Male Long-tailed Duck at Pennington Flash

As you can see from our website header, Leigh Ornithological Society's logo has a male Long-tailed Duck in flight on it, and so it's nice to actually see one in our recording area for once. This one has been showing well at Pennington Flash for a few days now and, even though it's not in breeding plumage with a long tail, it's still rather special.


I am reliably informed that the reason that the Long-tailed Duck was chosen as the Society's emblem was because it would reproduce quite well on photocopied newsletters when, back in the day, everything was still done in black and white.


Well, judging by these colours, this bird will still look good on those old faded sepia-toned newsletters from the 1970's!

Pennington Flash Volunteer Group Work

The Pennington Flash Volunteer Group removing birch saplings from the butterfly area on Bickershaw Ruck near the lagoon.

We took down a few hundred today, another go at it in about two weeks and that will be sorted.
Many thanks to all the troops.







Friday 7th October - L.O.S. AGM followed by presentation on Hen Harriers

On Friday 7th October the L.O.S. will hold its Annual General Meeting at the usual time of 7:30pm in the Derby Room at Leigh Library. Nominations for members wishing to be elected to the L.O.S. Committee, should be received by the Chairman prior to the meeting.


This will be followed by a presentation given by James Bray from the RSPB entitled 'Hope for the Hen Harriers'. James will be giving us an insight into the work being carried out by the RSPB to try and remedy the critical situation regarding the Hen Harrier.

Please come and join us for what should be a very interesting evening and bring your friends and family.

If anybody is interested in getting involved with the LOS please let us know.

Frodsham Marsh Fieldtrip - Sunday 11 September 2016


This is our first fieldtrip of the new season. We are meeting at Doctors Nook car park (WN7 1EQ) at 08:00 hours for a departure no later than 08:15. We'll be parking on the road bridge over M56, off Marsh Lane Frodsham (WA6 7BJ). The road seems to change its name to Brook Furlong just before the bridge. If you are going straight to Frodsham, please be there for 09:00 hours.

We will be met by "Mr Frodsham Marsh" himself, Mr Bill Morton whom has been frequenting the marsh since he was a young lad. At 09:15 we will be setting off onto the marsh and we'll be there until 15:00-15:30 depending on what's on and around the area.

There is a Facebook group called 'The Birds Of Frodsham Marsh' and they also have an excellent website called 'The Frodsham Bird Blog' for details of habitat and what we're likely to see. This will keep you up to date with happenings during the week.


I would suggest good footwear, suncream, insect repellent and also to be prepared for whatever the elements throw at us, although at the minute the forecast is 18C and fair.

Bill comes at a cost, so there will be a nominal charge on this trip. I will try to remember to post on here later in the week, as its down to numbers - hope you understand.

Any questions please dont hesitate to ask on here or call me on 07930948392.

See you Sunday
Steve Scrimgeour

LOS Pennington Flash Volunteers Second Work Session


Many thanks again to the troops for a successful morning's work at the Bunting Hide in Pennington Flash.


Joan Disley, Catherine Gallimore, Charlie Owen, Dave Wilson, David Shallcross, Graeme Robertson, Alan Prescott, Mike Longden, Shaun Murphy, Graham Blackburn, George Pike, Peter Logan and Jeff Hurst.


In our efforts to conserve the vast amount of bird food that is used each year, we built a willow barrier on the top of the right hand ditch to stop swans coming in - sorry swans, but the food isn't for you as you clear all the tables in a few minutes.


We also completed the wire fence work to stop dogs from entering the feeding station and carried out some freshen up painting of the inside of the hide.


More work is planned later for this hide and the next work day will be announced soon. If you'd like to join the L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteer Group, please contact David Shallcross - leighos.chairman@gmail.com

Thank you all.
David Shallcross 


The 2016-2017 Season Kicks Off

The L.O.S. 2016-17 programme of indoor meetings with illustrated presentations by experienced birders, conservationists and wildlife photographers will be kicking off on Friday 2nd September with a talk entitled 'The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail' by local favourite and L.O.S. member Dennis Atherton. 


The full programme with descriptions is available on this website here:


L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteers Start Work


Although good weather arrived for our first day as volunteers at Pennington Flash, the previous few days had been very wet and most of the paths and hides were under water. Therefore we weren’t able to do any work on the feeding station bird tables and perches, as the water had almost reached the table tops.


So what we did was to:
  • brush and clean down the inside of the Bunting hide and wash and disinfect the seating and shelves with Jeyes Fluid
  • carry out fence repairs and renewals to the Bunting Hide approach
  • mend the gate latch
  • cut down overhanging tree branches and did some thinning out in the surrounding woodland.
  • litter pick around the site concentring on the area around the lagoon on Ramsdale’s Ruck


Many thanks to 19 of the group who could make it today, and to Mr Graham Workman Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles / Development Manager - Biodiversity, for his advice on habitat maintenance and the provision of equipment. 


Thanks also to Jeff the “park ranger” for his cooperation today and to Michael Fishwick, Greenspace Development Officer. for supplying equipment and wire fencing.


Thanks to everyone who turned up to help on the day including Eddie King, Dennis Price and Tony Bishop who aren't shown on the photo above.


The next session will be on Saturday 3rd September from 8am until 11am - bringing your own tools isn't essential but is always useful.
David Shallcross

Bird Food and Feeder Sponsorship

The L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteers working at Bunting Hide next Tuesday (23/08/16) have kindly been sponsored by the following suppliers who have donated food or feeders for the project. 

http://www.gardenwildlifedirect.co.uk


http://www.haiths.com

Michael Morris - The Sad Tale of a Local Pioneer Naturalist


Most, if not all, readers will be aware of the contributions made to the success of this Society and local ornithology in general by Frank Horrocks and Tom Edmondson. A very few members knew them personally; to others, the names of the hides at Pennington Flash will serve as reminders of their great affection for the flash; and lengthy obituaries in Newsletters will inform recent members of their contributions in several ways.

 What is less known are the names and activities of a tiny handful of their contemporaries, and the only one I have any brief details about is a young Lowton naturalist, Michael Morris. My knowledge of Michael is based upon occasional conversations with Frank and Tom, both of whom regarded him as a kind and gentle young man who was in his element exploring the countryside and discovering new sites and their plants and animals. 

The tale which will unfold by reading extracts from his letters to Tom are from a bygone age, but speak volumes for the dedication and enthusiasm of a few like-minded men who, individually and collectively, deserve the highest recognition from all the nature-lovers and conservationists in the Leigh Ornithological Society for their infectious love and respect for our much-loved natural surroundings.

The extracts from five of Michael's letters to Tom and one from Frank to Tom are followed by a brief newspaper report and preceded by a short paragraph from a letter sent to me (David Wilson) by Tom Edmondson shortly before Christmas, 1986.

