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11th April A sunny Saturday Saturday 11 April

Kerry with local bird watcher Trevor Coates

Perambulating with the pull along cart (sit–on–able) and binoculars identifying birds of Burnley

Along the canal mile and to the Prestige Building

Spent in the company of Trevor Coats - Burnley born and bred birdwatcher

Trevor lives close to Site 19 – a bridge over the Calder adorned with mysterious relief carvings Before we set off with the cart along the canal we walked to the bridge -Trevor knew nothing about the carvings – but he had seen Dippers working the river We crossed Todmorden Road and leant over the bridge in the hope of spotting the Dippers - Above us a coupe of crows roosted in a tree 1

And then - as quick as a flash a bird flew the path of the river culvert – right down the middle


Foolishly I had left my decent camera in my van so had to make do with my happy snappy Such a crying shame because as we leant over the bridge looking down at the river – 2 dippers were flying back and forth and under the bridge and dipping in and out of the water.

I’ve never seen a dipper before and I was enthralled – watching them bob up and down – filling their beaks with food from the Calder 3

We also spent time watching a wren darting in and out of a hole in the river embankment wall – a daft place to build a nest as it’s way below the flood line. Trevor informed me that it’s usually the male wren that builds the nest. “He’ll build a few and the female chooses her mate on the strength of the nest building…” We entered the canal at the gates by the bridge on Finsley Gate – Site 16. Today we were out with the pull along sit-on-able cart because the push along studiolab is too wide to fit through the tapering canal towpath gate/barriers. I donned my coat – but Trevor wasn’t keen to wear his so I let him off As soon as we were on the towpath a narrow boat chugged past – harmonic blues wafting out of the open window – it’s The Blues Festival in Burnley this weekend – and the Blues barges were out in numbers – filled to capacity with happy punters and live music The main Blues Festival is hosted at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre – but the town’s pubs fill to overflowing as they host the fringe events (Breakfast this morning at Rosehill House was hectic affair – the swift waitresses rushing in and out of the dining room – arms laden with plates of Full English – whilst (mainly middle aged men) talked about the Blues, guitars, music reading, and Jonny Cash. The Blues had filled the town, from it’s B&B’s to its bars. Engrossed in conversations with like minded enthusiasts – there was no room for me to but in – and I didn’t want to – being more than happy listening to the snippets of conversations I could overhear) The stretch of the canal Trevor and I were bird watching along is known locally as the Mile Straight – even though it’s not quite a mile – nor dead straight Today it was heaving – boats, canoes, walkers, cyclers, and dog walkers A combination of fine weather, Easter weekend, and the Blues I lost count of how many boats us passed by Both Trevor and I had binoculars hanging around our necks – And Trevor was just the right chap to spend a day with Not only does he know his birds – but he also knows the area – past and present And I was far more interested in bird watching, and what Trevor had to say, than talking to passers-by


As Trevor and I were busy ‘twitching’ a young bloke with his lass passed by “You’ll not see much around ‘ere” To which Trevor replied “We already have – you’re just not looking hard enough” As Trevor pulled the cart along the towpath – me in tow adorned with clipboard, binoculars, and SLR camera all around my neck – people waved and said hello The cart created a bit of interest – but nothing like the reaction gained by pushing the studiolab We made our way to the only other two sites outside of the town boundary – Sites 5 & 6 – where the canal goes over the River Brun, and the site of the derelict canoe training ground Trevor told me that the area between these two sites – on the opposite side of the canal - was an old coalmine It was at this point we met Steve


After a while of Steve and Trevor chatting away I began to feel like a child out with her dad Steve and Trevor were so engrossed in conversation about wildlife in places I didn’t know (there reached a point where I stopped asking “so where’s that?”) that I became fidgety I started looking at my feet and kicking up the dirt I then wandered about a bit But not too far - always keeping half an eye on them as they talked about sites and badgers and deers and birds Steve spends most of his time out and about in Burnley – it’s parks, it’s derelict and abandoned sites, and its watercourses. He’s a keen photographer and loves taking photographs of plants. His wife is a keen football fan, and today, whilst he was out with his camera shooting flora – she was at the match – Burnley V QPR - (Burnley 1 QPR 0) Steve had a tangle of spent fishing line in his hand – “This is the worst thing about the canal – all the litter” 6

“And the backs of the houses down there are a disgrace - crap thrown over the fences of the back yards – what they can’t see…”


It was a view shared by a young man we met out with his dog. Currently out of work and trying to get back into the work place – going to college and doing volunteer work – Wesley spends a lot of time walking the towpath and he has ideas for the canal – “There should be regular cleaning and teams of volunteers to tidy it up. It’s a mess and I don’t know why people keep chucking their rubbish in” We talked with him about birds along the canal. We were stood on the Aqueduct – Site 5 – as the heron flew up from the river – disturbed by a group of children kitted out in their swimming cozzies and taking a dip at the weir (daren’t take a picture… Child Act and all)

Before the children had got there the heron – like the Dippers – had been working the river… slowly lifting his long slender legs – and stalking “They’re like something prehistoric” said Wesley “Yes” – said Trevor – “and did you know that they have the slowest wing beat of any bird when they fly” 8

Wesley began to tell us of the birds he’s seen along the canal – including 10 baby ducklings and a strange looking bird with wings that seemed to lift up over it’s body and a coloured head. “That’ll be a Mandarin Duck” – said Trevor as he took out his bird book and showed Wesley a picture “Yes – that’s the one” We didn’t see a mandarin today But as we walked the canal – on the opposite side – nestled amongst the Butterbur – we saw a group of guys fishing

They shouted over to us “What ‘ave you got in the cart?” “Books, binoculars, sketch pads, and cameras” They put their thumbs up and shouted “Hey!” followed by “We saw a really weird bird the other day – all fancy with strange wings that came up from its body – never seen out like it before so I called it Dave’s Duck – after me” Another spotting of the Mandarin…? 9

Trevor and I walked the canal from Finsley Gate to Colne Road and back again We spent more than an hour at the aqueduct watching the birds and passing the time of day with the passers-by


During our day out we spotted Mallards – a plenty – dead and alive


The heron Wood pigeons Black headed gulls Hedge sparrows and house sparrows Wrens Dippers Robins Blackbirds Mistle thrushes Starlings Blue tits A great tit Chaffinches Magpies Crows Rooks Jackdaws Sand martins House martins Goosanders and A moorhen


As we headed back along the mile straight

Trevor wanted to share one last thing with me – how the urban environment can benefit wildlife. 13

“When the weather’s cold skylarks roost on the roof of Tesco’s. It gets warm from the sun and that’s why they come here”