Birdwatchers celebrate as whooper swans fly in from Iceland to Greater Manchester

Date published: 10 November 2019

Birdwatchers in Greater Manchester are quite literally ‘whooping with joy’ at sightings of whooper swans this autumn.

The best places to see this graceful species are Ogden Reservoir in the Piethorne Valley in Rochdale, where nine were present on 30 October, Blackleach Country Park in Salford, where a flock of up to five have been present since 12 October, and the Hollingworth Lake area in Rochdale, where one or two have been present since 5 October.

On 27 October, 91 were counted at Elton Reservoir in the Bury borough and 117 were counted flying over Horwich Moors, Bolton borough.

The Castleshaw Valley in the Oldham borough, the new Little Woolden Moss Lancashire Wildlife Trust nature reserve near Irlam in the Salford borough, and Pennington Flash in the Wigan borough are also good places to see these magnificent swans.

James Walsh, also known as the Mancunian Birder, author of the new book “Greater Manchester Birding City Region”, said: “These beautiful swans are literally swanning in for the winter from their breeding grounds in Iceland.

“If you are lucky enough to see a whooper swan and you are texting people to tell them, you should know that predictive text is likely to give you a whopper swan!”

An international survey of whooper swans is taking place on 11 and 12 January 2020, if you are interested in getting involved, then please email:

Whooper swans are different from the resident mute swan; the most instantly recognised feature is the big yellow and black beak of the whooper swan compared with the orange and black beak of the mute swan.


Mute Swan, with the orange and black beak
Mute swan, with the orange and black beak. Photo: James Walsh


The two best places in Greater Manchester to see flocks of mute swans are Moses Gate Country Park in Bolton, where the main lake is sometimes referred to as ‘Swan Lake’, and Salford Quays.

James’ book “Greater Manchester Birding City Region” is now online as a free e-book via the Borrowbox library network.

“The book is basically a personal introduction to birdwatching in Greater Manchester – we have some amazing sites here and there are so many beautiful birds to see once you really start looking!”


International swan census in January 2020
International swan census in January 2020


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