Presentation of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

made to 

Leigh Ornithological Society on 14th October 2020


Present: David Shallcross (L.O.S. Chair), Tony Bishop, Joan Disley, Brian Fawcett, Peter Hodson, Anne Johnson, Martyn Jones, Eddie King, Paul Pennington, Angela Pike, George Pike, Paul Richardson, Liz Haworth (Nominator), John Preston, Alderman Susan Loudon, Steve McGuirk, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester.

Due to the current Covid situation, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services was formally presented to DS by Steve McGuirk, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, via a Zoom meeting watched by the members and supporters listed above.

Steve McGuirk said it was a pleasure to make the presentation of the Award and Certificate to L.O.S.  He remembered from the meetings with L.O.S. members and information he received about the Society that L.O.S. particularly stood out for the environmental work it does, which was unusual in his experience of nominations of ‘bird watching’ clubs. He offered his sincere congratulations and said it was a fantastic achievement.

The Chairman responded as follows:

“This is a wonderful achievement; it is a major honour to receive this prestigious award on behalf of the Society; I am delighted that the Society has been recognised in this way. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Officers, Committee, valued members and volunteers past and present, not forgetting the Society’s founders of 1971. It is a major honour and an acknowledgement of the work and enthusiasm of our volunteers in promoting wildlife conservation in the local area over the last 49 years. We continue to provide education to the wider population of our Borough and to stimulate the knowledge of our young people through our “Young Birders Team”.

Thank you Steve for taking time to present this Award and for your assistance and direction in helping the Society through the process. Thank you also to Liz Haworth, John Preston, John O’Neill and Avis Freeman for your letters of support, and to Joy Smith for her immense contribution in steering us to a successful award.

Can I now invite you Steve to attend a future Open Day to present the Award again when we will be able to also invite other dignitaries of the Borough and our local press etc. Leigh Ornithological Society is indebted to you for your recognition of our worth in advising Her Majesty’s adjudicators to support our application. On behalf of the Society, I give my sincere thanks.”

DS then showed those present the crystal award engraved in 3D and the Certificate from Her Majesty The Queen (below).  

After a little more discussion, the Chairman then closed the meeting.

The 2020-21 Season Approaches ...

As we approach what would normally be our new season, I am sure that everyone realises that things are going to be different for the L.O.S. for quite a while yet. We currently have no plans to hold any Friday night presentation meetings at Leigh Library, but weekend field trips will probably be going ahead. Please use our Facebook group and our main website pages to keep up to date with the details of any L.O.S. activities.

