04.12.16. Birdlog

04-12-16-redwing-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome04-12-16-winter-thrushes-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1After the excitement of yesterday on the dark side of the river I headed for Frodder’s as planned. Stopping off first at the enticing coffee shop and their festive frothy lattes.

I crossed the bridge on Marsh Lane around 09.15 hrs and immediately the hedgerow along Brook Furlong Lane were alive with thrushes, each one vacuuming up the last hawthorn berries. I parked up at the old birdlog at the south-east corner of No.1 tank. The sky was that ice-blue that only a winter’s morning can deliver, enhanced by a usual warm winter sun. I had a look around as I sipped my steaming beverage.

The field on No.1 was covered with Lapwing and a count determined 473 birds with 6 Golden Plover mixed in with them.

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04-12-16-goldfinch-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeA Pair of Reed Bunting landed in a nearby bush and I scoped them, only to be drawn to the male which had the usual buff bits replaced with grey. It was a striking bird but it flew as I fumbled for my camera but it dropped out of sight and didn’t reamerge.

I have been experiencing a leaky boot for the last few weeks but today I pulled on a new pair of neoprene Wellington’s which were warm and dry. I don’t know why but they actually worked and were obviously an excellent purchase.

I walked across to the I.C.I tank, stopping to look at a flock of buntings. 12 Reed Bunting in various states of plumage, but no frosty grey ones. There were Common Snipe flushed in ones and twos with a much larger flock of 31 at dusk on No.6, the total was a respectable 48. Despite my best endeavours, the willow scrub on the I.C.I tank didn’t produce the wanted Woodcock and I walk back along the River Weaver. 200 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing were the best I could do along with perhaps 50 each of Blackbird and Song Thrush.

There wasn’t much on the river and I arrived back at my car ready for some bagging. I drove up to the Marsh Farm but saw little and turned around to go back to the junction of No.6, 3 and 5. However as I got onto Moorditch Lane, the sky filled with thrushes. A flock of around 400 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing exploded out of the hawthorns and landed on bushes in the motorway fields. I attempted to get some shots on my camera but they were too jumpy to get anything decent.

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04-12-16-common-buzzard-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2I ate lunch by No.4 in the end, overlooking No.3 and 6. Common Buzzard soared over the beds with the odd Kestrel was hovering. I had a look at No.3 but apart from a small party of Lapwing totaling 100 or so, there was little else. It was a glorious afternoon which made up for the lack of variety. The Canal Pools held  20+ Wigeon and a few Common Teal. No.4 was practically deserted. Back to No.6 in the hope that the Starling flocks would arrive at dusk. Raven groups headed inland to roost with 29 passing over me against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset that was blighted by the turbines spoiling the view.

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04-12-16-starling-roost-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2I stood and waited as the air chilled. The Starling flocks began to arrive about 50 minutes before dark. Thousands swirled around for 30 minutes or so which gave me time to manoeuver myself into a better position and they chose to roost in the phragmites close to the track, only 50 metres or so away from me. The first flock of several hundred settled into the reeds and soon after the rest followed. As new ones came in overhead they’d do a tight turn and throw themselves into the noisy throng below. Time and again I watched the numbers build up until several thousands were sat about half way down the stems below me. The noise was deafening as they exchanged avian gossip on the days feeding sites and then small numbers began to move out to the periphery to roost quietly. I wondered if they would be any raptors about, but none came, so I spent the last fifteen minutes of light looking for any owls on No.5, but alas without success.

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I drove out over the bridge in the dark into a Christmas light spectacular illuminating Main Street through Frodsham centre. Another reminder for me to buy something expensive for the Frodders/Hale birders ‘Crimbo’ as they say across the water.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

Birding the Dark Side!

03-12-16-cormorant-pickerings-pasture-tony-broome25-11-16-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-mortonHaving seen photo’s of a Common Sandpiper at Ditton Brook, that one of the patchers had taken, had been ‘re-identified’ online as a Spotted Sandpiper, I was keen to go and see for myself, not because I doubted the original identification, but because I couldn’t form an opinion or argue for or against without actually having seen the bird for myself (which is always the best way). The photo in question was a relatively poor quality picture of a bird at an odd angle and into the light. So, with a sense of adventure, I headed down the M56 motorway and came off at Junction 12 as I normally do, but turned right, not left and drove towards Runcorn Bridge. It was a struggle. The car’s auto pilot tried to carry on left and I had to fight to get it to veer north across the river. There was also no coffee stop, no frothy latte, no banter with the experts who knew exactly how I liked my coffee in the morning. What was I doing!? I persevered and eventually wound my way around to arrive in Hale Village and having asked for directions, pulled into Pickering Pastures LNR car park. Phew, I made it! No border guards, no visa stamp, no inoculations and not even an interpreter needed. Bill had implied I would expect all of these.

