29.01.17. Birdlog

29-01-16-stonechats-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonOut again this morning starting off from Ince. I got out of the car and immediately thought I heard a Green Woodpecker calling in the distance? I couldn’t be sure as it didn’t call again so I dismissed it.

29-01-16-gadwall-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonThe first of the new pools still hosted a pair of Mute Swan and several Common Teal with both Mallard and a single drake Pintail. The Curlew were again feeding in the field close to the last of the pools which had a pair of flighty Gadwall. A dozen Stock Dove were busy feeding at the waters edge.

Onward as always to the Manchester Ship Canal path and there were more Gadwall on the canal with Tufted Duck, Common Teal, Mallard and a large raft of Coot. The grebes were again here with 4 Little and a single Great Crested. A gathering of 5 Great Black-backed Gull were washing and preening the blood and guts off their plumages after gorging on the sheep and lamb carcases on the salt marsh. The Mute Swan and Greylag Goose brotherhood are still faithful to their fields near the Holpool Gutter. Three Common Buzzard were sat in the hedgerow and looked well fed after the marsh food bounty.

29-01-16-wader-flock-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston There wasn’t much to report from No.6 tank because the mud was partly frozen but a flock of Dunlin with at least one remaining Little Stint from yesterday were huddled together waiting for it to thaw. A flock of Black-tailed Godwit  were likewise bunched together a short distance away.

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The Whooper Swan herd was again near the blue slurry tank and the nearby flooded fields either side of the tank had Redshank and a few Dunlin.

A large flock of Goldfinch were busy feeding on the teasles on No.4 which drew the attention of a passing Sparrowhawk. Retracing my steps along the canal path and I spotted a pair of Kestrel were engaged in bonding manoeuvres, while wisely a couple of Stonechat sat in the reeds were keeping a careful eye on their activities (another pair of chats were seen back near Ince Berth).

29-01-16-great-white-egret-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonThe Great White Egret was seen out on the salt marsh and 5 Little Egret were counted. Finally back at the Ince Berth and there were c200 Lapwing with a small numbers of Dunlin. Both species joined a Starling flock which suddenly rose into the air as a Peregrine passed over. Looking out onto the marsh a Merlin was seen to leave its driftwood perch and fly low over the ground only to settle down in the grass. When I eventually reached my car the Green Woodpecker could be heard calling from the trees on the Growhow Works road!

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3 & 5).

Image 4 of the Whooper Swan herd feeding in fields close to Hillview Farm as seen from the M56 westbound carriageway (WSM).

This post in memory of MSG.

28.01.17. Birdlog

28-01-17-common-buzzard-pale-morph-pumping-station-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2I came on to the marsh this morning  via the M56 bridge at Brook Furlong Lane and made my way straight to Marsh Farm. From here I sat out the worse of the weather watching a field full of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Every other fence post seemed to have a Raven sat upon it waiting in turn to feast on dead sheep lying in the field. After the rain eased I left the farm and made my way to No.6 tank which had good numbers of ducks and waders.

28-01-17-little-stint-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-54 The highlights included 2 Little Stint and some Ruff. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and a look over Frodsham Score salt marsh. There were even more Raven out patrolling and several Little Egret were seen on the rising tide. Raptors were in short supply with only Common Buzzard and Kestrel seen during my walk. There was also 24 Mute Swan and 14 Greylag Goose present near the Holpool Gutter and a pair of Stonechat sat on a bramble bush. The Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distance near the blue slurry tank but a better view was had on the way home looking over the marsh from Helsby.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 5 & 7 & 9).

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The wet and miserable weather started from the off and initially it was difficult to wring any birds from the morning watch. In between periods of rain the birds began to appear. It started with 3 Little Stint on the edge of a 900 strong Dunlin flock. The stints could be seen until dusk as the sun finally appeared towards the end of the day. A flock of 450 Black-tailed Godwit were scattered all over the shallow water and again the Bar-tailed Godwit perform nicely along with 110 Redshank.