L.O.S. Letter of Objection to Westleigh Waterfront Development

The L.O.S. has sent in an objection letter to the proposed Westleigh Waterfront development. Please seriously consider lodging your own objection of up to 2000 words on the Wigan Council planning portal. Instructions for how to register are on the excellent website. 
Here's the most important section of the letter:
We wish to support the objection made by WWRAG to this scheme for the following reasons:
1. The loss of three quarters of three hectares of mature woodland and 80-90% of tree cover will deprive resident birds and bats of breeding and roosting areas. Some of the birds are red and amber listed.
A bird survey was not carried out by the developer's ecologist as part of the EIA however local residents have carried out such surveys and these have been forwarded to GMEU and is copied in the main objection.
2. Habitat loss. Parts of the site are certainly 'Brownfield' in nature, but this does NOT mean that they have no value – indeed, far from it.
The Department for Communities and Local Government Planning Practice Guidance on Natural Environment (21.1.2016) includes the following paragraph:
“Can brownfield land have a high ecological value?
It can do. A core principle in the National Planning Policy Framework is to encourage the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. This means that planning needs to take account of issues such as the biodiversity value which may be present on a brownfield site before decisions are taken.”
We at the L.O.S. would argue that the land for proposed development at Westleigh Waterfront is of high environmental value because of the diversity of bird species recorded on and around the area, which in turn is due to the diversity of habitat present. This is characteristic of land that has been “re-invaded” by nature in a post-industrial setting.
Vital habitat for nesting and foraging for RSPB red and amber listed birds would be threatened or lost. This categorisation is taken from the internationally recognized December 2015 “Birds of Conservation Concern 4” survey by the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology, and several other conservation agencies.
Red listed birds are defined as:
Species are globally threatened.
· Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995.
· Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years.
· Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
The following red-listed birds have been recorded as resident or breeding on the site. Cuckoo, willow tit, starling,song thrush, mistle thrush and linnet.
3 The site is an important part of two wildlife corridorsOn a large scale, the corridor linking South Lancashire and Cheshire Mosses and the West Pennine moors for migrating birds such as the northern wheatear, whinchat and meadow pipit.  On a more local scale, but perhaps even more vital for the borough, it provides a green link between the Country Parks at Bickershaw and at Pennington Flash. Wildlife needs these corridors to be uninterrupted, to allow movement between sites, particularly when there are pressures on certain areas during intense public use such as the Ironman event at Pennington. If these links cease to exist, it is well-known that bird and animal life will leave such areas permanently, in search of locations where they can be less disturbed.
4 The proposed development is adjacent to Pennington country park which is of national importance for birds and wildlife. The building of 450 houses and a through road will inevitably affect those creatures which depend on it for feeding and breeding
5 This proposal represents a further loss of green areas and woodland which not only have an impact on nature but also on local residents for whom such open spaces are an amenity and a resource. We can ill afford to let another green space be taken up by development.
6. This loss of green space needs to be seen in the wider context of the borough-wide threat to such areas. As a reminder in the area next to or close to Atherleigh Way there are approved developments at:
· Leigh north between the Atherleigh Way bypass and Hindley Green: 1800 houses. The developer failed to include recreational space in its application.
· Pocket Nook, Lowton: 600 houses
· Atherton south: 850 houses
In addition, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) includes developments West of Gibfield at the north end of Atherleigh way (550 houses) and of 180,000 m2 of industrial building at Pennington South.
All this development work will destroy green space and this area of Leigh borough must be the most affected area in both Wigan Borough and Greater Manchester County.
Across the UK, people are becoming more and more aware of the value of green space, and all the more in this current crisis where travel is limited and people are needing to find local resources for both physical and mental recreation. The continual infilling of green areas in our borough with housing, business and industrial development is completely out of balance with this change of public opinion, and the increasing desire to leave a green legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Leigh Ornithological Society receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Leigh Ornithological Society (L.O.S.) is a group of volunteers based in Leigh and we have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK. It is the equivalent to an M.B.E.

The Society was founded in 1971 in response to landfill threatening locally important wildlife habitat. Since those early days of eight founder members, the L.O.S. has grown into a highly respected environmental group that has successfully helped reduce subsequent threats by conserving wildlife, collecting/publishing biological data and liaising with local, regional, and national bodies.

L.O.S. has developed over time and now has several offshoots. We have a volunteer group who dedicate much of their time on maintenance projects around the 1971 landfill site, now Pennington Flash Country Park. We run a Young Birders' group which has a team who visit local schools and clubs as part of a community education programme to enlighten young people about the benefits and joys of the natural world. We make and erect bird nest boxes, create wildflower meadows and plant trees throughout the Borough. We hold open days and a series of monthly indoor meetings and field trips to promote the society’s work and to engage and educate the public.

L.O.S. is one of 230 charities, social enterprises, and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations has increased year on year since the awards were introduced in 2002, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Representatives of Leigh Ornithological Society will receive the award from Sir Warren Smith KCVO KStJ JP, Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from the Society will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

Leigh Ornithological Society Chairman, David Shallcross says: 
“This is a wonderful achievement, it is a major honour to receive this prestigious award on behalf of the Society I am delighted that the group has been recognised in this way. I would like to pay tribute to hard work and commitment of the Officers, committee, valued members and volunteers past and present not forgetting the society’s founders of 1971”.
It is a major honour and an acknowledgement of the hard work and enthusiasm of our volunteers in promoting wildlife conservation in the local area over the last 49 years.

Important Notice

L.O.S. Fieldltrip to Mere Sands Wood and Hesketh Out Marsh - Saturday 14th March


Nuthatch (c) Paul Pennington
Saturday14th March saw an abrupt end to our fieldtrip season due to the Coronavirus. Our trip to Mere Sands Wood would be our last hurrah for the season, with our April and May trips cancelled for the obvious health reasons. Although only nine birders attended, it would prove to be a great outing.