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I headed for the white bridge over Ditton Brook, staring longingly at the tall white turbines in the distance, about two miles across the Mersey,  that marked the position of where I felt I should be on the weekend and at Frodsham Marsh. I stopped and watched some Goldcrest, their tiny size evident as they sat about a metre away. Blackbird abounded and fed on the path and in the leaves under the trees. The wind was cool, a breeze from the east whilst the sky remained gloomily grey, perhaps promising brightness at times but failing to actually deliver. I arrived at the bridge and noticed a couple already on the bridge. Rob and Carol Cockbain, two regular stalwart. We chatted about the sandpiper and local birding and they wandered off back towards the car park. I waited patiently for a sign of a wader, dodging the steady stream of cyclists that had planned their day out along the Trans Pennines Way, and as it happened, me. A few saw that I was trying to wait quietly for a bird and apologized for disturbing the peace and quiet. Most just talked loudly and carried on their way. The tide came in quickly. A nearby Cormorant caught a big flatfish of some description and swallowed it whole in no time.

03-12-16-goldcrest-pickerings-pasture-tony-broome-1

03-12-16-peregrine-from-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-7I watched out across the river. A gathering flock of waders fed and preened on the nearest sandbank. 500 Golden Plover, 700 Lapwing and 1500 Dunlin, watched over in turn by a Peregrine on a heraldic shield on the bridge. Dave Craven turned up, a birding friend I’d never actually met in person. Another local birder on the Hale side, who along with Ian Igglesden, regularly gripped us Frodsham birders off with tales of good birds almost every day. As if by magic, Dave declared a sandpiper present on the mud along the brook and we both grilled it thoroughly in an attempt to confirm the original identification as a Common Sandpiper. It wasn’t difficult because that’s just what it was, a Common Sandpiper with all the correct plumage and structural requirements. Job done, we walked back towards the cars where we parted company, Dave heading off back home and me pouring a coffee and munching on my sandwiches.

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I finished the food and walked over to the screen hide where birds fed around the feeders. More Goldcrests. The photograph (image 3) showed one to have black feet and legs, aren’t they usually yellowish? Ian Igglesden appeared and we walked back to get the cars before driving around to Carr Lane pools. Full of birds, I was hoping to see a Water Pipit. There’d been up to five on this site. One called and landed amongst the grass, giving good views as it fed unconcernedly. 5 Little Egret darted about the pools in amongst the Teal. A Merlin perched up on a thin vertical branch, its tiny size evident and a Cetti’s Warbler called and showed briefly from the channel by the bridge. I left Ian there with a couple more regulars and headed off westwards and home, getting lost almost at once and took the long route via the M62. As it happened it didn’t make much difference, around 36.5 miles. Frodsham Marsh was a mere 26 miles.

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It had been a good day and completely different to birding Frodsham Marsh. More people but less traffic noise and a lot more close birds. Birds that you didn’t have to strain to see through a haze in the distance. It does make such a difference. However, a patch is a patch and walking about seeing very little on the south side didn’t seem to matter and as I left I was already mentally planning my route out for tomorrow. Intending to try for Woodcock.

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1 & 3-4 & 6-7.

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The rocky/muddy shoreline below the railway bridge. The heraldic shields often provide a handy perch for a Peregrine (see image 4).

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No Man’s Land as seen from West Bank/Pickerings Pasture Trans Pennine Trail.

01-12-16-views-from-westbank-widnes-bill-morton-4 Looking west along the Trans Pennine Trail to Pickerings Pasture.

Achieve images (2 & 5 & 8-10 ) by WSM.

03.12.16. Birdlog

03-12-16-black-tailed-godwit-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2Walking out from Ince early this morning and a Song Thrush was in full song in the half-light. The lane from the pig farm was alive with winter thrushes striping the berries off the bushes. The new pools were quiet with just 1 Grey Heron and a few Mallard. On to the Manchester Ship Canal path and their were more winter thrushes with Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird competing with several hundred Wood Pigeon in a feeding frenzy.

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Meanwhile on the salt marsh the first of 3 Great White Egret seen during the morning out by the river with numerous Little Egret were also noted. On the ship canal itself were good numbers of Tufted Duck, Mallard, Common Teal and Coot with 2 Great Crested Grebe were on the sheltered waters. Meadow Pipit, Linnets and a pair of Stonechat were along the bank of No.4 tank and a female Sparrowhawk was in hunting mode. The ‘Splashing Pool’ held a small amount of Mallard and Shoveler while the mitigation pools on No.3 had Wigeon and Lapwing.

