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.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Marshside 31 July 2012

A tea time visit to Marshside was pleasant, no surprises or rarities, just seasonally normal stuff. Counts and details;

Marsh Harrier 1 tatty adult female over Marshside saltmarsh
Little Egret 7 on saltmarsh pools, 5 on Suttons marsh
Grey Heron 3 on saltmarsh pools
Common Sandpiper 2 in front of Sandgrounders
Dunlin 67 on Polly's pool
Redshank 32 on Polly's pool and 8 on Rimmers
Black-tailed Godwit c.250 on Polly's pool and 35 on Rimmers
Ruff 2 moulting adult males on Rimmers
Snipe 18  Rimmers
Coot 229 Rimmers
Gadwall 18 Rimmers
Teal 5 Rimmers
Shoveler 6 Rimmers
Tufted Duck 2 Rainfords lagoon
Wigeon 1 male Rimmers
Pintail 1 female Rimmers
Mute Swan 16 Rimmers
Reed Warbler 2 junction screen
House Martin 65 Rimmers

Common Sandpiper from Sandgrounders hide at RSPB Marshside

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Frodsham, Gronant, Burton, Frodsham

Big Steve and I got to Frodsham by 8a.m. in order to have a look for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that had been seen on Saturday. Plenty of waders on show, I counted 1150 Black-tailed Godwits, 420 Dunlin and 90 Ringed Plovers. Steve picked out a Bar-wit with the Black-wits. No Hud-wit though, never was - that was Paul Crawley's take and he saw the bird in question and it was good to chat to him about it.  The small waders were flighty and distant and hard work. I managed an ever so brief view of the Buff-breast at c.9a.m., as I was about to call it, it, and it's host flock flew off! Damn. The birding company didn't seem so interested in my brief encounter. Another hour or so of scanning didn't refind the the BBS and we later found out from Jonny Platt that he'd seen it at the other end of tank six and he'd seen it head in our direction at 9a.m. Other birds on show included a juv Cuckoo, five Yellow Wagtails (ad pair & three juvs), seven Pochard, four Teal, c.40 Tufted Ducks, c.65 Shelduck and three broods of chicks, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard. We were getting cold and so headed off for a brew and bacon butty.

Post brew we headed for Gronant beach and weren't disappointed; several adult Little Terns and three fledged juvs were present and a pair of Ringed Plovers with three nearly fledged juvs occupied an attractive section of beach. A couple of passing Sandwich Terns and offshore bobbing Grey Seals were also noted.

   Adult Little Tern. Gronant beach

Juvenile Little Tern. Gronant beach

Ringed Plover (above), Juvenile Ringed Plover (left)
& Sea Holly (right), Gronant beach

After Gronant we wandered over to the RSPB reserve at Burton Mere. I've not been for a while and was impressed by the new visitor reception, trails and hides. Top work RSPB. Plenty to see during our brief visit; c.20 Little Egrets, two Spotted Redshanks, c.35 Black-tailed Godwits, six Avocets, two Common Terns and c. 40 Teal. A chat with a couple of folk tempted us back to Frodsham, we'd missed a Spoonbill and the BBS had cleared off and taken most of it's wader pals with it. A pair of Ruddy Shelducks were present though and had been identified as a Ruddy Shelduck and it's hybrid pal. Looked like a pair of Ruddy Shelducks to me, a male and the female in worn, pre moult plumage, hence it's very pale head (which I've seen many times in this species); happy to be proved wrong (no, honestly!) but no good reason so far as I could see why they aren't a pair of Ruddy Shelducks.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Glos Odonata and brief encounter of the Purple kind.

Had a good night in the Badger in Eastington on Friday night with excellent company including top birding mates Martin McGill, Jeremy Squire, Neil Smart and Steve Dark. Jeremy, Martin and I carried on the jovial frivolity today and set off to the Forest of Dean in search of two local Odonata rarities; Red-veined Darter and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. We found both after a great deal of searching. To be honest they did the searching and I gamely tagged along! Paul Tay, a local Odonata expert was also on hand to come up with the goods. Birds seen while searching for our four-winged, six-legged friends ncluded 16 Crossbills, Siskins, Lesser Redpolls, Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler.

Red-veined Darter a Glos rarity seen photographed today in the Forest of Dean
The same Red-veined Darter today.
Emperor Dragonfly, Forest of Dean.

Large Red Damselfly, Forest of Dean

Martin and Paul certainly take Odonata ID, recording and photography very seriuosly
Black Darter (juvenile), Forest of Dean.