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The cold wind was from a south-westerly direction and most of the ducks were seeking shelter from the chill under the southern banks. Common Teal  numbered 331 with 100 Shoveler, 20 Pintail, Wigeon, Common Shelduck, Mallard, 34 Common Pochard and 30 Tufted Duck.

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I made my way to the banks overlooking Frodsham Score where the Great White Egret was seen in the distance and a Peregrine was sat on a washed up tree stump. On the ebbing tide several hundred Grey Plover and 5000 Dunlin were waiting on the marsh edge for the mud to reappear. A couple of Stonechat were on No.4 tank with 11 Meadow Pipit dancing up out of the grass and the odd Song Thrush flushed from cover.

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28-01-17-short-eared-owl-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3The Raven flock were hanging out on the fence line above No.2 and at one point there were ten of them sat in one elder tree. The presence of numerous dead sheep was providing ample sustenance for crows, a couple of Great Black-backed Gull and some scavenging Common Buzzard. A Stonechat was along a reedy ditch and the Starling flocks were gathering prior to their push to the roost sites elsewhere. The highlight for the day was a bedraggled Short-eared Owl flapping across No.6 tank in glorious evening sunshine.

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The flock of lingering winter thrushes were again in fields alongside Moorditch Lane with 130 Fieldfare, 60 Redwing, 4 Mistle, 10 Blackbird and 6 Song Thrush.

Observer WSM: (images 1-4 & 6 & 8).

25.01.17. Birdlog

25-01-17-sunset-from-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1225-01-17-sunset-from-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-17I managed to shoehorn in 35 minutes of birding after work this evening despite all the traffic lights seemingly on red. I arrived to catch the apocalyptic sun shimmering behind the Growhow works and watched a couple of Little Stint feeding on the muddy areas of No.6 tank with c50 Dunlin. The Lapwing flocks had gathered for their roost with 600 birds and a handful of Golden Plover. The Black-tailed Godwit flock were on the southern edge of the tank with 9 Ruff and 50 Redshank.

24-12-16-little-stint-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-29Ducks were again in good numbers but the failing light only gave me enough time to count 140 Shoveler (there were more), 20 Pintail, 34 Common Pochard and several hundred Common Teal.

I made a quick dash over to No.3 tank where there were more Lapwing roosting up with 40 Dunlin and a third Little Stint.

Raven numbers have increased from last weekend so it will be good to get some proper numbers in the next few days.

Observer and images: WSM.

22.01.17. Birdlog

22-01-17-whooper-swans-hillview-farm-helsby-marsh-paul-ralstonOut on a walk this morning from Ince.  A couple of Mute Swan have joined the Mallard and Common Teal on the new pools on Ince marsh with a single Redshank and several Curlew nearby. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path where more Mallard dappled with Teal while Tufted Duck dived. A large raft of Coot sailed on the canal and a lone Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Little Grebe were present. The salt marshes was quiet as several wildfowlers were dotted about with their goose decoys set out and about.

21-01-17-Curlew flock-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonA Little Egret flew west along the ship wall, while a Peregrine muscled its way out to the River Mersey. The Mute Swan herd were again with their Greylag Goose companions close to the gutter. The Canal Pools had Wigeon, Common Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and the ubiquitous Mallard with another single Great Crested Grebe. A large flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover took to the air from fields by Marsh Farm and several Raven were on their shepherding patrol.

22-01-17-fox-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonA herd of 20 Whooper Swan were feeding near the blue slurry tank and 2 Mute’s were the only birds on the flooded field by Lordship Lane this morning. Walking back along the lane a Magpie was alarm calling as a Fox was sat on the bank and waited and watched me pass below before stealthfully slipping away.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

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A couple of images looking over Lordship Lane and the flooded fields of Lordship Marsh. The Whooper’s that Paul saw are beyond the blue slurry tank in the centre of image 5.

