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.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A tale of survival, Scoters and a Scooter.

A few days back John Bannon (a.k.a. Pappa Bacon or Mad Dog)  invited me to join him, Pete Allen (a.k.a. Playful Pete) and Matt Bannon (a.k.a. Biffa) on a trip to North Wales. Today was the day and Pappa and Playful picked me up at 07.15 and we headed to Warrington to pick up young Biffa. Seeing as Biffa lives so close to Moore Nature Reserve it seemed rude not to pop in for a quick look around. The first thing we heard on the reserve was a brief volley of drumming from a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker; unexpected so early in the year, but then it's ridiculously mild. At the eastern end of the Birchwood pool we picked up ten Waxwings perched atop a birch tree, I took some snaps but they didn't turn out given the early morning gloom. Birds on the pool included the redhead Smew, numerous Shovelers, Gadwall and single Great Crested and Little Grebes. As we strolled to the feeding station a distant Green Woodpecker could be heard yaffling. The feeders produced Nuthatch and Coal Tit and 26 Siskins fed on alder cones. Back towards the car another flock of Siskins (c.60) and a mixed Tit flock drew our attention and c.90 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, several Wigeon and Teal were worth looking through on the Lapwing pool. Lots of birders were arriving as we were leaving and I'm sure they were all in for a good day at this cracking reserve.

"Next stop Pappa? The Dee?", "Okay then". So, a bit of detective work and some rum parking (anyone ever had a picnic on the Connah's Quay bridge?) and we managed to pick up 14 Bewick's Swans, 38 Whooper Swans, c.20 Mute Swans and c.600 Pink-footed Geese on the Dee saltmarshes near to Connah's Quay. A couple of Little Egrets were fishing in the river and I picked up a distant Great White Egret in flight. After enjoying the swans we headed up the A55 to Conwy RSPB. The reserve at Conwy seems to me to be particularly well run with cheerful, helpful and informative staff, volunteers and regulars. We missed a Bittern that apparently flew over us and we decided not to devote any time looking for it given that our primary target was the two Firecrests on site. Patience was rewarded and Pappa picked up the Firecrests, we spent about an hour trying to get decent views and were all delighted to get good, albeit brief, views of these midget gems. Lunch was procured from the local Tesco, but getting back onto the A55 was complicated by the fact that Pappa sometimes forgets to look where he is going and sees other road users as an irritation and inconvenience. I do hope the lady shoppers got home without shaking too much; her emergency stop was exemplary and I'm sure she saved my life.

The sea off Llandulas is famous for it's huge Common Scoter flocks and we spent some time looking through the distant, scattered flocks offshore. The other lads all saw a Velvet Scoter in flight and a couple of Fulmars which I managed not to see, although I did see 18 Red-throated Divers, two Guillemots and two Red-breasted Mergansers. Pappa and Biffa also claimed a female Long-tailed Duck that Playful and I managed to avoid. Over at Rhos three Purple Sandpipers and a couple of birders entertained us and groups of Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were seen close by. Another near death experience ensued and Biffa, Playful and I all thanked the Lord for watching over us as we survived another near miss. The blindspot was apparently at fault.....

Purple Sandpipers Rhos-on-sea 05/01/13

Hawfinches in the Conwy Valley beckoned and Pappa and I picked one up in flight, but that was the only one seen, although we checked a second site where eleven had been seen this morning. We drew a blank there but did enjoy two Red Kites gliding along the valley and flocks of Redwings in the tree tops. Pappa decided to borrow a scooter off one of the local children in Llanbedr-y-Cennin and proceeded to show us his skills; which frankly were as overrated as his driving; he fell off in spectacular fashion, but as with his driving his pride was perfectly intact. Top work Pappa Bacon! Bad light stopped play and we headed back towards Warrington, praying was involved and I admit I'm suprised we survived to tell the tale.

Pappa Bacon going......

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you lived to tell this tale.PS I commented yesterday but forgot to do the robot question :)