30.10.16. Birdlog

30.10.16. Common Scoter (female/juvs), Weaver Estuary (off Redwall reed bed), Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Down to the marsh late via the usual coffee emporium for a couple of sandwiches and take-out lattes, arriving at midday. I blame the fact that the clocks went back last night and I completely forgot! Anyway, I can only claim an hour for that.

30.10.16. Great Spotted Woodpecker over Redwall reed bed), Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

It was really a last-gasp effort for any lingering Yellow-browed Warblers passing through but it wasn’t to be, so it was a couple of hours around the old bird log, Redwall reed bed, the River Weaver, Marsh Farm and No.6 tank.

The high pressure gave a feel of November as the overcast grey cloak of clouds gave a hint of drizzle every now and again, with no wind at all. We would have been becalmed had we been on a yacht. It was quiet, very quiet. No tit flocks despite my coaxing. A walk around the reed bed at Redwall put 7 Common Snipe up, with 5 Reed Bunting and a few Meadow Pipit flying over. A bounding shape from the west dropped into the bottom of a willow bush and slowly emerged before heading off SE. A Great-spotted Woodpecker. A ‘plik-plik’ call from the reedbed gave away the presence of a Cetti’s Warbler and with a bit of “pishing” it showed itself briefly but remained in cover for much of the time. There could have been another below the old birdlog but it only called twice. 12 Redwing, 10 Blackbird and 6+ Song Thrush exploded out of bushes, did circuits and came back down, but no big flocks, despite the Hale counters seeing many heading south-east. 4 Raven noisily played about overhead as we headed for the Weaver.

30.10.16. Common Scoter (female/juvs), Weaver Estuary (off Redwall reed bed), Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

As I walked along the top of the bank and came to the end of the sallows, two ducks were sat a third of the way out and immediately caught my eye. Their low jizz shouted diving ducks and a look through the bins confirmed 2 Common Scoter, probably juveniles, swimming left. They spooked as some people came towards us down the bank and flew off towards the Weaver Sluices. Great views of what are normally dots out on the River Mersey. A vocal Chiffchaff called from the reeds.

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29-10-16-raven-no-2-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3There was nothing at the Marsh Farm except for another 15 or so Raven, and 2000+ Lapwing out over Frodsham Score in a long straggly line, probably flushed by a Peregrine? So it was a turn-around and the short drive to No.6. Even at 3 pm the light was so gloomy and it was damp and miserable. There were lots of birds on the water but nothing stood out as out of the ordinary.  I estimated 200 Lapwing and 6 Ruff, 25 Black-tailed Godwit, 50+ Pintail, 150+ Shoveler and 200 Common Teal. The M56 was lit up as cars drove on headlights, so it was where I headed. In the direction of a hot cuppa. Not too bad considering the time put in and weather.

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-3).

Images 4-5 by WSM.

29.10.16. Birdlog

29-10-16-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1429-10-16-dunlin-flock-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2A flock of Long-tail Tit held a couple of Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff within their throng along the Manchester Ship Canal path this morning. There were at least 8 Little Egret on the Frodsham Score salt marsh and another 2 were seen flying west along the canal. A Merlin was keeping a close eye on the finch flocks along the banks of No.4 tank, as was a couple of Kestrel. A female Sparrowhawk with a full crop presumably containing one of the aforementioned flew by. The ‘secluded pool’ held a dozen Gadwall while the mitigation pools on No.3 tank had a few Wigeon and 2 Black-tailed Godwit. Walking back along the canal path and I flushed out 2 Green Sandpiper from the waters bank.

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A pair of Stonechat were again in brambles close to the pumping station.

The new pools at Ince Marsh fields which on my way in held Mallard, Common Teal and several Grey Heron and on my way out held a couple of Wigeon and a single Black-tailed Godwit. The hedgerows along the lane had Redwing, Blackbird and a party of Mistle Thrush.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2 & 6).

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After a few days up in the Cairngorms my visit to the marsh today lacked a certain  je ne sais quoi with low grey clouds and poor light that was barely conducive to birding or photographing birds.

