Another article by our first president, the late Bill Mulligan published in The Manchester Evening News in May 1974.

Courtship in the mud by Bill Mulligan.
What brought a remarkable visit to Cheshire by ten elegant Avocets? WILLIAM MULLIGAN investigates.

Picture the scene and imagine the tension. Committee members are meeting to discuss the business of the Manchester Ornithological Society when a whisper runs round the room - Avocets are at Sandbach.

Quick calculations suggest that allowing an hour for the run into Cheshire there will still be half an hour of daylight in which to see the birds.

We find that the whisper is true. There are 10 beautiful Avocets feeding in the shallow waters or on the muddy banks of a Sandbach flash. Only once before in my recollection has the Avocet been recorded in this part of Cheshire, and that was a single bird which stayed only an hour or two some years ago. Now there are 10 - vividly white with strong black markings, long blue legs and a remarkable, steeply uptilted bill which it uses to sieve out the tiny animal life in the shallow pools. Its elegant beauty is enshrined in the official emblem of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is an Avocet.

What brought them here to this rather unlovely spot, where the muddy areas, nevertheless, are rich in the nutrients which wading birds love? The answer is almost certainly a capricious wind which caught them on migration and drifted them here. At this late hour, though the sky is darkening, the birds stand out clearly in the cold, grey light. They are strung out in pairs along the bank, feeding industriously in the dark waters.

This is joy enough, but when several pairs begin to display to each other, leaping in the air and calling, the spectacle takes a dramatic turn, and raises wild speculation, for attached pairs engaging in courtship display means only one thing - Breeding.

Yet who would dare to predict breeding in this busy place with traffic a major source of interference and other human activities very strong? Sadly it is more likely that very soon they will have gone. It's all a matter of luck.

Last year (2002) Avocets finally bred for the first time in Cheshire, at Frodsham and in a habitat similar to that desribed by Bill at Sandbach, but minus the disturbance - Bill would have been delighted!

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