Northern Exposure

Long-toed Stint, St. Aidan’s RSPB Reserve, West Yorkshire (Photo: Colin Davies)

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Northern Exposure

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Long-toed Stint, St. Aidan’s RSPB Reserve, West Yorkshire (Photo: Colin Davies)

Greater Manchester Green Summit 2021

Date: Monday 18th October 2021

Time: 11.50am – 12:30pm

Meeting point: The Lowry Theatre, in the foyer area, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester

James Walsh, aka The Mancunian Birder, invites you to swan around Salford Quays on Monday 18th October from midday to 12:30pm. We are meeting in the foyer area of The Lowry at 11:50am for a free lunchtime walk to see the birds of the “Costa del Salford”.

James says “Greater Manchester Green Summit 2021 on The Quays is another important step towards an Eco-Tourism Plan for the city region and towards putting the biodiversity crisis on the same importance level as the climate emergency. This summit is the first to take place in the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030.

The Mute Swan has risen to prominence in Salford and there is a big campaign for this species to be the official bird for the borough as part of The Perfect Ten. Join us on the “Costa del Salford” to take a look at these birds and learn some interesting facts from Steve Christmas, Greater Manchester’s number one Swan expert.

We might manage to see all of The Big Five birds – Mute Swan, Cormorant, Lapwing, Grey Heron and Kingfisher, and we might see Peregrine Falcon, Goldeneye or Little Egret if we are very lucky.

At the Greater Manchester Green Summit in 2019 at The Lowry I hosted the “early bird special” Eco-tour early in the morning before the conference started for the keenest of delegates and participants, but this time it’s a lunch-time tour so it should be more accessible!

The Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, recently answered a journalist’s question in a very positive manner about finding a “Perfect Ten” bird species for Greater Manchester and a bird for the Salford borough.

One of the aims of “The Perfect Ten” project is to highlight our amazing birdlife in Greater Manchester and also to contribute to the awareness of the biodiversity crisis that is happening in the city region.

A little bird tells us the Salford community is being consulted in 2022 to find “A Bird For The Borough” with a short-list of candidates including Mute Swan, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Yellowhammer, Northern Lapwing, Grey Partridge, Song Thrush, Goosander, Willow Tit and Little Grebe – all resident birds in the Salford borough.”

James Walsh is the originator of the GMBCR Project – Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project, is the author of the e-books, “The Northern Greenhouse”, “The Birds of Salford Docklands”, “The Big 400”, “Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona”, “Greater Manchester Birding City Region” and “Birding Oldham”, and is a promoter for Manchester Festival of Nature.


The Salford Docklands Project on BBC “Urban Jungle”

The Greater Manchester Perfect Ten

GMBCR Project select the Mute Swan to represent the Salford borough

Mute Swans on Salford Docklands

ITV Granada – Swan For Salford As Birds Chosen To Represent Greater Manchester’s boroughs

Swanning About On The Docks 

The Perfect Ten Project is for everyone in Greater Manchester

  “The Perfect Ten Bird Species of Greater Manchester project is capturing the imagination of the media and the general public… and we have only just started” says James Walsh, also known as the Mancunian Birder.

  “We are looking to follow on from a brilliant summer promoting “The Perfect Ten” concept to the people of Greater Manchester via the local media, social media and the public consultation survey.”

  “The Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project are looking for funding to produce a report to distribute to Councils, businesses and conservation organisations looking at the “The Perfect Ten” concept, the results of the public consultation survey in more detail and exploring ways that we can get everyone in Greater Manchester involved in this project.”

  “It was encouraging to see “The Perfect Ten” being talked about at the “Places for Everyone” press conference with Andy Burnham, the Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Paul Dennett, the Mayor of Salford, on Monday 12th July 2021. That’s the level that the “Perfect Ten” project has reached now.”

  Andrew Fletcher from Granada asked the question, “In relation to the Nature Recovery part of the plans the Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project is asking each borough to officially adopt a bird for marketing and ecology promotion as the American states do – do Andy and Paul support this idea and if they do, what will they do to make it happen?”