“Dear David,

I have retrieved from my attic the few letters from Michael Morris that I have kept – five from 1953 to 1957. You may copy them but please do not publish any of the personal details during my lifetime. As you will see, Michael valued my friendship and such help and encouragement as I could give him. I treasure the memory of a remarkably nice and affectionate man.”

Michael to Tom - 10th September, 1953
Dear Tom, 
I must apologize for not writing before. The fact is things have been rather at a standstill lately and there has not been much to write about. My mothing activities have had rather a blow. The light which I had in my bedroom window or my garden, and by which I caught many new moths, I now am unable to use owing to the fact that certain people have complained to the Council about it, so I have had it. Anyway,I am trying to carry on the best way I can without it and I did find two new moths before I lost my garden light – the Olive and Oak Hook-tip.......... 
I am at present sugaring in Borsdane Wood, Hindley, but I haven't found any new moths yet........ 
Last Saturday, Frank and I went to Ainsdale. I was delighted with the plant life on the sandhills – Field Restharrow, Sea Holly, Sea Kale and many more........ 
Next year I hope to get a light trap. I could not afford one this year. I would like to thank you for all you have done to help me. 
Your friend always,
Michael.

Michael to Tom – undated, 1954
Dear Tom, 
Thank you for your letter and the three-drawer cabinet. It is very good of you to give it to me. I will call for it as soon as I can. 
I told you in my last letter that I had sent my records of moths to the Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Committee. Last week I received a reply from Mr.M.W.Michaelis, the reorder. In it he said that I had worked very hard in my district and my list covered nearly all the common species likely to be found in my own area........ 
I cannot get any more new species without the use of a light trap and, as it is not possible to use one at my home, I might sell my furniture and try to get two rooms in a house with a large garden so that I can use one, but of course it is a big step to give one's home up, and I shall probably be misunderstood wherever I go......... 
Your friend always,
Michael.

Michael to Tom - 14th November, 1955
Dear Tom, 
I hope you won't be offended in me sending you this postal order. It is a contribution towards the cost of your reprints of your paper in the North Western Naturalist........
We know that you must be under great expense as you have worked very hard on this and other papers and it contains some of my records. This is the best I can do to help.

Friend,
Michael.

Michael to Tom - 1st April, 1956
Dear Tom, 
…..... Things are fairly well with me and I have been seeing interesting birds on the flashes. There have been Pintail at Astley and two Scaup ducks and an immature drake at Pennington, as Raymond Yates will have told you about, and yesterday there was a lovely drake Garganey at Astley....... 
The only migrants we have seen up to press are Wheatears and we have noted a movement of Bramblings, seeing them in places where we have not seen them before. On 25th March, I noted a flock at Lilford Park, Leigh, and Raymond saw some at Dean Dam. There were also some at Worsley Woods on Friday – three cocks and two females........ 
I am finding it increasingly difficult to find new moths, but I keep on trying now and again. After a very cold February the weather turned fairly mild and there was a good emergence of the Dotted Border......... 
Your friend always,
Michael.

Michael to Tom - 26th February, 1957
Dear Tom,
Frank has told me you would like a copy of the list I sent to Oakes. It is only a small one as I have not put down anything I have seen with Frank, only things I have seen on my own........
[ Following details of probable Blackcap nesting at Newton; duck numbers at Pennington; Goldfinches, Bullfinches and Long-tailed Tits at Risley; and Coots at Astley, the final paragraph in the last surviving correspondence ended:-]
Anyway, if there is anything else you would like to know I will help you if I can, but the most important thing is how are you. 
Your old friend,
Michael.

Frank to Tom - 21st September, 1958
Dear Sheila and Tom,
A man who lives close to here came on Friday evening with the terrible news that Michael had been found drowned on the beach at Southport. Perhaps you have read of it in the newspapers.
He called here on Tuesday evening having just bought a new wireless, and being on holiday he mentioned that he was going to Southport the following day, when the tragedy must have occurred. It has been an awful shock to us all.
The only other information I have is that the inquest is on Tuesday. What actually happened I don't think we will ever know, but probably he was trapped by the tide. 
Yours sincerely,
Frank.

Extracts from Leigh Journal report of the inquest

Michael Morris's body was found on Southport foreshore last Thursday about a mile out.

Michael's brother, Llewellyn Pryce Morris of Bolton, said that although in good health all his life he was unfit for Army service in 1941-42 because of heart trouble. His eyesight was poor and he wore spectacles.

“He couldn't swim to my knowledge, although he was careful when he went near water,” said Mr.Morris. “He spent most of his time at week-ends birdwatching and with other friends was keenly interested in birds. He visited Southport on previous occasions for this purpose.”

In reply to the Coroner, Mr.Morris said his brother was quite cheerful and had no worries as far as he knew.

P.C. Alan Livesey said that last Thursday morning he was taken to the body of Michael a mile out. It was in a kneeling position, fully clothed except for shoes and stockings, and the trousers were rolled up to the knees. A haversack contained a light meal and a flask of tea. In the clothing was a bus ticket and a cheap day return rail ticket from Wigan to Southport.

Dr. J.G. Benstead, consultant pathologist to Southport Hospital, said Michael died from asphyxia due to drowning.
This article has been compiled and written by David Wilson

L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteers

Today saw the inaugural meeting of a new group of volunteers intent on improving and maintaining the nature, birding and wildlife facilities at Pennington Flash.  Led by Leigh Ornithological Society Chairman David Shallcross and under the umbrella of the L.O.S., the volunteers will maintain the habitat for wildlife and birds at Pennington Flash by refurbishing the feeders, mending the fences and clearing unwanted vegetation so the the public can once again enjoy the bird hides and walks around the Country Park.

Twelve volunteers turned up at the first planning meeting today with the promise of another fifteen who couldn't make it due to holidays and other commitments.  The maintenance work will be carried out under the guidance of Wigan Council who will make sure that Health and Safety rules are followed and the correct equipment is used.

The first work will be carried out at Bunting Hide in three or four weeks time, where the layout will redone under the watchful eye of former Warden Charlie Owen with better squirrel-proof feeders and less clutter. Some consideration will be given for photographers but it must be remembered that the hides are for everyone to enjoy seeing wildlife and not just the snappers amongst us.

Anyone is welcome to volunteer in any capacity, no matter how much or how little you can manage. There is no expectation to be at every session we do and David was keen to stress that it would be fine to stop work if you found you couldn't do something, or needed a rest - no pressure would be put on you to continue.

So if you would like to become a member of the L.O.S. Pennington Flash Volunteer Group, contact David on leighos.chairman@gmail.com or by coming along to the next session, Details will be made available on this website and on our new Facebook Group page here:

Surplus Trees Available from the Forestry Commission

The L.O.S. has received this message about some surplus trees which are available from Duncan Macnaughton at the Forestry Commission:
The Forestry Commission nurseries at Delamere grow millions of trees per year and there is always a surplus, especially when some don’t quite make the grade for commercial planting. At the moment these trees are stored in chillers, so they are still OK to plant. However these will be turned off fairly soon, and so these trees are offered to charity/conservation groups before they go to the compost heap. They usually have to be signed for because of this.

