On route from Cornwall to my field site in Cumbria I decided to take a break for a couple of days at home in Manchester to see family and friends before spending three months in relative isolation. This gave me the opportunity to catch up with Scott Reid and spend the morning birding Audenshaw Reservoirs, the main section his PWC2017 patch. Despite being less than five miles from my home in Stockport, Audenshaw is difficult to access by public transport and this, combined with the occasional presence of some less than salubrious characters, has meant that I’ve only birded the site on one previous occasion. Despite the site’s somewhat dystopian aura, the fact that it consists of three large, raised water bodies situated next to an obvious migration flyway makes Audenshaw excellent for passage and the site has produced a number of notable rarities over the years.
After enjoying a Guinness or three on Friday evening in my favourite Irish bar, the shrill ringing of the 5.00am alarm made me once again question my sanity as I stumbled, foggy headed, into Scott’s car. Upon arrival at Audenshaw, any lingering hangover was quickly dispelled as a calling Whimbrel, my first of the year and a Greater Manchester tick, circled the north-eastern basin. This was quickly followed by another year tick in the form of a Common Sandpiper picking its way along the edge of the northwest basin. With the sun coming up over the Pennines, we headed to the centre of the causeway picking up the wintering pair of Long-tailed Ducks on the far side of the northwest basin on route. Once we reached the centre of the causeway, we set up for some vis-migging and were gradually joined by a number of Audenshaw regulars. Unfortunately the clear conditions hampered our chances of decent passage however another calling Whimbrel heading moving north at 07.05 and a heard only Yellow Wagtail, which I picked up on call as it seemed to head south provided some interest. Despite the relative lack of birds, it was nice to catch up with Scott and pick up some notable migrants so close to central Manchester, an urban area noted for its complete lack of birds. Moreover, spending time out in the field on such a stunning spring morning raised my excitement levels for the field season ahead and the wealth of birding to come!