Images 4-5 by WSM.

4 Crossbill in pines opposite Whitegate carpark entrance/Station Road, Delamere Forest this afternoon per WSM.

21.01.17. Birdlog

21-01-17-black-and-bar-tailed-godwits-and-ruff-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-9A herd of 24 Mute Swan and 14 Greylag Goose were in farm fields alongside the Holpool Gutter (another 4 Mute’s were in the flooded fields of Lordship Marsh at the junction of No’s.4 and 6 tanks). Also in the same field was a flock of Curlew, Ruff, Redshank with a handful of Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit. A pair of Stonechat were on the Manchester Ship Canal path whilst another pair were close to the gutter.

21-01-17-mute-swans-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonObserver: Paul Ralston (image 2).

21-01-17-black-and-bar-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6I arrived on the marsh mid morning with the intention of watching No.6 tank but the overnight frost covered the shallow muddy margins and most of the waders excluding caldris types were feeding in the deeper shallows. A scattered flock of 190 Black-tailed Godwit included a small gathering close to the north banks. This group again included two Bar-tailed Godwit presumably from the previous weekend. Both birds were giving excellent views alongside the BtG’s and were easily picked out by their much paler plumage, bill shape and supercilium. A good little lesson if you fancy comparing the two species side by side? Eventually the Dunlin flew in, in smaller bunched flocks and one such group had a Little Stint leading the way (as usual). My only Ruff of the day was asleep knee-deep in water with the godwits while the usual noisy, head bobbing and anxiety laden Redshank were forever wary.

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As the day progressed the distant flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover eventually took a break from flighting up and down at the sigh of any threats and settled on No.6 for the night.

21-01-17-shovelers-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4There was an impressive assembly of Shoveler on the tank with 217 birds countered also c600 Common Teal, 29 Common Pochard, 14 Tufted Duck, 27 Pintail, 23 Mallard, 8 Wigeon, 100 Common Shelduck and 6 Mute Swan.

21-01-17-common-buzzard-pumping-station-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonA pale morph Common Buzzard (see video here: https://vimeo.com/200485921) was mewing from a telegraph post at the ‘pumping station’. The pair of Marsh Harrier were engaged in prenuptial flight over No.6 tank at dusk and caused quite a bit of pandemonium amongst the plover flocks on No.2 tank.

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A walk out to view Frodsham Score from the banks of No.4 produced a Great White Egret and a handful of Little’s. An adult Peregrine was surveying the river from the salt marsh edge.

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A couple of Pink-footed Goose were on No.5 tank (MG).

The lambing season is underway on the marshes and this produces numerous stillborn. These in turn provide ample opportunities for Raven to cleanse the fields and salt marsh which otherwise would lay unattended. I made a rough count of 57 birds. A pair of Stonechat were by the track on No.5 tank and the usual roving band of Long-tailed Tit flock included a Goldcrest.

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Cormorants heading to their roost site on No.6 tank included two white-headed birds.

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The fields by the motorway bridge off Moorditch Lane had several hundred Fieldfare and Redwing with a few Blackbird, Mistle and Song Thrush present and a Green Sandpiper flew over calling and dropped into the ditch by the bridge.

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Observers: Arthur Harrison, Jacki and Idris Roberts, Matt Gillet (image 8), WSM (images 1 & 3-7 & 9-10).

20.01.17. Birdlog

20-01-17-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2My first after work visit to the marsh this year and I managed to squeeze in just over an hours worth. The day started off with fog creeping in from the Weaver valley but by lunch time it cleared away to produce a really Spring like day and the evening light was beautiful.

20-01-17-lapwings-and-common-snipe-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2On arrival at No.6 tank a roost of 500 Lapwing with much smaller numbers of Golden Plover. Dunlin were flying in and eventually totaled 300 birds. A single Common Snipe kept out in the open water with a few plovers while 9 Ruff could be found on the vegetated margins. 300 Black-tailed Godwit were mostly on the far side of the tank with the Shoveler, Common Teal and Pintail. The Common Pochard present were with Tufted Duck and included 26 birds.

