About Graham Clarkson

Born & brought up in Marshside, I started birding there in the mid 1970s & made my first birding trip to Martin Mere in 1977. I've lived, worked & birdied in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland & Gloucestershire & I've spent time working in Kazakhstan & Madagascar. I enjoy birding my various West Lancashire patches, making frequent birding visits throughout the north-west of England and North Wales. I stray elsewhere in the UK & enjoy birding abroad from time to time. I'm particularly interested in wildfowl (especially pink-footed geese) with an interest in waders & raptors, bird counts & surveys & conservation. I'm trying to get the hang of photography & digiscoping - I'll get there eventually.

My degree from Edge Hill University is in conservation biology. I've guided on numerous birding days out & trips & guided birding holidays to Lesvos, Andalucia, Extremedura, Majorca, Camargue, Hungary, Finland & Florida. I enjoy showing people birds & habitats & helping them learn more about birds & enjoy birding. I'm currently involved with the Birdwatching and Beyond course at Edge Hill and a brand new venture; Skein Birding.

As well as birding I'm interested in captive breeding & reintroduction projects & zoos, how they're managed & how they contribute to conservation. I'm a proud Lancastrian & love the Lancashire countryside & landscapes. I'm an Evertonian & also keep up with what's happening at Southport, PNE & Bristol Rovers. Gardening, dogs (I have a Labrador & a Tibetan Terrier) and keeping chickens (especially Marsh Daisys & Scots Dumpy Bantams). Ruth & I have two marvellous boys who both love nature too. I hope you find the blog and subjects covered interesting; please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Afternoon delight

A potter around the local lanes this afternoon turned out to be productive. Five wheatears in ploughed  fields along Mere Lane followed by 77 white wagtails, 10 pied wagtails, a yellow wagtail and another wheatear along Cross Meanygate. Blackcap, chiffchaff and nuthatch singing in the small copses provided a truly spring like soundtrack.

                                             Female wheatear

An initial visit to Lathom farm (on Meadow Lane) produced a copulating pair of oystercatchers, grey partridges and a singing yellowhammer, a singing blackcap and sand martin over. A look further up Meadow Lane produced seven wheatears, two hunting barn owls, a pair of ravens and a pair of curlews.

                                                    Barn owl
On the way home another quick look over Lathom farm from the Eller Brook bridge revealed eight wheatears on the field immediately to the south.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Spring sprung

As I fed my chickens at home this morning a pair of bullfinches plaintively called and a goldcrest squeaked out it's high-pitched song in the trees down the back. The longer days and sunshine seem to have things geed up a  little; even if an overflying skein of pink-footed geese were a reminder of winter. 

The daily dog walk along Red Cat Lane was enjoyed with a backdrop of corn bunting and yellowhammer singing and tree sparrows chipping in the hawthorn hedgerows. 

I visited Latom Farm (just up the road) to help with conservation projects there and the place was a joy with bright sunshine and azure sky. Displaying lapwings and squabbling oystercatchers are always fun to watch and a snipe, grey partridges and red-legged partridges were also there today. Great to see so much lesser celandine flowering (photo below) on the Eller Brook flood bank - presumably good news for early emerging bumblebees. 

One of the conservation projects has been the creation of a wildlife pond (see below with Jacob and Samuel inspecting); hopefully lapwings will bring their chicks to feed there later in the spring. 

In the early evening sunshine I managed a walk at the other end of Eller Brook at another private site that's managed with wildlife in mind; Scutchers Acres. Highlights there were singing chiffchaff, nuthatch, goldcrest, treecreeper, coal tit and a pair of kingfishers zooming along the brook - a wonderful end to a lovely spring day. 

The Eller Brook looking good in the sun

Moss in the sunshine at Scutchers Acres

Early spring canopy at Scutchers Acres

Monday, 23 March 2015

A short video of a nuthatch at its nest hole on an oak tree at Crabtree Hill in the Forest of Dean on 22nd March 2015.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Glorious Glos

I've been working down at Slinbridge for the last couple of days and chaired a meeting for most of that time. Some of the subject matter was a little dry, but it was great to have useful discussions on the future of managing captive Baer's Pochards and wether or not they'll contribute to any future conservation breeding projects. Excellent contributions from my ace colleagues made it even more interesting.

