L.O.S. Fieldtrips for 2019-20

The new L.O.S. programme of weekend fieldtrips for 2019-2020 is now available here:


For any further details please contact our Fieldtrips Officer, Paul Pennington, by email on leighos.trips@gmail.com.

Bickershaw Revisited

A third consecutive morning out enjoying our local countryside? Well, it's a quiet week - why not?

A 7.30am start at Bickershaw Country Park was nevessary because of predicted afternoon temps of 32 degrees. We planned a wander from Edna Road car park, past Fir Tree Flash and the grazed fields, crossing the 'Road to Nowhere', round the lovely southern path at Diggle Flash, then down the "Concrete Road" and along the southern leg of the "Northern Footpath" and back to Fir Tree. (If all that's a mystery to you, and you live in the area, it may be time you and Bickershaw CP got acquainted!)

Jean was after Helleborines, and I was anticipating another biodiversity bonanza - we were not disappointed! As to the birds, we started with a flypast by a big charm of Goldfinches, rising from the thistles in the field next to the lake.

Next up were small family parties of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, hard to see in the scrub. The plaintive piping of Bullfinches betrayed their unseen presence. At the new slow-flow water course, there was another group of juvenile birds, perhaps grouped together for security - or just adolescents hanging out together!

They included, at least Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Blue Tits, and scattered off through the bushes as we watched. Diggle Flash was noisy with Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, and a Common Tern called, but must have been seen off before we got there.

The wild flowers were truly wild - a riot of botanical bliss, inhabited by numerous butterflies, damsels and dragons, and assorted beetle-like beasties. As ever at Bickershaw, some of the "worst" soil areas produce some of the best plant shows.

Centaury is such a subtle little thing normally, but today was the star of the show in many places, understudied by Eyebright and the various mosses that retain moisture on those barren places.

And further on, in the dark wooded recesses, the Broad Leaved Helleborines were there and in flower. Our contortions to try to get pictures were worthy of some other botanical photographers we know, but owing to the Deep Darkness, didn't quite cut the mustard.

I was "made up" on the way round the new footpath, when I caught the reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler - we didn't see him, but you can't take your hearing for granted nowadays! As the day heated up, we made a beeline for Fir Tree and the car, and had a pleasant chat with Hamish before we departed.

Now: was that a Marbled White Butterfly that flew past while we talked? Just a fleeting glimpse, and no photo .... not a certain ID for sure, but I hope so.
Dr. Paul Richardson
L.O.S. Conservation Officer

Lilford Wildflower Meadow

The L.O.S. led by Tony Bishop has been trying to develop a small area of wildflower meadow on the edge of Lilford Woods over the last 2-3 years with the help of the Rotary Club and Wigan Council. While the germination and establishment of the area has not been as much as we hoped, it was hosting plenty of butterflies this morning (23/7/19).
Dr. Paul Richardson
L.O.S. Conservation Officer

Meadow Brown
Small Skipper

Atherton South in July

First July trip to the Atherton South patch early this morning to beat the heat. What a feast it proved to be. Swallows, Swifts and House Martins were making the most of the early insects.

No less than nine Mistle Thrush were feeding on the mown field at Long causewayThe July butterflies were out in force: Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Skipper, and Speckled Wood, with a Painted Lady for good measure, and a couple of Shaded Broad Bar moths.

One of the best areas proved to be the meadow next to the Howe Bridge football fields, which also held a family of Common Whitethroat, over 15 Goldfinch, and another family group - Pied Wagtails on the pitch itself. This lovely meadow is threatened with use as an additional pitch, but at present is a riot of wildflowers, thistles and grasses.

Moving on to Bee Fold Lodge, Brown Hawker and Southern Hawker dragonflies were already on the wing, a Kingfisher disappeared with a stripe of brilliant blue into the woodland, two Coot juveniles were piping at their parents, and swallows and martins were stooping to drink on the wing.

The thickets around the pond held Willow Warblers and juvenile Chiffchaffs. Beyond, there is a pylon with an extensive reedbed around its base, and for the first time, I heard Reed Warblers scratching away just beyond the pylon, too far to glimpse, but unmistakeable.

Taking the railway track path to link through to Miller's Lane, I had fleeting views of a kestrel pair using the thermals, when my attention wasn't taken by the flowers in the hedgerow. Yellow Wort and Centaury were in flower - great to see these in the area. This track is yet another hotspot for Gatekeeper butterflies.

By this time, it was getting too warm and the birds were quietening down, but not before I had counted 27 Rooks in a Miller's Lane field.

