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.

26-11-16-frosty-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-4

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.

26-11-16-fieldfare-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-11

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.

26-11-16-great-tit-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2

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.

26-11-16-goldcrest-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-7.

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.

26-11-16-foggy-turbines-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-4

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.

26-11-16-hawthorn-berries-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-8

26-11-16-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1

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!!!

26-11-17-turbines-in-the-fog-frodsham-bill-morton-22

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.

25-11-16-female-chaffinch-pink-leg-ring-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton

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?

26-11-16-whooper-swans-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston

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.

26-11-16-bill-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-1

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.

26-11-16-stonechat-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston

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.

26-11-17-misty-sunset-no-6-tank-frodsham-bill-morton-14

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

26-11-17-misty-sunset-no-6-tank-frodsham-bill-morton-15

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.

20-11-16-whooper-and-mute-swans-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2

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).

19.11.16. Birdlog (Part 2)

19-11-16-goldcrest-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1Down to the marsh, along the M56, stopped off for a latte and made the bridge on Marsh Lane for 10.06 hrs. A glorious day. Bright sunshine, blue sky and a light south-westerly breeze. Parking up at the old birdlog adjacent to No.1 tank and I then wandered along the Brook Furlong Lane and then back across to Redwall and the River Weaver. There were c10 Fieldfares and 15 Redwings with a few (4) Song Thrush erupted from the berry-laden hawthorn hedges as I passed underneath.

19-11-16-long-tailed-tit-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome

19-11-16-goldcrest-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2A flock of tits contained just a single Long-tailed and a couple of Goldcrest. Interestingly, the photos I took clearly showed the features of our British subspecies, Aegithalos caudatus rosaceus, which has a spotted throat and small upside-down chevrons across the breast. A.g. europaeus, the European subspecies lacks these features, but it is the one usually illustrated in field guides. There were also 2 Stonechat, the usual pair were in the field by Redwall and around 15 Goldeneye fed out on the water towards the sluice gates.

19-11-16-blue-tit-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeI drove up to the Marsh Farm, but except for a dead calf, a handful of Raven, there wasn’t much. On the way to join Bill at the western end of No.6, I took a picture of a Chaffinch close to the parked car. Looking at the results later it had a hoverfly, Erisyrphus balteatus in its bill, which is a very late record for the insect although they are recorded in every month if the weather is mild. After lunch overlooking the mitigation area on No.3. Common Teal fed in the shallow water below us. We walked out to the bank overlooking Frodsham Score and viewed 4 distant Whooper Swan, a Great White Egret and up to 20 Little Egret. Dunlin flocks swirled and twisted like mist and eventually an estimated 10,000 settled on the edge of the water accompanied by 40 or so Grey Plover.

19-11-16-fieldfare-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome

A Marsh Harrier came across from the Hale side and headed for No.6 and flushed all the waders and ducks as it casually drifted by in the distance. A Merlin did a fly through and caused further unrest as it did so. 3 Grey Wagtail flew over going east. We went back to the junction of No.3, 4 and 6 to watch the Starling roost at dusk. There were eventually a flock of c5000 but the birds stayed away to the west as it grew darker. 18 Raven left the sheep dead sheep corpse on No.5 and headed for the hills to roost.

 

I also headed to my own roost, back up the M56 and not a bad day with some nice photos.

19-11-16-song-thrush-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome19-11-16-redwing-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome19-11-16-chaffinch-brook-furlong-lane-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeObserver and images: Tony Broome.

19.11.16. Birdlog (Part 1)

19-11-16-fox-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonAfter my earlier visit to see the Peregrine which was perched up on the Ethelfleda railway bridge and the Nordic Jackdaw both in Runcorn I made my way to Frodsham Marsh.

19-11-16-little-egret-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1There was a chill wind whipping up from the south-west and the sunny morning gave way to grey clouds in the late afternoon. No.6 tank had a gathering of 500 Lapwing with 200 Black-tailed Godwit and a couple of Ruff. The usual duck species were again present with both Shoveler and Common Teal being the most prominent. A smattering of Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Pintail and Common Shelduck made up the rest.

19-11-16-little-egret-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6Another dead sheep (of which there are many) attracted 18 Raven, 2 Common Buzzard and a Fox. Even a Little Egret dropped to see what all the fuss was about. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a pride of Lions were resting up nearby the carnage is endemic!

19-11-16-dunlin-flocks-off-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6

After pairing up with TB we made our way out to the area overlooking Frodsham Score. The rising tide forced a swirling mas of 10,000 Dunlin over the salting’s while 43 Grey Plover were waiting the tide out on the score edge. There were at least 20 Little Egret out on the marshes with a single Great White Egret. 5 Whooper Swan and 12 Mutes were other birds of note.

