‘Grotspotting’

I said I would explain the hidden bird habitats of square SD3033 the Pleasure Beach is in. Basically there are a few trees on the eastern side of the amusement park itself, some scrubby trees along the railway cutting and further north the row of conifers in the above photograph.

Thousands of people visit the Pleasure Beach without noticing these pockets of greenery. That’s not surprising because there are more obvious distractions. But it’s also fair to say that there are much more impressive expanses of trees not too far away, for example at Revoe Park and Watson Road Park as well as Stanley Park.

But now think of it from a migrant birds’s perspective. When you pitch on off the sea you may not be able to see the parks further inland, and be blissfully unaware of them. So when you fly over a predominantly concrete Promenade you will make landfall in the first trees or bushes you can see.

A birder called Ed Stirling lived near Watson Road Park and when he was alive regularly did a circuit of these ‘grotspots’ at migration times. I don’t like the term grotspot when used to describe perfectly nice urban parks, but I still find it useful as a contrast to areas managed for nature. Ed knew the value of these sites and over the years found a quite remarkable number of nationally and locally scare birds where others wouldn’t think to look.

The Desert Wheatear found by Ed in South Shore in 1994 from ‘Rare Birds Of Britain And Europe’

Probably the most spectacular of Ed’s finds was a majestic turquoise and brown Roller that had previously been in the Lakes before he saw it in Watson Road Park. He also had the Desert Wheatear above, thousands of miles from where it should have been where Morrisons supermarket now is. In the Pleasure Beach bushes he found Red-breasted Flycatchers on more than one occasion. He also had a Pallas’s Warbler in trees outside Blackpool football ground.

The trees in the railway cutting with the old Space Invader ride in the background
Trees at the rear of the Pleasure Beach behind the Revolution ride

I’ve tried to emulate Ed a bit over the years, with some rewards. I’ve found locally scarce migrants such as Wood Warbler, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher in the sites above. Yellow-browed Warbler is always sought after in the autumn, and I’ve had one of these Siberian sprites in the railway bushes. Nobody will ever find birds in South Shore to match Ed, but sometimes it’s good to try.

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