Some would say that September is the best month for migration and others would argue that May brings the sunshine birds. I’ve always been in the September camp and every year I look forward to what it brings to my part of Cheshire. This September has been a little under par to say the least and without any species worthy of bragging about I paid another visit after work to the marsh. I unpacked my expectations and brought along plenty of enthusiasm for three hours worth of birding.
Arriving on No.5 tank I set up overlooking No.6 from the north side. The light was good and ducks were very tolerant of my presence as I stood above them on the bank. I scanned the ducks hoping to see something new from the regular assortment. The Common Teal flock were spread out from the flooded daisy beds to hauling out on the south bank. The 200 Shoveler had obviously increased from the last week and birds were scattered widely. Out on the water were 12 Pintail, 130 Wigeon and smaller counts of Common Shelduck, Mallard and Pochard. A flight of 100 Tufted Duck flew in from the river at dusk and soon settled with others already present.
A flock of 9 Ruff and 7 Avocet were the only shorebirds on the mud. A young Peregrine tested out its hunting techniques scattering the ducks and forcing the Ruff to leave the area for 30 minutes. The young falcon settled on the dried out mud in the centre of the tank close to a strutting Stock Dove which did’t appear too unduly concerned by the raptor sat close by. No sooner had the ducks resettled than a juvenile Marsh Harrier caused them to rise into the air again before they dropped down on the open water.
I moved along the track to view the mitigation area on No.3 tank and was surprised to find that there were some birds feeding on the muddy scrape! On closer inspection a group of 8 Curlew Sandpiper were feeding with 9 Black-tailed Godwit and 12 Common Teal.
A Spotted Crake over at Northwich gave me the incentive to check the secluded pool but despite me hanging on there until dark I could’nt conjure one out of reedbeds. A juvenile Garganey was some compensation along with a late juvenile Reed Warbler which was clambering in the reeds. A Cetti’s Warbler gave out a couple of blasts of song from the willow thickets at the junction of tanks 3-5 and 6.
I ended the evening walking back to my car stopping briefly to watch an adult Peregrine fly up to the blue-topped chimney to roost.
No real rares (as they call them these days) but some nice birding.
Observer and images: WSM.
The fine weather today was a lot more enticing to pay a visit to the marsh for a spot of birding compared to the deluge we experienced yesterday.
Along Moorditch Lane I was taken aback by a Kingfisher that flew from the ditch to cross my path and fly up the embankment of No.5 tank before doing a U-turn and fly back and pose briefly on an iron pipe stretched across the ditch.
Arriving on to No.5 tank I met Arthur where we both bumped into a couple of birders who mentioned seeing two Marsh Harrier and two Curlew Sandpiper on the mitigation site. We both made our way to that area but apart from a single Common Teal (no change there) we didn’t see anything else.
On returning to look over the muddy area of No.6 we soon relocated the two juvenile Curlew Sandpiper which were with a solitary Dunlin and 15 Ruff. The area was alive with ducks and a conservative estimate of species included: 12 Pintail, 120 Wigeon, 100 Shoveler, 47 Mallard and a few Gadwall. There was a couple of Great Crested Grebe while Dabchicks numbered 16 birds.
A Fox was presumably the concern of many of the ducks which were a little flighty. A Water Rail was calling from the reed beds below the bank while close-by a singing Cetti’s Warbler shattered the otherwise serene scene.
One of the Marsh Harrier (a female) flew over disturbing the 400 already nervous Common Teal. Further out at Weston Point was a big female Peregrine perched up on the blue-topped chimney before launching off to hunt the estuary at dusk.
A fine sunset over the Mersey Estuary ended a much better return to some quality birding for a change.
Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (all images).
I started my walk at Ince again this morning where there were plenty of Swallow and House Martin flying over the Pig farm. The new pools here attracted 6 Grey Heron, 2 Little Grebe, Mallard and Common Teal which were much to their liking. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and several Chiffchaff were moving along with a flock of Blue and Long-tail Tits. Out on Frodsham Score were 5 Little and 2 Great White Egret were seen while a large flock of Lapwing nervously fidgeted as an unseen raptor flew by.
I followed the Holpool Gutter around the west edge of No.4 tank but nothing of note was seen apart from a large flock of Pied Wagtail feeding in the crop field. Back on the lane to Ince a Great Spotted Woodpecker which is normally a bird of the marsh periphery was in Kamira Wood by the Growhow Works. Nearing the pig farm a Kingfisher left a patch of marsh ground and flew along the ditch in front of me.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-3).
A Common Sandpiper was on the Weaver estuary while along the hedgerows 6 Chiffchaff, a male Blackcap and a Goldcrest were by the old birdlog.
Observer: Tony Broome.
After a visit to Delamere Forest we decided to take a walk along Moorditch Lane on the marsh at Frodsham where a scaffolding structure has been erected. I asked the security guard why it was being constructed? He said that it was to support new telegraph wires so if you’re in the area, now you know.
A Chiffchaff was contact calling in the hawthorns bushes bordering the lane within a mobile roving tit flock.