Six of us gathered as arranged for 8.30am at Mere Sands car park, with Raymond, Linda and Joan set to join us a short time after.  We would head off in an anti clockwise direction along the Blue Trail. Our first port of call would be the Marshall Hide over looking The Hollow. Here a small flock of Black-headed Gulls noisily prepared for the upcoming breeding season, and a dozen Tufted Ducks in all their finery, but the best spot was a single Water Rail that skulked among the waterlogged Willow Trees, proving very difficult for a number of our crew to pick up. Eventually all located the bird and left the hide looking forward to the rest of the circuit.

Next, the Ainscough Hide, here much of the same really, Canada Geese, Mallards, and a Kingfisher heard from the previous hide finally made an appearance giving good views. Moving on, and to the small Holmeswood Corner feeding station, Chaffinches and our first Nuthatch, in the field beyond the feeding table, a Song Thrush and a Redwing in excellent condition, happily picked around in the search for food.
Moving along to the Redwing Hide, Shovelers about fourteen in number, pairing up. Across on the Twin Island, five or so Snipe snoozed along the waters edge, accompanied by a couple of pair of Gadwall and Teal. To our left in one of the more mature trees a roost of some ten or so Cormorant.

Next would be the Rufford Hide, which proved very popular with the group. The Snipe were closer to observe, but amazingly three Kingfishers flitting back and forth, with one posing for photographs right in front of the hide.

We took a slight detour from the main Blue Trail and along the White Trail on the outer edge of the woods, here we would see Jays and a fleeting glimpse of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, both of which, we would get better views further along. We then cut off trail and headed through the majestic Scots Pines, here we would see Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit and the odd Coal Tit. Eventually we reached End Lake Platform. A Jay gave us some lovely close views.

Across the lake a Buzzard rested on a solitary pine tree in the warm morning sunlight. Over on Mere End, a Great Crested Grebe looking for a meal close to the remains of the burnt out Cyril Gibbons Hide. In the meadow by the visitor centre a Chiffchaff endlessly called in search of a mate.  Other birds of note on our circuit of the reserve were, Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, Goldcrest and Treecreeper.

So it was time for a spot of lunch. With some 44 species logged on the reserve, well deserved and quite impressive. After lunch we headed off to Hesketh Out Marsh over looking the Ribble Estuary.

At the end of Dib Road we parked up and walked the short distance to what was the so called Bus Stop viewing shelter which is no longer with us after a storm. It is now basically a platform with a couple of benches from which to observe the salt marsh. 

On our way up to the shelter a Hen Harrier flew from the fields and out towards the Marsh. Also in the distance a small gathering of Whooper Swans which eventually moved along to pastures new. Two Avocets gave great viewing in the pool directly in front, with a number of Redshank, and one Black-tailed Godwit. A Peregrine Falcon flew from the outer Marsh and away over the farmland swooping down for a kill in the distance. Other birds of note on the Marsh were Oystercatchers, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Curlew.

Eventually the tide came and went, and a happy crew headed off home with some 62 species recorded along the way. 
As usual great company, some excellent banter and a good time had by all.


Finally with a heavy heart I'm afraid to say, our recent somewhat frightening pandemic has prematurely cut our season short. Thank you all for your support, advice and company for season 2019/20.

I will plan our next seasons trips as usual, September through to May. Here's hoping we all stay healthy and safe. Hopefully all can return to normal very soon, and more birding adventures can be enjoyed as a group.

Thinking of you all.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

Eddie the Eagle Lands at Leigh Central Primary School

The L.O.S. Young Birders' Club Team of Martyn, George, Brian and Tony spent a fantastic afternoon at Leigh Central Primary School last Thursday when they delivered a presentation about Mountain Habitats to a class of Year 4 students.

L.O.S. Winter Trip to Dumfries and Galloway - February 2020


The L.O.S. annual winter trip for 2020 took us for another visit to Dumfries and Galloway and the Solway Firth. Most of the 17 strong party would meet at Tebay Services for 9.00am, the rest on arrival at Caerlaverock WWT at midday.

View from Tebay Service Station on the M6 (c) Paul Richardson
The journey was a little testing at times with snow over Shap, but we all arrived safely at Caerlaverock by noon to more welcoming skies, albeit a little on the cold side.

