L.O.S. Fieldtrip to North Wales - Sunday 13th October 2019

DYDDIAU GLAWOG A DYDD SUL (Rainy Days and Sundays in Welsh)

Our second excursion of the season, took us to RSPB Conwy and an 'off the cuff' visit to Llandudno, and the Great Orme. On arrival at RSPB Conwy, the skies were dark with the threat of impending rain and the surrounding foothills cloaked in sporadic low cloud. The air was still and surprisingly warm considering. After a quick drink we headed out onto the reserve

Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshanks and Black-headed Gulls (c) Mandy Robertson.
The first couple of hides we found some of our more common birds: Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall and Mallard. The next hide we came across the reported Spotted Redshank, amongst a flock of some 200 Redshank which unfortunately moved towards the rear of one of the islands and out of sight. There was also an Oystercatcher, plus a herd of Curlew calling in the breathless air.

Spotted Redshank in winter plumage (c) Keith Williams
Moving on to next hide we came across two Red-breasted Mergansers, males in eclipse plumage, bearing the unmistakable white streak along their flanks. We headed further round the large pool to the various screens hoping for closer views. Along the way flocks of Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch and Greenfinch with numerous Blackbirds feeding on the heavily-laden berry trees.

Little Grebe (c) Mandy Robertson
On reaching the screens at the top end of the pool, the Mergansers had seemed to moved on. We were left with a Little Grebe and a handful of Teal. Reaching the estuary we spotted one of the Red-breasted Mergansers returning to feed, so eventually we had closer views.

Red-breasted Merganser (c) Paul Pennington
Working our way down the bank of the estuary, good numbers of Meadow Pipit, the odd Reed Bunting, 100 plus Teal mixed with Gadwall and Mallard. Three very late Swallows took advantage of the fly-rich air. Then the rain came. We took shelter in one of the hides looking back inland and over the large pool. Here the Redshank and the Spotted Redshank gave great views. A dozen Snipe hugged the banks of the islands, a Little Egret stood looking miserable, as the rain became heavier. The rain eased somewhat and we completed the circuit. We decided to indulge in a well-earned coffee in the café, time to deliberate our next move.

Little Egret (c) Graeme Robertson
Over coffee the consensus was to head over to the Great Orme. There had been reports of a Yellow Browed Warbler and four Ring Ouzel by the old Copper Mines. On reaching the top tram stop car park of the Great Orme, we were shrouded in cloud and heavy rain and visibility was very poor. Could this be a mistake!?! Fortunately the after some 15 minutes, the sun broke through and with it wonderful views down the Orme and a chance we could find the Ouzels and the Warbler.

Chough (c) Keith Williams
Working our way down towards the Copper Mine we were on the alert. A female Kestrel gave good views perched on a dead tree, no doubt drying out from the afore mentioned deluge. In vain we searched high and low in the reported area, but to no avail. So we returned to the cars.

Kestrel (c) Keith Williams
It was decided as we made our way back that we would visit the limestone pavement. On route a magnificent Kashmir Goat (Tup), one worthy of the Welsh Guards, wandered along the roadside, stopping to watch our cars as we passed slowly.

Male Stonechat (c) Paul Pennington
On reaching the limestone pavement, we decided to do a small circuit of the area. A good decision. Two pairs of Chough, a pair of Raven, a solitary Buzzard and numerous Stonechat, which ended a fruitful day. In all 52 species recorded by the seven intrepid souls who attended.
Thanks for company and hope to see you all on the next trip.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to RSPB Conwy - Sunday 13th October 2019


Our second fieldtrip of the 2019-20 season and takes us to the RSPB Conwy reserve in North Wales with the likelihood of calling it at some other well-known sites along the way.

We will meet as usual at Doctors Nook Car Park at 7.30am. The usual suitable clothing and footwear required. A packed lunch is recommended, although there is a café on site.