The Cormorant roost included a white-headed bird amid the 19 present. A Water Rail was seen creeping in and out of the distant reedbed margins.

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Ravens were heading south at dusk and it was a little quiet on the marsh considering there were birds of greater value out over the Mersey estuary at about the same time.

Observer and images: WSM.

Little Stint reported earlier in the day.

16.01.17. Birdlog

16-01-17-bar-tailed-godwit-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-216-01-17-dunlin-flock-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-21A few hours to spare this afternoon and my obvious choice was to spend it watching the waders on the muddy edges of No.6 sludge tank. When I arrived all the birds were gathered in the centre of the mud and were some distance away. As is sometimes the case and without any obvious reason all the birds exploded from their roost and shot off in all directions. I know enough about these birds to know they are frequently disturbed by marauding raptors that frequent the marshes. After 20 minutes all the birds returned and resettled to feed, bathe and roost on the bare ground. The majority of shorebirds were Dunlin and during the course of my watch their numbers fluctuated between 1-3000 birds. Eventually the feeding birds fanned out and made their way from the main flocks and edged closer to the banks where I was watching from.

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One of the first birds to lead the way on feeding forays from the main flock is the petite yet robust and pioneering Little Stint. Today there was just the two 1st winter birds left from Saturday and typically bullying Dunlin that got in their way (Little Stint are a personal favourite of mine).

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16-01-17-bar-tailed-godwit-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-53It was obvious the big tides out on the river over the weekend encouraged a few additional species to linger longer on the sludge tanks. Apart from the feisty stints a Grey Plover hooked up with several hundred Lapwings on the waters edge. A flock of 250 Black-tailed Godwit were positioned further out on the southern edges of the tank. A splinter group of these birds chose the margins of the north bank a little to the left of my position. I carefully walked along the track so as not to flush the Common Teal that are usually a flusher species. Both the teal and godwits weren’t bothered by my pressence so it was easy to look through their numbers. I was surprised to find a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit (presumably one of which Alyn saw two days ago?) preening knee-deep in the water and giving some excellent views. A group of 32 Redshank were nearby nervously bobbing their heads, so I made a point of not getting too close and retraced my steps to watch from my original position.

Video of Bar-tailed Godwit here: https://vimeo.com/199791779

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I have mentioned previously that ducks are bread and butter birds here on the marsh and today was no exception. Common Pochard were again with Tufted Duck at the east end of the tank and numbered 39 and 68 respectively while Shoveler have increased with 120 birds. Pintail and Mallard were keeping to the centre of the tank and Common Teal were again in their hundreds. I could hear a Pink-footed Goose yapping in flight in the distance but couldn’t locate it. About half an hour later it circled the tank before dropping in for a wash and brush before heading out to the estuary.

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During the course of the afternoon the shorebirds were becoming more agitated and unsettled so when the sub-adult male Marsh Harrier flew across the open water this was too close for comfort for most of the Dunlin. The whole flock rose up and flew back to their main feeding grounds on the River Mersey.

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The Peregrine I mentioned at the start of this post was very attentive to the huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover out on the salt marshes and it frequently forced thousands of plovers into panic flocks high above Frodsham Score.

Passerines were fairly low-key and the Raven groups were enjoying a late winter sheep offal bonanza, while 9 Fieldfare and a roving tit/crest group were along the elder bushes by the track.

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16-01-17-waxwings-milner-road-warrington-bill-morton-17I made a brief visit to Milner Street in Warrington prior to visiting the marsh this morning to catch up with the Waxwing flock there. When I arrived the birds were sat on top of a tree at the entrance to the car showrooms then flew out to the berry-bearing trees at the main junction. A nice little diversion as I dipped the one’s in Liverpool last week.

Observer video and images: WSM.