Whooper Swan (c) Paul Richardson
Day 1 at Caerlaverock wetlands would provide some great birding. Firstly, the Peter Scott Observatory greeting us with good numbers of Whooper Swans with a smattering of Teal and the odd Wigeon, amongst some of our more common species. Outside the hide along the hedgerow-lined avenues, Yellowhammers showed well along with the odd Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Next, out towards the Saltcot Merse Hide overlooking the Solway salt marshes.

Curlew (c) Paul Pennington
This two storey hide provided great views out over the vast salt marsh and the coastline. Here we would observe Little Egrets, many a Barnacle Goose and the distant smoke like wisps of huge flocks of waders hugging the shoreline. Most were too distant to identify but some a little closer were identified as Golden Plover. On the way back a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits were seen on the edge of Folly Pond.

Black-tailed Godwits (c) Martyn Jones
After returning to the crossroads in front of the Peter Scott Observatory, some of the party decided on a coffee break at the visitor centre cafe, while some of our more hardened souls continued on. After all it had been an early start.  A quick stop to check what had been seen distantly from the previous hide revealed that they were indeed a flock of Golden Plover in amongst the Lapwings and occasional Teal and Redshank.

Golden Plover et al (c) Martyn Jones
Back along the tree-lined avenues towards the next hide called The Avenue Tower we found a pair of Treecreepers, A Goldcrest and three Common Snipe. From the smaller hides en-route were Shovelers, Lapwings mixed with Golden Plovers, Curlews Reed Buntings and the usual Teal.

Treecreeper (c) Keith Williams
The Avenue Tower is a three-storey hide which looked somewhat like a small prison block rather than a bird hide. From here a single Hen Harrier and a pair of Stonechat were seen as well as a lonely pair of Barnacle Geese. Lastly we visited the Back Hide and the Newfield Hide. From Back Hide we saw many more close Whooper Swans, Teal and Wigeon.

Drake Wigeon (c) Paul Richardson
Newfield Hide overlooked partially flooded pasture-like fields and produced some 200 plus Barnacle Geese and a large flock of around 300 hundred Curlews - quite a count. Eventually we made our way to the hotel in Castle Douglas for some warm food and a pint, resting up ready for Day 2.

Ringed Plover (c) Martyn Jones
After a very hearty breakfast, Day 2 would see us visiting Loch Ryan and Cairnryan would be our first port of call. En-route we would see our first Red Kite of the trip. The group assembled on a small car park between the two Ferry Terminals and began the sea watch.

Shag (c) Martyn Jones
Here Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot and the odd Shag were observed, along with Great Crested Grebe and along the pebbled shore line, a dozen Ringed Plovers. Behind us, over the small mountain were a Kestrel and three Buzzards whilst in the field on the lower slopes 30 or more Oystercatchers.

Drake Scaup (c) Martyn Jones
Eventually we moved on to Stranraer Harbour. Along the way stopping off at various points. A shag gave photo opportunities at close quarters, not forgetting some magnificent Scaup. From Stranraer Harbour itself a single Little Grebe, a female Scaup, more Black Guillemot and some of our more common Gull species. 

Female Scaup (c) Martyn Jones
We then made our way towards an area called The Wig at the opposite side of Loch Ryan. We would stop a couple of times along the way. From one viewing point a small group of Common Scoter and for many the best bird of the break, a single Slavonian Grebe, giving great views.

Meadow Pipit (c) Paul Pennington
When we arrived at The Wig, a small spit of beach, the weather was kind, dry and not too blowy. Making our way out, some by car, some on foot. We would encounter Meadow Pipits and Turnstones. To our left, just inland, a pair of Knot amongst the greater numbers of Oystercatcher, Curlew and good numbers of Brent Geese, which were our first of the trip.

Turnstone (c) Keith Williams
Along the beach some of us found a flock of Twite, always a good place to see them. In Loch Ryan itself more Red-breasted Mergansers and a wonderful Red-throated Diver gave good views with the aid of binoculars and spotting scopes.

Flock of Twite (c) Paul Richardson
Lastly we decided to visit Portpatrick. The harbour area is now owned by the people of Portpatrick and what a wonderful job they have done. This picturesque harbour has been returned to its former glory and is a credit to the folk of Portpatrick. Here we only saw one Black Guillemot within the harbour walls and a couple of Rock Pipit. Pigeons seemed to be currently occupying all the nesting holes in the harbour walls, but that will change during the breeding season. Nevertheless, well worth a visit for anyone in the area. After a coffee and some complimentary shortbread in a local cafe pub, we headed back to the hotel at the end of Day 2, happy with our efforts for a hot three-course meal, a welcome pint and wee dram.