Being away from home when a storm rages is a rare occurrence and not much fun, plenty of damage to Burscough while I was away, including our back gates being trashed; at least we didn't have our back door smashed in....

The game at Goodison was cancelled so at least I'll get to go to that game! Sitting having a pint with a Kopite colleague as their score was coming in wasn't ideal to be honest, especially while worrying about the family at home.

The meeting today was lively to say the least and as chair I managed to get one of the best seats - overlooking the Tack Piece, a flooded area of wet grassland. It was seething with huge flocks of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Teal and Wigeon, with a supporting cast of European White-fronts, Bewick's Swans and a group of four Common Cranes. Peter Scott's avian Serengeti in action! These were occasional distractions while discussing the merits of colour marking wildfowl.

Post meeting I was keen to get home prior to the next storm predicted for Friday. However, I took little detour and armed with fine directions from Martin McGill I headed to Shirehill Farm in South Glos to search out the Red-flanked Bluetail that's recently taken up residence alongside Broodmead Brook. I was fortunate to see this amazing little bird (similar size to a Robin) straightaway and although it must be familiar with the hail storms it encountered today, on its Taiga breeding grounds, I'm sure it'd be much happier wintering somewhere in South Asia. It did seem to enjoy the mealworms but down for it though! A beautiful bird and I'm glad I went to have a look at it; the last one I saw was in Finland several years back.

I was able to reflect on its beauty and I slowly trudged up the M5/M6 this evening. Birding certainly does create memories of great birds and great places that can be called on during more humdrum and routine times.

Raven over Shirehill Farm this afternoon


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Keeping it local on World Wetlands Day

Jon Bowen and Martin McDerby met me at home this morning with a view to getting out for a day of local birding. We set off at 8a.m. and had flock on c.120 Fieldfares along Red Cat Lane - biggest flock there this winter. 40 Corn Buntings and 75 Linnets showed well down Curlew Lane, where scanning the regular Whooper and Mute Swan flock failed to reveal a Bewick's Swan, a Black Swan there was hardly consolation!

A cloud of Lapwings, distantly over Martin Mere, betrayed the presence of a predator and sure enough a Peregrine was lazily soaring over the cloud of c.3500 Lapwings. A Merlin whizzed past and a Little Egret flew by as we studied the masses of distant Pink-footed Geese feeding on Tarlscough Moss. Scanning the goose flock revealed at least five Barnacle Geese, presumably some of the 35 I saw at Martin Mere on Saturday (prior to shooting off to Goodison to enjoy a fine 2.1 victory over the Villa; what a superb free kick from Mirallas!). Several Stock Doves scooted about, some hares frolicked and a pair of Grey Partridges carelessly rasped, failing to evade us. A brief trip across Green Lane at Holmes produced Red-legged Partridges, another Little Egret, some Whooper Swans on the big irrigation pond and a very confiding Corn Bunting.

Lock Lane at Sollom and heading towards Bretherton over the Douglas was a little disappointing with views of Reed Buntings and a Nuthatch at the back of Bank Hall were the only birds of note. A fine pair of elderly English Setters had lost none of the aloof nobility this breed exhibits. Lovely dogs.

A breakfast stop at TC's on the bypass was appreciated - nice one Martin! Next productive stop was the beach accessed from Weld Road at Birkdale (although a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier on the Coast Road was noted). It often amazes me how dopey folk are when it comes to the coast - it's as if folk have no concept of either tides or weather. Some of the cars had been parked in perilous places and the mercy of the tide.

                                                 Time and tide wait for no one

The tide pushed up plenty of small birds out of the rapidly expanding saltmarsh. A flock of 75 Twite was the highlight, they didn't settle but did fly straight overhead calling beautifully. Taffy was keen to get good views of the wader roosts, although the high tide made access a little difficult. He and I waded through one of the tidally filled ponds, getting soaked in the process, much to Martin's amusement (he retired back towards the car park......).