Car sharing can be arranged at Doctors Nook. Any further enquiries can be made, by messaging me on Facebook, a comment below or by email at leighos.trips@gmail.com.

Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

L.O.S. Nomination for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

A fabulous letter arrived today to say that the Society has been nominated for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

If we are in the final selection, It will be a great tribute to the officers and members of our group both present and those pioneers of the last 48 years.

Hulton Park Public Inquiry - October 2019


The L.O.S. was asked to help out with a bird survey at Hulton Park, between Bolton and Atherton, which is threatened with a development of 1000+ luxury homes and a championship golf course.

About 45% of Hulton Park's green space would be lost to housing and manicured golf infrastructure. Tony Bishop, Jeff Hurst and Paul Richardson paid four visits during 2019, and Paul had an opportunity to speak at the Public Inquiry at Bolton Town Hall in October 2019

This was our submission to the Inquiry.

I am a retired GP from Leigh, living and working in Leigh for 30 years, and I am speaking on behalf of the Leigh Ornithological Society. 
Leigh Ornithological Society has existed for 49 years. It’s an amateur society of people who have a passion for birds, of course, but other wildlife and plants too. My role as Conservation Officer is to try to remind our councils and planners to cherish and conserve green spaces and biodiversity. 
We would argue against the proposed development at Hulton Park for three reasons. 
  1. For the public good. There has never been a time when public interest in nature and wild places has been higher. At LOS we seek to promote and encourage this. We have no personal axe to grind as an organization because we haven’t had access for nearly 20 years. The permit that one of our members had to survey the area was revoked in 2000. 
  • Natural England’s recently published report, “Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment” (Sept 3rd 2019) shows that nine in ten adults are concerned about damage to our natural environment. The incursion of housing developments into Hulton Park’s green space flies in the face of this public concern. 
  • 89% of adults agree that spending time outdoors is an important part of their lives. There is potential on the Hulton Estate for improving public access to the outdoors, and this development fails to do that. The public footpath access which the developer designates as the “Hulton Trail” only differs from the currently available footpaths in that some of its length will run within housing estates, where it is currently through fields and woodsThe Hulton Trail does not give access to any of the green space which is currently off limits, because this area will be taken up into the golf course. 
  1. For the sake of its wildlife. Our knowledge and experience lies in observing birds in their habitat, and LOS members have paid four visits this year to the public footpaths in the south and west of the site, and to Dearden’s Farm in the NE.
  • I should like to record that we were refused permission by the landowner to visit the central area of the site – this was in spite of one member having had 10 years of access from 1990 onwards, and thus having a wealth of knowledge. 
  • The Breeding Bird Survey provided by TEP for the developer records 63 species, and we ourselves managed to record 46 with only limited access. 9 of our species are on the RSPB Red List of greatest conservation concern. We don’t find it relevant any more to say, as the TEP Breeding Bird Survey does, that many of the birds recorded are “common or widespread” – Red List birds include many that we would think of as common: House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Dunnock, and even Starling. Another 7 of our species are RSPB Amber list birds. These birds may be common and widespread now, but if we keep agreeing to such encroachments on green space, we will only continue to see the crashing of bird populations.  
  • Habitat: Our limited access to the site has shown us many lengths of so-called “species poor” hedgerows, many of which will be removed and replanted. But we have observed large communities of House Sparrows, pairs of Dunnock (Red List) Bullfinches (Amber List) as well as Jays and even Nuthatches using these hedges. Hedgerows are a Section 41 priority habitat. Peel will no doubt argue that there is to be considerable replanting in mitigation, but there can be no guarantee that bird species lost during the work and disturbance will ever return.
  1. Hulton Park is part of a geographical Wildlife Corridor providing a link between the West Pennine Moors in the north and the Mosslands in the south. Having been excluded from the site for 20 years, we cannot present direct evidence for this, but a cursory look at maps (see below) of the area shows it, with an almost continuous band of green space from Winter Hill down through High Rid and Rumworth Reservoirs, through to Hulton Park and then further through Gibfield, Lilford and the Colliers’ Wood area to Astley and Chat mosses. Greater Manchester Ecology Unit has extensive records of Winter Hill as a bird migration “hot spot”. Birds can’t stay airborne the whole time on migration, and we believe these green corridors are vital as hundreds of thousands of birds pass over the area every Spring and Autumn. For land-based creatures such as deer, badgers, foxes and Brown Hare, such corridors are obviously even more important.
DEFRA’s publication, Biodiversity 2020, the Government commits to an ambitious target of improving wildlife corridors on a landscape scale.
“We will enhance ecological connections between, or join up, existing areas of priority habitat, increasing opportunity for wildlife to move around the landscape by making use of ‘stepping stones’, ‘corridors’ and other features. To achieve this, we will take and encourage a more spatially-based approach, focussed on places, and landscape-scale action.” 
I found the Environment Bank’s Biodiversity Impact Statement interesting. I am encouraged that they find there is a net increase of biodiversity from this project. We appreciate the Developer’s commitment to sustaining and even increasing biodiversity, and the careful work it has done on mitigations and improvements to woodland and grassland particularly. 
But I have done also some sums. When you add the land area under housing, the building and hardstanding for the golf resort and its amenity grassland – the landscaped and ornamental areas – and the golf features – the fairways, tees, greens and frequently mown rough – you come to a total of 119 Ha, which is 45% of the area of Hulton Park at 268Ha. 45% of the ground area which is of low value to wildlife, and is effectively taken out of the wildlife corridor. 
This is NOT landscape-scale action to enhance ecological connection between existing areas of priority habitat. This is landscape-scale destruction and damage of the kind that nine out of ten adults in this country are concerned about.  
The Hulton Estate may not be the Amazon Rainforest, but it is still important and it needs to be conserved, not developed. 