Black Guillemot (c) Keith Williams
Day 3 would see us firstly visit Carlingwark Loch in Castle Douglas itself. Carlingwark is a smallish loch but very delightful in its own way, even though it is right on the very edge of the town. Here we saw Tree Creeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, many Tufted Duck, a superb count of some 18 Little Grebes but the stars of the show were the Goldeneye, estimated at some 20-30 in number. Also noted were Bullfinch, and a few Mute Swans, bathed in the bright morning light with a good number of Rooks gathering nesting material.

Drake Goldeneye (c) Paul Pennington
After Carlingwark we headed off in search of Golden Eagles in the Laurieston Forest area. Unfortunately this, as last time was a big no show. The only points of note were two Red Kite. However the L.A.S. (Leigh Astro Society) astronuts felt it would be a good site to which they could return after dark one evening, and on Thursday evening two of them did.

Orion with the Pleiades, Hyades and Sirius (c) Martyn Jones
After an hour or so, we made our way to the New Galloway Forest and Murray’s Monument. Along the way we stopped off at the Red Deer Range. Here we had some up close and personal interaction with the Red Deer and a very magnificent Stag which all but got into the hide with us. Then onward towards Murray’s Monument. At the small car park we took lunch, and took in the surrounding scenery.

Red Deer Stag (c) Paul Pennington
Here amongst the wild goats the only birds of note were two Raven. After a spot of lunch some of us made the short climb up to Murray’s Monument, some decided to head off to Bellymack Hill Farm Red Kite Feeding Station.

Male Chaffinch (c) Keith Williams
At the Kite feeding station five of us were treated to 120 or so Red Kite, soaring overhead before swooping down for the meat scraps put out by the locals. The birds where so close you could hear the wind whooshing through their feathers. Magnificent birds and a magnificent spectacle.

Red Kite (c) Paul Pennington
Meanwhile the rest of the group had moved onto RSPB Ken Dee Marshes. Birds noted from this splinter visit were, Redwing, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Red-legged Partridge and some distant White-Fronted Geese - all great additions to the trip list. As Martyn and Keith were staying at Crossmichael, a couple of miles from the main hotel in Castle Douglas, they decided to try for closer views of the White-front Geese. With eagle-eyed Keith riding shotgun, they soon spotted them over the wall close to the road. A quick turnaround and park enabled some decent photographs to be taken. Back at the hotel, fed and watered, the 9pm bird roll call had risen to three figures and everyone retired happy and ready for the last day.

Greenland White-fronted Goose (c) Martyn Jones
Our last day (Day 4) in Scotland took us to RSPB Mersehead. At Mersehead the group gathered on the car park, a Barn Owl had been spotted on the way, close to the visitor centre. From the centre itself, which has one of the best feeding stations I have ever seen, small and compact, which also gave great views across vast areas of the site.

Yellowhammer (c) Martyn Jones
Coming in to feed from the tables were House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and Blackbirds all amicably sharing one bird table! On the pools beyond the feeding tables were Little Egrets, Pintails and many Teal.

Barnacle Geese in flight (c) Martyn Jones
Unfortunately one of the hides was under repair and so out of action, leaving us only one to visit. Making our way down to the single available hide on the 70 hectare site, a Kingfisher was seen at distance. From the hide itself, many Barnacle Geese, a handful of Roe Deer, and good numbers of Curlew and Lapwing were seen with the occasional close Rook.

Tree Sparrow (c) Martyn Jones
Our next destination would be Southerness Point and the lighthouse there with a looming high tide. From Southerness Beach we would see our first Grey Plovers of the trip, along with Dunlin and Ringed Plover and many a Curlew forced along the beach by the high tide.

Grey Plover (c) Martyn Jones

The final destination of the trip would be Carsethorn, overlooking the body of water known as Carse Gut. The tide was at full height and this didn’t make for good birding really. Along the shoreline were a flock very tame Turnstone and a single Dunlin with an identity crisis. It must have thought it was a Turnstone!

Dunlin (c) Keith Williams
Out on the Gut itself was a Great Black-backed Gull, a few Oystercatchers but not a lot else. So after around 45 minutes we finally dropped the curtain on our trip to Dumfries and Galloway.