I headed home for a cool drink, but full of amazement again at the biodiversity on our doorstep. There was nothing rare this morning, just a fabulous feast of bird, insect and plant life to be treasured.

Should this area not be designated as a Site of Biological Importance?

Should EVERY green space between our townships not be guarded and defended?

Dr. Paul Richardson
L.O.S. Conservation Officer


The new L.O.S. programme of Friday night presentations for 2019-2020 is now available here:


More details will follow when they are available.
Anne Johnson
Programme Secretary

L.O.S. Members Star On Radio Warrington

Here's a YouTube link to the Radio Warrington radio programme featuring L.O.S. Members Dave Wilson and Paul Richardson.

As well as birds, they talk about the origins of Pennington Flash and many aspects of the environment including the importance of green spaces and brownfield sites such as the former Bickershaw Colliery area.

If anyone wants a CD or MP3 version of this audio file, just message me to arrange it.

Remembering Tom Durkin

Many readers, including members of the Leigh Ornithological Society, will be unaware of the existence of a small group of local naturalists who formed our town’s first natural history group, the ‘Firs Lea Naturalists’ Association’.

The driving force was Tom Edmondson, a pupil at Leigh Grammar School, and, together with Wilf Cartledge, Tom Durkin and Frank Horrocks, they aimed to broadcast the message of local wildlife conservation, specifically arising from concerns about the future of Pennington Flash

The inaugural meeting of these committed pioneers was in September, 1938 - a third of a century before the foundation of the L.O.S. - but the small group’s initiative came to very little, for in less than a year the Second World War began and the four friends were, of national necessity, dispersed. 

Tom Edmondson continued to pursue his studies; Wilf Cartledge went to support the war effort in Barrow, presumably in the shipyards; Frank Horrocks joined the Royal Artillery; and Tom Durkin went to serve with the Eighth Army in North Africa and thence in Italy.

During his time abroad, Tom Durkin corresponded with the young Tom Edmondson, describing the birds he’d come across and, like Frank Horrocks, sometimes displaying his talents as a poet, much of it expressing a yearning to return to his native land and re-visit Pennington Flash. In one of his last poetic offerings he describes the unbounded pleasure of sitting alone, at twilight on the shore of the flash, and absorbing the wonders of his surroundings, an experience beautifully expressed in one of his most moving short verses:-
“Sitting by the flash in an evening cool,
Watching various waders in a nearby pool,
Whistling wings I hear rush by,
I see silhouettes in a fading sky.”
I mention these happenings now because yesterday was our longest day, but the 21st of June, 1944, was Tom Durkin’s shortest day for it was then that this brave son.
Dave Wilson

Leigh Peregrines

The Leigh Peregrines have been ringed this morning. Another good brood of three chicks. Colour-ringed with codes of XK (female), XR (Female) and XT (Male).

This is the tenth year of successful breeding.

Jack Critchley Honorary Member

08 May 2019

Jack Critchley Honorary Member, Program secretary, field and winter trips organiser 1988-2006, committee 1985 - 2010

Dear friends, it is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the passing of our dear friend and stalwart of the society, Jack Critchley who died last evening.

Arrangements for his funeral are being made and I will inform you of the details in due course.

David Shallcross

L.O.S. Trip to St. Aidan's RSPB and Fairburn Ings RSPB - Sunday 14th April 2019


Our penultimate trip of the season took us to St Aidan's RSPB and Fairburn Ings RSPB. The L.O.S. party met just before 9am on St Aidan's car park, greeted by overcast conditions and a very bracing south-easterly wind. We had already bagged Grey Partridge by the entrance gates.

After we had all kitted up, and finalised our plans for the day, the group briefly paused by the old opencast Coal Dredger adjacent to the car park in hope of views of the resident Little Owls, but alas even the Owls thought it too cold to make an appearance.

The team worked its way downhill into the vast bowl, once an open cast mine, and a magnificent view over the whole reserve.

The big lake to our left had a multitude of Sand Martins skimming the water, twisting and turning as they hunted for insects.

It wasn't long before the group got its first major sighting of the day. A small group of Pink-footed Geese keeping a Tundra Bean Goose company. A first for many, including myself.

After 15 minutes or so viewing the Tundra Bean Goose we headed off towards the causeway in search of the famed Black-necked Grebes. Along the way the usual ducks Tufted, Gadwall etc. were recorded.

The odd Skylark, Reed Bunting and good numbers of Meadow Pipit displaying, climbing into the air, parachuting back to earth like shuttlecocks with the repetitive sip, sip, sip call rising steeply as they descended to the ground. A warming sight in the biting south-easterly wind.