Although they could be planted out now (they’ve been ‘checked’ in chillers) if they can be maintained, it might be best to heel them where they can be looked after in until autumn. The holly are as plugs I believe.
I was wondering too about a bank or hedge of holly and rowan at Colliers Wood, Higher Folds where it could benefit birds without detracting from the open views/space some of the locals want. If I cannot find somewhere to heel the trees in here (they don’t actually take up too much space) then a summer planting session might be on the cards!
If L.O.S. members want some of these trees for sites then they should be suitable to heel in. I also suggest that trees are planted quite densely, then thinned out at later dates to allow for loss. Trees come in bags of 50 to 100+ normally.
  • Holly -~2k 
  • Sycamore – 5.4
  • Wild cherry – 3.6
  • Sweet Chestnut – 2.2
  • Beech – 1.8
  • Sessial oak - bits
  • Grand Fir – 1.5K 
  • Rowan – 29.9k
  • Various Sitka
Please contact Duncan by email: Duncan.Macnaughton@forestry.gsi.gov.uk if you are interested.

Hilbre Island Like You've Never Seen It Before

We've just received some stunning aerial video footage of our recent fieldtrip to Hilbre Island by Jay Knight.  He produced this video by using a remote-controlled drone with a camera, some DSLR video and a number of still photographs by David Shallcross.  It certainly gives us a different perspective on things!

Annual Sponsored Bird Race - 15 May 2016

Yesterday four teams competed in the Annual L.O.S. Sponsored Bird Race, which entails the teams spending the day recording species seen in the L.O.S. Recording Area. The team with the most species seen on the day takes home the winner's trophy.

Yellow Wagtail (c) Alan Wilcox
The four teams taking part were The Duck and Drakes, Eddie's Eagles, The Little Bustards and The Feather Brains. It's a fun day generally with lots of laughs and we finish up in the pub in the evening to get together for a drink and a meal and to present the silverware and share our tales of the day. 

Lesser Redpoll (c) Alan Wilcox
The final scores for the day were:
  • The Duck and Drakes  - 79 species
  • Eddie's Eagles  - 73 species
  • The Little Bustards - 62 species
  • The Feather Brains - 60 species
Total Species Count for the Day was 84

Sponsored Bird Race 2016 Winners - The Duck and Drakes
Pictured are the winning team The Duck and Drakes receiving the cup, and the runners up Eddie's Eagles receiving the shield with a few images of some birds encountered during the day. 

Sponsored Bird Race 2016 Runners Up - Angela Pike from Eddie's Eagles
Finally a big thanks to all who took part and for any sponsorship monies raised by the team members which will go towards the Society's funds.
Report and photos by
Alan Wilcox

Tom Edmonson: A Tribute

“Do you know, Dave?  Today has been one of the greatest days of my life.  
Thank you for arranging it.”

These words were at the end of our last face-to-face conversation on June 9th, 2009, on the occasion of the naming of the hide overlooking the top end of Pengy's Pond at Pennington Flash in Tom's honour. Family members and a small group of Leigh Ornithological Society devotees had gathered to share in a moving, long-overdue and deserving act of recognition of the pioneering work of Tom Edmondson who sadly passed away on February 27th (2016) at the age of 93.

Two days after the naming ceremony, the late Lesley Richards wrote a very fine account of the day under the headline ”Hide at Flash named after Conservationist” in the Leigh Journal, and three short extracts from her article deserve to be repeated at this time. They are:-

By Lesley herself -
“Leigh's 'father of conservation', 86-years-old Tom Edmondson, has been honoured. The former New Hide at Pennington Flash has been renamed Tom Edmondson hide and was unveiled by the pioneer himself on Tuesday.”
My contribution was -
“It's no overstatement to say that Tom's pioneering spirit makes him the father of conservation, not just in Leigh, but for the borough as it is now. His contribution to alerting people to the importance of the Flash as a wildlife haven was massive.”
And Tom's own comment, in connection with the aspirational, but short-lived Leigh Field Naturalists and Town Improvement Society (1948-1950), read -
“The scheme was visionary and ahead of its time, and a decade or so would elapse before the movement to establish county conservation trusts became widespread. However, the rich bird life of the Flash had been established and the emergence of a group of like-minded individuals eventually resulted in the formation of the Leigh Ornithological Society. One of the Society's many aims was to promote wildlife conservation in the Leigh area.”
Tom's parents, Martha (nee Derbyshire) and James, were born in Wigan, and Tom was the fourth of five sons. He was educated at St. Peter's School (in Firs Lane) and Leigh Boys' Grammar School; studied later at Manchester Technical College; qualified as a Chartered Chemist and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry; and thereafter worked as a research chemist to various companies. His marriage to Sheila Cartwright of Bedford was blessed with a daughter, Linda, and a son, Stephen. In his own words, Tom's non-professional interests were 'The British countryside and its flora and fauna. Particular interests in Chat Moss, the birds of the South Lancashire flashes and in the conservation of prime sites.'

With regard to the beginnings of the local conservation movement, my brief account of over thirty years ago in 'Birds and Birdwatching at Pennington Flash' still holds true:-
“The earliest landmark in a history of continuous concern by local naturalists was on 29th September, 1938, when Tom Edmondson (while still a student at Leigh Grammar School) persuaded three other young men – Wilf Cartledge, Tom Durkin and Frank Horrocks – to consider the formation of a local association (to be named the Firs Lea Naturalists' Association), two of its objectives being “to study and record the natural history of the Leigh district” and “to promote the preservation of the local countryside.”
Uppermost in the minds of these pioneer conservationists was concern about the future of Pennington Flash. The 1939-45 War brought about an end to the 'association', but did not dampen the enthusiasm of Tom Edmondson, who motivated interest in the flash and other local sites in his capacity as secretary of the short-lived Leigh Field Naturalists' and Town Improvement Society (1948).

There was a brief resurgence of local interest in the 1950s, no doubt brought about by concern at the commencement of tipping of refuse by Leigh Corporation and coal waste by the National Coal Board. A public meeting held in Leigh Technical College in March, 1958, and chaired by Dr. Brian Fox of Atherton, heard a strong case for the conservation of the Leigh Flash area, the main aim being “To create an area of undisturbed natural beauty and to provide a centre for naturalists and students of various sciences.”