  Paul Dennett said “Yeah, I am very supportive of it, the challenge is how do we democratically arrive at what bird should represent what borough?”

  “Conversations, at the moment, in Salford with the Salford Wildlife group are ongoing about how we hold, almost, a referendum with the people about what bird is it we want to represent Salford.”

  “I think in principle it sounds like a good idea and it clearly demonstrates our commitment to wildlife as well in the city region… we talk a lot about greening and the green environment but actually we’re creating habitats for wildlife and in the not too distant future there’ll be mandates around increasing biodiversity when schemes come forward… all of this is really positive.”

  “So the more we can do in this space of thinking about the importance of wildlife within the city region I certainly welcome… I think the challenge becomes around this – how do you do it so there’s a democratic mandate for whatever bird it is we arrive at as a borough or as a local authority.”

  Shaun Hargreaves of the GMBCR Project said “We would like to thank Paul Dennett for his thoughts on, and support of “The Perfect Ten” project.”

  “It is great to hear a level of understanding and insight into a project that we’ve already put a lot of hard work into. Now it’s time to move the project forward and get everyone in Greater Manchester involved.”

  “We think “The Perfect Ten” is an idea that could unite and revolutionise the ten Greater Manchester boroughs, be a catalyst for green investment and infrastructure and environmental jobs, and symbolise our commitment to creating a Green City Region.”


The Greater Manchester Perfect Ten

Places For Everyone Press Conference, Monday 12th July 2021

46’31 – 48’22 The question is from Andrew Fletcher from Granada, the journalist who published this article

The Big Eco Year In Greater Manchester 2021 – August & September

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One of the star birds of the year, Yellow-legged Gull, Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale

(Photo courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth)

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The picturesque Piethorne Valley in the Rochdale borough

The most important ecological field work of August and September was counting the growing numbers of Northern Lapwings gathering in the Oldham and Rochdale boroughs.

300+ on the roofs of the Higginshaw Lane Industrial Estate, Royton, 26th September, c250 on fields at Akzo Pond, Rochdale, 20th September, and 120 on the fields between Chadderton Hall Park and Boarshaw Lane Flashes, 29th August, were the highest counts at the premier sites.

The passerine highlight was a female Redstart in the Piethorne Valley in August flitting around in the hedgerow on the fields above Kitcliffe Farm. Two juvenile Whitethroats on Shaw Moss.

The drake Goldeneye continued his summer holiday on the Rochdale Canal. Tufted Ducks seemed to be having a good breeding season in Alexandra Park. Regular Little Grebe sightings have occurred on Hough Farm and Boarshaw Lane Flashes this year, with Great Crested Grebes on Hollingworth Lake, the site of some high level birding excitement on the August Bank Holiday, when I found a sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull that remained until 20th September.

This is the 4th “YLG” I have found in Greater Manchester, following an adult on Castle Irwell, Salford, October 2011, an adult on Pennington Flash, October 2013 and an adult on Audenshaw Reservoirs, Tameside, September 2020.

The Yellow-legged Gull announces arrival on the Greater Manchester birding scene

(Photo courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth)

Yellow-legged Gull, Hollingworth Lake – a Greater Manchester County Rarity

(Photo courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth)

Sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull, Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale, 30th August 2021

(Photo courtesy of Mark Shuttleworth)

Ducks started to arrive in Greater Manchester in September, including Teal, Eurasian Wigeon and a very suave looking eclipse drake Northern Pintail on the Hollingworth Lake Nature Reserve.

The Greater Manchester Big Eco Year list now stands at 126 species recorded, with all birds recorded on bicycle or walking to keep the travel zero carbon. October is a peak month in the birding year, and it is shaping up to be a sensational Autumn.

