I normally start off birding on the marshes with my usual high expectations and a walk out to the Weaver estuary produced Goldeneye, 11 Common Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Oystercatcher and a pair of Ringed Plover were my first of the year here. Not a bad start to the day, so I doubled back and headed out to No.6 tank.
The mid morning sunshine was playing havoc with viewing of the flooded tank with a build up of (400) Black-headed and (67) Common Gull silhouetted on the water, drastic situations required drastic actions. Frank made an appearance and whilst chatting with him a Cetti’s Warbler interrupted the conversation and began sub-singing from a hawthorn above the reed beds. A report of a possible Great Grey Shrike came through on social media but we often get claims of rare birds from the marshes which never seem materialize, so it was soon ignored and FD left.
My drastic action required a reposition and a watch from the south side where the light would be a lot better to observe the birds. A good move on my part and an opportunity to see what the recent rain and pumping of sludge onto the tank had done to the water table. It wasn’t a great surprise to note a reduction of waders with high water level. Despite this there were birds to look at which included: 15 Ruff, 230 Dunlin, 120 Golden Plover, 30 Black-tailed Godwit and 43 Redshank. Further out on the vegetated section of the tank a flock of c100 Curlew were settling down for the duration.
The duck numbers were higher than the previous post and 320 Common Teal, 111 Shoveler. 7 Pintail, a drake Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 34 Mallard, 43 Tufted Duck and 12 Common Pochard were duly noted.
A Marsh Harrier put in a good performance hunting the reed beds while a Sparrowhawk followed suite. As I was sat on the bank I could hear the yelping calls of Pink-footed Geese but couldn’t see them? It was later when I met Paul that he had seen them flying up from the fields behind my position and stated they had headed off to the river.
Whilst I was contemplating my next move ‘Iggy’ (one half of the deadly duo that is the Hale Birders) sent me a message saying that the GGS had been relocated at Marsh Lane. I quickly refocused my next priorities and set off. Walking back along Moorditch Lane a loud bellowing voice drew my attention to Chris Tynan (Liverpool RSPB) waving his arms and pointing in the general direction of Hares Lane. I coolly pirouetted my centre of gravity and hastily turned tail and headed towards Chris et al and the location of the Great Grey Shrike! It didn’t take long before the apparition in grey was spotted perched like a ghostly assassin keenly watching over its domain. Although quite mobile the shrike appeared to have a set routine, working the hedgerows of Lordship Marsh and on several occasions hovering over a particular spot for several seconds before flying across the stubble field to perch atop a bush or tree. It even coughed up a pellet, I guess it’s finding food down on the ground. A great find for Liverpool birder John Doragh.
Great Grey Shrike video here: https://vimeo.com/206741590
Later at dusk Shaun Hickey noted the GGS had dropped into a reed bed close to the motorway bridge and would likely be present tomorrow? If you do decide to go and see it remember that there are deep potholes pitted along the dirt tracks on the marsh. Most of these potholes are filled with rain water and can be a hidden danger. I know to my cost because, my car is booked into the mechanic on Tuesday to replace a cracked coil…You have been warned. Park on Marsh Lane and walk the short distance.
Observers: FD, WSM (video and images 1-3), Image 4 by Simon Knight.
I started out at the west end of the marshes at Ince where a small number of Black-tailed Godwit were at the new pools along with several Common Teal, Mallard and Gadwall. The pair of Mute Swan were back on the pool. The sunny conditions today felt Spring like and a couple of Common Buzzard agreed and got down to a spot of copulating at the top of a hawthorn bush. There were more Gadwall on the Manchester Ship Canal alongside a raft of Tufted Duck, 3 Little and a single Great Crested Grebe.
A flock of 200 Pink-footed Goose were on the Frodsham Score and several Little Egret were again present. The ravenous Raven and gluttonous gulls were spoilt for choice with plenty of carrion left on the marsh and they made a great job of cleaning up other persons mess. A group of 6 Stonechat were in the company of several Meadow Pipit and a male Reed Bunting was on the canal path. At the junction of No’s 4 and 6 there was another skein of c150 Pink-footed Goose (presumably the same birds Bill heard mentioned earlier) left the fields near the M56 and joined the flock on the salt marsh.
The Whooper Swan herd was again near the blue slurry tank and the 2 Bewick’s were again with them. 50 Curlew were on the flooded field and a large flock of gulls mostly Black-headed and Common Gull with a few Black-back and Herring in the next field.
Another group of 5 Stonechat were along the fence by the model flying field. Then the unexpected sight of the Great Grey Shrike which had been found earlier in the today was a nice surprise.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 5-9).
It is also worthy to note the Great White Egret, possible White-fronted Goose and a Hen Harrier were spotted from the Hale side of the river on or over Ince Marsh today per Dave Craven.