By this time, Tom had left Leigh for good, but an article of his which appeared in the Journal in September, 1956, in response to a proposal to introduce hydroplane racing on the flash, concluded with a paragraph which was both visionary and a template for those who have continued the conservation struggle until the present day. Under the subtitle “Much Abused Region”, it reads -
“Local citizens would appreciate it if local councils were to show awareness of fundamental problems by publishing, for all to see, a full development plan for the district. In such a plan, if civilised ideals are to survive, it is necessary that 'green belts' should be clearly defined so that the abuses which have continued since the war and which threaten to increase may be checked. Among other things the future of Leigh Flash should be assured, and it should be confirmed as a nature reserve where sailors, anglers, naturalists and countrylovers exist peacefully. When that occurs we may have hope for a much abused region which has long been one of the Cinderellas of an industrial country.”
In a short note about the time he lived in Cheshire since 1957, Tom mentioned that his main activity was now botany, and included intensive studies of plant distribution in the parishes of Frodsham and Helsby and then, following the family move to Chester, of Flintshire and the eastern part of Denbighshire. In the Botanical Society of the British Isles publication 'Dandelions of Great Britain and Ireland' (1997), his contribution was recognised in the Acknowledgements with the statement -
“Foremost among the workers in the British Isles has been Tom Edmondson, who, despite ill-health, has made an important and original contribution to the study of the dandelions of North-West England.”
This praise would have been accorded Tom on account of his commitment to botanical studies in general and to his identification of two new species of dandelion – Taraxacum nigridentatum (Edmondson) and Taraxacum edmondsonianum.

In recent years, Tom took a keen interest in identifying the moths which came to his garden trap and, throughout his half century of birdwatching in Cheshire, he maintained a great fondness for Frodsham Marsh, a dedication recognised in an entry in the Frodsham Marsh Birdblog of December, 2013. Under the title 'Old Tom the Birder', Bill Morton wrote -
“Many years ago there was an old chap who used to visit Frodsham Marsh and would regale tales of his early birding visits to the marsh and many other sites (mainly Pennington Flash) in the North-West. Tom was a proper old school birdwatcher and he would raise an eyebrow if I ever called him a 'birder'. One thing Tom had was time to spare and share his love of birds and birdwatching. I'm a sucker for such things, especially those pioneers of Cheshire birding in the years following the end of WWII. Tom was a generous old man and would kindly give me copies of photographs and documentation from the marsh during his pioneering days here.”
Throughout his lifelong interest in natural history, Tom Edmondson was a prolific writer whose style and vocabulary suited any occasion, be it notes on bird recording, letters to newspapers, descriptions of treasured sites, tales of memorable past events, or whatever was required to please the reader. His output, chiefly between 1942 and the 1990s, included contributions to the North Western Naturalist (14), the Field Naturalist (3), Country-Side (16) and the Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Journal (42). With such a vast collection of interesting material, I propose to use a few of the most memorable extracts to allow Tom, in a way, to use his own words to conclude my article of profound appreciation and admiration.

On submitting records to the County Bird Recorder, when often only numbers and dates suffice, an account of two races of Redshanks at Astley Flash in 1958 reads -
“8 believed “Icelandic” ('robusta') sleeping together with several active 'britannica' a few yards away for comparison. Seen in bright sunlight at thirty yards with steady 30x telescope. White nictitating membrane closed. Appeared a little bigger and bulkier than 'britannica', but this may have been because they were hunched up in sleep. Plumage, under conditions of observation, perceptibly different – upper parts much darker brown, bill dark red at the base, remainder greyer than 'britannica' with smoky grey flanks and breast much more heavily streaked and darkly marked. Only flew when disturbed. April 20th.”
Part of the chronological account in 'The Spring Migration of Wagtails and Hirundines in South-East Lancashire” illustrating committed recording and a huge change in the local status of wagtails in the past half century -
1951. April 8th: gale force W. wind. 1 White Wagtail with 10 Pied Wagtails on Chat Moss. At Leigh, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 1 Chiffchaff. Also 4 Wheatears at Leigh and 23 on several mossland fields. These migrants may have been “grounded” by the wind strength or may have been deflected from a preferred coastal route April 9th – 14th: cold, bright cyclonic weather, gale force on the 14th. April 15th: strong southerly wind. At Leigh, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Sand Martins and 2 Swallows. April 16th: W. gale. 2 Yellow and 2 White Wagtails, several Swallows moving north across the strong wind. April 17th – 25th: fine, warm and dry, anticyclonic with light variable winds. During this period, Swallows and Sand Martins were moving north continually in small numbers or small flocks; a mixed party of 80 halted at Astley on the 20th. 2 Swifts appeared at Leigh on the 22nd – the earliest record for the district.
Although the weather was obviously suitable for migration, both kinds of wagtails were constantly at both flashes. Feeding conditions at Astley were exceptionally good and there were two peaks in numbers there on April 20th (45 Yellows, 12 Whites) and April 24th (124 and 34). On both these days there were halting flocks of hirundines. On the rich feeding grounds at Astley some 20 Pied Wagtails fed regularly during this period. These were nesting in the district and when approached too closely they flew away in various directions. Migrant parties of Meadow Pipits were similarly attracted. 
April 26th – 29th: strong, cold northerly winds with rain. Wagtail migration was retarded and their high numbers remained constant; on the 27th, many were sheltering from the wind behind tussocks of reeds. There were “build-ups” of Swallows and Sand Martins. As is usual under such conditions, they were fly-catching and flying upwind very low over the flashes. May 1st – 3rd: light SE winds, mild.. Rapid decrease in wagtail population at both Leigh and Astley. No obviously migrating Yellow Wagtails were seen after May 3rd: there were about 25 breeding pairs at Leigh and 15 at Astley.”
On a late summer walk with members of the fledgling Leigh Field Naturalists across part of Chat Moss in 1948 -
“Even more people went on the early September meeting, probably because the mosslands were unknown and intriguing. About thirty folk walked from Astley to Glazebury across the moss, seeing such new birds, at least to some of them, as Turtle Doves, Whinchats, Wheatears and Corn Buntings. Attendances remained high during the society's first year and the future seemed secure.” 
In praise of a site at Gathurst and a local poet (Leigh Journal, 3rd September, 1948) - “Dean Wood not only has a rich plant and bird life, but, because of its situation in the valley, has an intrinsic beauty of its own. It has captivated many country lovers, but perhaps none more so than Arthur Hodson, who dwelled there for several years and described his experiences in 1,300 lines of verse."

The opening lines of his first poem, “My cherished woodland memories”, are a fitting introduction -
"It may have been a glacial torrent
That carved, through rock, a bleak ravine
And Nature's healing hand had fashioned
An Eden from the cheerless scene.'
Truly an Eden, a hidden gem of beauty near a wilderness of industry.”
A short extract from a Leigh Journal article on 14th November, 1947 -
“Every year, in nature's inexorable way, vast numbers of Redwings from Northern Europe and North Asia seek the milder climes of the British Isles and the North Mediterranean countries. This year, I heard that welcome sound, so full of mystery, over Leigh on October 17th, which is also the average date for eight years. The following evening there occurred one of the greatest migratory movements that I have ever known. Above the glare of the brilliant lights, great multitudes were flying south-west and, during lulls in the traffic's roar, their calls were distinct but ignored by the crowds below. In the quieter reaches of the town they could be heard continually.”
Movingly bemoaning the destruction of a much-loved place, from “Astley Flash: A Lost Bird Haunt” in the magazine Country-Side (1970) -
“For many years Astley Flash gave considerable pleasure to birdwatchers. Unfortunately, coal production was increased after re-organisation of the industry and the spoil was tipped into the flash at an increasing rate. I re-visited the site after a few years' absence and found little left. I walked over the vast new tip where the flash lay buried and tried to visualise the teeming life of previous years. All was silence and death as if a primeval monster, regretting its act of grace, had devoured its own fair child. Even avoiding all sentiment, I felt that I was witness to a crime which ought not to happen in a proper society.”
In the closing lines of two of the last letters he wrote to me, reminiscing about two sites which are still being developed as wildlife havens. Of the Bickershaw complex - “ … a haven for a young lad who was fascinated by the countryside – as he is still”: and of the mosslands - “I must make an effort to look over Chat Moss again. A good day on Bedford Moss or Woolden Moss was as joyous as anything that I have enjoyed in the wilds of Scotland.”