Hulton Park Wildlife Recording Survey 2019



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

L.O.S. Presentation - Friday 4th October 2019

Brian White presents 'Amazon Expedition'.


Brian will be giving a presentation on the birds and wildlife of the Amazon River and Basin as well as the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu with photographs from Peru and Bolivia.  

We meet in the Derby Room upstairs at Leigh Library at around 7:15pm for a 7:30 start. Car parking is free. Everyone is welcome and entry is free, although we would appreciate it if you'd buy a raffle ticket or two. 

Do come and join us, bring a friend, become a member. Just ask one of us on the door for information on how to join.

Northern England Raptor Forum Conference 2019

The Northern England Raptor Forum Conference (NERF) is taking place on November 23. in Chester. NERF is normally held in North East England and rarely comes west of the Pennines. It's always excellent and invariably over-subscribed. With the Cheshire Raptor Study Group joining NERF in 2017, they are hosting it this year and so we in Greater Manchester have a chance to attend.

Please note that it costs £28 to book which includes refreshments and a buffet lunch as well as a copy of the 2018 NERF Annual Review.

Details of the location, programme and a booking form are in the file which can be downloaded from either of the links shown below:
Here is a summary of the conference:

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Blacktoft Sands RSPB - Sunday 8th September 2019

SUNNY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN

Our first Leigh Ornithological Society Fieldtrip of the season took us to RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the south side of the Humber Estuary. The group met at Doctors Nook Car Park 7.30am, joining up with others at Blacktoft Sands just after 9.00am. The weather was perfect: still, sunny and warm. A promising day lay ahead.

Avocet (c) Paul Pennington
Leaving the car park we walked over the small hump-backed bridge, to the site of the feeding station. Here there were good numbers of Tree Sparrow which are always nice to see, the odd Chaffinch and Greenfinch, and a Goldfinch on the Teasel feeding its young.

Goldfinches (c) Paul Richardson
After a brief visit to the Visitor Centre Hide for all the formalities and the low down on recent sightings, we decide to head off in a westerly direction. But this was not before getting good views of Green Sandpiper, Redshank and Spotted Redshank. A superb start to the day. So onward to the Xerox Hide the Marshland Hide, and our final destination the Ousefleet Hide.

