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.
A 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.