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, 7 April 2013

Grand weekend

A good day birding with the Birding & Beyond group in the Southport area produced a good range of species on Saturday; excellent teamwork! At Marshside a female Hen Harrier over the saltmarsh was enjoyed by all as were an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose (initially on the saltmarsh) & two adult Dark-bellied Brent Geese (initially on the mudflats) that showed well with Pink-footed Geese on Suttons marsh. Spring migrants were represented by two male Wheatears on Suttons and three Chiffchaffs along Marshside Road. 18 Ruff and 220 Golden Plover were on Rimmers marsh with Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets spread across both marshes. The 'resident'  Spoonbill on fast asleep on Suttons then fed busily on Crossens inner. Large numbers of Pink-footed Geese were present with c.600 on Suttons & 3800 on Crossens outer, where a juvenile Peregrine drifted over. Two Goldcrests were around Sandgrounders/Sandworks. 40 Whooper Swans could be seen distantly, looking restless on the main Ribble channel, .

After lunch at Royal Birkdale Golf Course at least six Crossbills showed eventually (up to 30 there recently) with other birds of interest there including a leucistic Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, five Goldcrests, two Siskins, displaying Sparrowhawk, two Kestrels & four Buzzards.

Record shot of a female Crossbill feeding at Royal Birkdale Golf Club 06/04/13.
 The group then headed up to Crossens and saw 34 Waxwings fly from Mr Clappy's near the BP garage along Preston New Road and were seen well by the group perched in the cherry trees lining the road.  Along Gravel Lane in Banks 23 Redwings, two Stock Doves & several Buzzards were of interest. Finally at Hesketh Out Marsh things were very quiet but a female Stonechat was worth seeing.

Record shot of one of 34 Waxwings along Preston New Road, Crossens. 06/04/13
This morning I took the dog for his daily trek around the fields (Red Cat Lane, Burscough Moss, Crabtree Lane areas); this was productive as we bumped into a Grey Partridge, 65 Fieldfares, two Redwings, nine Corn Buntings, 28 Tree Sparrows and a singing Chiffchaff.
After the dog walk family time beckoned and we headed off to visit relatives in Marshside. On the way we had a quick look for the Little Owl along Gravel Lane and Ruth spotted it in a tree - Jacob was delighted. As we drove down Preston New Road we saw the Waxwings (c.30) in the cherry trees (further south than yesterday).
The Botanic Gardens in Churchtown is one of mu old childhood haunts and mu kids also love visiting there. It's actually a good spot for birds (when I worked for RSPB I occasionally used to set up  a stall there to promote the society's work and also make new members). Today we saw the drake Pintail that Ron Jackson recently found, a hybrid Wood Duck x Mallard that's been there for a least eight years, a Cormorant, two Mute Swans, two Nuthatches (they would have been a major local rarity until fairly recently), a Treecreeper, singing Goldcrests and Coal Tits, a Redwing, four Coots, four Moorhens and 115 Mallards. A superb Ring-necked Parakeet that's been around for a couple of years was floating about in the trees above the aviaries.
Ring-necked Parakeeet, Botanic Gardens, Churchtown. 07/04/13.
Ron's Pintail, Botanic Gardens, Churchtown. 07/04/13.
I spent a couple of hours at Martin Mere late afternoon and as usual enjoyed counting wildfowl and waders. Highlights included a pair of Ravens, a cracking pair of breeding plumage Med Gulls and a Water Rail on Woodend Marsh, a Dunlin, four Snipe, 63 Avocets, 38 Ruff, 38 Black-tailed Godwits, seven Ringed Plovers and tow singing Chiffchaff Good to see the place busy with visitors; especially families having a good day out.
Last bird of the day was least expected; Jacob and I were playing footy on Mere Ave park and a Kittiwake was circling over Red Cat Lane calling - patch tick.....

Ducking out of Easter Sunday

I managed to get out on Easter Sunday and headed to Bodenham Lake nature reserve (halfway between Hereford and Leominster). Redwings, Fieldfares, Redpolls, Siskins and a yaffling Green Woodpecker initially brightened things up on this freezing cold and dull day. I set off insearch of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and failed so  scoped the ducks on the lake counting 10 Goldeneye, c.30 Teal and 52 Eurasian Wigeon. I noticed an odd looking female Wigeon floating about in the flock, I only had distant views and managed some record shots of what I'm convinced was a female American Wigeon - I shall probably not submit a description seeing as I didn't see its greater coverts of axillaries for clinching the ID, but I'm happy it was one and Phil Whittaker, another visiting birder, also saw the bird a couple of times.

Female American Wigeon, Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve, Herefordshire. 31/03/13.

Female American Wigeon (left) and female Eurasian Wigeon (right), Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve, Herefordshire. 31/03/13.

Anyway, I had to get back to Hereford for Easter Sunday lunch and left the bird. I came back later and had more poor views. I bumped into Paul Downes (he of CCC fame....) and we had another look before heading off to Wellington gravel pits. At Wellington we had good views of the drake Lesser Scaup Paul had found a couple of weeks earlier and also managed to see two drake and a duck Garganey hiding on one of the 'hidden' pits (I'd managed to see both these species late of Good Friday too). Otherwise things were quite with just a couple of Chiffchaffs representing spring migrants, although 74 Shovelers was a good count.

Drake Lesser Scaup, Wellington Gravel Pits, Herefordshire. 31/03/13.

Forest of Dean on Easter Saturday

Seeing as Ruth is from Hereford we spend a fair amount of time there during holiday periods and this Easter was no exception. On Easter Saturday I headed out to the Forest of Dean (only 40 minutes south of Hereford) for some lone birding. First stop was Speech House, where in 20 years of visiting I've never failed to see Hawfinch; two duly obliged, however I was more impressed by the 23 Song Thrushes on the primary school playing field. A disciple of the raptor spotting 10 o'clock rule I arrived at the well known Goshawk watch point at New Fancy View in good time. I was immediately rewarded with a displaying male over the western ridge and then a distant perched female was picked up by a fellow birders  non-birding wife! A pair of Ravens entertained by displaying around us in ice cold conditions.

Raven displaying at New Fancy View
Post Goshawk spotting I needed a warming walk and headed off to Cannop ponds for a trudge around to see if I could pick up Marsh Tit and Kingfisher. I saw neither but did see plenty of Siskins, a couple of Nuthatches and Treecreepers and counted 46 Mandarins; stunning birds in this almost 'wild' setting. As I trudged round the ponds enjoying a couple of Grey Wagtails and a trilling Little Grebe I noticed some movement at the far end of the pond and thought I'd better scope the movement - I was surprised and delighted to see three drake and a duck Garganey, they were confiding and I managed some reasonable record shots.

Pair of Garganey, Cannop Ponds, Forest of Dean. 30/03/13
Four Garganey, Cannop Ponds, Forest of Dean. 30/03/13
After the excitement of the Garganey I headed over to Symond's Yat to see if the famous Peregrines were showing from the watchpoint; indeed they were, a pair and an intruding male all showing well and putting on a display for the RSPB 'prospects' enjoying them. A displaying Sparrowhawk and numerous Buzzards were the only other raptors on show in the hour I spent there - again freezing cold. I was glad to get back to Hereford for a warming brew.