“The Perfect Ten” brings ecology into the mainstream in Greater Manchester

“The Perfect Ten birds of Greater Manchester is a really positive, good news story for the city region… and we have only just got started!”

James Walsh, aka the Mancunian Birder

  “The media in Greater Manchester have been great – Granada Reports, That’s Manchester TV, Bolton News, Manchester Evening News, Tameside Correspondent, Quest Media, This Is Lancashire, In Your Area, Greater Manchester Green City Region – gmgreencity.com, Shaw, Crompton and Royton Correspondent have all covered “The Perfect Ten”… in fact it has become such a big story that I had Granada Reports phoning me on the day of the EUROS Final asking for more information about the “Perfect Ten” survey results – it was probably the most positive article on their website that day!”


  “Ecology and wildlife can be seen as niche, or just something nice to look at on TV on Countryfile or Springwatch… however, “The Perfect Ten” project has really connected people to the nature on our doorsteps here in Greater Manchester. People are talking about the birds of the boroughs”.

  “Andrew Western, then the Green City Region Lead for Greater Manchester, suggested looking for some of “The Perfect Ten” bird species as a healthy, positive exercise during “lockdown” in the summer 2020 “Green City Region” e-newsletter” says James.

  “We’ve looked at the statistics on how many people have seen the “Perfect Ten” film clips on social media and how many articles are published online and printed in the newspapers… the “Perfect Ten” project is reaching tens of thousands of people… we really feel that the “Perfect Ten” project is launching ecology into the mainstream in Greater Manchester”.

  “There is a real buzz about this project, it’s got people thinking about the Greater Manchester environment … and for the media it’s a good news story at a time when there aren’t many of those about!” says James.

  “It’s also been great for promoting the annual Manchester Festival of Nature – we have had to be “virtually” innovative in promoting the festival.”

  “We’ve achieved the main aims of the survey – to get an initial public opinion of whether people think that “The Perfect Ten” concept of ten birds to represent the ten boroughs is a good idea and to get an initial public opinion regarding the GMBCR Project’s selections for each borough.”

  “The approval ratings were really good – 86% approved of the concept and all ten of the selected birds received 50% or more approval.”

  Shaun Hargreaves of the GMBCR Project says “We’ve done our bit, launching “The Perfect Ten” project and co-organising the survey.”

 “The GMBCR Project is currently in discussions with the Business Growth Hub about sourcing funding for a “Perfect Ten” Report.”

 “It’s also up to individuals, conservation organisations, businesses and Councils to progress the project.”

  “The Manchester Festival of Nature organisational committee has started planning for next year’s festival. It would be amazing if the ten Greater Manchester borough Councils can all select an official bird in time for the Manchester Festival of Nature in Heaton Park in June 2022” says James.


The Greater Manchester Perfect Ten Promotional Film


“Perfect Ten bird species selected to represent each Greater Manchester borough”


“Greater Manchester Birding City Region brings you The Perfect Ten”

“Have you seen The Perfect Ten?”


“Have you seen The Perfect Ten?”


Each borough could soon get its own bird symbol


Pretty boys of Manchester are dividing opinion


The Perfect Ten Birds of Greater Manchester Survey Now Online


Mancunian Birder to guest host Manchester Festival of Nature


Manchester Festival of Nature gets celebrity guest host

People of Greater Manchester invited to get onboard the Perfect Ten Survey

The Perfect Ten Birds of Greater Manchester Survey Results


Birds chosen to represent every Greater Manchester borough


Kingfisher chosen to represent Bolton

Mute Swans on Salford Docklands

GMBCR Project select the Mute Swan to represent Salford borough


Mute Swan could become the avian mascot of Salford


Salford looks to be the first Greater Manchester borough to adopt an official bird


Tawny Owl revealed as the Oldham bird of the borough

The Big Eco Year 2021 – May

A stunning summer plumage Turnstone, Hollingworth Lake (photo: Ian Kimber)

The International Dawn Chorus Day highlight on Snipe Clough, the Northern Roots site, was finding a singing Grasshopper Warbler.

  Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May was a big day on my local patch! A drake Shoveler flew onto Hough Farm Pool. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time as an Osprey flew in from the North at Boarshaw Lane Flashes and I had just enough time to take some record photos as it continued flying south along the Rochdale Canal with an Oystercatcher and gulls mobbing it… an unforgettable moment and a reward for the many hours spent in the field!

 Osprey, Boarshaw Lane Flashes on the Rochdale Canal SSSI

A big day on the Oldham hills and moors – the singing male Wood Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Golden Plover, Red Grouse and Red-legged Partridge all seen at the Dove Stone RSPB Reserve.

  In Tameside on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal the drake North American Wood Duck – another species that you would expect to see in a Big Year in the USA – was keeping company with a drake Mandarin Duck. Also on Tameside, a singing Lesser Whitethroat on the Ashton to Park Bridge cycleway. Dashing to Audenshaw Reservoirs twice during the month didn’t produce a Red-rumped Swallow sighting… I might need to pedal faster for the next one… perhaps I’ll be third time lucky!

Previous to this year I had never seen a Turnstone in Greater Manchester, but like Oldham buses… having waited for ages, two came along at once, with one in full summer plumage on Hollingworth Lake and another stunning looking bird at Elton Reservoir, where Cetti’s Warbler and Sedge Warblers were also recorded! A Rook in Middleton was an interesting urban sighting.

  30th and 31st were spent on Cowlishaw Moss watching the feeding Swifts and hirundines, completing a month where many hours were spent looking at Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins.

The Big Eco Year 2021 – April

Richardson’s Cackling Goose, Lowercroft Reservoirs

(photo: Martin Loftus @SalfordMartin)

An interesting month locally with wildfowl such as the Alexandra Park Tufted Ducks, Pink-footed Goose on the Rochdale Canal SSSI and a pair of Goldeneye and 14 Goosanders on Chelburn Reservoir, and waders such as Redshank at Hollingworth Lake, a pair of Curlew on Chelburn Reservoir, a Green Sandpiper (23rd) and up to 4 Oystercatchers on Boarshaw Lane Flashes, a Little Ringed Plover on Hough Farm Pool (30th) and several pairs of Lapwings, including a confirmed breeding record of a pair with 3 chicks on Three Gates Farm.     

  Grebes were prominent with a pair of Little Grebes on Hough Farm Pool and a pair of Great Crested Grebes on Alkrington Lodges on Sandy Beach Lake.

  A superstar Tawny Owl occasionally showed during the day in a hole in the roof of the house adjacent to Clegg Hall Fisheries, Rochdale.

  Spring migrant warblers arrived with singing male Willow Warbler adjacent to the Rochdale Canal, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat (heard) on the canal between Elton Reservoir and Radcliffe (29th) and Blackcap in the woods at Heaton Park boating lake (also on 29th).

  Two big five year-tick days during the month, the first was on the Salford Mosses on 18th April.

  The old peat workings on Chat Moss known as Croxdens attracted a majestic Great Egret, a stunning pair of summer plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull and bright, colourful Yellow Wagtails. This site has huge potential to be a nature reserve similar to the thriving Little Woolden Moss Lancashire Wildlife Trust where a Little Ringed Plover frequented the western pools and a female Marsh Harrier was a heart-warming site hunting the mosslands.

  Migration was in full swing at a very blustery Audenshaw Reservoirs on 28th with Bar-tailed Godwit, a magnificent 7 Arctic Tern, 2 Common Sandpiper, Swifts and large numbers of hirundines, including my first House Martins of the year.

  The 100 species for the Big Eco Year-list was reached in fine style with a Richardson’s Cackling Goose on Lowercroft Reservoirs on 29th, a North American vagrant and a superb find on his local patch from wildlife photographer Martin Loftus (@SalfordMartin).

  An amazing mega at a very picturesque location, and another bird, along with the likes of Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser and Pink-footed Goose that a birder would probably see in a “Big Year” in the USA.