Moving further toward the causeway Bittern were heard booming occasionally. Linnet, Oystercatcher, Pochard and Wigeon were recorded amongst the deafening orchestra of excitable Black-headed Gulls in their hundreds if not thousands.

On arrival at the causeway we found the Black-necked Grebes. Four at first, hugging the tall Phragmites reedbeds. We spent a while taking in the sheer beauty of these little birds, that are mostly black with copper red sides and that unmistakable golden fan behind a piercing blood red eye.

Peter and Jeff got a brief glimpse of a Bittern. Within seconds like a Penn and Teller magic show it vanished into the wall of reeds. Never to be seen again.

Great Crested Grebes were also about with some doing parts of their mating dance and making classic shapes on the water.

Working our way round the reedbeds, more Black-necked Grebe, making it nine in total. A Willow Warbler called from some small trees to our left, eventually giving us a brief glimpse before moving on.

The same area also a Cetti's Warbler calling, before darting to the far side of the wide ditch and back under cover. More Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard but not seen before reaching the large pond at the far end of the reserve.

At the large pond three hirundine species were hawking over the water. It was good to see the Swallows, House Martin and Sand Martin at close quarters, a sign of warmer days. Also a male Kestrel hovered in the biting wind close by and a Sparrowhawk on the far side.

After a brief lunch and a warming brew at the visitor centre we head over to Fairburn Ings RSPB only some ten minutes away.

On arrival at Fairburn Ings, most of the group decided to circumnavigate the Main Bay and Village Bay lakes. We left two of the ladies at the visitor centre with a warming coffee on feeding station duty.

Fairburn Ings is the site of a long-disused Limestone quarry It runs parallel to the River Aire, down which the Limestone was transported to its destination. It is a relatively young site with a couple of hides and our first sightings were Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit and Blue Tit, which helped boost our bird count numbers.

Eventually, we reached the Bob Dicken Hide. Here Avocet and Little-ringed Plover were the main attractions. The Village Bay Viewpoint produced more of the same and the party quickly moved on. On arrival at Charlie's Hide, and somewhat out of the still bracing wind, Blackcap and a constant yaffle of the Green Woodpecker.

From the hide again a Little-ringed Plover but photos were difficult to come by.

Here the party split into two groups, some headed back the way we had come, the rest went in search of the Green Woodpecker. A few hundred yards down the path and running out of large trees, we eventually caught sight of this elusive bird distant and difficult to see atop an old dead tree.

Eventually, it flew back toward the hide area and we headed on our merry way across a sheep field, only to flush a second bird as we crossed. The sheep field also produced a solitary Red-legged Partridge, which we would see three more of in the ploughed fields adjacent to Newton Road, a couple of Brown Hare and three Buzzards on our way back to the visitor centre.

Meanwhile, the other party called back to the Kingfisher Screen close to the visitor centre and saw not one but two Kingfishers, a great bonus for them.

The ladies we left in the visitor centre on feeding station duties added to our tally, picking up Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Tree Sparrow. But making it all worthwhile by seeing a Fox cross one of the paths by the feeding area.

Some of the team decided to pop up to the Lin Dyke area before going home in hope of the reported Spoonbill, but had no luck as it was hidden some great distance away behind a bank of willow trees.

As the weary team made the return journey home they could all be very pleased with the day, as it brought us some 73 species, Brown Hare and a Fox.

As usual, great company and banter. Thank you all for attending.
Paul Pennington 
L.O.S Fieldtrips Officer

Photos by Paul Pennington, Graeme Robertson, 
John Prescot, Keith Williams and Anne Johnson

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Old Moor RSPB - Sunday 10th March 2019

'The Last Throes of Winter'

The seventh fieldtrip of the L.O.S. season took us to Old Moor RSPB in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley. The forecast wasn't too good with hill snow predicted, but we decided to take a chance to cross the Pennines into Yorkshire. Once again the weather had been over-hyped and the gang made it in good time to the reserve.

The first port of call was the feeding station just by the reception building. This was relatively quiet with the odd Great Tit and Chaffinch. Then onto the Tree Sparrow Farm just a short walk away. This well-manicured feeding station with an abundance of nest boxes, a paddock of Teasel and various feeders, gave us some nice sightings. Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Buntings, Pheasant, the odd Brambling and of course Tree Sparrows prospecting the many nest boxes dotted around the paddock.

