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Bird watchers flock to Cadishead moss as rare Stone Curlew reappears

Bird watchers are racing in their droves to catch a glimpse of a rare and strange bird spotted in Salford for the first time in over 50 years.

The evasive Stone Curlew was spied on Little Woolden Moss, close to Cadishead in Salford, and twitchers have been rushing to catch sight of the bird.

The last recorded sighting of the Stone Curlew was on Irlam Moss in 1963.

Spring and summer migrant Stone Curlews generally stick to the south and breed in small numbers.

They are distinctive birds, looking quite gangly with long yellow legs and bright yellow eyes, which they use as they forage for food at night.

The size of a crow, they have large heads, long wings and a screeching call similar to curlews. This explains one of their nicknames the “wailing heath chicken” but the birds is also known as the “thick knee” because of its thick knees.

The Little Woolden Stone Curlew was spotted by birders Simon Hitchen and Jamie Dunning, who recorded their sightings on the local birders’ forum, sparking a flurry of eager tourists to the nature reserve owned by The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.

Mosslands bird expert David Steel, who has been birdwatching in the area since the early 1960s, said:

“This is a rare occurrence and hugely exciting. Since 1963 the County Bird Recorder states there has only been one other accepted record in Greater Manchester.”

Little Wooden Moss is a 100-hectare former peat extraction site which is being restored by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

Staff and volunteers have already noticed an increase in wildlife during the work.

Mosslands Project Manager Dr Chris Miller said: “There has been an increase in all kinds of wildlife using the reserve, including brown hare, a rare insect called the bog bush cricket and a number of birds of prey. Last year curlews nested on the bare peat.

“This is a rare report of a stone curlew in the North West and we had another rare bird the curlew sandpiper recently.”

Individual stone curlew have been spotted on the Fylde in Lancashire but they are generally summer visitors to the south and particularly the South-East coast.

The best area to spot them is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Weeting Heath nature reserve, close to Bury St Edmonds.

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.