Naturalists Guide To The Salford & Wigan Mosses

A very rare lowland mossland habitat, this area boasts exceptional levels of biodiversity, including over 150 bird species (with more than 20 of these being UK Conservation Priority Species), rare mammals, amphibians, dragonflies, butterflies and plants

This area is at risk from pollution, and the new, and highly controversial, extreme energy industry but grass-roots movements are working hard to stop the frackers!

A huge amount of conservation work is happening with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust building the new Little Woolden Moss Nature Reserve

There are plans for a new Mosslands Education and Visitor Centre at Moss Farm and naturalists are being invited to this location to explore the area

Moss Farm is on Cutnook Lane, access from Irlam, and the cafe/farm shop is open every day until 3pm

There are several public access roads and footpaths on the Mosses and it is possible to walk all day watching the wildlife and admiring the scenery

This area has several different names for different areas, but is often known amongst locals as The Moss. Conservationists see the area as a network of SSSI’s (Special Sites of Scientific Interest), SBI’s (Sites of Biological Importance), European Union SAC’s (Special Areas of Conservation) and Nature Reserves. For all of us, this site is The Green Lungs of the City, as it stores carbon – a very important environmental function

It is a critical site for rare farmland species such as Grey Partridge, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Quail, Corn Bunting, Skylark & Lapwing, while Nightjars and Turtle Doves used to be regular summer visitors, and could be attracted back to the area with favourable conservation conditions

As well as resident birds, there are also seasonal visitors during each season, with Spring perhaps the most pleasant time with summer migrants flying in from Africa

Wheatears are one of the first migrants to arrive and double figure numbers can often be seen, Whinchats are a speciality, and Cuckoos are a feature of Astley Moss

Autumn often provides the biggest numbers as birds migrate through the mosslands, some flying straight through, and some staying for hours or days to feed up before continuing their migration. In Autumn, a birdwatcher might see birds of prey, geese and wading birds. If the weather is favourable then large numbers of passerines (perching birds such as finches, buntings, pigeons and pipits) might be seen flying overhead, an enthralling phenomena known as “visible migration” or birdwatchers often refer to it as “vis mig”

Rare birds seen include Lesser Kestrel, Bufflehead, Desert Wheatear, Red-footed Falcon, Great White Egret, Stone Curlew, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Blue-headed Wagtail, Ruddy Shelduck, and a juvenile Flamingo that experts think might have been a Lesser, potentially a first for Britain

A pair of Cranes were present in 2012, there has also been a Crane seen this April, there is plenty habitat for this species to colonise the area and Little Egrets are becoming more regular with multiple sightings during 2014

Raptors love it on the mosses – Buzzard (aka The Salford Eagle), Peregrines, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are all resident with Hobby in the summer, Merlin in the winter, Marsh Harriers look to be moving into the area and lucky birders have seen Hen Harrier, Osprey and Red Kite

Mammals such as Brown Hares, deer, stoats, weasels, bats, badgers and voles play a big role in an eco-system that also includes rare amphibians, rare plants, lizards and a unique invertebrate community, including the Bog Bush Cricket, and, perhaps, with some faith, hope, investment and charity, the Large Heath (Manchester Argus) Butterfly might be re-introduced to the area in the near future

Some of the mosslands are in Salford and some, such as Astley Moss Site of Special Scientific Interest, are just over the border in Wigan, with Rixton Moss and Risley Moss to the west in Cheshire

A permit is required to visit the Lancashire Wildlife Trust Reserves on Little Woolden Moss and Astley Moss, email: for more details

Why not make a visit to the Mosses one of your #30dayswild ?



Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Mosses Open For People And Wildlife

Film, The Natural Beauty of the Salford/Manchester Mosses

The Chat Moss Project


Chat, Irlam and Barton Moss Birdwatchers Site Guide

Keep up to date with the latest bird sightings

Mosslands Volunteer Group

Water Vole on the Salford Mosses

Salfords Got Talons – the Raptors of the Mosses

Marsh Harrier on the Salford Mosses

Barn Owl on the Salford Mosses

Notes and photos of the juvenile Flamingo in 2002


The Salford Mosses Big Ten

EUROPEAN WATER VOLE (Arvicola amphibius)

Water Vole

BROWN HARE (Lepus europaeus)’march_madness’_with_brown_hares.html

GREY PARTRIDGE (Perdix perdix)


BARN OWL (Tyto alba)

COMMON CRANE (Grus grus)

SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis)

BUZZARD (Buteo buteo)

PEREGRINE (Falco peregrinus)

YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citronella)

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