L.O.S. at Leigh Library - Saturday 30th March

Some members of the L.O.S. will be at Leigh Library from 9:30am until about 1:30pm tomorrow (Saturday 30th March) to promote the Society, our Young Birders' Club and some guided walks we're doing around the hides at Pennington Flash on Sunday 31st March (Easter Sunday).

We'll be able to answer any questions you may have about the L.O.S. or our Young Birders' Club as well collecting names and e-mail addresses for our mailing list of future events.

So if you're in Leigh tomorrow morning, why not pop along to the Library and have a chat.  We look forward to meeting you!


Well it was a little quiet at the Library for a Saturday (probably due to it being Easter weekend), but we met a few families who all seemed quite interested in the Young Birders' Club and several who said they would be at Pennington Flash tomorrow for the guided walks.

Thanks to Brian and Roy who helped man the stand with me for a few hours and thanks also to the staff at Leigh Library who were very helpful and accommodating.

St. Richard's R.C. Primary School Presentation

Our last series of primary school presentations before Easter have been at St. Richard's R.C. Primary School in Atherton. We visited the school twice to give our 'new style' presentations which split the feeding of birds from the their identification.

Our first session started with a Y4 class and later a Y5 class with George introducing Leigh Ornithological Society and explaining what the Society is and does and why we call it the L.O.S. (most of us can't even say Ornithological never mind spell it!). George then went on to tell the children why we're visiting schools, especially at this time of year, with details of how we call all help the birds in our gardens, parks and schools.

Getting Started
The presentation then began a discussion about which birds we are not likely to see locally such as Penguins, Ostriches, Hummingbirds and Golden Eagles with reasons as to why not. This was followed with a short quiz with photographs on some of the birds we should be able to see quite easily both locally and in our own gardens. There was a very good response from the children who were keen to answers questions and who also had many of their own.

Making a hanging bottle seed feeder
Then it was time for the main activity which Brian explained and demonstrated very carefully and clearly to each of the classes.

The Y4 class made hanging seed feeders from a recycled plastic bottle by inserting two thin garden canes at right-angles for perches, poking holes around the middle of the bottle through which the birds can eat the seed and then threading some garden wire through the top to hang it up.

A completed fatball feeder
The Y5 class made some fatball feeders by cutting the bottom off a plastic bottle, making a hole in the side for the birds to eat the fatball and threading some garden wire through the top to hang it up.

The fatball was then placed inside with the netting removed so that the birds don't get trapped. This simple feeder is actually one of the quickest and most effective of all the ones we make.

Martyn explaining bird foods
After this Martyndescribed and demonstrated some of the best types of bird food to use in and around the feeders at home and in school. This included sunflower hearts, black sunflower seeds, nyger seed, fatballs, peanuts and monkey nuts, mealworms as well as mixed seed.

A tub of each type of food was shown to the children who were very interested in the different sizes, shapes and colours of each.

This section was completed by briefly mentioning that some birds prefer to eat off the ground or bird tables, whereas others eat by hanging from tree branches. More is done on this in the next session.

Filling the seed feeder with seed
The first session was completed by Martyn who gave some details about the L.O.S. Young Birders' Club and website as well as our next planned guided walk around Pennington Flash - a letter was given out for the children to take home to their parents.

Finally the pupils were asked to design a new logo for our Young Birders' Club and told that it was a competition with a bird-related prize for the winner. But perhaps more importantly, the winning design will be used on the LOSYBC website and any other documents we produce.

Our second visit to St. Richard's was focused on bird identification. The main activity was to build a rotating Bird ID Dial and then use it to identify some birds from photographs.

Brian's demonstration
Brian clearly demonstrated how to make the Bird ID Dial and explained how it could be used. He was very keen to emphasise that the cutting out should be done ''carefully, accurately and meticulously!"

Carefully, accurately and meticulously!
After the demonstration the children worked in pairs to cut out the dial's two cardboard discs and then fasten them together with a split pin fastener.

When they had finished, Martyn went to explain that some birds feed mainly on the ground and other mainly by hanging from branches, although they both may sometimes do the opposite when food is short.

After a brief outline of many ground feeding birds, he described two of them in detail, the Blackbird and Chaffinch, with large colour diagrams projected on the whiteboard and then finished off with the songs that each bird makes. Brian then did the same for two hanging feeder birds, the Blue Tit and Goldfinch. The class really enjoyed seeing the drawings and hearing the different sounds

Hard at work on the bird quiz
This identification section was completed by doing two quizzes based on bird photographs. In the the first quiz the children had to use what they had just learnt and their ID dials to identify some common garden birds from full photographs, writing their answers on a sheet.

The second quiz was a little harder, because only parts of the birds were shown in the photographs. A few pupils even went on to do a third quiz which was much harder than the first two.

