where right on cue I found nine ‘let me at it’ members of L.O.S. disdainfully regarding the glowering skies and ready to hit the glistening trail of rain-clad tracks. A Kestrel started off the day list... we were up and at it...

Field number two held a flock of Black Headed Gull, a few Woodpigeon and not the Swallow it has hosted this summer for they had moved on ... and so did we, heading north up Cutnook Lane.

Croxden Peatworks with its tenacious pools which have fought off the previously referred to dehydrating sun hosted a Green Sandpiper which gave a nod to autumnal wader movement and a positive spring to our collective stride. Onward we pushed soon heading in a westerly direction.

Rain kept at bay allowing our faithful day list recorder to almost end up with writer’s cramp as we encountered the double delight of more pooled areas coupled with a ‘lovely sweet smelling’ (oh the irony) pile of night soil. This pairing combining to host a flush of birds which were soon lifted into the air as a female Sparrowhawk swept in without an invitation to the insect picnic.

Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer and Greenfinch took to the sky which had but a few seconds before had been occupied by departing Swallow which barely ruffled the air in their haste to get out of town as they saw but South Africa as their yearned for winter home... offended that they choose not to stay with me on our Moss? I am not, for I do realise that the rain I have so wished for will then lead to insect depleting weather... our list had grown.

A slight retracing of steps as no one it seemed wished to trudge through the four foot deep pile of treated sewerage (did I tell you about my encounters with a cloying mass of such that I once waded through at Tyldesley Sewerage Farm back in the sixties to check out a small Black Headed Gull Nesting Colony?) brought us back over to Twelve Yards Road, but not before we had noted a couple of obliging Linnet which were perched out on some power lines.


The rain then set its flowmeter to ‘high’ therefore on our arrival on LWM we decided to take refuge in the poly tunnel which is now seemingly in its last days of existence as it has been blessed with yet another batch of those who see only negative destruction as their salvation. What always bemuses me with such types is their so predictable pattern of behaviour:
  1. Find somewhere where positivity exits 
  2. Take advantage and shelter of this site 
  3. Get bored and start to damage it 
  4. Revel in the fact that those who care for the site try to repair the damage 
  5. Redouble the vandalism first started..
  6. Finally destroy the whole edifice...
  7. Err, ‘we’, the vandals now have nowhere to hang out.
WHAT! ... say I ....

The rain abated, we headed further west, the erstwhile pooled area had not captured this morning’s rain (as we had) and few birds were noted as we moved about the site, but orientation lessons were taken on board for future visits by members of the team. Success on a birdwatching day out comes in many forms!

Then after adding a lone Whitethroat and a few heard but not seen House Martin, we decided that a genteel chatty retreat back east which offered a welcoming ‘hug’ from the comfort zone of the Fisheries Cafe and but half an hour later ambrosial food and cuppas were served up in warm welcoming surroundings The day had been won - one nil for Team L.O.S. - whilst Team Weather took its defeat in style, for as we left for home it cried buckets of crocodile rain-shaped tears.

Dave Steel