Flushed with success from the forest we headed over to Coombe Hill Nature Reserve, where we added a couple more species of Dragonfly to the days's species list. We also managed to see some interesting birds; a juvenile Purple Heron being the highlight. Two hunting Hobbies, 120 Lapwings, six Snipes, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Curlews, 15 Grey Herons, 345 Swifts, Yellowhammer and Chiffchaff were all good too.
The final list of Odonata recorded today was;

Emerald Damselfly; Large Red Damselfly; Common Blue Damselfly; Blue-tailed Damselfly; Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly; Common Hawker; Southern Hawker; Brown Hawker; Emperor Dragonfly; Four-spotted Chaser; Broad-bodied Chaser; Common Darter; Ruddy Darter; Black Darter and Red-veined Darter.

Great wildlife and great company.

Distant Dowitcher down south

I've been working, socialising and celebrating in Hereford, Arundel and Slimbridge this week and I've just got home, so I though I'd better blog.......
Worked at Slimbridge on Friday and in between meetings and sorting through blizzards of emails I managed to get out of the office and have a look at the Long-billed Dowitcher that has been on the reserve most of the week. It was with a flock of c.130 Black-tailed Godwits and c. 80 Redshanks on the South lake, although distant. Other species of note included two Common Terns, a Curlew Sandpiper a Green Sandpiper and three Ruff.

Long-billed Dowitcher trying hard to blend in with Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks

All that scratching is making me itch

Silhouette comparison of Long-billed Dowitcher (left foreground) and Black-tailed Godwit (right foreground)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sanderlings, Sandwiches & Merlin

First stop this morning was Crossens; I scanned the outer marsh for activity, I wasn't disappointed; I picked up a distant female Merlin perched on the big horizontal tree trunk. She blasted off after some Starlings and that was that. My first Merlin of the ornithological autumn. Female Kestrel out there too. Next stop Marshside where c. 300 Black-tailed Godwits flitted between the saltmarsh pools and Polly's pool. Five Little Egrets had learned the same trick.

Two Common Sandpipers were on view from the Sandgrounders screen and over at Nel's two adult male Ruff fed busily alongside c.155 Black-tailed Godwits. The high water levels on Rimmer's marsh are heaven for the 145 or so Coot, 21 Tufted Duck, 18 Mute Swans, 5 Gadwall and six Shoveler loafing there.

The real business of the day was to get my WeBS sector counted down at Birkdale and Ainsdale. Although I had a long, hot walk, I wasn't disappointed with  the following birds counted; 6300 Dunlin, 2600 Sanderling, 110 Knot, 16 Ringed Plover, 228 Grey Plover, 125 Bar-tailed Godwit; 475 Oystercatcher, 318 Sandwich Tern (most I've ever seen there), five Common Tern, 140 Common Gull, 410 Black-headed Gull, 170 Herring Gull, 23 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 22 Greater Black-backed Gull, one Mediterranean Gull, one Great Crested Grebe, 28 Cormarant and a Grey Heron. Five Gannets were fishing offshore - always a delight to see. A good day on the beach.

Black-tailed Godwits on Marshside saltmarsh pools

Dunlin and Sanderling on Birkdale Sands




Common Tern

Sandwich Terns

Sedge Warbler singing in the Alder scrub on the Green Beach at Birkdale

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Seismic activity at HOM & lots of Linnets

I visited Hesketh Out Marsh for a couple of hours late morning. I was surprised to find some kind of drilling rig in the field right next to the car park entrance. The chaps manning the rig weren't the friendly, chatty types but assured me that the rig was for installing seismic measuring equipment. Presumably to measure the earthquakes the fracking will cause.Don't panic, it might be nothing to do with fracking......

Plenty of birds on show; an adult and a juvenile Avocet pranced around the Scaup pool, where they had eight Greenshanks and six Dunlins for company. Three Little Egrets and eight Grey Herons were too busy sleeping off a hard mornings fishing to worry about earthquakes. Six Kestrels and a Buzzard hunted the outer bank. A single Arctic Tern hung around for most of my visit and I flushed a pair of Grey Partridges on the seawall. Flocks of Linnets were busily feeding on grass seeds and getting flushed by Kestrels; I counted 65 on the reserve and 120 on the NNR at Hundred End. Lots of Small Tortoiseshells nectaring on thistles towards Hundred End - I reckon maybe 60.

The seismic measurement equipment might not have anything to do with fracking.