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Onto No.6 and Black-tailed Godwit and ducks were close to the western bank after they were disturbed by two model plane flyers retrieving their ‘toys’ from the east bank.

There was a decent selection of other duck species on the water with more Common Teal, Common Pochard, Common Shelduck, Shoveler, Tufted Duck Mallard and Wigeon noted.The shorebirds were made up of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Dunlin with a handful of Common Snipe. Along Lordship Lane and a Kingfisher was in the ditch near the junction of 4 and 6.

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The Whooper Swan were again in the fields noted in the previous post and again feeding close to the M56 while further away from the noise were the herd of Mute Swan alongside the Holpool Gutter.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston

01.12.16. Birdlog

23.02.14. Whooper Swanss, Lordship Marsh, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton8 Whooper Swan were back in the flooded fields adjacent to the blue slurry tank on Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Shaun Hickey.

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29-11-16-common-sandpiper-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-5Elsewhere there are wintering Common Sandpipers to be found on the Weaver estuary where there are 1-2 birds present.

Other birds are across the river at Pickerings Pasture scrape, Within Way, Spike Island and Ditton Brook. (images WSM).

A Black Redstart was found yesterday on the Gateway construction site road on Wigg Island.

26.11.16. Birdlog (Part 2)

26-11-16-reed-bunting-male-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-626-11-16-foggy-turbines-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1My sandwiches were made the previous night and my flasks pre-warmed overnight, I was prepared for an early start. However, the garden was white with a hard frost when I looked out at 7.00 am. I went out to restock the bird feeders and it was -5.5c. driving along the M56 motorway the weather alternated between clear and sunny and thick fog.

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I crossed the bridge on Marsh Lane with -4c showing on the car and the distant river shrouded in a cloak of freezing fog. However the lane towards the old birdlog remained clear and I was the first to drive down it breaking the puddles with their layer of ice intact. That was a bad thing. Every one I drove through cracked like a shotgun going off and thrushes exploded from all the ice-covered Hawthorn trees on either side of the lane.

26-11-16-frosty-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1I pulled up, got myself ready and drank a cup of home-made coffee (for a change). Not as good as my usual Latte by any stretch. I walked back down Brook Furlong Lane, across to Redwall and back and across to the I.C.I tank, returning by the river which remained essentially invisible, the fog not giving the water up at all.

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Thrush number were up and there’d been a definite influx. 200 Fieldfare, 60 Redwing, 50 Song Thrush, 40 Blackbird and a single Mistle Thrush. 2 Goldcrest and 6 Long-tailed Tit and a Bullfinch were below the old log.

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26-11-16-reed-bunting-female-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-7There was a female Stonechat sat on a fence post and a small flock of finches and buntings flushed from a field edge which included 10 Chaffinch, 6 Linnet and 8 Reed Bunting. The area looked good for future checking. I carried on, the landscape looking like an icy winter wonderland. As I walked around the fog loomed ever closer and the hard frost covered hawthorn berries reminding me of the decorations they sell in garden centres.

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I watched a Goldcrest hanging upside and hovering in the middle of one bush and it made me wonder how these tiny birds find enough food in weather like today’s. But apart from more thrushes it was quiet. I couldn’t actually see the water as I walked back along the path and eventually got back to the car which was still in bright sunshine. Common Snipe were much in evidence and I counted 28 in one area with 10 more over No.6 tank.

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I drove around to the junction of No.6, 5 and 3 and made some soup to go with the cheese and garlic butties. A Merlin hurtled through and out over No.6. I finished lunch and walked into a scrubby area but with little reward. The fog began to roll in and only the tops of the turbines were visible as they has been most of the day. They looked quite eerie, almost surreal, as though the three blades on each were floating in the air. Non turned in anger, but moved ever so slowly round.

26-11-16-bill-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1326-11-16-sunset-and-brances-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeBill appeared out of the mist (like a Gorilla) having walked a long way to the west. We moved to the west end of No.3 and stood waiting for a Barn Owl that had been seen last night, but the chill in the air and the fog meant that it was virtually dark by 4.00 pm. The maximum temperature had been 0c and it was -2c at dusk. The sun sank slowly into an icy-blue horizon, made all the more interesting by a vapour trail cutting it in half just before it vanished, appearing look like a moon around a distant planet. I made brew for us both as we waiting for anything interesting with a pair of wings, but even a last drive along Brook Furlong failed to produce anything new. The thrushes were still feeding at dusk and filled the air with silhouettes as they scattered into the gloom.

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Observer and images: Tony Broome.

26.11.16. Birdlog (Part 1)

26-11-16-sunset-and-factory-steam-growhow-works-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-1Looking out of the kitchen window this morning and I the view didn’t instill me with a confident weather window ahead. Charging the metal road steed I headed down to the marsh and once clearing the swing bridge the sun started to poke its head above the fog.