The children all worked very hard on these quizzes and many got all the answers correct, so well done to all of you!

Hanging the feeders
Our final activity was to go outside and hang up some of the feeders which the children made last week. A pair of step ladders was borrowed from the caretaker as well as a window pole to pull down some branches of a nearby tree.

Risking life and limb, Martyn stood on the steps to hang up a group of four feeders outside the Y4 classroom so that it could be seen from their windows - the same was also done with the Y5 class. However, as it was quite cold and windy, it wasn't surprising that we didn't stay outside for very long!

It was a pleasure to visit St. Richard's because all the pupils and staff (Mrs King, Ms. Cunningham, Ms. McGhee and the Office Staff) were very welcoming and enthusiastic. We hope to go back again sometime to do a session on recording the birds we can see either on the feeders, or perhaps on a short fieldtrip somewhere.
Martyn Jones

Photo of the Week - Whiffling Geese

Whiffling Canada Geese at Moore Nature Reserve in Warrington
I'd never heard of the behaviour called 'whiffling' before I took this photograph. Apparently some birds, particularly geese, fly upside down to slow down and lose height just before landing, and this is known as 'whiffling'. These were lucky shots as I didn't realise at what I'd got until I looked at them on the computer back at home.

Whiffling Canada Geese - (c) Martyn Jones

Fieldtrip to Marbury Country Park – 10th March 2013.

Anyone who likes walking in an icy cold wind with snow blowing around would have loved this trip. Even so, the snow was only fine and didn’t stick on the ground, so it didn’t hold us up. However, when we arrived at the car park for Marbury Country Park it looked as though there was snow on some of the trees as the Blackthorn blossom was now open.

We made our way to the hide by the side of Budworth Mere and saw a number of smaller birds in this area, including four different members of the Tit family, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and Nuthatch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming, a Jay was seen and just behind us a Song Thrush was trying out its song. One of our members who had arrived well before we did had also seen Treecreeper and a Kestrel. The Mere itself gave us Great Crested Grebes, of which two birds were doing the head shaking part of their courtship display and we also saw Cormorant, Tufted Duck and a Grey Heron. A single Sand Martin which was flying round over the water must have been wondering if had it taken a wrong turn with the cold winds, snow and everything else it was having to face.

Onto Hayden’s Pool where we saw Lapwing, Teal, Gadwall, some more Tufted Ducks and it was near here that we had some good vies of a few Buzzards flying low as they took flight from the trees they had been perched in. The only other plants I saw in flower were some Gorse but all round there area I was seeing Cuckoo Pint, Ramsons and Bluebells leaves now through the ground and growing well, although as yet not in flower.

We moved to Neumann’s Flash for our last stop where we saw Shelduck, Shoveler, Mute Swans, Black-headed Gulls, a lot of which now had their dark heads, more Great Crested Grebes, Grey Heron and two Oystercatchers which flew past us.

On our way back to the start we managed to get a good look at a male Great Spotted Woodpecker on a dead tree and on a small pool was a single Black Swan by the side of two Mute Swans. As we watched these birds preening it gave us a good chance to compare the difference in size between the two species and could see how much smaller the Black Swan was.

Finally we arrived back at the car park and it was time for home but as we travelled back we could see hills in the distance now white on their tops with a covering of snow. Thanks to Al for organising the trip, Martin Ansell for his knowledge of this area and leading us round and to Martyn for my lift.
Jeff Hurst

Ynys-hir Trip Date Changes

Please note that the planned fieldtrip to Ynys-hir RSPN Nature Reserve has been changed to Wednesday 22nd May due to the proximity to the trip to Lesbos which only returns on the previous Saturday.

It's the place where a recent BBC Springwatch was filmed and should be a great day out. All are welcome but please remember it's an early start (7am) from Doctor's Nook Car Park.

L.O.S. Young Birders' Club visits Lilford Park

On Monday 25th February the L.O.S. Young Birders' Club team (Tony, George, Brian and Martyn) accompanied two classes of young naturalists and their teachers from St. Thomas' C.E. Primary School to Lilford Park in Leigh as part of their school curriculum on the environment.

Atherton Wood and Bedford Wood (also known as Hough Wood) are part of the boundary plantations of Atherton Hall which had an 18th-century landscaped park. Bedford Wood was presented to Leigh by Lord Lilford in 1914 and became Lilford Park.  There is now a volunteer group dedicated to ensuring the park's future who have their own website called The Friends of Lilford Park.

An artist's impression of the guided busway
In the Park the children wanted to see for themselves the effect the proposed £76,000,000 'Guided Busway' from Leigh to Manchester is having on the environment, as well as enjoying the experience of being in some of the oldest woodland in the area.

Back at school the children will be using this first hand experience to do some descriptive and persuasive writing about whether they think the guided busway is a good thing or not.  Hopefully this trip will help them make up their own minds.

