Wood You Believe It ?

Photo: The stunning drake North American Wood Duck at Fairfield on the Ashton Canal, photographed in September 2016 (James Walsh @MancunianBirder)
A pair of North American Wood Ducks have been spotted at Fairfield on the picturesque Ashton Canal just 2 miles east of Manchester, to the surprise of local birdwatchers

James Walsh aka The Mancunian Birder, a qualified Ecologist who has researched the species both in America and the U.K. says “The North American Wood Duck, commonly known as the Wood Duck, is a unique species, it is one of just a small number of duck species that perch and nest in trees, they like secluded still and slow moving water with plenty waterside vegetation and trees, therefore they are very much at home on the Ashton Canal

Sightings of this species are very rare in Europe with most relating to birds that have escaped from zoos or collections/formed feral populations, however, it is also scientifically proven that Wood Ducks are flying the Atlantic and arriving in Europe naturally – a drake on Stronsay in Orkney in January 2016 was another Scottish Isles sighting that might be a genuine vagrant

The North American Wood Duck is a symbol of successful conservation in the USA as the species was almost extinct around the turn of the 20th century, but good folks of America have worked together to restore habitat and put up special nesting boxes, and now the USA population is on the up

The drake is renowned for spectacular colours, while, like most ducks, the female is a brownish colour, so she is camouflaged on the nest and when looking after ducklings

A drake Wood Duck attracted many birdwatchers to Mersey Vale Nature Reserve just west of Stockport from October 2015 – February 2016, and there was also a sighting of a drake Wood Duck at Chorlton Water Park in July 2016”

Premier League Birding


As Manchester City fans all over the world celebrate the Derby Day win, the Mancunian Birder starts a series of articles on the birdwatching areas that are in the vicinity of Premier League Football stadiums

The Etihad Stadium is located in the Medlock Valley on the north-east side of Manchester and is home to Kingfishers, a big Sand Martin colony, Grey Wagtails, Song Thrushes, Bullfinches and Goldfinches

Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats & Blackcaps are present in the Spring & Summer, especially in the area unofficially known as The Delph, near to the Etihad Metrolink station

The skies around the Etihad are the domain of Peregrine Falcons, the fastest bird on the planet, and recently a pair of Ravens were seen flying around the stadium

The area is very green with the Ashton Canal another wildlife corridor that runs through the area known as Eastlands, and the huge Phillip’s Park is just a short walk from the stadium and is home to Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Stock Doves

Manchester City Football Club keep the association with the Manchester Ship Canal and Salford Docklands through the ever-present ship on the clubs’ badge

Salford Docklands once saw huge amounts of global trade with a workforce of 5000 dockers, hard-working souls who kept the wheels of industry turning, however, the docks were closed in 1982 and the old Docklands, now known as Salford Quays, have become a wildlife haven, including The Big Five – Kingfisher, Northern Lapwing, Mute Swan, Cormorant and Grey Heron

As an ecologist, I have been recording, monitoring, filming and photographing the wildlife of Salford Docklands, the area of former docklands between Pomona & the Millenium Bridge, for ten years, during my time as a student at the University of Salford and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit

Recently, I have joined a collaboration of ecologists, Journalists, students and academics writing a book about Pomona Docks, a huge area of Greenspace on the south-east side of Salford Docklands

The official launch date for the book is Tuesday 18th October 2016

The Salford Docklands Big Five 


Photo: Kingfisher, a star bird of the Salford Docklands

A classic EcoTourism promotion is to select a Big Five species for a site to represent and promote the site to the general public

The Manchester Ship Canal World Heritage Group have selected five species to represent and promote the Salford Docklands – Kingfisher, Northern Lapwing, Mute Swan, Cormorant and Grey Heron

Visitors to the Salford Docklands area have a good chance of seeing all five on a walk around The Quays, with Pomona a very good site to visit to see The Big Five

Kingfisher, Mute Swan & Northern Lapwing are resident breeding species along the Manchester Ship Canal, whilst Cormorants & Grey Herons are also resident all-year round

The Big Five featured on national television, BBCs’ Urban Jungle, in the summer of 2013, and can form the beginning of a structured EcoTourism plan for the Salford Docklands

The Green Atlantic Gateway


Photo: A rare North American Laughing Gull on New Brighton Beach, Merseyside – the location is a premier site of the Green Atlantic Gateway (James Walsh @MancunianBirder)

#NorthernGreenhouse  #EdenProjectNorth


The Atlantic Gateway Project is Peel Holdings plan to increase trade into the North-west region and re-industrialise the Manchester Ship Canal

The plans have been around for a while, but while Peel have formulated business plans that resemble the 1950’s or the 1980’s business model, the world has moved on, and rather than wasting time on fracking, biomass, Underground Coal Gasification, etc, Peel would be better thinking about the words of one of their theme tunes – don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, and build a green business model that takes climate change seriously and embraces the green economy

