Starling Murmurations

The Open University are asking for any photos or reports of starling murmurations between 1st November 2019 and 1st March 2020 to be submitted to their nQuire website:

'Please share your photos of starling murmurations and your experiences of observing them so that we can explore this great winter spectacle together.'

You could also record them in the comments underneath this post to inform L.O.S. members where to see them locally.

Here's a thing!

The area that has been known as "Bickershaw Rucks" or just "Bickershaw" now has its official signboard at the Smith's Lane entrance: Bickershaw Country Park! The board shows the northern circuit footpath very clearly, and on a walk round it today (admittedly with a lot of detours to snoop around copses and ponds!) I counted 234 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare (I'm sure there were more!) 64 Goldfinch, 2 Kestrels and 2 Buzzard, as well as hearing a Cetti's Warbler and a variety of our common species - 26 in 2 hours.

There are even some new benches around the site, once the concrete sets, though you may want to take along a bum-warmer as they are metal!! We need more observers there - it's an area where you work for your sightings, but let's use it so we don't lose it.

A Letter From Our Conservation Officer

Dear LOS Member 

You will probably already know that Wigan Council is consulting with various stakeholders about future plans for Pennington Flash. The aim is to put together a "Masterplan" and there have been some quite radical ideas going about. We know people are worried about the introduction of new "leisure pursuits" which could potentially be damaging to the habitat and disturbing to the wildlife. 

The Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, working with an Ecology Consulting firm called "Footprint Ecology", has put together a dedicated reporting page for Pennington Flash, and we would like to encourage all birders who visit Pennington to report their sightings via this web page. This is a particular push for 2020, and part of the focus is to get more data about what happens to birds when there is disturbance in any part of the Country Park. So please report ANY species of bird, mammal or insect, but of particular interest are any unusual sightings or unusual concentrations of birds in a particular location. For example, if there's a sailing race happening, you may see 32 Great Crested Grebe on the water in front of Ramsdale's reedbed. The web page allows you to report this down to that amount of detail, by means of a clickable map. 

This is the special feature of this data gathering - it needs to be very detailed as to where things are seen. Much of what is on record at GMEU, for example, is just down as "Pennington Flash" and does not indicate where in the Country Park something has been seen. 

The web page is really easy to use, although the map does take a little while to load. You don't even have to register - just insert your name and email address - but if you do register and login, you won't have to enter those details every time. Everything else is pretty much self explanatory. 

Members have expressed a little suspicion about bringing in outside ecologists. Please be reassured that this is not a big firm which works for big developers - the two consultants involved have both been keen birders from a young age, and their work is almost exclusively for local councils and nature conservation groups such as the Wildlife Trust. I have spoken at some length to Durwyn Liley of Footprint, and will be meeting him in early December. He is more than ready to listen to LOS and others from the local area, and to use our records as well as those generated during the survey year. I think it is a positive sign that the Council have commissioned this survey before rushing into development of the Country Park or additional leisure projects. 

I hope you will consider contributing to the survey whenever you visit the Flash from now and through 2020. 


Paul Richardson 
Conservation Officer