Dodgyscoped record shot of an Arctic Tern at HOM this morning

Monday, 16 July 2012

First of the Sea Aster at Hesketh Out Marsh

Sea Aster is just starting to flower at Hesketh Out Marsh

Met up with Tony Baker, RSPB Ribble sites manager, early this morning at Hesketh Out Marsh to carry out the fourth and last breeding wader survey of the year there. A grey and miserable morning is always brightened up by peace, freedom and bird song and this morning was no exception. Numerous singing Skylarks always seem to ease the burden don't they? Plenty of waders in evidence out on the marsh (marsh, eh? Who'd have thought it seven or eight years back?), Oystercatchers are still getting annoyed out there, c.80 Curlew were milling around, several juvenile Redshanks were in the creeks and nine Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank, an Avocet and Lapwings are allways good to see. Tony also bumped into a flock of 80 Dunlin. Four Common Terns and an Arctic Tern were  fishing  the lagoons and creeks and the single Little Egret I saw still seemed exotic to me. Mallards are moulting out there and c.40 Sheluck were feeding in the creeks, two near fledged juveniles legged it when I peered into one of the creeks.

Wandering out amongst the creeks isn't conducive to carrying a 'scope, so  two distant Marsh Harriers were left unaged. Two Kestrels seemed to be finding plenty amongst the thick grass on the old, breached, seawall. A Yellow Wagtail over was the only other bird of note. The scurvy grass has mainly gone over with just a few sweet smelling flowers remaining, whereas Sea Aster is just starting to flower; any ungrazed parts of the saltmarsh sward with erupt into a sea of purple n the next couple of weeks. A productive way to start the day and get the blood pumping ready for work.

Creek four looking towards BAE at Warton

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Black-necked Grebes

Nipped over to Houghton Green Flash near Warrington this morning with fellow Burscough birder,  Frank Whitney, to have a look for Black-necked Grebes. We saw six breeding plumage adults and four juveniles, so we were pleased. Also there were 14 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Pochard, 48 Tufted Ducks, a Little Ringed Plover, a pair of Kestrels, a pair of Yellowhammers, several Tree Sparrows, Sand Martins and Swifts. Not a bad couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Woodchat Shrike at Lydiate May 30th

Mal Taylor was delighted to find this beauty on his local patch at Lydiate during his lunch break! I managed to get some shots, not great, but okay as record shots. This was the third I've seen in Lancashire, my first being self found at Marshside and the second was on Hutton marsh and found by Tony Baker. This particualr bird was enjoyed by many local birders who also enjoyed good views of local farmland birds including Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Grey Partridges, Lapwings, Marsh Harrier, Hobby and Peregrine. Not bad, eh?

Recent bits and bobs

Arctic Tern at Cemlyn Bay, June 2012

Lapwing at Low Meadows, May 2012
Male Blackbird, Pensthorpe June 2012

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Geese from last winter

Eurasian White-fronted Geese at Crossens inner marsh, December 2011

Barnacle Geese bathing at Caerlaverock WWT, November 2011

Tundra Bean Goose, Lytham Moss, December 2011
Pink-footed Goose at RSPB Marshside, October 2011
Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Hilbre Island, October 2011

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Black-tailed Godwit at RSPB Marshside earlier this year, photo taken from Nel's hide; a wonderful place to watch flocks of waterfowl from September to May.

Nuthatch at the Peregrine viewpoint at Symond's Yat in May this year. A very obliging bird.

From the archive; a superb male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Moore Nature Reserve earlier in the year. Wonderful little birds, one of my favourites. Moore is a cracking site and well worth visiting.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Just had it confirmed today that  Alan Bedford and I will be contributing to the bird fair at WWT Martin Mere 24-25 November 2012. We'll be guiding a walk from 11a.m. on both days, looking for the Martin Mere 'big ten'; should be fun! We'll also be talking on both days in the lecture theatre about birding the Ribble Coast and Wetlands. Hope to see you there.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Took part in the West Lancs Wildlife bioblitz at Hollands farm in Westhead at the weekend. 4 pairs of Yellowhammers, 3 singing Corn Buntings, a pair of Reed Buntings, numerous Tree Sparrows, pair of Grey Partridges, Skylarks and a superb adult Hobby were the avian highlights.
I'm going to try blogging in order to let anyone who's interested know about the birding I get up to. I'm also keen to promote a new birding venture that Alan Bedford and I are in the process of planning. Birding days out and birding weekends, for beginner and intermediate level birders and those wanting to let someone else do the planning; more on that soon!