In the 1900’s trade was the global connection to Greater Manchester – we imported and exported goods via Salford Docks and the Manchester Ship Canal on ships that sailed around the world. However, that level of trade is now confined to the history books and heritage museums.
Now, in the 21st century, we are starting to understand that birds are a global connection to Greater Manchester. There is a growing appreciation for the levels of bird migration that sees birds visiting the city region from all around the world.
Summer migrants that spend the winter in Africa and fly thousands of miles to grace us with their presence in the spring and summer, including small passerine birds such as Whinchat, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail, and warblers such as the Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler.
Hirundines also fly thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in Africa – Sand Martins make their nests in sand-banks and riverside bridges, Swallows make their nests on farm buildings and many residents of Greater Manchester should be familiar with the House Martin that nest under the eaves of urban, suburban and rural houses. Swifts also nest in houses.
The Autumn is the most exciting time of the year for numbers of migrating birds, and the Horwich Moors have become a nationally known place to watch “visible migration”. Recently, birders from all around the North of England visited this site to see a Wryneck, a type of woodpecker from Europe.
Also in the autumn, graceful Whooper Swans and gregarious Pink-footed Geese fly in from Iceland to spend the winter on the Salford and Trafford mosses. Northern Pochards fly in from Eastern Europe to sites such as Chorlton Water Park and Salford Docklands.
Goldeneye fly in from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to the River Irwell. Redwings, Fieldfares and Waxwings fly in from Scandinavia to feed on berries. We even occasionally get rare visitors from America and Asia.
As the interest levels in nature in Greater Manchester get higher, let’s seize the opportunities to celebrate the miracle of global bird migration.