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.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Pied Pink-feet

I was working at Martin Mere briefly yesterday and managed half an hour in the hides. While chatting with Whooper Swan researcher David Walsh I noticed a white looking goose in the distance, in amongst a big flock of pink-feet. Brief scope views proved it to be a 'pied' pink-footed goose. Turns out two had been seen earlier in the week by Martin Mere regular Gordon Taylor. Gordon kindly sent me a photo of one of them which I put on the Ribble Estuary Nature facebook group last night. Any road, I was driving past Martin Mere this lunchtime and noticed a big flock of pinks on windmill farm, despite not having my scope I had a quick look through the flock and picked up yesterdays pied pink, but this time with the second pied bird. Luckily I had my camera with me! Apparently these same birds were recently at the RSPB Strathbeg reserve in Aberdeenshire. I see a pied pink-foot or two most winters but it's the first time I've seen a pair together. It's been interesting this winter for aberrant pinks; two leucistic birds, two orange-legged birds, two Danish collared birds and now two pied birds. Who said Pink-feet were boring?

Pair of 'pied' Pink-footed Geese at Windmill Farm, close to WWT Martin Mere. 30/11/12.
Pink-feet coming in to land at WWT Martin Mere. 29/11/12.
Golden late afternoon sunshine over the mere at WWT Martin Mere. 29/11/12.
Pink-feet on Windmill Farm. 30/11/12.

Birdwatching and Beyond course

After a year off Dr Alan Bedford and I will be running our Birdwatching and Beyond course from Edge Hill University from January 2013. This will the the sixth time we've run this particular course. Alan and I have been planning the fieldtrips and thinking about the course content and will finalise exact details over the next couple of weeks. We intend to visit a range of sites over the year (the course runs for 12 months) including Bowland; Angelsey; Leighton Moss, Martin Mere; Burton Mere Wetlands; Denbighshire Moors; Flintshire Coast; Ribble Estuary; Mere sands Wood; Pennington Flash; Frodsham; Walney; Caerlaverock with evenings visits to a range of local sites. The course includes some evening, classroom based seminars and caters for a wide range of abilities and subject areas. If you would like to register your interest in the course please email Alan; bedforda@edgehill.ac.uk and he'll get back to you. The course is limited to 15 participants so get your name down early if you are seriously interested.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

North-west Birdwatching festival WWT Martin Mere 24-25 November 2012

It's the annual North-west birdwatching festival at WWT Martin Mere this weekend. Lots going on including 8a.m.opening - a good oppurtuniy to get some biding done prior to browsing the stalls for bargain books. Dr Alan Bedford and I will be guiding walks from 11a.m. each day and I'll be speaking at 1pm. on both days about birding the Ribble coast and wetlands. More details on the WWT website;

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Hundred End's hundreds of Whoopers

I enjoyed a couple of hours exploring around Hundred End and Hesketh Out Marsh this afternoon. The sun was shining which made it particularly enjoyable. From the seawall at Hundred End I scanned the NNR and could see huge but distant clouds of waders and wildfowl wheeling around over the pools and saltmarsh, the tide was dropping and I saw the resident Great White Egret grabbing fish stranded in tidal pools. A distant flock of c.600 Pink-feet provided company for a single Barnacle Goose, but the flock was to far away to look through properly. A Kingfisher flew by and briefly perched on the metal barrier of the Hundred End sluice gates; a unexpected splash of colour. Three separate groups of Whooper Swans could be seen from the seawall, the largest of 259 was a couple of fields inland of Hesketh Out Marsh and contained six broods of one, eight of two, four of three and one of four. I didn't go through the other groups in detail; 76 near Shore Road and 15 on the NNR. 62 Tree Sparrows in the hedges inland of HOM was the biggest flock I've seen around there for a long time. I bumped into Colin and Angie Bushell out birding/dog walking and we discussed seeing Hen Harriers; which we pretty much instantly did, a distant ring-tail hunting along the outer seawall, flushing flocks of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard as it did so. Colin and Angie carried on with the dogs and saw a female Goosander on the Scaup pool and I happily headed home for a warming brew and a double helping of football carnage...