We then headed out to the Reedbed Hides to the left-hand side of the reserve. The next couple of hours we searched the various pools from the hides dotted along the way. Black Headed Gulls in good numbers performed their mating ritual dances and would have got a 10 from Len Goodman. A good number of Tufted Duck, the odd Pochard and Shoveler, By now the rain had set in. A pair of Great Crested Grebes displayed as a pair of Buzzard rode the sky in the distance. On reaching the last hide on the route, four Little Grebes feeding, one of which came close to the hide giving great views to our now damp and cold party of troops.

At this point it was time to head back to reception and the café for a well earned warm, a warm drink and a bite to eat. Alas, no sign of the Bearded Reedlings and Bittern reported recently. After a welcome brew and food, the sun had broken through, and a hopeful gang headed out east from the reception. The eastern side of the reserve had a comfortable pathway, with numerous hides, surrounded by large pools and scrapes.

The first hide had a great view across the site with satellite islands which had large red numbers on them. A great idea helping people to share what they are seeing with others. Here we saw many more Black Headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull. Also from here Wigeon, Shoveler, and a number of Pochard. It was here we picked up the solitary Mediterranean Gull on one of the closer islands.

The next hide produced a Black-tailed Godwit, more ducks including Teal and Gadwall.  Moving along, a quick look through a screen for Water Rail proved fruitless, and with a large black cloud looming we took refuge in the penultimate hide. The wind had now picked up, the rain and sleet horizontal. As the passing storm buffeted the hide with gale force winds, we were amused by two Mute Swans swimming with necks at a 45 degree angle such was the force of the wind.

Finally, the last hide, where we spoke to one of the RSPB site recorders. He pointed out to us a recently excavated Green Woodpecker hole on the far bank. Grey Heron were added to the list and what was thought to be a Yellow-legged Gull. It headed off back the way we had come, so we popped into each hide hoping to find it. Fortunately, the weather had eased. The Yellow-legged Gull was later entered into the day's recordings book in reception, so we were convinced of our sighting. Here's a couple of record shots that help confirm the ID.

Other birds of note for the day included Long-tailed Tit, Oystercatcher and a couple of Redshank.
46 species recorded on a wild changeable day was a good return for eleven hardy birders. The usual banter along the way, great company as always.
Paul Pennington 
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

The L.O.S. Winter Trip to Norfolk - 12th-15th February 2019

On Day 1 members of the group set off at various times and from various places but we all arrived safely at Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire, an RSPB reserve that promised lots of birds which is exactly what we got. The most notable were the Golden Plover in huge flocks giving us an aerial view which could be likened to a Starling murmuration, glinting gold in the cold winter sun.  There were also plenty of Dark-bellied Brent Geese about.

Out on the saltmarsh there was a MerlinMarsh Harrier, Little Egrets and several Brent Geese flocks often flying past. We spent a few hours here and saw some good birds including Ruff, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Lapwing, Skylarks, Curlew and Shoveler - sadly the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher evaded us but not from lack of trying on our part.

From Frampton Marsh we set off for Cromer, our destination and hotel for the next four days, birding as we went. The hotel was warm, comfortable and an excellent meal was enjoyed.  Cromer is a good base from which to do daily birding trips in Norfolk.

Day 2 saw us heading for Barton Broad one of the group's staple sites where a Great Crested Grebe swam unusually close in front of us on the viewing platform, obviously a people-watching Grebe! As it is part of the Norfolk Broads system boats sail through but they keep to their part of the waterway so the water birds such as Goldeneye, TealTufted Ducks and Greylag Geese could be left as undisturbed as possible.

A Kingfisher was seen flashing through the broad by some lucky members, a blur of turquoise over the still grey water and a Water Rail was first heard and then seen skulking in the reedbed behind the platform. There were also lots of small birds in the woodland areas including various Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We then went on to Winterton-on-Sea for a seawatch with plenty of Gulls, Cormorants and Scoters. Here a Firecrest had been reported in the sand-dunes, but one look at the vastness of these dunes and it quickly became obvious we would need the army to comb them for such a small bird. However, it didn’t stop some of us from looking and constantly listening for this elusive bird.  And all wasn’t silent as the Skylarks sang their hearts out - what a wonderful song to hear in the quiet and peacefulness of that vast ecosystem. Occasionally small flocks of waders would fly past, inlcuding Reshank and Sanderling.

Sadly the coastline has suffered there in the recent storms, the edge of the cliff being cordoned off as unsafe due to erosion and huge stretches of golden sand were visible which hadn’t been seen before by us. Some of the boat huts looked to be in danger of disappearing should there continue to be such storms and erosion. Out to sea Red-throated Divers were present in good numbers, and a Red-necked Grebe also gave some of us a good view now and then as it bobbed up and down on the swell.

