When Mike McCarthy emailed me in March 2014 I have to confess of not knowing who he was. He said he did a weekly 'Nature Studies' column in The Independent, what I hadn't realised was that he is this country's foremost environmental journalist and has won several awards for his work including one from the RSPB for 'outstanding services to conservation', he is also a keen naturalist/birder in his own right and author of the best selling 'Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo'. Mike came up to see me* as he needed details about the threats to the Dee Estuary in the 1970s which I was able to provide as my father had been a founder member of the Dee Estuary Conservation Group during that period. I was glad to help and meet such a charming and knowledgeable man.
The book has several inter-related threads a major one being the Dee Estuary. Mike was brought up in Bebington and describes the thrill of discovering the estuary and it's birds during a somewhat troubled childhood. I've already mentioned the threats of the 1970s so we are certainly fortunate that the Dee Estuary has remained intact and so lucky that we now have such strong legislation protecting the estuary and it's wildlife. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of estuaries in south-east Asia and Mike compares the Dee with the much larger Saemangeum Estuary in South Korea and describes his depressing visit to what was a glorious wetland full of waders but now completely destroyed.
Mike, like myself, is old enough to remember when wildlife was far more abundant and the 'Moth Snowstorm' is literally what it was like on summer evenings in our childhood. We have lost so much but he tries not to dwell on that so much but rather to concentrate on what we still have - and that is a major theme of the book, to celebrate the joy of nature and use that to enthuse the general public.
This is a fascinating and thought provoking book with added local interest, it comes highly recommended.
The Moth Snowstorm, Nature and Joy, by Michael McCarthy, published by John Murray, 2015.*not just me, his most important appointment was with the RSPB Dee estuary manager.
There's no doubting the most
photographed bird of the month - the juvenile Great Northern Diver
which was first spotted on West Kirby Marine Lake on the 10th and
remained for the rest of the month. I was inundated with some great
photos of this bird and give a selection below, apologies for those I
For the first two days after the Great Northern arrived the Red-throated Diver, first seen in November, was still present and it was a thrill to see both species - I don't remember that happening before. We also had the usual Red-breasted Mergansers, I saw nine hunting cooperatively - in a line close together and all diving simultaneously - something I haven't seen since 2010 when we had large numbers on the lake during very cold weather. A Great Skua flew over the lake on the 27th, must be one of the latest ever for Wirral but not that unexpected given the prolonged southerly winds.
12th January, 12.30hrs (GMT), 9.6m.
13th January, 13.13hrs (GMT), 9.6m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire
Countryside Service and the
RSPB (Dee Estuary):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching. No need to book for these events unless specified - please check below.
Also see 2015 Events Diary.