The 2020 Winter Trip minus Anne who took the photo
As we made our long journey home, we had time to reflect on a fantastic birding trip, in great company with many a laugh along the way. A big thanks to Eddie King for his excellent organising as always, providing superb weather, (lucky), and last but not least his witty evening bird roll calls, which amassed 106 species in total.
Paul Pennington
Official Trip Report Writer
Editing and Formatting by Martyn Jones

Photographs by Keith Williams, Paul Richardson, 
Paul Pennington, Martyn Jones and Anne Johnson

There are far too many good photos to show in this report 
so they'll be in a slideshow which will follow shortly ....

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB and Parkgate - Saturday 8th February


Our February L.O.S. Fieldtrip took us out to the Dee Estuary and the venues of Parkgate and Burton Mere Wetlands, deciding on the last minute that Parkgate Old Baths would be our first destination of the day. With some swift reorganising of our meeting point sorted, we all eventually met up at Parkgate where the high tide was predicted just after 10am. It proved not to be one of the better high tides, but I'm afraid it was what it was.

Male and Female Stonechats (c) Paul Pennington and Keith Williams
Two of us walked out to the golf course area and would see very little of note. A pair of Stonechat, the odd Little Egret, a single Greenfinch and a female Reed Bunting, not forgetting the vast numbers of Geese, mainly Pink Footed, as the odd Skylark sang in the sky above.

Little Egret (c) Bobby Loomba
The rest kept the fort at the Old Baths area, with more success. A male and female Merlin, a pair of Peregrine Falcon, and the ever present Marsh Harriers were the main contenders. Other sightings included Blackbird, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Redshank, Curlew, Grey Heron, Goldfinch and Chaffinch.

Reed Bunting (c) John Preston
After an hour or two we decided to head of to RSPB Burton Mere. First we went out towards the Bunker hide area. Meadow Pipit and Mistle Thrush were seen in the adjacent field. In the same area, a Kestrel hovered on the wind, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch by the feeders, and from the hide itself, a few Ruff.
Kestrel (c) Martyn Jones
We retraced out steps and headed out towards main site and the various hides. Firstly to the ponds alongside the wild flower garden area. Here many Canadian Geese and Tufted Duck. Mixed in with these where a pair of Egyptian Geese - although these birds would have originally come from escapees, there are now self-sustaining breeding pair in the wild here and so they are counted as UK birds and always nice to see.

Egyptian Geese (c) Martyn Jones
We made our way round the reserve. Firstly to the Marsh Covert hide. Here a small flock of Curlew, four Pintail, and many Teal and Shoveler. On leaving the hide four Buzzard drifted above us and away behind the treeline, one of which returned at low altitude as we headed along the trail, giving great views and photo opportunities.

Buzzard (c) Paul Richardson
At this point some of the gang headed back to Parkgate in hope of the Owls. But I'm told they did show, but not for long, and as the weather was unfavourable they eventually gave up the ghost.

Ground Beetle (Carabus granulatus) (c) Paul Richardson
Five of us continued on our way round the Reserve. First up to the hill atop of the Willow Trail. Here a couple of Dunnock, and a mixture of Rook and Jackdaw in some distant tall trees. We then headed across the railway bridge and along the Hillfort Trail. Here at the bottom of the field a small flock of Fieldfare. We took a vantage point over looking the Dee Estuary and four Great White Egret were picked out, but not much else.

Great White Egret (c) Paul Richardson
Then at the bottom of the field Keith and John spotted a fleeting glimpse of a Green Woodpecker. After some searching of the tree lined fence, it eventually took to the air and headed towards the railway lines and some larger trees. As we were heading that way we stopped for a while, but had no luck relocating it.

Teal (c) Graeme Robertson
Onward to the last hide on the reserve. This hide gives fantastic panoramic views of the whole site. To our right a large flock of Wigeon grazed on the grass bank. On the small island in front a flock of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit. A number of Greylag mixed with Canadian Geese flew in from the pasture. A dozen or so Curlew came and went. Many Shoveler and Teal gave presence with a scattering of Shelduck.