Eventually we found ourselves looking over the open water and muddy margins of No.6 tank. A brisk westerly was blowing and typically ducks were sheltering in the water flooded flowerbeds. The Wigeon flock appear to have taken a liking to this area and can be found within the daisy beds picking off its seeds. Also adding to the picture were 350 Common Teal, 120 Shoveler, 8 Pintail with an assortment of Gadwall, Mallard, Common Shelduck and 18 Little Grebe seen in small parties. A Little Egret (Image #1. I know it’s blurry but I like it) was flushed by a mini-panic attack caused by the ducks and flew off the tank towards the river. There was a pre-roost gathering of 800 Black-headed Gull on the water with numerous Common Gull joining them.
The mitigation area on No.3 tank is really avoided by most birds but a dozen Common Teal and a single Wheatear were trying desperately to add a little kudos for Peel Energy here.
There was a light passage of Swallow moving south while on the blue-topped chimney two adult Peregrine shared their lofty watch tower.
Observers: Sparky, WSM (images 1 & 4-8).
I took a stroll along the River Weaver to its junction with the Manchester Ship Canal at the Weaver Estuary this evening. A few of the regular Common Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck and a Pintail were on the river but not in any big numbers. Several Great Crested and Little Grebe were present with a single Common Sandpiper that was altered and flew across the river on my approach. A Kestrel and Common Buzzard were hunting the banks and Raven were on the prowl looking for an easy meal.
Out on Frodsham Score a large flock of gulls, mostly Great and Lesser Black-backs and Herring were sat on the mud bank and were joined by Curlew and Common Shelduck with 2 Little Egret in the tidal gutters. A flock of both Redshank and Dunlin were moving with the rising tide. Walking back along the river and I chanced upon a very rare visitor to the marshes a Guillemot but unfortunately it was dead at the waters edge.
Observer and images: Paul Ralston.
A Great White Egret was spotted on Frodsham Score from the Hale side of the river per Dave Craven.
A Hobby was flying over Weston village this evening before heading to the Weaver Bend.
Observers: Sparky, WSM.
My evening visits are getting shorter and shorter despite the sunny weather we have been experiencing recently. Having said that there’s still plenty of birding to be had and my usual trip to look over No.6 tank wasn’t that exciting with 13 Ruff and the usual ducks still present. A look over the mitigation was more out of habit than any real expectations and true to form I wasn’t disappointed…again.
Ever the optimist I move out to Marsh Farm and had a look at the ebbing tide on the River Mersey. The only area exposed to mud was adjacent to the Weaver Sluices where a large concentration of shorebirds were gathered. Although fairly distant a blast of evening sunlight breaking through the clouds aided my observation. There was a good count of Redshank bunched together which numbered 300 birds. Also present were 2000 Dunlin with a single Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Several hundred Curlew and 3 Knot were notable along with 54 Oystercatcher.
High above the sluice gates perched on the blue-topped chimney was the female Peregrine which reappeared after a week or so.
The Raven flock were gathered on No.5 tank and along with an adult Great Black-backed Gull that was oddly perched up on a telegraph pole along Alder Lane were all on the lookout for their next mutton meal.
A small passage of Meadow Pipit were perched up on the wires by the lane.
Observer and images: WSM.
Earlier Ian (Iggy) Igglesden over at Hale lighthouse picked out a couple of Great White Egret out on Frodsham Score which can not be seen from the vantage point at the farm.
The evening light wasn’t that good for birding but nonetheless I made the pilgrimage to look over No.6 tank.
The open water of the tank continues to provide a safe haven for a variety of waterfowl and again both Tufties and Common Teal were the highest in number. The former reached a total of 217 while the latter totaled 312. Also present were 12 Pintail, 1 Common Pochard, 47 Shoveler, 68 Mallard, 12 Gadwall and 112 Wigeon. There were still 18 Mute Swan with a solitary juvenile Great Crested and 30 Little Grebe a new high total for the autumn build up.
Shorebirds were again low-key but 6 Avocet, 15 Ruff and a single Greenshank made some headway into the recent slump of waders.
The mitigation area of No.3 tank was again woefully poor but a juvenile Marsh Harrier was present for some time hunting the Canal Pools and the Score embankment with numerous Raven for company. A second bird was watched circling high over the estuary at the same time so, that could either be a migrant moving south or one of the other two from the summer?
Observer and image: WSM.
A short walk along the Manchester Ship Canal from Ince to the Holpool Gutter at dusk there was nothing of note until a Red-breasted Merganser flew along the canal after being flushed by (no pun intended) the ship Stolt Razorbill. A poor picture because my camera was on the wrong setting and very much a record shot.
Observer: Paul Ralston.
Earlier in the day a bit of watching from across the water from Hale lighthouse revealed 3 Great White Egret and 2 Marsh Harrier.
Observer: Dave Craven.
It was inevitable that an Otter would eventually appear and this morning it did! One was seen close to Frodsham sailing club.
Thanks to Gary Powell.