I'd recently noticed that Woodcock were being seen fairly regularly at Risley Moss and so I contacted Jonathan Platt, a regular contributor on the Manchester Birding Forum thread. Jonathan very kindly agreed to meet me at 3:30pm outside the visitor centre there to show me where the Woodcock could be viewed. There was also a chance of also seeing a Short-eared Owl.
When we got to the observation tower we were met by Dave Beeton, Brian Riley and another birder who had been there for a while. However, they hadn't seen any Owls or Woodcock.
Although there was a small break in the dismal weather we've been having recently, the light didn't last long at this time and it was also getting quite misty across the moss. I was quite astonished at Jonathan and David talking about birds I couldn't see in the far distance across the gloomy landscape - they must both have far better eyesight than me!
We saw quite a lot of Jackdaws and Carrion Crows going to roost, and heard a few Snipe moving through the vegetation in front of us. There were also some Yellowhammers setting down in the bushes and a fairly constant stream of Blackbirds flying into Rhododendron bushes on the moss. Jonathan told me that he'd previously seen a Sparrowhawk waiting along the Blackbirds' flight path trying to choose which one to 'pick off' before finally going for one.
By now it was quite dark and normally I would have set off for home a while ago, but both David and Jonathan kept saying that the Woodcock would come. And sure enough they did - nine of them flew past in ones and twos over a ten minute period with their unmistakable shape and rapid wing-beat silhouetted against the lighter parts of the evening sky.
It was quite an experience that I would have missed had I been out there on my own. The Woodcock is another 'lifer' for my slowly expanding list, so thanks very much lads, hope to see you again sometime.