Meet the Mancunian birder searching for a bird to represent every borough

Jun 14, 2021 | Natural Environment

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The ‘Mancunian Birder’ James Walsh. Image by Nick Hulme at One Smart Cookie.

A local expert known as the ‘Mancunian birder’ is on a mission to find a symbolic bird to represent every one of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs.

James Walsh, a bird expert, founder of the Greater Manchester Birding City Region Project, and author of the Mancunian birder blog, has launched a project to find ‘The Perfect Ten’ birds that represent the ecological and cultural assets of each district of Greater Manchester.

James has cycled over 5,000 miles across Greater Manchester looking at birds, landscapes and habitats, and has used his expertise alongside bird reports, forums and social media to identify ten bird species.

A public survey is now open until 22 June for residents to vote for their favourite birds or suggest alternatives to represent their local area, with a shortlist expected to be announced on 27 June.

James Walsh, the founder of the project and author of the Greater Manchester Birding City Region book says:Each borough has its own unique birdlife, I have used my intimate, extensive experience and knowledge of the ecology of Greater Manchester to select a bird that best represents the environment and character of each borough.


“I hope ‘The Perfect Ten’ will get people thinking about the environment we have here in Greater Manchester, and they can learn things about our ecosystem. Whilst we have come up with these ten choices, we are open to local people making alternative suggestions that will ultimately help us create a top ten bird shortlist.”

Visitors may also be surprised to learn that Greater Manchester has a heritage of protecting birds that spans back into the Victorian era, when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was co-founded as The Plumage League by Emily Williamson in Didsbury in 1889.

As well as spotting colourful birds across the region, visitors and residents will soon see a permanent recognition of Emily’s achievements and her work founding the RSPB, when a statue is revealed in the gardens of Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury in 2023. The final design is currently in shortlist stage, with maquettes due to be revealed on 1 July this year.

James Walsh recently appeared in Marketing Manchester’s film, which celebrated the birding wildlife of Kersal Wetlands as part of the #GreenSalford campaign.

Greater Manchester Birding City Region hopes its “Perfect Ten” birds will help protect species across the region and have selected ten birds that residents and visitors will be able to spot and enjoy all year round.

As James Walsh explains, each of the birds has been chosen to reflect the cultural, ecological and historical quirks of the ten boroughs:


‘The Perfect Ten’


KingfisherSpot it at: Bolton’s Kingfisher Trail

“The Kingfisher has now become such a feature of the Bolton environment that there is even a Trail named after this sparklingly colourful bird! The Greater Manchester Birding City Region project has selected the Kingfisher to represent the Bolton borough as one of the Perfect Ten.”


Little EgretSpot it at: Elton Reservoir

“When I started birding in the 1980’s the Little Egret was a very rare bird in the UK. I travelled to Frampton Marsh on the Lincolnshire coast to see my first UK Little Egret in 1989. It was a big moment.

“The first Little Egret for Greater Manchester, in 1989, at Sale Water Park attracted big crowds of birders from around the country! It used to be a bird that you had to travel to European countries to see, but now they have moved in round here! The We have selected the Little Egret to represent Bury as Elton Reservoir is the best place to try to see this bird, and it is also worth trying sites along the River Irwell such as Springwater Park and Radcliffe Ees.”


Rose-ringed ParakeetSpot it at: Platt Fields Park, Manchester

“The Rose-ringed Parakeet, also known as the Ring-necked Parakeet, has moved into Manchester, giving a truly exotic look to the parks of the city – I’ve even seen Parakeets flying around the Curry Mile in Rusholme!

“Apparently the first Parakeets to live wild in Manchester originated from “Pets Corner” in Platt Fields Park. This area, including Birchfields Park and Alexandra Park, remain the best places to see them; also try the car park at Chorlton Water Park. Winter is the best time to see the Parakeets and most of the Greater Manchester population roosts together on the island of the lake in Platt Fields Park, a spectacular sight!”


Tawny OwlSpot it at: Daisy Nook Country Park

The Owl is the symbol of the Oldham borough and “Dare To Be Wise” is the Oldham motto based on the generally accepted folklore that Owls are wise birds and represent wisdom. During the research for the “Birding Oldham” book, I heard some great tales of residents with Tawny Owls in their gardens perched on washing lines, of young birds being found in interesting locations, and of birds calling in gardens at night, the classic “To-wit, to-woo” sound of the female and the male call and response duet.”


Peregrine Spot it at: Rochdale Town Hall

“The peregrine is a bird that has moved into urban environments fairly recently. Peregrines do spend more time on the moorlands and mosslands of Greater Manchester in the winter, but they do also defend urban territory, pair up, catch pigeons and make display flights.

“Since the turn of the millennium, numbers of urban peregrines have greatly increased, so the peregrine is very much a bird of the 21st century in Greater Manchester. Peregrines started to nest on Rochdale Town Hall in 2008 so the peregrine really is Rochdale’s Millennium Falcon.”


Mute SwanSpot it at: Salford Quays

 “If you visit any of Salford’s waterways or beautiful country parks, you are likely to see the majestic Mute Swan. The Salford docklands regularly host numbers of up to 50 – it is a site where Swans from all around Greater Manchester gather together!

“This species also represents the new Kersal Wetlands nature reserve, I have regularly noted a pair of Mute Swans on my visits to this wonderful new birdwatching site.”


Mandarin DuckSpot it at: Etherow Country Park

“It is appropriate that the Mandarin Duck, a bird of the real Far East, the Asian continent, represents the “Far East” of Greater Manchester, the Stockport borough!”

“With the increase in business links between China and Greater Manchester, the Mandarin Duck is an ecological link between China and Greater Manchester.”


Red GrouseSpot it at:  Stalybridge Country Park

“The Red Grouse represents the wild side of Tameside! The beautiful moorlands, the Brushes Valley, Stalybridge Country Park, nothing is more evocative of this landscape than the Red Grouse. It is a really fascinating bird to look at and managing a quality sighting or photograph is always likely to make your day in the hills of Tameside.”


Northern LapwingSpot it at: Carrington Moss

“The Northern Lapwing is a species that represents the rural areas of the Trafford borough such as the farmland of Carrington Moss, where it can be seen in the Spring, giving its evocative, unique call whilst performing the most spectacular display flight. It also represents the urban environment, as it’s a bird that has shown some adaptation to urban growth, especially in the winter, when birds roost on the roofs of sites such as the Broadheath Industrial Estate.”


Willow TitSpot it at: Wigan Flashes

“The Willow Tit is not just the superstar bird of the Wigan borough, it’s the superstar bird of Greater Manchester! The Wigan borough is very important at a national level for the Willow Tit, in the winter time the best place to see this species is Pennington Flash Country Park where the Bunting Hide overlooks feeding stations where the Willow Tits feed. There are also feeding stations on the Greenheart Wigan Flashes that provide the Willow Tits with a valuable food source.”

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