Whoopers drifting past at Hundred End
Looking towards Hundred End and beyond form Hesketh Out Marsh

Sunday, 11 November 2012

It started and ended with Pink-feet

Coordinated pink-footed goose count this morning and I met with Sean and Kim Ashton at 7a.m. at Marshside sandworks to count the Ribble roost. The slight elevation on the footprint of the old Mt Baker allows viewing up river past the mouth of the Crossens channel as far as the edge of the Ribble National Nature Reserve. The exact site of goose roost varies and it can be spread from the end of the haul road all the way east along the mudflats towards Lytham and beyond. It's a big job, hence three of us tackling it. Over an hour we counted the grand total of 23,774; a marvellous, life affirming sight and sound in the early morning sunshine.

Pink-feet heading inland over the sandworks this morning
Sunrise over Marshside with skeins of Pink-feet heading inland to feed
The goose count was finished at 8a.m. and Steve Sweetnam picked me up and we headed to Euston Street in Preston where we immediately connected with 67 Waxwings perched in treetops trying to avoid being harassed by an obviously irritated Mistle Thrush.
Some of the Preston Waxwings this morning
While watching the Preston Waxwings Frank Whitney, a fellow Burscough birder, called me to say he'd just found a group of Waxwings while out dog-wailking near his house in Burscough. Steve and I thought it rude not to go and have a look at them and we duly arrived  and saw 20 of these amazing little birds with Frank and Phil Boardman. By this time Steve and I were ready for a big breakfast and TC's in Mere Brow duly obliged. Post breakfast  we considered our options and headed to the seawall at Banks from where we scannned the vast expanse of saltmarsh that is the Ribble NNR. The NNR rarely disappoints and we quickly saw a Great White Egret, 18 Little Egrets and a Spoonbill. The vast flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Golden Plover were constantly flushing and on closer inspection a total of three Peregrines were seen harassing flocks. All of Peregrines were dopey juvs, one of them had a speculative strike at a Shelduck.
Steve was keen for a mooch across Churchtown Moss and we drove across in the direction of Bescar Lane. c.40 Fieldfares near four lane ends were nice to see and three Buzzards were drifting around there. We checked a couple of Pheasant feeders in one of the copses for Brambling, none were seen but a pair of calling Nuthatches is still noteworthy on that part of the moss. Heading towards Bescar Lane huge three huge flocks of Woodpigeons could be seen, I estimated 13000. No Crane out there but at least another four Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.
Some of the Woodpigeons near Bescar Lane today
Our last journey was searching for Harriers across the mosses between Halsall and Ainsdale. We didn't see any, but we did see big flocks of my favourite bird; you already know, don't you?
Pink-feet feeding close to the housing estate at Carr Moss near Ainsdale
We choose a flock adjacent to the housing estate off Carr Lane in Ainsdale to look through and it was worthwhile, despite being mithered by some of the local nutters. 6200 geese were present, one a Barnacle Goose, one a Greylag Goose and best of all one was an adult  Greenland white-fronted Goose (my first this winter). I found three neck-collared birds; FIU, PBH and PVJ. Another huge flock (c.6000) of Woodpigeons could be seen over the local copses and in the distance another field full of Pink-feet could be seen. Alas, we ran out of time but a good session in the field. Can't beat it.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Flocking at the mere

I spent much of my free time this weekend looking through and at the big flocks of pink-foot geese at Martin Mere, 7000 have been present all weekend. The geese have been feeding on the outer fields to the south and west of the reserve and heading on to plover field to roost and when spooked. All this action has been easy to view from the UU hide. Not much with the flocks other than a single lecuistic bird, a probably wild greylag,  a couple of neck collared bird and Colin Bushell saw a brent goose in flight today. All the usual wetland species on show, with whooper swans, teal, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, ruff, lapwings, snipe all very easy to see. Raptors included four buzzards, four peregrines, a marsh harrier, a sparrowhawk and a kestrel. Both Colin and I searched for the reported firecrest and couldn't find it, although I did enjoy seeing goldcrests and coal tits amongst the roving long-tailed tit flocks. Lots of visitors enjoying the the sunshine and the birds, long may it continue.

Pink-feet taking off from plover field
Pink-feet determined not to crash into the UU hide
Can you spot the odd one out?
Landing gear being lowered as pinks come back to land on plover field