And, finally and fittingly, the closing lines of Tom's loving account of his spiritual home from his last article for the Leigh Journal in 1954 - “Leigh Flash in the Spring” -
“In future years, when flicking through the pages of memory's notebook, I shall always remember the spring of 1954 and the sight of thirty-odd exquisite Black Terns floating and swinging in the air against a background of colliery headgears and mill chimneys. Perhaps, however, I shall recall those things which belong more permanently to Leigh Flash – an elegant White Wagtail hurrying along Sorrowcow Creek and Swallows arrowing to and from their nest in the barn, elusive Sedge Warblers scolding the intruder from the depths of the reeds, or clamouring Redshanks on the west shore, unheedful of miners cycling homeward along the cinder path. The last birds I saw at the Flash before returning to the Metropolis were three young Lapwings – little, animated blobs of down, cheeping and tottering on tiny legs. That is what I preferred, since it is the birds which make the place their home which belong there most.”
In concluding my words of appreciation for a dear friend, I need to mention that Tom's superb photographic collection, along with copies of his writings, will now be lovingly catalogued and made available to a wider audience when/if the proposed Leigh Archive opens in the Town Hall. As our “Father of Conservation”, his contributions towards the town and its surroundings will occupy its rightful place alongside those other daughters and sons deserving of recognition – good, ordinary folk in company with the more well-known – Alfred Wilkinson VC; James Hilton, the author of “Goodbye Mr. Chips”; the world of music's Tom Burke (the Lancashire Caruso), Georgie Fame and the recently-departed old boy of Leigh Grammar School, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music; and countless others from many fields, not least in sport during peace-time and in other activities during war-time.

As for the future, Tom would surely wish that more people would become personally involved in the struggle to protect and conserve our countryside and its wildlife, especially at this time of great uncertainty and when important decisions are made by those who care little or nothing about our natural environment. Total reliance on one or two committed diehards in the L.O.S. and those of professional conservation bodies is certainly not an option. Perhaps our greatest collective tribute to Tom would be for many of us to follow his example of skilful observation and recording; determining the degree of dependence by individual species on specific habitats; emphasising the importance of retaining and enhancing certain sites; and using the acquired information to challenge, verbally or in writing, the cavalier attitudes and decision-making which might destroy even the smallest parts of our cherished wildlife surroundings. There is no doubt that there will be a few successes, but more likely many disappointments as the pressures mount on finding ways and places to accommodate an ever-increasing population.

The pleasure in what might be achieved through individual involvement in local conservation will often involve a degree of wistful looking back to earlier times, and this was captured by Tom in a short article from 2006, where he welcomed the creation of the Pennington Flash Country Park, but with a moving reference to earlier days :-
“The flash became a new Country Park in 1981 but before that the splendid east reed bed and the equally fine south-side marshland east of Sorrowcow Creek had been tipped on.
The main water is still there but no longer can you stand on the eastern shores, far from habitations and people, in an autumn dusk and listen to garrulous wild ducks from afar as they cross the moon and pitch gratefully into the welcome reed beds.”
'The Conservation of Pennington Flash: Early Considerations'
Tom Edmondson C.Chem. F.R.S.C.
David Wilson

Flycatchers and Tales of the Unexpected - Part 1 by Dave Wilson

Towards the end of October (2015), during a reading of postings on the Society's Facebook pages; details of bird sightings from other places; and a search through my own pictures from a few years ago, I came across three photographs of flycatchers, all of which, though from different places and involving different species, brought to mind what I have always considered the greatest of all birdwatching joys – that is, enjoying, preferably with one or two friends, a completely unexpected or entirely unpredictable encounter with an unfamiliar species.

Spotted Flycatcher (c) Meg Steele
The first of these instances occurred on 23rd September, at Burton Mere, where Meg Steele, a newcomer to the Society's Facebook group and, as far as I'm aware, to birdwatching in general, came across an unfamiliar bird; arrived at a correct identification; and managed to capture a superb image of the Spotted Flycatcher for us all to enjoy. The unexpectedness of this encounter – in fact, the whole experience – will, I'm sure, live long in Meg's memory.

On the day before, a Kent birdwatcher, Martin Casemore, out at Dungeness in heavy rain, had also come across a new bird, one which astounded birdwatchers everywhere and raised the thrill of unexpected birdwatching sightings to the level of unique unpredictability. He had spotted a North American flycatcher which, sadly, had been driven to our shores and which belonged to a group of a dozen very similar members, invariably described as being notoriously difficult to differentiate from each other. Away from its natural surroundings - wet woodlands in the Eastern United States - and especially when moving about by trees, it would have been virtually impossible to obtain an accurate identification, but photographic evidence, chiefly of the bird incongruously at rest on the Dungeness shingle, or on man-made objects, suggested that it might be an Acadian Flycatcher, the first to be recorded in the British Isles.

Arcadian Flycatcher (c) Alamy
These suspicions were confirmed following DNA examination of a faecal sample, an exercise which highlights the necessity of using up-to-date scientific methods when confronted with difficulties in determining the species of the North American 'Empidonax' flycatchers. No doubt Martin's discovery, like Meg's, will never be forgotten, and both cases illustrate the present-day importance of photographic evidence in arriving at accurate conclusions : the days when the notion that scribbled pencilled notes on anything that came to hand were sufficient aids to ultimate identification have been replaced by far more sophisticated, reliable and undeniably accurate techniques.

The third totally unpredictable event has a tenuous link with another of the 'Empidorax' group - the Gray Flycatcher, and it occurred during a visit to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Centre in North-Eastern Oregon four early summers ago. The tale includes a reference to knitting and wool which indirectly led to a chance encounter with an iconic species. Now that your curiosity might have been stirred, dear reader, I'll pause a while; give you time to puzzle over what the mystery bird might have been; and return to the narrative shortly.

Dave Wilson

Flycatchers and Tales of the Unexpected - Part 2 by Dave Wilson

An interest in the history of the American West brought us to the Oregon Trail Centre on a fine early June morning in 2011, and, within a short space of time, a third thread entered this tale of the unexpected – what might be called a series of isolated incidents where one led to another and ended in an astonishing encounter.