The Big Eco Year 2021 – March

Pink-footed Goose, Rochdale Canal (photo: Howard Wilkinson)

The month of March started with a cycle around Alexandra Park Lakes, Snipe Clough, Park Bridge trails, Daisy Nook Country Park and the Medlock Valley. The highlights were a pair of Buzzards, 33 Tufted Ducks and 3 Goosanders.

  The star bird of the month was a Pink-footed Goose on the Rochdale Canal SSSI between Castleton and Slattocks on 2nd and still present in this area on 16th… a superstar bird that even made the local media!

Finding a Pink-footed Goose was a pivotal moment in “The Big Year” movie

  A good month for wildfowl in Rochdale also included drake Pochard on Clegg Hall Pools, drake Shoveler on Hollingworth Lake, drake Red-breasted Merganser in the Piethorne Valley and the seven Wigeon, including 4 drakes, on Boarshaw Lane Flashes.

  On Tuesday 9th at Wince Brook Nature Reserve, two more year-ticks – Chiffchaff and Kingfisher – took the year-list to 74 species. The three singing Chiffchaffs were the first sign of Spring. I also managed to see the elusive Little Egret at this site on 19th and a Dipper on the River Medlock at Park Bridge after extensive searches of likely habitat including the River Beal.

  My first Reed Bunting of the year was a singing male on Boarshaw Lane Flashes on the Spring Equinox. 

  Waders were prominent on my local patches with a Green Sandpiper and up to 10 Snipe on Boarshaw Lane Flashes, and 6 Oystercatchers and 1 Northern Lapwing at Hough Farm, Tandle Hill.

  Northern Lapwings were the main subject of a day on the “Costa del Salford” with author Patrick Galbraith. These amazing birds put on a superb show, including perhaps the dockland’s last remaining pair on the Manchester Ship Canal just west of Mode Wheel Locks.

  On the Mosses it was a much more positive story with good numbers of rural Lapwings and many in full display mode enthralling us as we cycled onto the world-famous Barton Moss Road and along Twelve Yards Road to the Little Woolden Moss nature reserve.

  My first Great Black-backed Gull of the yearwas an adult on Salford Docklands and a Kingfisher zoomed along the Manchester Ship Canal.

  Four Fieldfares in a carrot field on Chat Moss were a sign of winter, as was a big Chaffinch flock and 2 more Fieldfares on Cadishead Moss. Also here was a flock of Linnet, one Yellowhammer and singing Skylarks were heralding the Springtime.

  On 30th c20 Sand Martins on the River Irwell adjacent to Radcliffe Market continued the Spring theme, and it was really great to catch up with the over-wintering drake Greater Scaup at Elton Reservoir, now in his sixth month on-site! It was very interesting to see how much this bird’s plumage had changed since I first saw him in November.

  On 31st a Swallow in the Piethorne Valley and an epic pilgrimage to Blackstone Edge Reservoir to see Twite, the first time I have seen this moorland species in Greater Manchester.



Rare bird species sighted in Rochdale borough


Rare sighting sends Rochdale birdwatchers on wild goose chase

The Big Eco Year 2021 – February

  Drake Gadwall, Alexandra Park Lake, Oldham

The month started with a local patch visit on 1st to Alexandra Park, Daisy Nook Country Park and the Medlock Valley. The highlight of the day was finding a drake Gadwall on Alexandra Park Lakes. Regular visits to this site in the Oldham borough produced counts of up to 5 Goosander and 33 Tufted Ducks.

  Drake Tufted Ducks, Alexandra Park Lake, Oldham

The Tufted Ducks at Alexandra Park, Manchester, had a very rare visitor to Greater Manchester amongst the flock – a female Ring-necked Duck. This exceptional sighting shows the value of checking even the most urban sites on a regular basis!

  A significant arrival of Oystercatcher occurred on the local patches on 22nd with pairs on Hollingworth Lake, Boarshaw Lane Flashes, Three Gates Farm pool and Hough Farm pool. Little Grebes were also prominent on the pools along the Rochdale Canal SSSI, with 3 on the Clegg Hall Pools, 1 on Boarshaw Lane Flashes and 1 on Hough Farm pool.