19-11-16-common-buzzard-feeding-off-dead-sheep-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6

Birds of prey were well represented with Kestrel, the blue-topped chimney Peregrine hawking high over Weston Point, a very mobile Merlin testing the nerve of a flock of Lapwing out on Frodsham Score while a wandering Marsh Harrier caused a mass panic sending everything up before it leisurely flapped over No.3 to roost out on six. The pale phase Common Buzzard was again perched up by the gun turret on the banks above the Manchester Ship Canal.

Observer and images: WSM.

The Viking Falcon

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-64I was out and about around Runcorn old town this morning and called in at Mersey Road to check on the Peregrine present on the bridge. After an absence of nearly 4 weeks the female Peregrine is back on her favourite perch. She sits boldly on the headdress of Britannia set into one of the heraldic shields that adorn the railway bridge. In actual fact the shield lays above the Widnes side of the river so now she’s known to me as the Viking Falcon.

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-2

A brief history of time.

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-38

In the year AD 915 the area south of the River Mersey was under the Kingdom of Mercia and was overseen by a Princess named Ethelfleda. She was the daughter of the Saxon King Alfred the Great. If you’re of a curtain generation then you may remember being taught this at school – Alfred was the king who burnt the cakes. Being the daughter of the king, Ethel was given charge to control the land of Mercia in this area up to, and including, the south shore of the River Mersey (the river derives its name from a Saxon word meaning ‘boundary’). The land to the north was controlled by the Danes (or Vikings if you like).

In more recent times the towns folk of Runcorn and Widnes got together and celebrated the naming of the railway bridge to their favourite daughter Ethelfleda.

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-11There is a point to this…when you travel across Runcorn Bridge from a southerly direction you can see adjacent to the road bridge a sandstone constructed railway bridge (Ethelfleda)  – both of these cross the River Mersey at the narrowest part of the Upper Mersey estuary.

04.07.16. Peregrine, Ethelfleda Railway Bridge. Bill Morton (1)

A car passengers view of where the Peregrine usually sits up on the railway bridge.

20.06.16. Peregrine, Runcorn Bridge. Bill Morton (2)

There are four heraldic shields depicting, two of Britannia seated and holding shields, one of a bird (which looks like a Black Stork but is probably a Cormorant) and one heraldic shield. Just below both of the Britannia shields is a metal via ferrata type ladder. Some days (normally during the winter months) you get a really good view of a fine adult Peregrine Falcon just perched up on the ladder. If there are lots of feral pigeons on the bridge then it’s unlikely the falcon will not be present.

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-35

Ethelfleda Railway Bridge where the Peregrine rests up (viewed from Mersey Road, Runcorn).

Where to see the Peregrine.

The falcon can be seen from the comfort of your car along Mersey Road at either Runcorn old town or West Bank, Widnes. If it is there then it’s a lot safer viewing than craning your neck whilst attempting to drive over the bridge and looking for her.

Alternatively if you fancy combining raptor watching with some Starling murmurations then get here at 3.00 pm on a winters evening. There is a good chance to see Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk or even a Merlin? The gulls move west to their roost site on the Mersey estuary at dusk and the chances of seeing large gulls like Iceland and Glaucous are real possibilities.

Video of the Peregrine here: https://vimeo.com/192287393

19-11-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-lake-runcorn-bill-morton-2On the same Scandinavian theme nearby the Nordic Jackdaw can still be seen at the park lake off Park Road, Runcorn for its fourth year.

WSM.

13.11.16. Birdlog

13-11-16-sunrise-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeWith high pressure over the UK it was forecast to be cold and calm with some sun. They were correct technically. Dawn came with a beautiful sunrise and a pale blue sky and a heavy dew. What a day it would be with weather like that I thought. However, as I got further west along the M56, the greyer the sky became and by the time I got to Frodsham and stopped off for a latte from my favourite venue, it was completely overcast with high cloud, but not a breath of wind. I pulled up at the old log and sipped the coffee out of a Christmas(sy) decorated cup. Nearly that time again! I set off down the lane, disturbing thrushes as I did so and turned sharp left.

13.11.16. Buttonweed, Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

13.11.16. Stonechatr, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeThere were 6 Fieldfare, 15 Redwing, 10 Blackbird and 3 Song Thrush. Ever onward, I headed out up the Weaver. There were workmen in bright orange suits on the other side and the birds were few and those present were jumpy. A pair of Stonechat sat and watched me pass by, ignoring me for the most and dropping down to catch insects every now and again. The ground was carpeted in Buttonweed Cortula coronopifolia in flower, an introduced species from South Africa. The yellow flowers brightened up what was becoming quite a gloomy day.

