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, 17 February 2013

Dawn, distraction, dusk

Today was the last coordinated Lancashire wide pink-footed goose count of the winter and I made sure I got to Marshside to count the Ribble roost before dawn. A beautiful, cloudless, windless, frosty morning with a superb birding to match. A couple of grey partridges were shouting in the darkness, with numerous oystercatchers squabbling across the road on Rainford's lagoon, this was drowned out by the incessant, eager whistling of drake wigeon - one of the finest sounds of this part of the Lancashire coast. As dawn broke pink-feet began to leave the roost at the mouth of the Crossens channel, most of them drifting less then a mile onto the NNR at Banks, I ended up counting 2725. Another species very much in evidence on the estuary mudflats was cormorant, two roosts at the edge of Marshside contained 1520 birds; these had all dispersed, mostly out to  sea, by 07.30. The local great white egret lazily flapped past me at 07.40. Carl Winkley joined me and we enjoyed good, but distant, views of both male and female hen harriers over Crossens outer marsh, as well as a buzzard and two merlins. A flock of c.1300 golden plovers, along with numerous black-tailed godwits, wigeon and teal put on the usual stunning aerial spectacle; Marshside at it's best.

I needed to thaw out and at 09.30 I nipped for a brew to Uncle John's in suburbam Marshside and while there recieved a call from Martin McDerby regarding a 'funny grebe' a pal of his had seen on Fairclough's pool. Soon after RSPB warden Alex text me she'd just seen a female long-tailed duck on Fairclough's; 'funny grebe' ID solved. I nipped down and enjoyed good views of the duck, along with several othe local birders; Colin Bushell, Neill Hunt, Mike Stocker, John Mercer and latterly Ron Jackson (see Ribble Estuary Nature facebook page for some excellent video footage of the bird filmed by Ron). The long-tail (don't say that on the Isle of Man) seems to be the Fairhaven bird and was first seen by novice birder Alan Spencer - thanks Alan! A pleasant distraction.

Female long-tailed duck Rimmers marsh, RSPB Marshside, Lancashire. 17/02/13
Rumours of local waxwing sightings had me head along Marine Drive towards Crossens, amazingly I saw five perched next to the roadside near to the 'Welcome to Marshside' sign on the Crossesns/Marshside border (a very real border to those of us who went to school locally....). I parked up and went back to look for them, but alas, they'd moved on. Nevermind, nice to see then even if it was from inside a car at 50mph.
Not very good photo of a distant male hen harrier, Crossen outer marsh, Lancashire. 17/02/13

I managed to get out again late afternoon and headed up the road to Martin Mere. Concious of the fading light I had a quick look from swan link and counted 73 oystercatchers and 9 avocets. I headed to Millers birdge and checked the gull roost; 2450 there - eveyone a black-headed. 91 ruff and 8 black-tailed godwits were mixed in with the gulls and 760 lapwings were flushed over woodend marsh, distantly 3 buzzards and a marsh harrier headed to roost. Alone, I enjoyed watching the pink-feet whiffle in during a spectacular sunset. Dusk descended with a soundtrack of thousands of watefowl. Bliss.

Black-headed gulls flushed on Vinsons marsh, Martin Mere. 17/02/13
Whiffling pink-feet over Sunleys marsh. Martin Mere. 17/03/13

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