The Wigeon flock were looking great with 4 adult males and 3 females still present on Boarshaw Lane Flashes, and a pair of Gadwall on the Clegg Hall Pools. Goosanders and Teal were also prominent around the Rochdale Canal SSSI.

  c200 Northern Lapwings were a spectacular sight on the Higginshaw Lane Industrial Estate in Royton. 

Oystercatcher, Hollingworth Lake

Northern Lapwings on the Higginshaw Industrial Estate, Royton

The Big Eco Year 2021 – January

“The Big Eco Year In Greater Manchester 2021” started on New Year’s Day with a big mooch around a local patch – Tandle Hill and Rochdale Canal SSSI…     

  I went into the field after the New Year’s house party festivities and highlights included Peregrine, Raven, Fieldfare, Redwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Northern Lapwing, Lesser Redpoll and Treecreeper.

  Eurasian Wigeon and Teal on Boarshaw Lane Flash started a great month for wildfowl…

  The drake Red-breasted Merganser was seen regularly in the Piethorne Valley, seemingly paired up with a female Goosander. The highlight of January was finding four Shelducks on Hollingworth Lake on 29th.

  Mute Swan and Tufted Duck on Alexandra Park, Northern Shoveler on Daisy Nook Country Park, Greylag Goose on Akzo Pond, and Northern Pochard, Gadwall and Goldeneye on Chorlton Water Park were all new to the year-list, but I didn’t manage to see the elusive Pink-footed Goose in the Rochdale borough, despite several hours searching the Canada Goose flocks in the Piethorne Valley / Hollingworth Lake area.

  Male Stonechat and Green Woodpeckers were seen in the Piethorne Valley, Buzzard and Stock Dove in the fields at Summit, and the “pretty boys of Manchester”, Rose-ringed Parakeets were easily located on the Fallowfield Loop.

  However, I couldn’t locate the very elusive Firecrest in a search in Chorlton Park. Hopefully it is over-wintering in south Manchester and I can get another chance to look for it in February…

  My total for January, the start of this year-long adventure, was 67 species, a respectable score considering how difficult it is to be an eco-birder in the winter! There were some days when there was too much ice and snow on the roads to be able to cycle or walk anywhere and there were several days when the temperature was below freezing!


The Big Eco Year In Greater Manchester

The Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project have started “The Big Eco Year in Greater Manchester”, a new project based on the Audubon Society’s concept of a “Big Year”…

  James Walsh, also known as The Mancunian Birder, says “The Big Eco Year in Greater Manchester” is based on the concept of a “Big Year”. A Big Year is when you attempt to see as many bird species as possible in a calendar year.

  2021 marks the ten year anniversary of the release of the classic film “The Big Year”, starring Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, a movie that elevated birding into the mainstream. It was the moment when even Hollywood started to take birding seriously. It’s a really great film to watch on Netflix during “lockdown” to inspire you to look at nature.

  In 2020 I set the bar, recording 135 bird species and cycling more than 2,500 miles in Greater Manchester! This is a bench-mark for 2021 that I’m aiming to surpass!”

  Shaun Hargreaves, of the GMBCR Project, says “Traditionally a “Big Year” in the USA or the UK has always involved vast amounts of carbon intensive travel. We’re looking to build on the concept and make it cleaner and greener through encouraging people to have a “Big Year”, but only on bikes and foot!

  Now is a great time to launch “The Big Eco Year”, when the biodiversity crisis and climate crisis are at the forefront of everybody’s minds. 

  Cycling and birding are also two activities that you can do in “lockdown”. Cycling is permitted exercise and increasing numbers of people are connecting to nature on their doorstep so combining the two is good for your physical health and mental health.”

  James Walsh says “The GMBCR Project are looking to put Greater Manchester on the international map. We’ve already contacted the Audubon Society in the USA to inform them about “The Big Eco Year”.

  There are many links between Greater Manchester and North America. For example, our superstar bird – the Willow Tit is closely related to the Chickadees.

  “The Big Eco Year in Greater Manchester 2021” is a great way to start the new United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030 and to promote the Manchester Festival of Nature.  

  We want this to be interactive… we are looking for sponsorship from bicycle companies, coverage in magazines (birding, cycling, outdoor) and online…  

  We are also encouraging people to commit to their own “Big Eco Year” in 2022, even if it is just keeping a list of the birds seen in a local park, and also to report their bird sightings whilst doing a “Big Eco Year” to the GMLRC, the Greater Manchester Local Records Centre.”

Contact the Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project on email:




Watch “The Big Year” on Netflix


The Big Year according to real birders


The real birdwatchers behind Hollywoods Big Year

Stars of the movie discuss “The Big Year”


Pink-footed Goose in “The Big Year” movie

Drake North American Wood Duck, Manchester


Rare American duck is getting birders excited in Manchester!

Mancunian Birder – That’s Manchester TV interview

Drake North American Wood Duck, Mersey Valley, Greater Manchester

The Perfect Ten Birds of Greater Manchester Survey Results


“The Perfect Ten” is an ambitious concept from the Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project.

The aim is for a bird species to officially represent each of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, to raise the profile of our amazing birdlife, increase civic pride and awareness and investment in the environment and potentially provide a basic framework for a future Greater Manchester Ecotourism Plan.

James Walsh, also known as the Mancunian Birder, who has been watching birds in Greater Manchester for more than 30 years, has an Ecology degree from the University of Salford and two Ecotourism qualifications from TAFE in Tropical North Australia, and is the author of the books “Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona”, “The Birds of Salford Docklands” and “Greater Manchester Birding City Region” said, “The GMBCR Project made the initial selections based on the ecology, character and heritage of each of the ten boroughs. Big factors were also that we wanted to select a resident bird that people can see at all times of the year and also marketing potential. We spent two years doing our research, including cycling 5,000 miles around Greater Manchester and looking at literature, including Bird Reports. We attempted to select ten bird species that give people a real representation of Greater Manchester’s avian ecology, a realistic reflection of the city region’s environment.”


Lancashire Wildlife Trust hosted the survey online in June 2021 prior to the Manchester Festival of Nature and 555 people responded to the survey.  

James Walsh has recorded the results annoucement for the virtual Manchester Festival of Nature 2021 and the film clip is being broadcast on the festival’s Twitter: @MancNature on Sunday 27th June – film clip recorded on Cowlishaw Moss, Royton, in the Oldham borough of Greater Manchester.


86% of respondents said that “The Perfect Ten” concept – a bird to represent each of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester – is a good idea.


It wasn’t compulsory for respondents to state their location. 64% of respondents did state their location and it was fantastic to see that people from every borough in Greater Manchester completed the survey. The boroughs with the most respondents were Manchester, Stockport, Salford, Trafford and Bury.

BoroughNumber of respondentsTotal percentage


WiganWillow Tit29%84%10%3%
OldhamTawny Owl32%83%10%3%
SalfordMute Swan69%79%14%4%
TraffordNorthern Lapwing40%74%17%7%
BuryLittle Egret22%74%18%5%
StockportMandarin Duck50%72%19%5%
TamesideRed Grouse18%72%19%6%
ManchesterRose-ringed Parakeet60%50%40%8%

The survey results for each bird and borough are…

84% for the Willow Tit – the superstar bird of Greater Manchester – in Wigan

83% for the secretive Tawny Owl in Oldham (photo thanks to Little Owl Farm)

79% for the dashing Peregrine Falcon in Rochdale

79% for the picturesque Mute Swan in Salford

77% for the colourful Kingfisher in Bolton

74% for the enigmatic Lapwing in Trafford

74% for the Little Egret – a fairly new arrival on the Greater Manchester birding scene – in Bury

72% for the pretty Mandarin Duck in Stockport

72% for the moorland Red Grouse in Tameside

50% for the ecologically fascinating Rose-ringed Parakeet in Manchester


The survey asked if respondents had seen any of these ten bird species in Greater Manchester. The results were Mute Swan (69%), Rose-ringed Parakeet (60%), Kingfisher (53%), Mandarin Duck (50%), Peregrine Falcon (40%), Northern Lapwing (40%), Tawny Owl (32%), Willow Tit (29%), Little Egret (22%) and Red Grouse (18%).