Shoveler (c) Paul Pennington
A single Marsh Harrier appeared to our right, disturbing many a hundred Lapwing amongst other Ducks and Waders. It scoured the whole site, eventually coming out towards the front of the hide giving everyone great views. Making our way back three Raven passed just above us at close quarters

March Harrier (c) Paul Richardson
Other birds of note on this trip: Dunlin, Sparrowhawk, Redwing, Oystercatcher, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a Coal Tit plus all the usuals.

Fieldfare (c) Keith Williams
In all 64 species were noted. A great day for all, with a sprinkling of giggles and fun along the way. Thankfully a Saturday venture as Storm Ciara would have been a Sunday washout. Phew!!!

Thanks to all who attended and their company. See you next time.
Paul Pennington 
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Marshside RSPB and Lunt Meadows - Sunday 12th January 2020

Our first fieldtrip of 2020 took us firstly to Marshside RSPB and then on to Lunt Meadows. 14 members met up at 9am on the car park at Marshside. The weather was inclement at first but improving as the morning moved on. 
Our first bird of the day was a Marsh Harrier as we gathered our thoughts and belongings. We decided to head off to Sandgrounder's Hide until the rain moved on. Here a distant Peregrine perched along the fence line before moving on. A distant Kestrel was recorded, along with two Great Black-Backed Gulls, Teal, Pintail, Moorhen and the obligatory Mallard. 
From Sandgrounder's we crossed the road and stood by the sand works looking out across Crossen's Outer Marsh. Here Little Egret and Great White Egret were observed at distance. At even more distance, a male Hen Harrier hawked the tideline before coming to rest on a prominence, giving the scope men time to confirm its ID. There was also a solitary Raven. 
By this time the rain had ceased to be, which made for a great birding day to come, so the next port of call was Nel's Hide. Here a flotilla of Tufted Duck, happily mixed with a few Pochard, Pintails, Gadwall and a stunning female Scaup giving good views. On leaving the hide two Goldcrest gave us some real close up viewing. 
Returning to the car park, we headed out towards the incoming tide and out onto the saltmarsh. Here hundreds of Dunlin took to flight forced from their feeding grounds by the incoming tide, also good flocks of Redshank, Oystercatcher mixed with Grey Plover. A single Snipe crossed over head also to note Pink-footed Geese and good numbers of Skylarks disturbed by the incoming tide trying to find dryer ground. Then along the tideline moving from right to left a small raptor, which came to rest on a small dead shrub. With the aid of binoculars and scopes a female Merlin made for some marvellous birdwatching. Eventually after some 20 minutes it moved on at speed along the tideline taking a Dunlin before going to ground. 
Returning to the cars for a spot of lunch, we decided to head over to Crossen's Inner Marsh to look for the recently reported Long-billed Dowitcher. We were not to be disappointed. Some 25 meters away, it gave great views and an opportunity for the odd photograph. Also on the inner marsh, there were good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Wigeon, and Golden Plover. 
Next a quick reccy to Gravel Lane for the Cattle Egrets that had been reported and a chance to see the Little Owl - but this time we came up short. 
Lastly we headed off to Lunt Meadows. On arrival we made our way to the wooden footbridge which crosses the River Alt. A single female Stonechat and many a Linnet flitted to and fro. As the sun started to set, two Barn Owls gave reasonable views for a short period. 
On a sad note three men appeared in the distance, crossing the middle of the vast arable fields with Lurchers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Hare Coursing was illegal. Inevitably it wasn't long before a Brown Hare was flushed and the dogs were unleashed. We watched in full view, the dogs running the Hare down. The chase went on for some 10 minutes. Unfortunately, two Short-eared Owl were flushed in the process. This would be our only view at distance of the birds we had come especially to see. 
Meanwhile the Hare was heading our way, still with the dogs hot on its tail, only a metre or so behind. Then the Hare made its last throw of the dice - it headed straight in the a large patch of dense reeds and brambles by the river bank. Fortunately here it completely lost the dogs in the dense undergrowth, eventually heading out the other side, and up the embankment. It then headed straight towards us at full tilt, before shooting back down the embankment and across the vast fields to safety. One nil for the Hare, and a very happy ending to the day, but sadly it may not be so fortunate next time.
Thank you all who attended and your great company, another fantastic trip, with some fantastic birding. 
On a final note: If your binoculars steam up, keep them close to your chest, and be careful what you wish to see through your scope. 
Until next time.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer