1. The History of Martin Mere
Log boat dated 550AD
Bill Hale opened the meeting with a fascinating talk about the history of Martin Mere which included post ice age geological evidence about the local terrain and the impact of sea level changes on the post glacial landscape, flora and fauna over the millennia.
The size of the mere, its shape and islands before being drained in 1694 was evidenced in a series of maps and documents found in the Lancashire Record Office, by Bill and Audrey Coney whilst researching their book on Martin Mere. The landowners gained increased land and fertility from the draining but the local people (fishermen, thatchers and basket makers, etc.) lost their means of making a living.
Bill reviewed a list of winged visitors past and present as recorded by ornithologists and archaeologists, and showed images of the only extant log-boat (dated 550 AD) now in Southport Museum.
He also spoke of his own experience of the contribution the present WWT Martin Mere makes to sustaining habitat for migrating birds.
Oystercatcher with fresh-water mussel
2. Proposed venues for 2018
Peter Hatfield presented his list of proposed venues for birdwatching in 2018. Seven of last years reserves are revisited this year but in different seasons, three sites not visited by the group are introduced (Conway, Rivington and Delamere Forest) and two local venues not seen last year will be seen this year (Mere Sands Wood and Brockholes).
The full list is now on the U3A web site (see above).
3. Review of 2017 visits and sightings
Peter Banks presented his detailed ‘species list’ of sightings for all of the venues, and the bird number tabulations for each venue including attendees. At 4 venues we saw 50-62 species. At 4 other venues we saw 40-49 species and the last group of 4 venues recorded 25-34 species. This was an improvement on the previous year, with the highest yield at RSPB Burton (no surprise).
The lists and tabulations are now also on the Group web pages of the U3A site (see below).
All of our monthly sightings are recorded on the group’s web pages and also logged at BirdTrack a national project run by BTO in partnership with RSPB (and others) that records distributions and migration movements of birds throughout Britain and Ireland.
There was a discussion about future possible venues for visits. Sizergh Castle near Kendal, Ribble Marshes between Banks and Hesketh Bank, Farne Islands Northumbria, and Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head north Yorkshire. Bill was also suggesting a visit to a wildfowl ringing venue. More comments please, we look forward to an interesting year ahead.
Attendance: Sixteen members, including two new members of the group, attended this year’s AGM. The list of attendees is recorded on the group’s database and available on request.
Peter Hatfield and Peter Banks joint leaders.