Sage Thrasher (c) Dave Wilson
Before entering the Centre, which was perched on a high point among fairly inhospitable sagebrush habitat, I happened to hear a lovely sustained warbling song coming from a slope behind the centre. This was being delivered by a Sage Thrasher, a fairly common summer visitor to arid zones in this part of North America, vaguely similar (at distance) and about the same size as our Song Thrush and in this instance, one which tolerated a close approach for a snapshot. As soon as I'd taken the picture, I noticed, about fifty yards down a rocky slope, a small grey bird flitting about by an ancient, barbed-wire fence.

Gray Flycatcher (c) Dave Wilson
Again I took a picture, but this time unknowing of its species, or even that it was a flycatcher. Later that day, I looked closely at pictures of all the very similar-looking 'Empidonax' species in my sole field guide and deduced that this bird was a Gray Flycatcher, similar to the Dungeness Acadian Flycatcher, but with a few barely discernible differences, including bill length and colour, an occasional olive tinge on the upperparts and, uniquely, the habit of dipping its tail slowly when perched. Its preferred breeding haunts are the dry habitats if the interior of the states of the West, identical to the sagebrush slope where we were. This incident was certainly unexpected, but there was something more to come.

Great Horned Owl fledgling (c) Dave Wilson
The brief encounter led to the concluding surprise, when Carole, a keen knitter, noticed, during the climb back through prickly vegetation, what appeared to be a large bundle of discarded wool of various shades of grey, a very curious place for litter-dumping! A closer look revealed that the bundle was, in fact, a Great Horned Owl youngster which had probably just embarked upon its first flight; minutes later, in the large entrance hall to the Oregon Trail Centre, we came across one of the adults close to, I presumed, a concealed nest site.


What an interesting, unforgettable sequence of events – the delightful strains from the Sage Thrasher; the tiny Gray Flycatcher feeding among the sagebrush; and one young and one adult Great Horned Owl enabling me to include the experience among my memories of joyful unpredictability when birdwatching. And, to conclude, surely all three of us – Meg, Martin and myself – will hope that every reader will, at some time in the future, be able to relate to us all his or her own “tale of the unexpected”.

WE'RE WAITING !
Dave Wilson

Pennington Flash Issues and Concerns

A real positivity about the Greenheart Forum meeting today regarding habitat management at Pennington Flash. Whilst a return to a full and meaningful Ranger Service of old, when Charlie Owen and Pauline Mellor-Greenhalgh worked there is a way off. Myself, Dave Wilson and George Pike pressed for the desperate situation at Pennington to be resolved a.s.a.p. We all understand that money is tight and the Council even now has to make further cutbacks.

Meanwhile the reserve falls into disrepair and people flout the law, fish wherever they fancy, let their dogs run a mock in the designated reserve and in front of hides. It's an appalling state of affairs and an insult to the pioneers of conservation that founded our Society to preserve this wildlife wonder (The Flash). Therefore I'm now looking at a programme of funding the site, mutually with the council to apply to various grant bodies to help us preserve this nationally important wildlife area. Your individual help on volunteer days is vital for this site to hold its own until funding can be allocated, and I suspect that's not too far away.

Please spread the word and let me know your interest in being part of a survival strategy team. 
email: leighos.chairman@gmail.com

*********************************************************************************

There are many problems arising at the Flash in recent times, the diminished staffing over the last few years has lead to a free for all of poor behaviour and respect for wildlife by the public, drinking, vandalism, trespass and fishing in the Nature Reserve is appalling, dogs on the loose and soiling of even the children's play areas are not beyond the animal lovers limits. and little is being done by the Council to counter this.

This band of brothers "L.O.S." is trying alone to resolve these issues and we have raised these points recently and received this reply:

Hello David,

Please find below the bullet points from last week’s meeting.
  • Supply LOS with litter pickers, high viz vests, gloves, bin bags and RA for ad hoc litter picks.
  • Supply LOS with stock netting, fencing pliers, gloves, safety glasses and RA for ongoing minor fence repairs.
  • Review bird feeding locations within the reserve with LOS preferring a phased reduction to one feeding location (Bunting Hide).
  • Return cages over feeders to deter squirrels.
  • Propose Bunting hide tidy up as Council Volunteer project in partnership with LOS.
  • Look at s106 (public open space) monies for habitat management.
  • Discuss Pennington Flash projects with Community Reparation.
  • Work on the screen has started.
  • Only use whole peanuts within the feeders.
Regarding litter, it was felt that the reserve as a whole was kept free of litter, but the situation along Pennington Line was unknown.

Illegal angling has reared its head again, even though the ‘No Angling’ signage is still in place, I will pick this up with the EA and the angling club.
Regards

Michael

Michael Fishwick
Greenspace Development Officer

We will be holding some work parties in the future, if you can help (nothing too strenuous ) please reply to this notice. 

Thankyou, David Shallcross

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Hilbre Island - Sunday 10 April


We will be meeting at Doctors Nook car park (WN1 1SX) at 7:00am for a strict 7:10am departure and will be parking up on South Parade (CH48 0QG) in West Kirby at approximately 8:15am.

PLAN A
We are governed by the tides today. Low tide is at 8:21am when we can start walking out to the island. If the weather is kind we will stay on the main island over high tide, which I believe is around 10 metres at 1:50pm and we can leave at about 4:20pm to head back to the mainland.

We should see seals, waders, ducks and gulls galore, with our eyes especially peeled for Osprey and Red Kite.

PLAN B ( in case of bad weather)
We'll still walk over to the island but at 10:40am we'll head back to the mainland. Then we'll take in some of the Wirral's other areas of natural beauty to be decided on the day.

There should be plenty of seats available for lifts, but it's a very strict departure time this week, so please make sure you're on time.

If you're planning on joining us please advise either by accepting the invite on Facebook, emailing me on leighos.trips@gmail.com or 'phoning me on 07930948392.
Steve Scrimgeour
Acting Fieldtrips Officer

The L.O.S. Sponsored Bird Watch - 15 May 2016

We are having our sponsored bird watch day again this year. Teams can be up to 4 adults or more if there is a youngster present. Please register your team with either Eddie King or Joan Disley by using the email address below or at the Derby Room Meetings and we will supply the forms needed to record your birds and a sponsor form. Sponsorship by friends and work colleagues can take any form; per bird, per a number of birds or just a fixed amount for the day. All funds raised go to the society.

It is usually a wonderful day out just bird watching with friends and some friendly rivalry too. Please give your team a name, something with birds in the title, e.g., one group are the “Feather Brains” and “Jackdaws and Teals” so something in that line would be good.

There will be an evening meal at the end of the day, giving teams time to go home and get changed before returning to hand in their results later and have a good chat about what they did and saw. It’s a good day out so please come and join in. Once we have numbers we will advise all of the meal destination, time and further information.

