Having thought of the idea of an Eco Bird Race - a bird race using no fossil fuels - in 2003, and completed 2: Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire in 2003(82sp) [/mb/trips/frodsham-jw-0903.html] & Brockholes Quarry, Lancashire in 2004 (75 sp) [/mb/trips/eco-jw-0504.html], I decided that this year I would do a bird race completely on foot from wherever I was living in Spring (ie: I wouldn't even drive to the site).
This happened to be Timperley, an area I have lived in most of my life. It's a leafy suburb in Greater Manchester, near the Cheshire border, about 8 miles south west of Manchester city centre.
It's not a particularly well known area for birding, but my previous best records in the area have been a Fulmar during very windy conditions in March '95, a Green Sandpiper on Attenbury Lane reserve in '04 and several Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, and Waxwings made an appearance last winter.
The birding areas I covered are "Metro Plantation", Bridgewater Canal, Attenbury Lane reserve, Timperley Cricket Pitch, Timperley Golf Course, King George V Pool & Stamford Park Lake, a variety of habitats - a marsh, pools, a small lake, canal, streams, plantations, scrub, flat lawns, hedges, housing & playing fields - all in an easily walkable area.
The weather during the day was continental, about 20 or so degrees celsius, sunny and blue skies all day.
I got out of the house later than I had wanted to, about 6:30am, and walked through suburban housing - recording House Sparrow, Dunnock, Collared Dove, Wood & Feral Pigeon, Starling, Magpie, Blackbird, Great Tit, Robin, Blue Tit & Wren - to my first "destination", an area of plantation and scrub by the Metrolink tracks. Here, the first Blackcap of the day sang and a hoped for Song Thrush appeared after a search.
As I made my way to the Attenbury Lane nature reserve by the Bridgewater Canal, in the skies a single House Martin flew over houses, good numbers of Common Swifts scythed through the air, and 2 Sand Martins and a few Swallows made their way along the canal.
Attenbury Lane is a compact reserve that has a fishing pond, a stream, a small woodland and a marsh. Warblers aplenty were singing - Common Whitethroats, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, a smart male Reed Bunting was on the marsh, a Grey Wagtail flew along the stream, and on the fishing pond, a Mute Swan was on a nest, and a pair of Coot tended small young, single Black-headed and Herring Gull passed over Grey Herons, Mallards & Moorhens on the canal. Jay, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush & Great Spotted Woodpecker were in the small coppices on the adjacent playing fields, and a female Sparrowhawk drifted over being mobbed by Carrion Crows.
I decided to walk north along the canal, and this paid off well - a family of Greenfinches and singing Chaffinches were by the towpath, a Pied Wagtail chased insects on a freshly mown bowling green and the Common Whitethroat count increased to c20. From the other side of the canal I heard a song I recognised, slightly scratchy & "Whitethroatish" to start with & then a Chaffinch like trill - it was a Lesser Whitethroat. I followed it as it sang its' way along the canal, eventually seeing it by a set of allotments. It's the first one I've ever seen in this area & capped off a superb mornings' birding on 40 species.
In the afternoon Timperley Cricket Pitch boosted the corvid count with Jackdaw and a pair of Rooks. On King George V Pool a pair of Great Crested Grebe with 2 young were immediately seen, a scan of the pool revealed a drake Mandarin roosting on a tree stump on one of the islands, and 3 pairs of Pochard. On nearby Stamford Park Lake paired up Tufted Duck, Canada Goose with 4 goslings and Mallard with 12 ducklings completed the thriving waterfowl vibe. Also here, a very vocal Coal Tit and a pair of Long-tailed Tits took the day total to 49.
I spent the next 2 hours looking for, and wondering if and what species number 50 would be - Garden Warbler? Goldcrest? Bullfinch? Kingfisher?
My thoughts were answered as I walked back across Timperley Golf Course, looking hopefully to the sky - a Lapwing flew over to make a very fitting 50 species.
Overrall, the day proved very much the benefits of local patches, and that superb birding can be done right under your nose and without driving anywhere.
The concept of eco bird race has much potential for the future. If you have done an eco bird race and have written an account, please send it to either firstname.lastname@example.org or surfbirds (click here)