Views of wader flocks on Birkdale Sands
If you look closely you can see how damp Jon's legs are

Channel draining the Green Beach at Birkdale. 

             Male Stonechat on the Green Beach at Birkdale (taken with iPhone through telescope).

The jolly onto the sands was very productive and well worth the trek and soaking. Martin was waiting back at the car and we headed off to Lunt for our last stop of the day.

Lunt is a small village close to the River Alt and partnership project between Environment Agency, Forestry Commision and Lancashire Wildlife Trust has created an interesting flood relief area that doubles as a nature reserve. The site became famous recently due to a range of Neolithic artefacts being found during excavation. Lunt Meadows is watched over by a dedicated band of local birders and wildlife photographers who have been finding and documenting an interesting range of species over the past couple over years. We certainly enjoyed our visit late this afternoon with the highlights being a ringtail Hen Harrier, eight Kestrels, six Buzzards, two Sparrowhawks, a Barn Owl, a Short-eared Owl, three Little Egrets and numerous skeins of Pink-footed Geese. A wonderful site and it'll be great to see it develop.

A motley crew at Lunt Meadows (L-R Phil Boardman, Jamie Tookey, Bri Jones, Martin McDerby, Jon Bowen - and Chins Jamie's dog)

Poor record shot of this evenings ringtail Hen Harrier (Jon Bowen got some good shots). 

So, all in all a pretty good day. Good fun, good birds. Thanks to Jon Bowen for driving and Martin McDerby for catering).




Saturday, 25 January 2014

Swanning about taking it easy

First bird action of the day was a female Blackcap in the garden, only the second ever winter record here; the first being a a male last week; they seem to love the fatballs.

I set out birding and headed to Curlew Lane to look for two Patchwork Challenge targets species; Grey Partridge and Bewick's Swan.  The first birds I saw and heard were a group of Corn Buntings, Curlew Lane is an excellent, year round site for this local speciality. the next species heard was a group of rasping Grey Partridges, I stood still next to the car and sure enough a covey of twelve revealed themselves in a weedy carrot field across the road on Burscough Moss - lovely birds, another local speciality. As I watched the Partridges a flock of 65 Skylarks flew past and a large herd of a Whooper Swans was constantly growing up at the Rufford end of the lane. 

   Pair of Grey Partridges. Burscough Moss. 25/01/14. 

At the top end of the lane the Whooper Swan where in the usual place,  grazing on winter wheat. I scanned through and was delighted to pick up my second target bird, a smashing adult Bewick's Swan, presumably the same bird that has been visiting the local WWT for free wheat handouts and stinky potatoe meals. Nice to see it in the 'wild' though, along with 256 Whooper Swans and 16 Mute Swans. One of the  Whooper Swans was orange-legged, rarer than Bewick's Swan which it obligingly stood next to.

Bewick's Swan with Whooper Swans near Rufford. 25/01/14.

Orange-legged Whooper Swan and Bewick's Swan near Rufford. 25/01/14.

After enjoying watching the Swans I headed over to Mere Sands Wood for a walk.  Nothing rare or unusually there, the usual species in the usual places. I enjoyed watching the ducks, and it was fascinating to watch a young Grey Heron literally and metaphorically make a meal of a frog. 

 Grey Heron trying to eat a frog at Mere Sands Wood.

Drake Eurasian Teal at Mere Sands Wood. 

Female Goosander at Mere Sands Wood. 

After Mere Sands Wood I dodged the heavy downpours and took Marty out across the local stubble field (off Red Cat Lane) and we flushed a superb total of 67 Yellowhammers. 

The final birding of the day was a very brief visit to Martin Mere to look for Tawny Owls, I did see one,  albeit poor and briefly.  Beaten by the cold and wind I popped into Infocus to see Andy and compare Patchwork notes.......

I shall try again tomorrow!