If you wish to come for the meal, please advise Eddie or Joan as soon as possible as booking will have to be arranged. If you can’t join in then please sponsor someone or join us for the meal at the end of the day.

Eddie King
Recorder and Sponsored Bird Watch Organiser 
leighos.recorder@gmail.com

L.O.S. Presentation - Friday 1 April 2016

A Journey in Front and Behind the Lens of A Bird Photographer 
John Barlow

John's images are mainly from around his home patch of Turton and Edgworth and he will be passing on some tips and information as to how he achieved these images. This is John's third visit to the L.O.S. and I'm sure we're in for another great evening with spectacular photographs and a very interesting commentary.

So please come and join us at the Derby Room in Leigh Library at 7:15pm 
All are welcome, members, friends and non-members.

Tom Edmondson (1922 - 2016)

Few who visit Pennington Flash nowadays knew Tom Edmondson, the true pioneer of local conservation, but many visit and enjoy the hide there named in his honour and probably wonder who he actually was. Unfortunately, Tom passed away recently and the following tribute is reproduced with the kind permission of its author and friend of Tom, David Wilson:


For the past several days, the first sounds of the outside world, well before first light, have been delivered loud and clear, and with gusto, by our garden Blackbird, but this morning, under a heavy grey sky, all was quiet until the plaintive notes of a distant Mistle Thrush heralded a new day. It was appropriate that the solo should have been delivered from somewhere in the Pennington Flash Country Park, for it was this very special site that had drawn Tom Edmondson into nearly a lifelong involvement in nature conservation, and today was the day of his funeral in Chester.

I suspect that I was the only person from Leigh, his home town, among the thirty or forty who had gathered to bid farewell in a service which included screens showing pictures of Tom with friends and family during a long and fruitful lifetime. The occasion, from beginning to end, was highly dignified, with spoken contributions by his son and two grandchildren and a fine selection of music and poems. The informal procession into the chapel was to the accompaniment of a fine rendition by Amanda Roocroft of Puccini's aria "O mia bambino caro"; the centrepiece was Edward Elgar's masterpiece 'Nimrod' played by the Halle Orchestra; and Tom's last farewell was to the strains of "Abide with Me."

"Tom" and "The Kingfisher" were fitting titles for two of the poems, the third one, remarkably, being one of the favourites of his near-contemporary, Frank Horrocks - "Happy the Man" by John Dryden:-

"Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or fowl or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour"

Upon my return to Leigh, I went to the Flash and pinned copies of the funeral service leaflet to the notice boards outside the hide named in his honour and in the information centre.

Tom often expressed his delight that a small, once-upon-a-time industrial town in Lancashire should have managed to produce and foster a Society which, through its commitment, industry and love of our natural heritage, has had a huge influence in shaping our green habitats for wildlife and human appreciation and enjoyment alike.

I'm certain that Tom's greatest wish would be for all of us to recognize the importance of continuing to promote nature conservation into an increasingly uncertain future. We owe it as much to our natural environment and all its dependent creatures, and the spiritual wellbeing of those who follow us, just as much as we owe it to the memory of a great man.

Rest in peace, dear friend.
Dave Wilson

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Woolston Eyes and Moore Nature Reserves

As usual we are meeting at Doctors Nook car park facing Leigh Library (WN1 1SX) for an 08:30 hours departure. We'll be parking up on Weir Lane in Woolston at approximately 09:00 hours (WA1 4QH) and walking down the path to the main entrance on the bridge takes approximately 20 minutes.

We'll be spending a couple of hours on site before departing for Moore Nature Reserve (WA4 6XE) where we are meeting the warden at around 13:00 hours for a 1 hour guided walk with a little local knowledge thrown in. Then we can try and pin down the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ourselves.

There is a small charge of £2.00 per person for this trip, which is for the upkeep of Woolston Eyes.
If you are planning on joining us please email me leighos.trips@gmail.com or telephone me on 07930948392 to give some idea of numbers.
Steve Scrimgeour
Acting L.O.S. Field Trips Officer

L.O.S. Presentation - Friday 4th March 2016

If you've been enjoying the Scottish detective drama 'Shetland' on Friday nights recently, you're in for a real treat on Friday 4th March. However, you'll have to put the next programme on record as we are having our very own talk on the nature and wildlife of Shetland by David Tolliday at the same time:

Shetland
The wildlife and sights of Shetland, starting on Fair Isle and finishing with a view of Out Stack, the most northerly part of Britain. Photographs include birds, wild flowers, butterflies and mammals.
Everyone is welcome and entrance is free, although we'd really appreciate a small donation on the door in the form of buying a couple of raffle tickets.

Willow Tit Survey - Free Training

Willow Tit at Pennington Flash (c) Martyn Jones 2016
The L.O.S. recording area is a bit of a stronghold for Willow Tits and there's some free training available for surveying and recording them at Three Sisters N.R. at a new date to be arranged.

The first two dates of the 18th and 29th of February have been fully booked and so a third date is being planned depending on the interest.  Please register your interest with Cheryl Knott at the email address or telephone number below.

Willow Tits can easily be found at Pennington Flash, Three Sisters N.R. and the Wigan Flashes as well as on Astley Moss and Atherton Meadows.

The course is being run by Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT)in partnership with the GM Ecology Unit.
If you enjoy watching Willow Tits and would like to contribute to their conservation in Greater Manchester then this is an opportunity not to be missed.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust would like to invite you to be involved in a Willow Tit Survey Training Day which aims to standardise recording methodologies and gain habitat data from across our region. This will benefit long term planning for species recovery.
Willow Tits are suffering an alarming decline, with around 3,400 pairs remaining in the UK. The Great Manchester Wetlands Nature Improvement Area which extends across Wigan, Salford, Bolton and into Cheshire, holds around 10% of this number. We want to learn more about the population in our area. This will involve identifying suitable habitat and recording the presence or absence of Willow Tit. The aim is to build up a better picture of the region's populations. This will be done in conjunction with The Carbon Landscape Project and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit. The survey results will inform some very targeted habitat development work on existing Willow tit sites, and also be used to develop neighbouring sites, allowing populations to spread.
The training day is to be held at Three Sisters Lakeside Office, at a date still to be arranged  between 10am-3pm. You will need to bring a packed lunch, and suitable clothing for the weather on the day. 
If you are interested please contact LWT at The Lakeside office to book, on 01942 726214 or email Cheryl Knott on cknott@lancswt.org.uk

L.O.S. Open Day Video Slideshow

Just to finish off all our recent Open Day stuff, here's a video slideshow made from photographs taken by Alan Wilcox and myself:

L.O.S. Presentation - Friday 5th February 2016


This is the fourth in the series of a 'Shot at Wildlife Images' that Pauline and Ian have produced, and includes lots of superb images of birds, flowers, fungi, insects, mammals and some breathtaking landscapes. All taken on their travels round the UK.