Green Sandpiper (c) John Preston
Visiting each hide in turn produced some wonderful birds including a female Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier and a Barn Owl. Bearded Reedling could be heard with their signature "ping ping" call, seen only for a split second before taking cover in the Fragmates reedbed. Other notable sightings, Sparrowhawk, a juvenile Garganey, Gadwall, the usual Reed Buntings, good numbers of Teal, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, and Linnet, amongst others.

Lapwing (c) Mandy Robertson
We added a few butterflies such as Painted Lady, Speckled Wood and numerous Large White with a couple of Dragonflies too - Common Darter and Emperor both male and female. A nice number of species had been accumulated during the morning session before returning to the car park - picnic area, for a well deserved spot of lunch.

Migrant Hawker (c) Graeme Robertson
After lunch we headed in an easterly direction from the Visitor Centre. Visiting First Hide, Townend Hide and Singleton Hide. First Hide produced an excellent Greenshank the usual Redshank and Teal.  At Townend Hide we saw Ruff and had our first glimpse of a Water Rail, eleven Black-tailed Godwits and four wonderful Avocet which are always nice to see.

Marsh Harrier (c) Keith Williams
Finally we visited Singleton Hide where we stayed for quite sometime. With wonderful views of Marsh Harrier, five or six in number, appearing and reappearing while quartering their hunting ground. A couple of Water Rail on the far reedbed showed out in the open now and again. Some six or seven Bearded Reedling feeding on the muddy reed margins, and stayed for most of the time we were in the hide, albeit at distance.

Tree Sparrow (c) Martyn Jones
Others to add to the day list were three Kestrel, a single Peregrine Falcon, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Dunlin, a few Buzzard and a very distant Arctic Skua spotted by Pekka, our eagle-eyed friend from Finland who is an excellent birder.

Making our way back to the car, we added a Willow Warbler and a yet to be confirmed Weasel. 60 plus bird species were recorded during the day - well done to one and all. Thanks to all twelve people who attended, I had a wonderful day in great company as usual. Until next time
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Blacktoft Sands RSPB - Sunday 8th September

Marsh Harrier at Blacktoft Sands RSPB (c) Martyn Jones
The first L.O.S. fieldtrip of the new season takes us to Blacktoft Sands RSPB. There may be a possibility of also calling in at North Cave Nature Reserve if time permits.

We will be meeting at Doctors Nook Car Park facing Leigh Library and leaving at 7.30am prompt, on Sunday 8th September. The postcode for Blacktoft Sands RSPB is DN14 8HR for those going directly there to meet at Blacktoft at approximately 9.00am.

Any enquiries can be made to myself, by comment or private message on Facebook or by email: leighos.trips@gmail.com.

Hope to see you all there.
Paul Pennington
Fieldtrips Officer

Spoonbills at Blacktoft Sands RSPB (c) Martyn Jones

L.O.S. Friday Night Presentation - Friday 6th September 2019

Wandering and Wondering in the Far West

Following our short Annual General Meeting, L.O.S. founder member Dave Wilson will present a journey through several wonderfully diverse habitats in the Western USA, reminiscing and wondering if a final visit will be undertaken.


We meet in the Derby Room upstairs at Leigh Library at around 7:15pm for a 7:30pm start. Car parking is free. Everyone is welcome and entry is free, although we would appreciate it if you'd buy a raffle ticket or two.

Do come and join us, bring a friend, become a member. Just ask one of us on the door for information on how to join.

L.O.S. Fieldtrips for 2019-20

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

http://www.leighos.org.uk/p/fieldtrips.html

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
Gatekeeper 
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

STOP PRESS ...

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

http://www.leighos.org.uk/p/meetings.html

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.



This YouTube version has had the music removed due to copyright reasons.

If anyone wants a DVD, 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.