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Greater Manchester

Goosander (female) Mergus merganser ©Paul Samuels Website

Birding Manchester

The central part of the metropolitan area is made up of urban sprawl and industrial areas criss-crossed with canals and the River Mersey. There are one or two pairs of Black Redstarts in the city centre. Formerly nationally important numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck were found in Salford Docks in winter but since the 'clean up' they are no longer present. However the main areas of interest for the birdwatcher are on the fringes of the region.

In the north are several reservoirs, in the east there is moor-land and the Peak District. In the south there is the Mersey valley and there are remnants of moss-land and flooded mine-workings in the west. Typically around 200 species are seen each year and the county list stands at 299.

Below are some of the top sites within the area and within easy reach of the city centre.

Top Sites

Audenshaw Reservoir


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A permit to Audenshaw Reservoir can now be obtained (via a long waiting list) from Ian Leech at ian.leech@uuplc.co.uk 01457 851080. A large Gull roost and a lot of passage migrants drop in, often only for an hour or two so this is an ideal patch.

City Centre

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Breeding Grey Wagtail, Peregrine and Black Redstart all in the very heart of the city centre!

Elton Reservoir


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A well-watched patch with waterfowl in winter and a selection of passage migrants.

Etherow Country Park


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Ignore the feral wildfowl and head up to the weir for Dipper and Grey Wagtail. In summer roding Woodcock, Cuckoo, Redstarts and Pied Flycatcher. Small car park fee.

Hollingworth Lake


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Large numbers of Goosander in winter, also various passage migrants. Car park fee.

Hope Carr

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A new reserve built on the site of Leigh sewage works. A favourite haunt of Water Pipit in past winters, but sadly not for some time.

Mersey Valley

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The visitor centre has a notice-board with recent sightings. A small reserve at Broad Ees Dole (SJ801931) holds Snipe and Jack Snipe in winter but it has become overgrown. Nearby Chorlton Water Park (SJ820915) used to hold large numbers of duck in winter but these now seem to favour Salford Docks. All these areas are favourites with dog-walkers and day trippers so again an early visit is recommended.

Pennington Flash


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The premier site in the area with over 230 species recorded. A 200ha country park with diverse habitats including a large flooded lake used for various leisure activities so an early visit is recommended. Small car park fee. In winter large numbers of waterfowl including the rarer Grebes and Smew, also Long-eared Owl, Water Rail, and Willow Tit can be seen daily. Passage birds include various waders, Little Gull and Black Tern. Summer brings nesting Common Terns. The top rarity here was a Black-faced Bunting - the first for Britain.

Wigan Flashes


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Similar to Pennington and birds interchange between the two. Bittern have been seen in winter in more secluded spots. Top rarity was a River Warbler which stayed for 32 days in the summer of 1995.


Tony Coatsworth

Withington., Manchester


County Recorder

Ian McKerchar

42 Green Avenue, Astley. Greater Manchester. M29 7EH

01942 701758; 07958 687481


Number of Species

Number of bird species: 310

County Bird - Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus

Useful Reading

Where to Watch Birds in Northwest England & Isle of Man

by Allan Conlin, Dr J P Cullen, Pete Marsh, Tristan Reid, Chris Sharpe, Judith Smith & Stephen Williams | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 287 pages, 30 line illus, 50 maps |

ISBN: 9780713664218

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

WEA Adult Education classes

Local libraries or WEA District Office (0161 273 7652). Aimed at beginners but a chance to get out birdwatching with an experienced leader and useful if you don’t have transport.


Altrincham and District Natural History Society


The Altrincham and District Natural History Society provides a focus for natural history activities in the Altrincham area. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month, with evening walks in summer and illustrated talks in winter. Additional whole day events are organised periodically.

Leigh Ornithological Society


Leigh Ornithological Society (or L.O.S.) was formed in 1971 by a group of enthusiasts, some of whom had been observing and recording bird life in the area since the early part of the last century. They submitted records annually from the late 1940s to regional bodies, initially to the Lancashire & Cheshire fauna Society for possible inclusion in Lancashire bird reports and, since 1976, to the editor(s) of the Greater Manchester Bird Report.