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It was nice to bump into Paul on the banks above No.6 and have a gas about birding stuff. While we were chatting a flock of Dunlin had already gathered on the muddy margins to the open water. They were joined by several waves of incoming Dunlin which massed together (probably numbering a couple of thousand birds). A flock of 120 Black-tailed Godwit flew in and like the Dunlin flocks before were spooked by the flying model aircraft over the opposite banks and all headed back to the Mersey estuary.

A flock of 15 Ruff were a little more tolerant and contained a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper. Another 5 Curlew Sands flew in with a solitary Dunlin in tow for several circuits of the water before thinking better of it. A Golden Plover was watched high overhead but was more interested in where the other plovers had got to?

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The ducks numbers have dropped off again while Common Teal and Shoveler were well below the counts from my previous visit. Both Gadwall and Common Pochard had made a slight increase with 10 of the latter along with the 45 Tufted Duck present. A skein of 74 Pink-footed Goose flew over barking as they headed south.

At Marsh Farm there were 3 Stonechat along the fence bordering No.1 tank and the ubiquitous Raven were loitering and waiting for one (or more) sheep to ‘pop their clogs’.

Looking out from the farm to the Weaver Sluices there were numerous Redshank feeding including one with its right foot missing!

Observers: Paul Ralston, WSM (images 1 & 3-5).

23.10.16. Birdlog

23-10-16-ravens-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeAfter a mixed week during the course of my holiday in Norfolk I headed down to Frodsham Marsh for what could be the last of this year’s effort at finding a Yellow-browed Warbler? It was a late start and I arrived around 10.30 hrs and parked up by the old birdlog before walking back along Brook Furlong Lane and then turning around to walk the lower path towards Redwall reed bed. With a fresh east to south-easterly wind blowing I thought there should have been an air of expectancy? But the new wind turbines were working and they were surprisingly noisy, the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the blades going around which filled the air and became hard to ignore. However I persevered and looked for a roving tit flock. I didn’t connect until I reached the track below the birdlog again and two or three Long-tailed Tit appeared.

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A single Chiffchaff called and 2 Goldcrest got closer until one appeared for a photo shoot. They are fabulous little birds and so resilient. I always marvel at the fact they can cross the North Sea every year to reach us to winter. At Redwall reed bed a pair of Stonechat perched up on dead twigs before moving onto the path next to the River Weaver. Four Raven began to play in the wind and the photo I took made them look like aeroplane fighters turning to head for a target…’The Raven Squadron’. It was quiet. A Common Snipe got up and called in alarm, heading off towards the I.C.I tank.

23-10-16-goldcrest-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1I looked at the river. A flock on the water in the distance was made up of c60 Tufted Duck, a single male Common Pochard and about 7 Great-crested Grebe. But there was little else of note. I walked back to the car and met Knutsford Ornithological Society stalwarts Bob Groom and Jackie, on a rare visit to the marsh. Bob used to bird watch at Frodsham in its heyday in the seventies and eighties. I drove up to Marsh Farm, noting another pair of Stonechat on the fence next to the pipes. Small parties of Goldfinch fed on the track and 5 Linnet flew off before I could grill them for Twite?

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23-10-16-stonechat-redwall-reed-bed-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeThe tide was at its lowest point and birds too far off to be enjoyed, so I headed for No.6 tank, passing Bob and Jackie again who were looking from the eastern end. I parked up at the junction with No.’s 3 and 5 and had a look at the ‘Secluded Pool’ which was quiet as well as secluded, but two more Common Snipe flushed noisily. The sun was low and straight ahead when I looked at No.6 and the birds were silhouetted. However, the closest birds were 3 Curlew Sandpiper and 11 Ruff, which was nice. There were also about 200 Black-tailed Godwit feeding below the fence and I picked up a single Bar-tailed Godwit in their midst. It spent the next half hour preening and gave unusually good view for a Bar-wit. They’re normally in the distance on Frodsham Score.

With lots to catch up with at home it was a relatively early departure eastwards along the M56. No YbW’s but some nice photos.

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-5).

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I met Arthur Harrison on the motorway bridge and he was just leaving the marsh but he mentioned seeing a couple of Stonechat by the first turbine on No.5 tank. I parked up and walked along the track on No.5 tank to view the open water of No.6. Typically filled with ducks the open water was scattered with Shoveler and appeared to be in excess of 200 birds (although I wasn’t really into counting them this evening). Although Common Shelduck numbers have increased. The tide was high on the River Mersey but I wasn’t as fortunate as Tony seeing only 40 Black-tailed Godwit with 12 Ruff.