26-11-17-goldeneye-no-6-tank-frodsham-bill-morton-1I sent a text to Tony to find he was down by the waters edge along the River Weaver at Redwall reed bed. I decided to park up at the motorway bridge and embark on a long haul trek along Moorditch Lane, through the tanks 5 & 6 then cross by the ‘Splashing Pool’ down to the Mersey marshes adjacent to the Manchester Ship Canal, circumnavigate No.4 tank, along Lordship Lane and the track between 4 & 6 before finally meeting up with Paul and then Mr Broome at the junctions of 3,5 & 6..Phew!!!

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No.6 tank was frozen apart from a few patches kept clear by the Shoveler and Common Teal flocks present. A fine drake Goldeneye had the looked of like a celebrity as it was tucked in with a few Common Pochard, Pintail and Gadwall. A small gathering of Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls were standing on the ice. A Green Sandpiper flew over calling and dropped into the daisy beds.

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The elder bushes on No.5 tank sometimes shelter feeding finches and when I spotted a few Chaffinches I noticed one had a white or pale yellow colour ring on its leg. This is the second bird I have seen locally over the last couple of days. Anyone know if there is a colour ringing scheme going on nearby?

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The mitigation pools were totally frozen, it wasn’t worth lingering here and I made my way out to the salt marshes. A few Little Egret were out tip toeing through the skeletal remains from the previous high tide death toll on the river. Further out towards Ince Marsh a herd of 8 Whooper Swan could be seen and PR managed to get some photographs later in the day.

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I took position on the embankment attempting to get some elevation but the fog blanket lay across the marsh and the distant river was lost from view.

26-11-17-turbines-in-the-fog-frodsham-bill-morton-18The same fog made an eerie view with wind turbines standing above the low laying mist giving them the look of marching aliens from the film the ‘The War of the Worlds’. It was difficult to extract much from this birding day but sometimes you have to put a hard slog down to experience.

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I bumped into Paul en route back to my car and we had a chat befor going our separate ways. I finally met up with TB and he kindly donated a hot brew to warm my tired limbs.

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The misty sunset was one of the finest with no difference between the sky and water at No.6 tank.

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Unfortunately the Barn Owl didn’t make a reappearance from last evening (per Arthur Harrison).

Observers: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 5-6 & 8), WSM (images 2-4 & 7 & 9-10).

20.11.16. Birdlog

20-11-16-whooper-and-mute-swans-ince-marsh-paul-ralston-1Out and about from Ince this morning and straight from the start there were good numbers of Curlew in the ‘Pig field’ with just a few Common Gull also present. The new pools held a small amount of Common Teal, Mallard and a couple of Grey Heron with them. The hedgerows were again full of Redwing and Blackbird with only smaller amounts of Fieldfare being noted. Looking over to Ince Marsh from Ince Berth.

I spotted a Merlin which flew fast and low out towards the River Mersey where a large flock of Starling had gathered to feed. There were 8 Whooper Swan were trumpeting loudly when another two joined them and a greeting display took place for several minutes. The field alongside the Holpool Gutter held c2000 Lapwing and several hundred Golden Plover alongside a dozen Mute Swan. The Great White Egret was again seen out in the tidal gutters.

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There were a couple of wildfowlers hiding low down on the salt marsh and they were surrounded by several decoys with mechanical flapping wings attracting the attention of the unwary geese.

19-11-16-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeThe mitigation pools were ‘dead’ as was the secluded pool but No.6 tank fared much better with a small flock of Black-tailed Godwit. There were also good numbers of Common Pochard, Common Teal, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, Mallard and Gadwall.

A new Merlin was sat on a post on No.3. The Raven hoard were feasting on yet another fallen farm animal which continue to provide a well stocked winter larder and the best feeding station for miles around.

19-11-16-fieldfare-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeA male Blackcap found the mild conditions on the marsh favourable with another warbler spp glimpsed as it went into the reed bed but I couldn’t relocated it.

The walk along Lordship Lane held a mixture of finches with Goldfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch with a few Reed Bunting tagging along. Other passerines included Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tit also noted.

There were more Lapwing with Curlew and an impressive number of (10) Ruff feeding in the field adjacent the southern ramp to No.6.

Back to the Holpool Gutter and the Mute’s were joined by a single Whooper Swan while out on the salt marsh the other Whoopers had now joined the mute’s there. Arriving at my car and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was perched at the top of a dead tree to see me off.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

Common Buzzard video here: https://vimeo.com/192348146

The Peregrine was on top of the blue-topped chimney at dusk (WSM and Buzzard video).