GMBCR Project proposes Special Areas for Lapwing conservation

  The Northern Lapwing is a beautiful, iconic species of the Oldham borough, Greater Manchester and the North of England. It was featured on BBC’s “Urban Jungle” as one of “The Big Five” bird species on Salford’s docklands and the GMBCR Project (Greater Manchester Birding City Region) selected the Northern Lapwing to represent the Trafford borough in “The Perfect Ten”.

  It is a bird that can be adaptable to different habitats and it unites urban and rural environments, mainly due to gathering in flocks on the roofs of unlikely looking birding spots such as busy industrial estates during the late summer, autumn and winter… truly one of Greater Manchester’s urban safari spectacular sights. It is a very popular species, so much so that the LWT – Lancashire Wildlife Trust magazine is called “Lapwing”.

  The Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project have been monitoring the Northern Lapwing population in the Oldham borough based on 5 years of casual ecological observations of a small number of sites including the Tandle Hill / Thornham Old Road area, Chadderton, Castleshaw Valley, New Years Bridge Reservoir and the roofs of the Higginshaw Lane Industrial Estate in Royton.

  Birds were recorded performing their amazing display flight and call, with successful breeding recorded at Hough Farm and Three Gates Farm near Tandle Hill, in the Chadderton area and the Castleshaw Valley.

  The highest counts are 250 – Higginshaw Lane Industrial Estate, Royton, (01/09/18), 150 – the Castleshaw Valley, and 100 – Thornham Old Road.

  The GMBCR Project are proposing that the Northern Lapwing conservation status in Greater Manchester is raised to a higher level and that this species can be the focal point for a wildlife friendly farmland revolution in the city region. We should be proud of our Lapwings and be aware of the importance of this species as a sign of a healthy rural and urban environment. It is also a bird that represents many of the greenbelt areas of Greater Manchester that are threatened with development such as Chat Moss, Carrington Moss and the Royton and Chadderton countryside. GMBCR Project believes that there should be formal Greater Manchester Northern Lapwing Conservation Areas.

The Big Eco Year 2021 – June and July

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James Walsh, aka The Mancunian Birder, continues his “Big Eco Year” on a bicycle in Greater Manchester

  Drake Goldeneye, Rochdale Canal SSSI, Littleborough, Greater Manchester

(photo courtesy of Sarah Hickman, Instagram: 0431sarah)

June and July was all about the local patch work, counting Lapwings on Tandle Hill and the Rochdale Canal and monitoring breeding ducks, four broods of Tufted Ducks on Alexandra Park Lakes.

  2 adult Little Ringed Plovers on Hough Farm were the highlight of June, found on 21st on the small pool in the top field along Cinder Hill Lane. Little Ringed Plovers were also seen at two sites in the Rochdale borough.

  Two top sightings – Northern Goshawk and Barn Owl were seen at undisclosed locations.

Drake Goldeneye, Rochdale Canal SSSI, Littleborough, Greater Manchester

(photos courtesy of John Hoyes)

There was an interesting series of Goldeneye sightings in the Rochdale borough in the summer. On 21st July I saw a female on Chelburn Reservoirs and a stunning breeding plumaged drake in some very interesting habitat on the Rochdale Canal SSSI. On 22nd July, a drake Common Scoter on the picturesque, upland Ashworth Moor Reservoir was my 120th bird species of the year. Very interesting to see both these duck species – that breed no closer to Greater Manchester than Scotland – in the Rochdale borough in the summertime.

Drake Common Scoter, Ashworth Moor Reservoir (photo courtesy of Robert Archer)

  Ashworth Moor Reservoir, Rochdale, Greater Manchester (photo: Shaun Hargreaves)

Two classic sounds of summer, Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler, were singing from the juncus on Chelburn Reservoirs.

Chelburn Reservoir, Littleborough, Rochdale – looking good for waders!

On 27th July one of the highlights of the Big Eco Year – two Spoonbill flying south on Chat Moss… I also managed to see my first Grey Partridge of the year, a pair on Little Woolden Moss.

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Spoonbills on Chat Moss,

“The Serengeti of the North”

“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 –, 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