From Winterton we set off for Hickling Broad and enjoyed a good cruise around the area as we headed to Stubbs Mill for the Harrier roost. The weather was lovely for February, blue skies and a bright, clear atmosphere which aided in our views of the old windmill which are for pumping water, their blades now redundant as the machinery is operated by either diesel or electricity. But they still stand sentinel over the dykes and fields.

After having a great view of a Muntjac Deer at the start of the path, we had a nice walk around and settled down at the Stubbs Mill raptor viewpoint to wait for dusk. Kestrels dropped in, a Jay flew across calling loudly, and the Marsh Harriers arrived distantly in good numbers to settle down for the night. To our disappointment, a huge mechanical digger was working on the ditches but as it did it disturbed a Great White Egret which then flew past and gave a wonderful show for the spectators. So it wasn't a bad thing in the end.

There were two distant Common Cranes on the ground which occasionally put their heads up giving us good scope views before they flew towards us being disturbed by the digger which had moved and was working further away.

A little while later a family group of four Cranes (two adults and two juveniles) flew past in a line and a further two were heard calling and then flying as we walked back to the car. We had hoped for a Barn Owl but none appeared and so as it grew dark we headed back to the hotel to review our list for the day and settle down for the evening.  But just before we left, the bushes behind us became alive with two or three tiny Goldcrests which flitted around in the dark.

Day 3 started at Salthouse with Ringed Plover, Turnstones on the shingle beach and a flock of Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits further inland.

From there we went to Holkham Gap for the Pink-footed GeeseSnow Buntings, Shore Larks and, as a bonus, a Dartford Warbler which had us searching the scrub of brambles and Sea Buckthorn, where we had several views of it as it perched albeit briefly on the vegetation before dropping down again to find food. There were also Stonechats and Chaffinches present to confuse the issue.

Then on to Choseley Barns for Yellowhammer, and the spot of the day, a Barn Owl quartering a field at the side of us, where most of the group got some brilliant sightings and wonderful photos of this bird. There were also Red-legged Partridges in the field and two Red Kites - what a place to stop!

After enjoying this bird for half an hour, and enjoying our chat with the group and other birders who were also enthralled with the closeness of the Barn Owl, we headed off to Titchwell RSPB, here we had both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Sanderling and Spotted Redshank close up, more Barn Owls, can you ever be fed up of watching Barn Owls – I think not! 

Waders and small birds aplenty and the sound of the Skylark filling the air with its wonderful song. Geese flew over and sailed on the ponds, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Pink-footed and Greylag as well as Canada Geese. Another bonus was a group of six Red Crested Pochards in amongst the 'normal' Pochards. And as the sun went down in a fabulous sunset, the Marsh Harriers arrived at their reedbed roost in numbers - one person counted over twelve of them.  There was also a small but interesting Starling murmuration with some superb shapes being thrown. What a great end to a wonderful day.

Day 4 was the day to travel home and here we were given the choice of where to visit as we made our way back. Part of the group went to Thornham on the coast for Twite and was not disappointed, and some went to a newish reserve called Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve run by the Hawk and Owl Trust. Again we were not disappointed as it is a superb little place and definitely worth a visit. Some of the group even saw Otters here!

The reedbeds stretch for miles and strangely Bittern isn’t reported there, maybe one day soon it will. Brambling, Reed Buntings and Bullfinches were up close on the feeders, Buzzards were overhead and Red Kites were calling across the meadows and reedbeds.  

A different bird flew over and after great discussion, it was decided it was probably a Goshawk - a later discussion with one of the rangers confirmed they pass over the reserve and noted our record of it in his book. Lesser and Common Redpoll fed on the same feeder in the woods where we could compare them to see the differences.

SiskinMarsh Tit and Treecreeper were also seen and heard, Reed Buntings were there in good numbers and last but not least, Collared Dove looking so clean and bright in the clean air that they deserve a mention.

Some went to Flitcham Abbey and saw a Little Owl whereas others went to Snettisham RSPB where the wader roost over the high tide proved to be very underwhelming. However, there were a few oddities present including a Cape Shelduck (probably an escapee) and some odd hybrid Greylag Geese. Over the four days of the trip, 117 species were recorded - a good count aided by the great weather.

Thanks to Eddie King for organising the trip and to all who attended for your wonderful company on another great L.O.S. winter trip. Here's to the next one!

Report by Joan Disley (with additions by Martyn Jones)

Photos by Anne Johnson, David Shallcross, Paul Pennington, George Pike, Alan Wilcox and Martyn Jones