After our L.O.S. Open Day we're on a roll, so don't miss this one on Friday 5th February (yes it's February this week!). Usual place, the Derby Room at Leigh Library, usual time 7:15pm to 9:30pm, usual bunch of friendly welcoming people.

Everyone is welcome, especially our new members who joined last Saturday.

L.O.S. Open Day Thank-you

Where do I start? 
At the L.O.S. Open Day today the Derby Room was alive with enthusiastic bird and nature lovers all enjoying each other's company, meeting new people, put faces to names and learning about the work done by our local people. And Facebook has carried it on tonight with so many wonderful comments about how enjoyable the whole experience was for those who attended.
There are so many people to thank it's an almost impossible task, so I'll just have to say 'Thank-you Everybody' to whoever was involved in today, from the team of L.O.S. Committee members who supported me in organising this event, to the exhibitors who brought such wonderful photos and information displays and not forgetting all the members of the public who turned out in force. It certainly was a memorable experience for me and the comments which have followed on Facebook have made it all worthwhile. 
Thanks again, EVERYBODY!
Martyn Jones

Open Day Programme - Saturday 30 January 2016

Here's a pdf file of the final version of the programme for our Open Day on Saturday 30 January 2016.

This is what it looks like if the link doesn't work for you (it folds down the middle!)

L.O.S. Open Day Poster

Here's the L.O.S. Open Day poster that will be popping up in the hides at Pennington Flash and in various other places over the next couple of weeks:


Please feel free to print it out and display it somewhere suitable.

L.O.S. Open Day - Saturday 30th January 2016

Leigh Ornithological Society will be having an 'Open Day' in the Derby Room at Leigh Library from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 30th January 2016.  The main idea is to provide a time and place where anyone interested in birding, wildlife and nature can meet in an informal setting and have a good chat with each other.

We are very pleased that the event will be formally opened by Councillor Susan Loudon, the Mayor of Wigan Borough at 11am.

We do hope that many of the Manchester Birding Forum members and our Facebook friends will join us on this day and help us put faces to names, as many will have never met each other in person before. Entry will be free but you may like to help support Leigh Ornithological Society by becoming a member on the day or by making a small donation on the door.

There will be many L.O.S. members present with whom you'll be able to chat about where to go birding in the North West (and beyond) and what you might see there, as well as several invited guests who will be willing to talk about bird and nature photography, local conservation issues and anything else related to these topics. There will also be photographic displays and videos on topics such as bird identification and behaviour.

Our local nature photographers who will have projected displays of their work and who will be able to discuss their photographs, equipment and techniques include:
  • Pauline and Ian Greenhalgh - confirmed
  • John Barlow - confirmed
  • Dennis Atherton - confirmed
  • David Shallcross - confirmed
The following organisations and firms will be present with stalls and information boards:
  • Lancashire Wildlife Trust (Little Woolden Moss) - confirmed
  • Red Rose Forest - confirmed
  • Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve - confirmed
  • L.O.S. Young Birders' Club Team - confirmed
  • Trek Eco Adventures - confirmed
  • Friends of Low Hall Nature Reserve - confirmed
  • FAWN (Friends of Atherton Wildlife and Nature) - confirmed
I will have a display about Blue Tit nestbox cameras and information about how to put a live video feed on a website. There will also be a display on Tawny or Barn Owl nestbox cameras.

A selection of refreshments as well as second-hand books and some birding related products such as a few bird boxes and bird food will be available for purchase.  You will also be able to join the L.O.S. and possibly some of the other organisations on the day.

Please tell other people about this event and bring along a friend when you come.  If you live some distance from Leigh you can always tie-in a trip to Pennington Flash either before or after you've been to see us at Leigh Library.

So we do hope to see you there on Saturday 30th January to start the New Year with a Big Birding Bang!

Martyn Jones

Gordon Yates Bows Out After 43 Years

After 43 annual visits to the Leigh Ornithological Society, it looks like Gordon Yates is finally putting away his cine projector and incredible collection of birding and nature films for the last time.

Tonight we had another superb presentation by Gordon in the Derby Room, the spiritual home of the L.O.S., with a talk entitled 'In Search of Himbrini' (The Great Northern Diver).

Another L.O.S. legend, Dave Wilson, gave a sometimes humorous and informative vote of thanks, and Chairman David Shallcross presented Gordon with a bottle of his favourite Laphroaig Whisky from Islay along with honorary membership of the L.O.S. in recognition of the all the pleasure and enjoyment he has given to the Society over the years. All together a memorable evening which was attended by around fifty members and friends.


Here are quotes off Facebook by some of those who attended:

Pauline Mellor-Greenhalgh
I was on Gordon's shoulder all the way through tonight - literally and figuratively. I empathised his (and any) photographers doubts and fears ... will the bird be at this spot next year; if it is, am I too close to this bird now; is the weather going to change; am I going to be at the right distance when and if the sun finally shines. All us 'togs know, as Dave Wilson so aptly pointed out, we don't need long to achieve that near perfect shot - just a few seconds clicking with a still camera, as little as two minutes with a cine or video camera and it will be job done - in the bag!
Leading up to those few clicks or minutes can be a year - several years of waiting - hours of walking, searching, moving hides by a few feet for days on end. There are times when you would rather whip yourself with nettles than carry on with your quest, but that quest isn't going away - it calls to your subconscious all the time - you have to answer and go.
And for 40 odd years that we know of, Gordon has answered and responded and the end result of all the work, sweat, tears, joy, despair, every shade of emotion, finally devolves down into the finished film. Gordon you have my admiration,  every step of the way - thank-you.

David Shallcross (L.O.S. Chairman)
A very enjoyable evening, well attended and received by all I'm sure. Gordon has amazed us with his presentations over 40 years, and his enthusiasm and knowledge of his subjects is inspiring. He has given us not only entertainment but education on a wide range of fauna and flora. We have seen everything from our own local wildlife to moorland, heathland, coastal and estuarine habitats and the creatures that live there. 
We have been to every part of Great Britain and seen its wonders. We have been to places abroad and been fascinated by it all - tonight it was Iceland and the many trips, days and hours spent in pursuit of Gavia immer, the Great Northern Diver.  You have given us at Leigh Ornithological Society many brilliant evenings Gordon, who remembers "Symonds Yat to Muckle Flugga"? Entertainment, education and inspiration has been the theme running through your shows all these years.  
You thought they were just film shows, little did you know the effect your skill as a film maker and wildlife presenter had on many of your audience, me included. Dave Wilson gave a fitting vote of thanks tonight. which has to be the longest of all time, a 16 minute run down of the evening, the many presentations and the deep admiration we all hold for you as a friend of the Society. Many thanks indeed.

Steve Scrimgeour (and son)
Fantastic and educational presentation. (My 10 year old son) Joshua has already told his mum, he is off to Iceland. He has already pencilled next month on the calendar....
So it could be the end of an era, but remember Frank Sinatra?