Swanning About On The Docks

A review of the inaugural Salford Docklands Birdwatching Cruise on the 11th May 2013

Note: Tickets for the upcoming cruise on Saturday 30th May 2015 are @


After boarding our vessel, the Princess Katherine, Captain Salt and the hosts from Manchester Ship Canal World Heritage Group and Greater Manchester Ecology Unit welcomed all on-board to the “Costa del Salford”

The weather had a stereotypically Manchester vibe, grey with light drizzle, as we began the cruise under the backdrop of the spectacular industrial scenery of the mighty Docks Cranes, a symbol of a time when Salford Docks was one of the busiest ports in the world. The Quays heavy industrial history made this a perfect location for this event to be on the calendar of the Greater Manchester Local Records Centre “Grey to Green”, a 3 year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund that focuses on former industrial sites that nature has reclaimed

At Clippers Quay a number of Mute Swans were present, a species originally from the Asian steppes, but now at home in the British Isles

As we departed the central Quays area heading in a generally easterly direction along the Manchester Ship Canal we passed under the Trafford Road Bridge, where a type of fish called Bream were breaching the surface of the water. These fish shoal together in the Spring in this area of the canal and, especially on sunny days, can be seen clearly from the canalside paths and are so big that members of the general public report them as dolphins or sharks! Spring was very much in the air with the site of a female Mallard with two ducklings and a Canada Goose on a nest

At Pomona, a site named after a Roman goddess, Lapwings flew overhead, Sand Martins visited their nest holes on the dockside, a Sparrowhawk was seen to catch a pigeon, a Herring Gull drifted over the water, a hovering Kestrel hunted & a Grey Wagtail caught flies, whilst Captain Salt pointed out a fig tree and Hulme Locks, where the River Medlock meets the River Irwell

As we returned to South Bay a Cormorant (aka the Liver Bird!) was spotted holding its wings out to dry in characteristic pose, then at North Wharf, a Peregrine, one of the highlights of the trip, appeared overhead and gave superb views as it caught prey and landed on the top of Media City to eat the prey !

“Gary” The Goldeneye & a Mute Swan sat on a nest put on a show for the birdwatchers, whilst a Swift powered over Modewheel Locks and an Oystercatcher was heard “piping”

In Africa The Big Five are Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino & Elephant but on Salford Docklands The Big Five are Lapwing, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Grey Heron & Kingfisher, and the only one of these that we didn’t see was the Kingfisher, so four out of five ain’t bad !

Post-Cruise Comments

“Really enjoyed Saturday’s Quays Cruise, thanks to all who organised it. Viewing from the water gave a great perspective, and was a pleasure to be in the company of such knowledgeable wildlife experts – would certainly be interested in any future trips.”

“The Quays are walking distance from mine so now plan to make more of this great site. Wasn’t expecting so many different kinds of birds – three birds of prey (Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel), and was surprised by the Sand Martins nesting in the man-made canal banks.”

“Thanks to you, James, for your knowledgeable commentary, from one of those pioneering birdwatchers ”

“Great morning boating around the Quays sure beats walking round !!!”

“We saw some good birds and the Peregrine in flight and then later feeding on prey on the penthouse balcony was more than we could have hoped for”

“The cruise was so good, really enjoyed it”

Many thanks to:
Greater Manchester Local Record Centre, Salford City Council Tourism department & Rangers, the crew of the Princess Katherine, manchesterbirding.com, salfordstar.com, University of Salford & salfordonline.com for support with promotion, Nick Hilton & Gerry Flanagan for documentation of the event & the 40 onboard pioneering birdwatchers


1. Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
2. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
3. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
4. Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
5. Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
6. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
7. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
8. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
9. Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)
10. Coot (Fulica atra)
11. Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
12. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
13. Black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus)
14. Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)
15. Herring gull (Larus argentatus)
16. Feral pigeon (Columba livia)
17. Wood pigeon (Columba palumbas)
18. Swift (Apus apus)
19. Sand martin (Riparia riparia)
20. Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
21. Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
22. Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba)
23. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
24. Blackbird (Turdus merula)
25. Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
26. Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
27. Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
28. Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
29. Magpie (Pica pica)
30. Carrion crow (Corvus corone)
31. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
32. Greenfinch (Caerduelis chloris)
33. Goldfinch (Caerduelis caerduelis)


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