4k1a9381

13.11.16. Common Sandpiper, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeA Green Sandpiper called overhead as it came off Frodsham Score, followed shortly after by a Common Sandpiper which came out in front of me and flew off across the river. Two Grey Wagtail also fed by the water, not far from a small group of waders, 30 Redshank and 11 Black-tailed Godwit. 16 Curlew were roosting on the grass with their heads down, whilst around 200 Dunlin and a single Grey Plover fed on the mud as the tide receded. 7 Grey Heron sat about lazily waiting for the tide to drop lower still.

13.11.16. Cormorantr, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

13.11.16. Cormorant, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

I watched a Cormorant wrestling with an eel for quite a while, before the bird dived and came up with a lump in its neck, obviously having won the contest. The water was flat calm, flatter than I can remember and every bird stood out as they drifted past. I scanned in the hope of something unusual, but it wasn’t to be. 12 Great-Crested Grebe in total, 6 on the river and 6 on the Mersey estuary. One bird was in full summer plumage and a pair were displaying to each other, head-shaking in their rituals.

13.11.16. River Barge, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

 

13.11.16. Common Sandpiper, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome13.11.16. Kingfisher, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeAnother Common Sandpiper, the second one of the day flew towards me and pitched in under the bank. I tried sneaking up on it but couldn’t find it, but was treated to nice views of a female Kingfisher which hovered and sat about in front of me for some time. An old barge, the ‘Loach’ appeared and chugged past me with an almost perfect reflection in the water. Other than that, 48 Tufted Duck and 32 Coot on the Weaver, along with 20 Goldeneye further towards the Weaver Bend were the only real counts of any description. 27 Pink-footed Goose flew a long way to the west of me and dropped onto the salt marsh. Numbers of Lapwing at my end of the Score were low, with about 250 feeding on the grass.

13.11.16. Meadow Pipit, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

13.11.16. Partial leusistic Blackbird, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeTime for lunch. Another pair of Stonechat sat around in Redwall reed bed along with a small flock of Meadow Pipit. A black thrush with white on its head dived past me and I managed to locate it in a dense Hawthorn. It turned out to be a partially leucistic male Blackbird. I drove around to No.6 and put up a flock of 61 Common Snipe which was a great count considering that they are usually in ones or twos and there were 3 at the west end of No.3 and 2 more in the ‘Secluded Pool’, making 66 for the day. No.6 held a single Little Egret, 2 Dunlin, 2 Ruff and 1 Little Stint.

13.11.16. Cetti's Warbler, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

13.11.16. Little Egret, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeAlyn Chambers counted the ducks, but I didn’t spend a long time there before moving on to No.3, having finished lunch with included a piece of New York deli pie, a food tick for me and well worth it. The day got even gloomier and it began to get dark by 3 o’clock.

The so-called “mitigation” area of No.3 is a jok!. With zero management in place, it is choked by nettles, docks and thistles. Consequently, apart from 60+ Teal, there was nothing else. So much for the promises made by Peel Energy and the people involved with the ongoing work here.

I headed back down No.6 where a Cetti’s Warbler appeared briefly before noisily moving away. An immature Marsh Harrier came off No.4 and disappeared over into the vast bed of phragmites. 10 more Fieldfare went north and another 20 dropped into the silver birch on No.6 to roost. The Starling began to arrive, totaling around 1000, pursued by an adult Marsh Harrier which deftly caught one without really trying and a Sparrowhawk which only panicked the flock and it failed miserably. A single Kestrel didn’t even bother but hovered for small mammals instead.

13.11.16. Pied Wagtail, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeSo not to bad-a-day really. Not much good for photography, but at least a few interesting things. I drank what was left of my coffee saddled up my vehicle and headed back east along the M56 into the darkness!

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-14 & 16-20)

13.11.16. Merlins, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Alyn ChambersThe high tide on the estuary was a little higher than yesterday and brought in a better selection of waders to No.6 tank today they included: 1 Grey Plover, 2 Golden Plover and 5 Ruff with Lapwing. 1 Bar-tailed Godwit with 200 Black-tailed Godwit. Also 1 Little Stint and 1 Avocet. 30 Pink-footed Goose flew west and a Cetti’s Warbler was calling from the reeds. A pair of Merlin were on No.3 tank.

Observer: Alyn Chambers (image 15).

13.11.16. Common Sandpiper, Mersey Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome13.11.16. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome13.11.16. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome13.11.16. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome13.11.16. Ducks, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

A few more of Tony’s images from today on the marsh.