L.O.S. Presentation - Friday 1st November 2019

Wildlife Wonders of Scotland

A presentation by our Chairman, David Shallcross

David tells us "this is a story of the species I have encountered summer and winter in or around the Cairngorm National Park in Scotland".

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.

So 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 our friendly society.

L.O.S. Young Birders' Club Starts A New Season

The L.O.S. Young Birders' team got the new academic year (2019/2020) off to a flying start yesterday afternoon with yet another visit to Gilded Hollins Primary School in Lowton, Leigh.

This is our eighth time at Gilded Hollins – we first went there in 2012 and, in fact, it was the very first school the team ever visited. Since then the Young Birders' Club team of Martyn Jones, Brian Fawcett, Teresa Fayle, Tony Bishop and I have worked with almost 2,000 children in twelve different schools as well as nine other groups including Brownies, Cubs and Leigh Rotary Club.

Yesterday’s presentation involved three of the team, Tony, Martyn and myself, and the two hour interactive session with 30 Year 4 pupils in Mr. Taylor’s class concentrated very much on bird identification. We started by looking at some key points in bird ID involving 12 common birds from Wren to Mute Swan. The children then spent a few minutes working in pairs to construct a Bird ID Dial. This was followed by two quizzes and then the finale was a rather noisy ‘Birdy Bingo’ game which the children thoroughly enjoyed.

It was great fun; the children were marvellous – enthusiastic and attentive. We can now look forward to more school visits with the added bonus of extra reinforcements as Brian is just back from his long 'reverse migration' trip to France.
George Pike

More awards for work done by the L.O.S. in our local Community

L.O.S.  Committee members Eddie King and Tony Bishop were invited to the 'Wigan in Bloom' presentation night at The DW Stadium in Wigan.

They were presented with a signed certificate and small trophy to commemorate their efforts.

Over the last couple of years they have erected about 100 bird boxes, mostly for Tits but also some for Robins.

The following organisations have benefited :

Wigan and Leigh Hospice, Leigh Neighbours' Project, Leigh St. Mary's Primary School, Victoria Park in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Appley Bridge Floral Society and a national lottery funded group who work in the deprived areas of Leigh.

Most of the boxes were made by 'Men in Sheds', a local organisation made up mostly of retired men, and modified by Eddie with others made by Eddie himself.

Tony Bishop
Deputy Chairman

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.