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, 24 February 2013

Fylde & Wyre weekend wanderings

Saturday was dedicated to the Edge Hill 'Birdwatching & Beyond' group. We headed over to Marton Mere, near Blackpool,  to see  the two Long-eared Owls which have been on show recently. On arrival at Marton Mere we walked past the hotel and enjoyed a superb Redwing feeding in the leaf littler of the hedgerow. Dave McGrath had emailed me perfect directions  to the birds and his directions did the trick - thanks Dave! All of the group enjoyed decent views of the birds, even if they were a little obscured in the tangle of scrub.

One of the two Long-eared Owls at Marton Mere near Blackpool. 23/02/13.

Although freezing cold lots of birds had responded to the lengthening daylight by singing with Song Thrush, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Wren and Reed Bunting all asserting themselves with strident song. Several Stock Doves were seen on the Little Owl Barn, but no Little Owl. A Water Rail squealed from the reedbeds as we enjoyed views of common dabbling and diving ducks and at the hide Herring Gulls provided an ageing challenge that many of the participants choose to ignore blaming the fact they hadn't done their homework......
Cetti's Warbler inhabit the reedbed and scrub of Marton Mere and Kim Ashton, Julie Houston, John Bowen and I all heard bursts of calling but most of the group will have to come back to this cracking reserve and have another search.

Birdwatching and Beyond participants enjoying seeing Long-eared Owls at Marton Mere. 23/02/13.

I'd been furnished with some information regarding the North Shore Purple Sandpipers by Blackpool birder Stephen Dunstan and we were helped by Stuart Meredith (thanks both) in getting to the exact location which was a rather bizarre go-kart track. We split into two groups to find the birds, Frank Whitney picked them up and the rest of us wandered over to the north side and enjoyed views of two Purple Sandpipers and c.20 Turnstones feeding along the concrete walls of the kart track. A single Ringed Plover and single Sanderling were also seen with numerous Redshanks in the same area. Out to sea c.30 Eiders were picked up, ther highlights being a single Great Crested Grebe, a Grey Seal and very distant Common Scoters.

Purple Sandpiper, North Shore, Blackpool. 23/02/13
After all the fun of Blackpool we decided to head away from the Fylde and north over the River Wyre to the Eagland Hill area to look for a blue phase Lesser Snow Goose that's been in the area for a few weeks. Well, we certainly tried hard, and despite grilling a large flock of Pink-footed Geese for the best part of one and a half hours we failed to find it. All was not lost as a female Merlin, Buzzards, Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows were all seen. At 3.30p.m it was time to head back to Edge Hill and although it was freezing cold day, and in some ways hard work, we'd done okay. If ever you do decide to get over to the Fylde (or north to the Wyre area) do look on the Fylde Bird Club website (link on the blog home page) - it really is rather good.
At home tea was ready and my good pal Jeremy Squire (he of Loch Leven/Isle of May fame) arrived armed with beer. Roast lamb was enjoyed and we headed to the Hop Vine in Burscough to test some of the own brewed ales. Very good it was to. After a few pints of Mere Blonde an idea to head back to Eagland Hill was hatched, and after a Jaegerbomb (yeah, I know - the barmaid made us.....) the plan was confirmed.
So this morning we headed back up to Eagland Hill and searched through all manner of Pink-footed Geese (neck collar LPU as seen), but no blue snow. Corn Buntings were singing and good views of Grey Partridge, Yellowhammers, Barn Owl and Hares were enjoyed. It was great having a really friendly chat with the farmer from Birk's farm - a decent bloke. With time pressing (Jeremy had a cat to feed in Gloucestershire) we pressed on and searched the local area for geese (huge flocks could be seen erupting in to the sky and heading back down again). Near to Cumming Carr Jeremy spotted a big flock of Black-headed Gulls he fancied scoping through and so we pulled over and he proceeded with his larophile activities while I sedately scoped a huge flock of distant Pink-feet (maybe 8000 in one flock). It all came good though, as I picked up the blue snow lurking in the flock and I even managed to take worst dodgydigi shots of any species ever (all this while having my worst headache ever - perhaps Jaeger bombing does cause damage?).

If you look closely you'll see the blue pahse Lesser Snow Goose in this the world's worst ever bird photograph (and lord knows I've given it some competition), near Cumming Carr, Wyre. 24/02/13.

Jeremy was pleased and the dilemma of getting to Gloucestershire's hungriest cat seemed to be less of a dilemma. The flock kept flushing and we headed onto the A6 and then M6 south with a brew in mind. Jeremy is a keen reserve lister and suddenly insisted we pull off the M6 to visit the Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve at Brockholes, I explained I couldn't see the attraction but he's a persistent lad and soon we were on site sifting through a flock of c.1200 Black-headed Gulls. It proved to be worth it as I picked up two breeding plumage Mediterranean Gulls in the flock. Not a bad morning, it topped off a decent weekend. Good fun was had by all and as I write this I'm assured that the cat got fed by one of the UK's top Jaegerbombers.
Breeding plumage Mediterranean Gull, Brockholes LWT. 24/02/13

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