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Woolston Eyes: from wasteland to wetland

By Brian Martin

Privately published, 2023

Hbk, 212pp; colour photographs

ISBN 978-1-83816-352-5; £25

Many readers are likely to have driven over Woolston Eyes at some point in their life, though considerably fewer will have visited this gem of a reserve that sits below the M6’s Thelwall Viaduct. Born out of dredging deposits from the Manchester Ship Canal, the series of silt settling-beds is now a SSSI, famed nationally for its population of breeding Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis. Woolston Eyes holds a special place in my heart – I first visited the reserve when I was a teenager, joining the dedicated band of ringers who operated there, eventually training on the reserve’s ‘no. 1 bed’ to obtain a ringing licence of my own. 

Chapter 1 covers the early history of the area, while chapters 2 to 9 detail the story of the reserve, starting with the formation of the Woolston Eyes Conservation Group in the 1980s. Each chapter covers around five years and chronicles the defining events during that period, from the development of habitat on the reserve to the staff who were involved at each stage and the new birds (and other wildlife) that were recorded on the reserve. The text gives an insight into some of the behind-the-scenes discussions, such as culling Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis on the reserve (at one point, Woolston Eyes held one of the most significant breeding populations of Ruddy Ducks in Britain) and conversations with stakeholders involved with the running of the canal.

The final third of so of the book consists of short essays from other authors on a variety of subjects: the success of Black-necked Grebes on the reserve, ringing at Woolston Eyes, Willow Tits Poecile montanus (for which the reserve continues to be a stronghold) and invertebrate life on the site.

The book gives a thorough overview of the reserve’s history and its birds and will be a fascinating read for anyone who has been lucky enough to visit the site – and, indeed, anyone who wants to know more about the conservation, management and ongoing success of this special place.

Stephen Menzie

Issue 4
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