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Checklist of the Birds of Lancaster & District 1989-1999

Edited by Ken Harrison, assisted by Pete Marsh

Species reports written by:-
Kevin Briggs, Andrew Cadman, Wes Halton, Pete Marsh, Jean Roberts, Dave Sowter, Brian Townson, Tom Wilmer, John Wilson & Keith Woods

Copyright Lancaster & District Birdwatching Society, 2000


This is the fifth checklist published by the Society over the past four decades, and like its predecessors is designed to provide up to date information on the status of all bird species occurring within the Society's area. Unlike its predecessors, which were written mainly by the current recorder, this checklist has been written by a team of LDBWS members. The species accounts summarise the information on the Society's activities and findings published in the Annual Reports. They also include information from the Atlas of Breeding Birds of Lancaster and District, published in 1995, which mapped the breeding birds using the now well-established 2km2 tetrads. Atlas work has continued over the past two years with the Lancashire Bird Atlas project, providing up to date comparisons with the earlier study.

Much of the information in this checklist is provided by a core of active members who regularly take part in a wide range of national and local enquiries and activities. Through their dedication and interest, the Society's area is one of the best covered in the country. The Atlas project has resulted in the widest coverage of the area to date, and the recent development of the Reality Birding League has also encouraged observations of areas formerly under-watched. Another welcome development has been the regular coverage of sites such as Sunderland Point by John Girdley, Aldcliffe Marsh by Jon Carter and Jenny Brown's Point by Tom Wheeler. Continued co-ordinated observation at Heysham, led by Peter Marsh, of both land migrants and sea birds, has been invaluable. All these observations have helped to further increase our knowledge of bird movements within the area and the wealth of information gathered is reflected in the increased size of this checklist.

The Society covers an exceedingly diverse area with a wide range of habitats, including extensive sand flats, saltmarsh, reed swamp, open water, and extensive woodlands especially on the limestone areas, an impressive river valley, lowland and upland farmland, and extensive heather moorland. Certainly one of the best birdwatching areas in the North of England.

Land use changes have perhaps not been so extensive as in the previous ten years, which saw the formation of new wetland areas such as the Allen and Eric Morecambe Pools and the Dockacres complex of gravel pits. Unfortunately, the latter have become much more disturbed by water sports and angling, reducing their attraction to many wetland birds. The demise of winter grain feeding to attract wintering wildfowl onto Dockacres has resulted in a marked decline of wintering wildfowl, especially Pochard, at this site.

Perhaps the most damaging change in land use to bird populations has been the further increasing intensification of agriculture, resulting in continued drainage, and especially the concentration on grassland and above all silage production, to the almost total exclusion of the former mixed farming regime. This has produced serious declines, both in breeding birds such as Yellow Wagtail, Skylark, Lapwing and Corn Bunting, and also wintering birds, especially finches, buntings and sparrows, which were formerly abundant on weed-filled arable fields, which are now a rarity in our area.

Not all developments are detrimental to bird life. On the coast, the completion of the Morecambe sea defences has produced excellent high tide roosts on the rock-armoured groynes for many waders (although this has resulted in counting difficulties on occasions). The heliport at Heysham, constructed by British Gas, has become one of the most important high tide roosts for Knot on the east of Morecambe Bay!

The erosion of the saltmarshes from the Keer to the Kent has continued, resulting in the complete loss of the former wader roost on Silverdale Marsh, many birds moving across the Kent and outside our area. The closing of the Sandylands sewage outfall in 1997 and the cleaning up of other smaller outfalls has resulted in the decline of several species, notably Goldeneye, gulls and waders. On the plus side, the re-instatement of the Haweswater reedbed by English Nature should help reedbed birds.

John Wilson

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Part 1: Divers to Raptors
Part 2: Grouse to Auks
Part 3: Pigeons to Buntings
Notes, References etc.
Map of the Area Covered by the Checklist

All LDBWS web pages are the copyright of Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society and should not be reproduced elsewhere without the express permission of the Society. The opinions expressed in the LDBWS newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society. The content of LDBWS Member's Web Pages is the responsibility of the member concerned. LDBWS ask all birdwatchers to observe the Birdwatchers' Code of Conduct and the Country Code.

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