North West Swan Study Group


The North West Swan Study was formed in 1988 to study the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) population of the North West of England. This area encompasses Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside (north of the River Mersey) and the Isle of Man, a total of approximately 12,250 sq km.

Rochdale Field Naturalists' Society


Rochdale Field Naturalists' is run by, and for its members, and we encourage everyone to plan and participate in our activities.

RSPB Bolton Local Group


This is the website of the Bolton Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.

RSPB Stockport Local Group


This is the website of the Stockport Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.

Stockport Bird Watching Society


We meet once a month at the Heatons Sports Club, Green Lane, Heaton Moor, Stockport, SK4 2NF. For further information please email windhover1972@yahoo.co.uk or call 0161 432 9513 or 07790 377396.

Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside


We are part of the Wildlife Trusts movement, the UK's leading conservation charity dedicated to all wildlife. We are your local charity, working hard to improve your local area for wildlife and for you. Since 1912, The Wildlife Trusts have been speaking out for nature in the UK. Our organisation is unique - while most of our work for wildlife takes place at local grassroots level, we have a national voice.


Abbreviations Key

GMWT The Great Manchester Wetlands


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The Great Manchester Wetlands is an ambitious scheme focusing on the wetlands of Wigan (see Wigan Flashes Wetland Restoration) and the mosslands of Chat Moss and Risley Moss to the west and southwest of Manchester.

LNR Broad Ees Dole


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Broad Ees Dole is an important wildlife refuge in the busy Sale Water Park site. Although there are no footpaths leading through the Dole, the footpaths around the perimeter of the site provide excellent viewpoints to watch the bird life for which the site is so important…

RSPB Dove Stone


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A landscape that will take your breath away. Towering hills, sheer rock faces, swathes of open moorland, a picturesque reservoir - that's Dove Stone, the northern gateway to the Peak District National Park. Red Grouse, Raven, Peregrine, Golden Plover, Curlew etc.

Forums & Mailing Lists

Manchester Birding Forum


Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

North West Birds


Welcome to our web site. We have a passion for birds and we would like to share it with you - by taking you birdwatching on the edge of the English Lake District. We run minibreaks for very small groups with all in accommodation on a house party basis, with guests joining us at our home, Barn Close.

Trip Reports


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.


Adam Jones - The Early Birder


My blog from the North West and beyond - I have lived in South Manchester, close to the Cheshire border since 2003. With so many good wildlife sites on my doorstep it was not too long before I picked up the camera to see what I could capture. Nothing too fancy, but it gives me great enjoyment. I hope you enjoy them too. Oh, and I do go out very early in the mornings…

Martyn Jones - Geek Teacher's Birding Scrapbook


An online diary, photo album and scrapbook about me and my birding exploits in Wigan and beyond…

Paul Samuels - RPS Wildlife Travels


Birder now photographer showcasing a photographic record and blog of my ornithological and wildlife encounters through out the North of England, Forest of Dean and further afield in the Murcia region of Southern Spain. Sometimes common species that’s caught my eye, sometimes the more unusual or scares visitor that’s turned up in the most unexpected location

Other Links

Manchester Birding


Welcome to Manchester Birding, a site first published in September 2006 all about birds, birders and birding in the county of Greater Manchester and which is owned, designed, built and maintained by me, Ian McKerchar. Since those early days the site has evolved into a resource for way beyond those county boundaries and in January 2017 underwent a complete redesigned from the original Manchester Birding website into the site you are on today. Manchester Birding also includes the Manchester Birding Forum, one of the UK's top birding forums.

Manchester Birding Forum


Birds, birders and birding in Greater Manchester - Welcome to my Greater Manchester County birding website, Manchester Birding, it is owned, designed, built and maintained by me, Ian McKerchar with the ever generous contributions from many county birders. Besides running this website I am also County Bird Recorder for Greater Manchester and one of the two administrators for the Greater Manchester Bird Recording Group…

Mersey Birders


Birders Diaries, Bird news Bird sites, Weather and Travel, Photo Gallery, Gulls Page, Quick Reference, Bird Lists, articles…