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.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The ageing process

Bumped into Playful Pete, Alan Wright and Dave Nickeas at Marshside on Saturday morning and enjoyed a few hours birding and chatting with them. Birding highlights were a female Hen Harrier, three Merlins, a Peregrine and a distant, though obliging, Great White Egret. Of course the best birds of all were the numerous Pink-footed Geese all around Marshside and Crossens. Playful and I reminisced about derby days past and nonsense we'd got up to on the Scillies, and how we'd never behave like that nowadays. We're older, wiser, more mature.  I suppose these kinds of recollections, fond and otherwise, are part of any birder or football fans ageing process. Talking of ageing, Dave was actually 47 yesterday so I'm sure he's well aware of the ageing process; for his birthday treat Dave decided not to head up the tracks to see his beloved West Ham take in the pie-eaters, instead he graced Haigh Ave and enjoyed the Sandgrounder's 2.2 with Hereford.

Anyway back to ageing. Knowing the age of birds is useful in terms of definitive identification and this can can be applied to conservation science. Knowing a species productivity in any give year helps us to observe and record changes in populations, these changes in turn can help us better understand our environment and the changes to it. As you know I'm involved in counting Pink-footed Geese and I also try to age flocks and work out brood sizes. This data is useful to WWT, RSPB and BTO. Folk sometimes ask  how do you age geese? So, here are a few tips;

In early autumn telling adults from youngsters is fairly easy with good views and practice; adults have broad white edges to the feathers on the upper margin of the flank - it looks like a long white stripe across the flank, this is lacking in juveniles until much later in the winter. The flank feathers on adults are broad, with pale squarish tips contrasting with the small, narrow tipped flank feathers on juveniles. If you look at the coverts on adults you'll notice that that they are squarish with broad pale tips, contrast this with the smaller, narrower tipped coverts on juveniles (most of these coverts aren't moulted until the spring). The tertial feathers on juveniles in the ealry winter are shorter and norrower in juveniles. Juveniles often have less distinct neck furrows and duller bare parts than adults. If you watch a flock of geese carefully and take your time you can often pick out family groups based on behaviuor, next time you're at one of the goose feeding grounds have a proper look.
So, below are some pics of adult and juvenile Pink-footed Geese.

Juvenile Pink-footed Goose (foreground) with an adult (rear)
Juvenile Pink-footed Goose (right)
Typical view of feeding Pink-feet, juvenile (foreground) and adult (rear)
Danish 2SB, a fine adult male Pink-footed Goose, with a juvenile in the backgound.

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