A “Perfect Ten Birds of Greater Manchester Survey” report is being compiled, published and sent to all the Borough Councils and conservation organisations in Greater Manchester. The report includes a number of suggestions for Councils on to how to potentially proceed on “The Perfect Ten” in the future, such as more borough specific public consultation.


Many thanks to the people who completed the survey, to Lancashire Wildlife Trust for hosting the survey and That’s Manchester TV, Manchester Evening News, Tameside Correspondent, Quest Media, manchesterbirding.com, Friends of Carrington Moss, RSPB Manchester and Northern Roots for their support in promoting the survey.

Manchester Festival of Nature

Perfect Ten Birds of Greater Manchester Survey Announcement at the virtual Manchester Festival of Nature on Sunday 27th June 2021

Discover the results of the largest ever public consultation about the birds of Greater Manchester on Twitter @MancNature and mancunianbirder.wordpress.com

  All eyes are on social media on Sunday 27th June when the virtual Manchester Festival of Nature 2021 takes place via Twitter: @MancNature.

  One of the highlights of the day is sure to be the announcement of the “Perfect Ten” survey results at 2:50pm, the culmination of a one-month online questionnaire that organisers believe is the largest ever public consultation specifically about the amazing birdlife of Greater Manchester.

  Making the announcement is James Walsh – also known as the Mancunian Birder, of the GMBCR Project, Greater Manchester Birding City Region – who is the originator of the “Perfect Ten” concept, a bird to represent each of the ten Greater Manchester boroughs.

  James says “The Manchester Festival of Nature, now in it’s 3rd year, is a big annual celebration of the amazing wildlife and habitats that we have in Manchester and surrounding areas.”

  “In June 2019 we had a really quality festival in Heaton Park, however in 2020 and 2021 we have had to adapt and celebrate in a different way via the internet and social media.”

  “This year, we have given the residents of Greater Manchester the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the concept of “The Perfect Ten”, a bird to represent each of the boroughs. Many thanks to the Lancashire Wildlife Trust for hosting the survey online.”

  “The “Perfect Ten” survey results announcement is part of a full schedule of nature-based activity on the festival’s Twitter: @MancNature that aims to inspire people to fall in love with the nature on their doorstep.”

  “For a more in-depth look at the survey results, see mancunianbirder.wordpress.com on the day.”

People of Greater Manchester invited to get onboard the Perfect Ten Survey

“If you live or work in Greater Manchester, you are invited to complete the Perfect Ten Survey”.


 The people of Greater Manchester are being invited to get onboard the “Perfect Ten” Survey.

  The “Perfect Ten” Birds of Greater Manchester Survey is open until Tuesday 22nd June with the results being announced at 2:50pm on Sunday 27th June via @MancNature on Twitter as a highlight of the virtual Manchester Festival of Nature 2021.  

  “We are aiming for this survey to be the biggest public consultation about the birds of Greater Manchester and to help us find a bird to represent each borough” says James Walsh, aka the Mancunian Birder.

  The “Perfect Ten” survey is a collaboration between the Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Manchester Festival of Nature.

  The most popular birds of the ten so far are the Willow Tit in Wigan (84%), the Kingfisher in Bolton (83%), the Tawny Owl in Oldham (79%) and the Mute Swan in Salford (78%).

  The Rose-ringed Parakeet in Manchester is the most controversial with 50% agreeing and 41% disagreeing. However, the colourful Mandarin Duck in Stockport, also a “non-native” species, seems to be proving popular on 77%.

  The birds that the highest number of survey respondents reported that they had seen in Greater Manchester are Mute Swan (69%), Rose-ringed Parakeet (63%), Kingfisher (51%), Mandarin Duck (50%) and Peregrine Falcon (39%).

  The Red Grouse, a resident of the moorland fringes of the city region, is the bird that the least number of survey respondents (16%) reported that they had seen in Greater Manchester.

  However, all this could change as the survey is open up to Tuesday 22nd June.

  “The anticipation is building ahead of the virtual Manchester Festival of Nature and we want everyone in Greater Manchester to have their say so please complete the survey and send the link to your family and friends!” says James.