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



A Mancunian In London


It’s a London thing! Green London is happening, very enjoyable research trip with plenty magic moments – seeing the St James’ Park Pelicans, visiting the new Woodberry Wetlands Nature Reserve, Peregrines soaring around Hertfordshire, completing an ecological survey of the Olympic Greenway, seeing Red-crested Pochard ducklings on The Peoples’ Park & Cetti’s Warbler along the New River Trail near to the Arsenal FC Emirates Stadium

A few comical moments on tour have included lots of Pimms, a bizzare Coronation Street star encounter, lots of Jack Daniels and a Wigwam






Notes: Birding in Salfordshire 2016



On 17th May a Great White Egret flew leisurely in from the west over Worsley Moss at 09:05 before veering off south west as it approached Botany Bay Wood and headed across the railway and onto Chat Moss

It capped a big Spring for the Salford Mosses, with Avocet the star bird in conservation terms, notable sightings of Reed Warbler & Sedge Warbler, Ruff, Whimbrels, Little Ringed Plovers, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Greenshank & Osprey

Cuckoos & Marsh Harrier have taken up summer residence



Peregrines are being seen with increased frequency in Salford, especially on the Docklands, recent sightings on Pomona and the MediaCity/Lowry area



Kingfishers are being seen along the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Irwell & Bridgewater Canal



Salford has good numbers of this colonial nesting species



Pomona in-bloom this June with Bee Orchids and Marsh Orchids


The Family Crest

Photo: Red-crested Pochards with 2 ducklings on the Peoples’ Park, London

The RED-CRESTED POCHARD seems to be on the increase in the UK, especially in Southern England, with a mixture of genuine wild birds, a feral population and some escaped collection birds

The classic English site is the Cotswold Water Park where the biggest flocks are present in the winter, and breeding occurs during the summer, and it is a regular East Anglian breeding species – Titchwell RSPB is the main site, with breeding first occurring here in 2009

In the North-west the species is quite difficult to see – although the resident drake on Walton Park Lake in Liverpool can usually be counted on for year-listers, and Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, seems to be getting regular sightings, and would seem to be a suitable site to host a population of this species – and it is a vagrant to Ireland, Scotland & Wales

For birders who are interested in witnessing a Red-crested Pochard successful breeding attempt in the wild in England it is worth visiting Victoria Park West Lake in London

A pair have bred this year and on 9th June still had 2 ducklings with them, there are also 3 additional adult drakes, and a population of Northern Pochards

All Good In The Hood

Photo: Is it time for the BBRC to accept the Dorset Hooded Merganser ?

The long-staying Dorset drake Hooded Merganser, perhaps one of the most watched UK birds of all-time, has just reached a big anniversary – it is 8 years since this bird first turned up in bedraggled and wind-swept first-summer plumage, on the storm drain at Ferrybridge, on 5th June 2008

Now that Hooded Merganser is starting to be treated with the respect it deserves on the Committees’ side of birding, perhaps it is time for the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) to review all records of this species and accept all that show no real signs of captivity 

The Dorset drake has stayed pretty much in the general area for 8 years (Ferrybridge/Radipole Lake/Weymouth Harbour/Lodmoor/Poole) but, as far as I am aware, has never been proven as an escape, although it has pulled a few John Travolta moves on the local female Tufted Ducks!

Long-staying vagrants are well-documented, so a long stay from a vagrant is nothing new, its’ behaviour is nothing different from many wild North American Hooded Mergansers, the weather patterns prior to its’ arrival seemed to be favourable for trans-Atlantic vagrancy and how about the old-skool phrase “innocent until proven guilty?”

Arriving in first-summer plumage must be in its’ favour and perhaps makes its’ credentials better than some of the adult birds that have official BBRC acceptance

With the pressure on to accept the recent Midlands bird/s, could the BBRC also do a U-turn regarding the Dorset drake Hooded Merganser, and give thousands of birders a nice official tick for their lists ?

The Fresh North Meets The Sexy South

The Mancunian Birder In The London Area

For my 30 Days Wild this year I have chosen to grace the South of England with my presence

I look forward to re-acquainting myself with the London birding scene

My most recent trips to the south have produced some magic moments – Short-toed Snake Eagle in Ashdown Forest, Buff-bellied Pipit, Black-throated Diver, Long-tailed Duck and Green Sandpiper on QM Reservoir, North American Wood Ducks on Bookham Common, Red-flanked Bluetail in the Shire Valley, Great Bustards & Stone Curlew on Salisbury Plain, Hooded Merganser at Radipole Lake, Bee-eater on Portland, Cranes & Red-necked Phalarope on Slimbridge, Bearded Tits at Hyde Park, Bittern & Smew at London Wetlands Centre, Purple Sandpiper at Clacton, Arctic Skua & Spotted Flycatcher on The Naze, Hen Harrier at Colne Point & Mediterranean Gulls on Holland Haven, whilst back in the day I have had some big days such as the American Coot in Kent, Mongolian Sand Plover in Hampshire, Olive-backed Pipit in Essex & White-headed Duck & Greater Flamingo at Abberton Reservoir

David Attenborough has just opened the Woodberry Wetlands Nature Reserve, a Little Bittern has arrived at the London Wetlands Centre, Minsmere is the BBC Springwatch site again this year & the Spring vagrant list is already phenomenal, so it’s all set up for a fabulous trip

Keep tuning into this site & follow on Twitter: @MancunianBirder

Sail Of The Century


Photo: Kingfisher, the star bird of the Salford Docklands, and a symbol of halcyon – happy and peaceful times

James Walsh aka The Mancunian Birder describes seeing 100 different bird species on Salfords’ Docklands

There are not many people can say they have seen a hundred bird species on Salford Docklands – in actual fact there are just two at the moment

I have been recording birds on the site of the old docks from the Mark Addy Bridge on the north side of Pomona Docks to the Millennium Bridge west of Media City for 10 years now and have recently reached the milestone of 100 species

My favourite bird in all that time is the Whinchat, a small perching bird that I have found 3 times on Pomona, a male in May 2012, a female in May 2014 and a juvenile in September 2015

This, along with sightings of Garden Warbler, Wheatears, Stonechats, Redstart, Sedge Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Skylarks & Reed Bunting, highlights how great the habitat is on Pomona

One quality aspect of birdwatching is those magic moments and more experiences filed in the magic moments file include watching Peregrines display over Pomona, a singing male Black Redstart on the new Coronation Street set, seeing 200 terns flying around Salford Wharf one Spring day, a big flock of Waxwings on the Ordsall estate, the night-feeding flock of Northern Pochards, a Little Egret fishing alongside the resident Herons, and the recent Great Northern Diver

I have had some magic moments watching wading birds Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover & Northern Lapwing with chicks, but unfortunately all these species are declining due to habitat loss, and need a Conservation Plan

Finding your own birds rates highly for birdwatchers and I have been lucky to find Iceland Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Raven, Marsh Harrier, Northern Pintail, Pink-footed Goose, Mandarin, Greylag Goose, Ring-necked Parakeet, Woodcock, Lesser Whitethroat & Yellow Wagtail

It has also been wonderful to win a Big Draw Award with Ordsall Community Arts for a bird inspired art project, and to be at the forefront of starting the Docklands Birdwatching Cruises, showing newcomers to the area amazing sights such as Sand Martins at their breeding colony

So many people visit The Quays but it is still relatively unknown as a wildlife site – perhaps the BBC should consider broadcasting Springwatch from Salford, on the door-step of MediaCity ?