A Green Atlantic Gateway project could be a world leader in renewable energy technology and link together large areas of wildlife habitat, including Seaforth Nature Reserve, New Brighton, Birkinhead Docks, the Peel nature reserves of Port Sunlight & Speke/Garston Shore, Otterspool, Eastham Locks, Frodsham Marshes, Moore, Richmond Bank, Woolston Eyes SSSI, Davyhulme Millenium Nature Reserve, Jack Lane Nature Reserve in Flixton, the Salford Mosses and the Salford Docklands

The Manchester Ship Canal could potentially become the East Anglia Broads of the North with wildlife watching boat trips and canalside accommodation, a world class EcoTourism zone

Making the Mersey Estuary and the Manchester Ship Canal World Heritage sites could link with Liverpool World Heritage site to make the whole of the Atlantic Gateway a World Heritage Site – the management of UNESCO, our politicians and business leaders must appreciate the heritage value, ecological value and international importance of this area



Pomona Star Bird – the Northern Wheatear


Photo: Male Northern Wheatear, Pomona (James Walsh @MancunianBirder)

The big news on Salford Docklands today is a Northern Wheatear present on Pomona South Marsh this afternoon, a superb find for ecologist Zoe Barrett (@DiamondBirder)

The Northern Wheatear is a star bird of Pomona Docks, the big area of Greenspace located on the south-east of the Docklands

Spring is the big time of the year for this species on Pomona, with up to 10 birds present, remarkable numbers for such an urban site, just a mile from Manchester city centre

In the Spring the Northern Wheatears are on their way north from their African wintering grounds to breeding sites on habitats such Northern/Scottish hills and find Pomona Docks a great place to get R and R and food during their huge northwards migration

In the Autumn the birds are heading south to Africa and utilise Pomona as a site to feed up and chill before their huge southwards migration

Todays’ sighting yet again shows the true ecological worth of Pomona, a site that is the feature of a new book

An event is being organised to launch the Pomona Book, a big collaboration of ecologists, journalists, students and academics on Tuesday 18th October 2016

Keep tuned to @MancunianBirder for more news on this large event!


Purple Haze

Photo: Lee Evans’ superb Rare Birds In Britain book describes a very interesting record that mirrors recent events!

The arrival of a Purple Gallinule of the Western variety porphyrio (aka Western Purple Swamphen) to Minsmere RSPB, the site of this years’ Springwatch, on the East Anglia coast on 30th July 2016 has set the birding scene twitching with many making the journey to one of the UKs’ finest wildlife spots just after the news was broadcast on Sunday 31st July

With the bird still present this morning, Monday 1st August, Minsmere is likely to host one of the biggest twitches of the year, especially if the bird remains through the summer, and more birders usually equals more birds being found, as has already happened with the sighting of a Caspian Tern from birders watching the Purple Swampthing!

Some are predicting that the Minsmere Purple Gallinule might finally get the species on the official British List after a long and complex journey – many twitchers are likely to recall several false starts with Purple Gallinule, such as the 1997 Cumbrian bird that perplexed the experts and could not be assigned to race (the conclusion was a probable hybrid of 2 different races and therefore likely to be an escaped bird from a zoo/collection) and the Cambridgeshire and Welsh birds that were traced to collections

However, one record that does not seem to be tainted is a sub-adult porphyrio (Western Purple Swamphen) at Sandbach in Cheshire from 13th August – 26th September 1971, and this record could possibly support the current Minsmere bird and these could be accepted as the first and second records for Britain

Great White Hope


Photo: Great White Pelican, River Ribble, Lancashire, August 2006 (Tony Disley)

This summer it is the 10 year anniversary of the UKs’ Great White Pelican Summer, a summer when at least 2 Great White Pelicans were at large in the UK and perhaps it is time for a review to get closer to the true story! One of the birds present in the UK gained official acceptance via the Dutch Rarities Committee as a wild bird so perhaps it is also time for the UK authorities to accept this bird onto the official list

The first bird of the summer was at Bough Beech Reservoir in Kent in July 2006 – a bird that had significant missing primary feathers that was generally regarded as evidence of wing clipping amongst the birding community

In August 2006 a bird that had been present in the Netherlands flew into Lancashire via Norfolk, attracting flocks of twitchers, and media, to the River Ribble / Brockholes Lancashire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve

It was potentially the crowning glory for this freshly established nature reserve, Britains’ first Great White Pelican, and a big reward for the hard work of the Brockholes staff and volunteers

The Dutch authorities duly accepted the bird as wild, so surely the British Ornithologists’ Union, must accept it ? The BOU have still not accepted the species onto the British List, so what is the story ?


Photo: A classic image! The media getting involved in the Lancashire Pelican twitch! (Tony Disley)

In September 2016, both birds seemed to move north to Scotland, whilst at one stage there seemed to be so many sightings that you might have thought there might even be 3 birds present in the UK with North-East England, Anglesey & North Wales joining in the Pelican Party!

With the 2016 West Country Dalmatian Pelican doing a decent job of opening minds to the potential of genuine wild Pelican vagrancy, perhaps the BOU could publish more details on the 2006 Great White Pelican Summer