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The main aim of my visit was to watch the Starling gathering at dusk and to see what raptors would be enticed to their bountiful number. A Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common Buzzard were on the periphery. The young female Marsh Harrier twisted and turned over the Starling roost beds,causing them to avoid capture in some impressive murmurations. Whatever the harrier did to catch one the entire flock made its task almost impossible.

23.10.16. Marsh Harrier and Starlings, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Observer: WSM (images 6-8).

Video of turbines here: https://vimeo.com/188579324

22.10.16. Birdlog

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22-10-16-raven-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3Out this morning from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal path heading east and around No.6 tank.  A flock of Long-tailed Tit had a couple of Goldcrest with them as they made their way along the hedgerow.

The new pools at Ince Marsh fields were quiet with only a single Grey Heron and a few Moorhen occupying them. Reed Bunting were gathering in good numbers as was the Robin with several territorial disputes going on between established birds and migrants. Flocks of Redwing were passing through heading west followed in hot pursuit by a Sparrowhawk hoping to pick off a tired bird.

22-10-16-reed-bunting-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2Out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh were 5 Little Egret scattered about and a large flock of Common Teal and Wigeon which exploded into the air when 5 wildfowlers made their way out on to the marsh. A Great Crested Grebe was amongst the Coot and Tufted Duck on the ship canal. Meanwhile, the Raven gathered alongside Great Black-backed Gull numbers feeding on the ever-present free mutton liberally scattered about the area. Waiting for thirds were the omnipresent Common Buzzard.

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Three Stonechat were along the path by the northern ramp onto No.6 and a male Kestrel sat on a fence post nearby. A Great Spotted Woodpecker left a stand of dead trees near the Growhow works compound and alongside No.4 a Grey Wagtail with a flock of alba wags near the Holpool Gutter. The fields alongside the gutter held a few hundred Lapwing with several Golden Plover with them.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images1-3).

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22-10-16-view-from-plane-looking-down-on-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-322-10-16-view-from-plane-looking-down-on-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-5A big thanks to Chris Done who took these aerial shots looking down over Frodsham Marsh yesterday from a flight out of New York JFK. Chris was a young Elton birder who could be found birding the marsh in his younger days. He scored many fine finds including a singing Nightingale along Lordship Lane a few years back.

Image 4 by WSM and images 5-7 by Chris Done.

21.10.16. Birdlog

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The area of No.6 tank attracted 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Dunlin, 500 assorted duck species, a couple of calling Water Rail, while nearby were two Kingfisher and over on No.5 were 3 Stonechat. Also noted over the river were Golden Plover.

Observer: Arthur Harrison.

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An early dart from work and after swapping work gear for something a little more acceptable we made our way down to the marsh. It’s been a few days since my last visit so I was expecting a slight change in the bird load here.

21-10-16-cormorant-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4Walking along Moorditch Lane and scanning the many Black-headed Gull flocks still lingering over the ploughed fields long enough to detect that there wasn’t any Med Gulls. We continued up the ramp onto No.5 tank and walked to the viewing area above No.6. The sound of trumpeting of 4 Whooper Swan which were reassuring each other that their journey was almost over. The duck numbers seem to be depleted with just 187 Shoveler present with 200 Common Teal, 12 Pintail and a handful of Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Common Pochard. A Grey Heron was sharing the Cormorant roost tree with the carbo’s while those that couldn’t find a space found a few isolated branches to perch on. A few Black-tailed Godwit attracted the company of 8 Ruff.

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21-10-16-merlin-and-starlings-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonOn of the reasons for tonight’s visit was to check the numbers of Starling coming into roost. I estimated that there was c1000 birds. They should build up over the next few weeks but the display was made more impressive as a Merlin throw it’s self into the mix and made the murmurations more ‘bendy’. The young female Marsh Harrier came in o the reed beds at dusk and spent sometime quartering the area before being lost in the gloom.

A brief snatch of a Cetti’s Warbler song from the banks along six.

Observers: Sparky, WSM (all images).