Unfortunately, the bird life in Lilford Park seems to have suffered a decline in recent years and so the LOSYBC Team came armed with identification sheets for trees, spring flowers and winter twigs, just in case there weren't so many birds about.

George's Group
Whilst we waited for the children's arrival at the main gates, we did see a Nuthatch high up in the trees as well as a Robin, some Magpies and a Crow. Although we couldn't see them, we could soon hear the enthusiastic chatter of the children from deep within the woods and so we made our way towards them, to meet at the top of the main pathway in the park.  After handing out bird checklists and splitting the classes into four groups each with a teacher and an L.O.S. member, we set off to explore the woods.

Martyn and Brian's Group
George set off with his group first and spent a lot of time identifying the vegetation types as well as spotting the odd bird or two.  Martyn stopped his and Brian's groups and asked all the children to be as quiet as possible.  He explained that listening to the birds and hearing their calls and songs is as important as being able to see them.  Whilst they were quiet a Blue Tit, Chaffinch and a Robin were heard, as well as the cawing of two Carrion Crows flying overhead.

Tony Talks to Everyone
We next stopped at the route of an old railway line which used to run through the park.

Tony explained that  many railway lines were closed in the 1960's following the Beeching Reports and that the proposed guided busway follows the route of some former railway lines from Leigh to Manchester via Tyldesley, Ellenbrook and Salford.

The Route of the Old Railway Line
Here the children saw evidence of some of the many trees which have already been chopped down along stretch of the 13 mile route.  He told the children that this was being done early in the year to avoid the breeding season when many birds would be nesting here, so as to cause as little disturbance as possible. And it seems that ecological surveys have already been carried out with some great crested newts relocated to a purpose-built pond somewhere along the route.

A Worker on the Guided Busway
Whilst we were near the proposed route we met a worker along the route who said that the trees being chopped down were being shredded into 'mulch' to put on gardens, and so they weren't being entirely wasted.

The busway is supposed to cut journey times by 45 minutes, with at least eight direct services on most of the route at peak times on weekdays.

Hugging a tree
We then went deeper into some of the older parts of Lilford Woods where the children used the sheets to identify the vegetation.

They found many beech (mast) nuts and acorns, some sycamore seeds, a pine cone or two and the remains of a few conkers.  Some of the trees here are very old as can be told by their size and one group of children joined hands to encircle a tree and give it a hug!

Looking for Woodpecker holes
Martyn pointed out the many woodpecker holes, particularly in the softer bark of Silver Birch trees and he explained that the smaller holes were where the woodpecker was digging for insects whereas the larger holes were for nesting and rearing young.

He also said that the rotting tree stumps and branches were an important food source for insects, which in turn are an important food source for birds.

Identifying a Leaf
From the leaf litter, Brian's group identified birch, beech, oak, conifers, horse chestnut and sycamore as some of the important trees species here and the evergreen rhododendrons, holly and ivy as the dominant shrub species here.

The spring flowers weren't out (we didn't see any Snowdrops here today) yet but we did find some wild garlic leaves and a few fungi growing on the bark of dead trees.

Tony is given a Sycamore Seed
The children were very methodical in the process of identification, giving reasons for ruling out the species their specimens couldn't be, before choosing their best answer. They were constantly finding things of interest and were very keen to find out what they were.

Towards the end of the trip Tony also explained about the flood prevention mechanisms which have been put in place here to avoid flooding in the Lilford and Bedford areas of Leigh.  A large flood storage basin has been created with a gate at one end which can be closed to hold back the floodwaters.  With the gate closed, the water fills the basin and floods the meadows along one side of Atherton Wood, protecting the local houses.

To finish off the children had some time on the swings and slides in the playground area of the park.  This was a really nice way to end what had been a very pleasant and successful morning for all of us. A big thanks must go to Mrs Currie, Mrs Chambers and all the support staff who made this such an enjoyable experience.

Martyn Jones

Sponsored Birdwatch 2013

Ruff  -  (c) Martyn Jones
This year's Sponsored Birdwatch will be held on 21st September.  This is a very important event for the L.O.S. as it helps raise money to support the ongoing work and events of the Society.

We are doing the Sponsored Birdwatch later in the year to give members the chance to join or start a team of their own. Please collect a sponsor form and a bird checklist from the Derby Rooms on a Friday night or ask any member of the Committee. Please also register the name of your team and team members.

Alternatively, you can download the sponsorship form, rules and bird checklists by clicking any of the links below: 

Bird ID Help Needed

Stephen Tebbott from Horwich in Bolton has sent us two photos of a bird he'd like identifying.  I assume it has been seen locally, but I'm not sure.

If anyone can help please write your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this post, or email me at leighos.webmaster@gmail.com.


The general consensus from the comments is that it is an albino House Sparrow - I for one have never seen one of these before!