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17.10.16. Birdlog

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You have to take the birding as and when you can and now that the days are drawing in and the opportunity to stay out later is getting less and less. The ploughed fields alongside Moorditch Lane again attracted 300 Black-headed Gull and it didn’t take long to extract an adult Mediterranean Gull from their number.

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I went straight to the mitigation area on No.3 tank to basically check it out first before continuing back to No.6 for some proper birds. The mitigation had 3 Black-tailed Godwit and a dozen Common Teal (a return to form). No.6 tank rarely disappoints and there is always something to see whatever floats your boat or bird. I had an idea that the Shoveler flock presently residing here was increasing and after my WeBs count on Saturday which exceeded the previous record count, I had another go this evening. It was no surprise really when that count was again exceeded with a record reaching 310 birds!

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The usual build up of duck species continues with in excess of 450 Common Teal and 20 Pintail. Other ducks worth mentioning include Common Shelduck, Gadwall and Mallard. There were 5 Black-tailed Godwit and 10 Ruff either roosting or feeding.

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17-10-16-peregrines-on-the-blue-topped-chimney-weston-point-bill-morton-10A Kingfisher was watched looking for somewhere to roost for the evening and chose a hawthorn bush overhanging the water.

There was a pair of Peregrine on the blue-topped chimney, they were both sat there preening until the male launched itself (bungee like) from the chimney edge and dropped like a stone hurtling to the ground 107metres (354ft) below. No sooner was it out of sight than it reappeared high over the power station building to rejoin the female again on the chimney’s lip and she didn’t appear to be too impressed.

Observer and images: WSM.

The blue-topped chimney

The history of the power station is a little vague. There are only a few references to it online. It was constructed sometime between 1910 and 1920 to serve the new Castner Kellner plant at Weston Point. The plant, originally built to produce various acids and alkalis through electrolysis later came under the ownership of I.C.I and today is run by Ineos Chlor. The original turbine sets were replaced by more up to date Parsons units in the 1930s (two of which remain in situ) and sometime during the 1950s four of those were replaced with upgraded AEI/Vickers sets. In 1998 the more modern ‘Rocksavage’ station opened on the other side of the I.C.I Runcorn site rendering Weston Point’s generation capacity obsolete.

Have a read of this article about the inside of the power station building and watch the video here: http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/weston-point-power-station-runcorn-may-2011.t60571

16.10.16. Birdlog

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I started at Ince Marsh this morning and walked along the Manchester Ship Canal and headed around No.4 tank. There were 6 Fieldfare filtering through from the east coast and were along the lane by the Pig Farm, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over too. The new pools were quiet with a few Mallard and Common Teal noted. Along the ship canal path a mixed flock of tits fed along the hedgerow with a charm of the ever-present Goldfinch around.

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16-10-16-dunlin-and-starlings-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonOut on the Frodsham Score salt marsh were 3 Great White Egret along with several Little Egret and a Grey Heron were sat amongst a gull roost. As the tide came in a couple of hundred Golden Plover rose up and circled round before settling down again. A Starling bait ball and a similar assembly of Dunlin were trying to avoid an unseen predator. On the bird of prey front it was a little quiet with only Common Buzzard and Kestrel seen. A single Green Sandpiper was on the canal bank and two WeBs counters were looking over the marsh from the high bank. A couple of Grey wagtail were near the incinerator plant.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

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We made our way along Moorditch Lane before taking a 360 degree turn to retrace our steps at the junction of tank, 3, 5 & 6. The mitigation pools had 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Common Teal and a bunch of Raven nearby.

No.6 tank held most of the Shoveler flock from yesterday numbering 278 while Common Teal were hovering around the 360 mark. 20 Pintail, Gadwall, 45 Tufted Duck and 5 Common Pochard. There were 7 Ruff lingering along the muddy edges on the tank.

Observers: Sparky and WSM (image 4).

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Ian Coote) A flurry of activity on the WeBs count along the Mersey marshes today saw a couple of Black Swan, 4 Great White Egret, Glaucous Gull on Frodsham Score/Mersey marshes and a Yellow-browed Warbler (only just outside of the Frodsham area…alas!). There was also a Harbour Porpoise in the river.

Per Shaun Hickey

A couple of images showing the wind farm on the marsh and another images looking to Runcorn bridge and beyond stanchions for the new bridge over Wigg and Spike Islands.

Shaun Hickey (images 5-6).