02.01.17. Birdlog

02-01-17-grey-heron-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonI  started my walk out at Ince this morning and the drake Pintail was again on the new pools there with both Mallard and Common Teal. A small flock of Fieldfare were searching the bushes for the remaining berries.


02-01-17-goldfinch-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonAlong the canal path a large flock of mixed finches included Linnet, Goldfinch and Chaffinch with several Reed Bunting were active in the area. They all got spooked when a Sparrowhawk cruised by. On the Manchester Ship Canal were a few ducks including Common Teal. Tufted Duck, Mallard with Coot, Little and Great Crested Grebe gathered. A herd of 18 Mute Swan with 5 Greylag Goose were on the field alongside the Holpool Gutter. A ship was making its way out of the ship canal and flushed 2 Common Sandpiper from the far bank with 3 Redshank . I saw a Peregrine which was in hot pursuit of a wader that managed to seek the safety of the bank of No.4 while the falcon throw on its anchors and aborted the mission. I finished 2016 with a Chiffchaff and started 2017 with a Chiffchaff that popped up of top of some bushes on the banks of No.6.


02-01-017-stonechat-no-4-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-8A couple of Little Stint were with a small flock of 50 Dunlin  and a larger flock of Black-tailed Godwit which were close in to the bank. A Great Crested Grebe was seen to catch a small silver fish while a Grey Heron was searching for eels in the shallow water. There were several Stonechat during the course of my walk and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in bushes on the south end of 6.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4 & 8 & 10).


On arrival at Moorditch Lane close to the bridge the crosses the M56 motorway the Fieldfare and Redwing were still feeding in the horse paddock field. Along the track that separates No.5 and No.6 tanks, it opens out on your left hand side revealing the open vista of the working sludge tank of six. Today the majority of the mud and open water was frozen and there were no calidris waders present from Paul’s earlier visit. A gathering of 3-400 Common Teal, 77 Shoveler, 45 Common Shelduck, 3 drake Wigeon, 15 Common Pochard, 23 Tufted Duck and 7 Pintail were a decent mixture of ducks.


02-01-17-chiffchaff-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonI didn’t linger long and continued to No.4 where I met PR and we carried on to the eastern edge of the tank to watch the incoming tide. Overlooking Frodsham Score salt marshes the only birds viewable were the usual Canada Goose with a couple of white domestic birds in tow. The Great White Egret soon appeared from Ince marshes and was joined by half a dozen Little’s. The GWE flew out and settled on the score giving some good views on a beautiful sunny day with a slight breeze only increasing with the arrival of the tide. Shorebirds were moving in the distance with Dunlin, Grey Plover and Curlew staying on the rivers edge.


A Green Sandpiper flew out of the Holpool Gutter below the bank where we stood and 4 Stonechat were giving good views from the same area. Paul had seen another 6 birds at various points of his walk and I managed an additional pair later in the day on No.5. So, given the 6 birds seen at the eastern end of the marsh we have 18 birds this winter!


02-01-17-common-snipe-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonAn adult Peregrine flew into the salt marsh and landed on a washed up tree and soon after took flight and headed purposely to the Growhow Works where it connected with another adult and they both engaged in a ritual aerial display. This was a great spectacle to watch and was made even better when a third bird came into view and all three were in the air together. Shortly after Paul said his farewell I continued watching the big gulls roosting the tide out while a Merlin shot overhead.

I returned to No.6 but there wasn’t much in the way of shorebirds, even the godwits uprooted and headed out to the river. There was plenty of squealing Water Rails in the reed bed below the bank and a couple of Common Snipe flew over head.

Video from the viewing area of No.6 tank: https://vimeo.com/197938629


02-01-17-clouds-over-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4Observer: WSM (video & images 5-7 & 11-12).


31.12.16. Birdlog

dsc_1331Stepping out this morning from Ince on the last visit of the year.  The pig farm fields held a large flock of Curlew and the new pools had an addition to the usual Mallard and Common Teal with a drake Pintail with them for company.


Out on the salt marsh there were 2 Great White Egret side by side with several Little Egret. The Wildfowlers were out by the River Mersey on the edge of the score marshes and their labrador was seen to retrieve a goose from a tidal gutter and later a Wigeon was seen to drop like a stone in to the river after being shot.  Onward with my walk up to No.6 tank and a mass of waders left the tank and made their way out to the estuary (looks like I mis-timed my visit again). A selection of ducks and smaller numbers of waders were present including a couple of Little Stint. Walking back along the Manchester Ship Canal path and a flock of Linnet and Chaffinch were moving through and a Goldcrest was with a mixed tit flock.


At Ince Berth a Chiffchaff was seen looking for insects on the wall. On the lane back to were I had left my car there was a number of Reed Bunting and a species which up to 4 years ago was a regular sight in the hedgerow here but has not been seen by me since…Yellowhammer was a nice finish to my walk and to the year.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 1).

dsc_1393I took the last opportunity of 2016 to do a spot of birding on the marshes. Starting off from the advantage point above No.6 tank. The flock of waders that had settled below me all took off and disappeared over the horizon. I was beginning to have the same thoughts that Paul had earlier (was it the aftershave?). It wasn’t long before they all return and settled down to have some frenzied feeding. The Lapwings were quite skittish and kept their distance while Dunlin didn’t appear to be too bothered and commenced feeding below the bank from where I was standing. The Little Stints that had been seen earlier increased by one and all three were present until dusk. Other birds of note here included 340 Dunlin, 132 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff, 78 Common Shelduck, 675 Common Teal, 111 Shoveler, 8 Pintail, 1 Common Pochard and  34 Tufted Duck.

I met Alyn Chambers and his brother during the course of this watch and they added 15 Common Pochard on the River Weaver, a Merlin and 3 lots of Stonechat numbering 6 in all.

There was an interesting event that Alyn witnessed today when a Herring Gull was struck by one of the rotor blades on a wind turbines positioned on No.4 tank. The gull was seen to fall to the ground and it was presumed this bird was killed by the blade.


I decided to make a trip to the south-east corner of No.4 tank to look across the fields. It didn’t take me long to find 15 Whooper Swan feeding in the flooded fields alongside the motorway. I saw these swans yesterday whilst driving west along the carriageway and Alyn also mentioned seeing them earlier in the week, so it looks like they are back again.


I walked out to the banks of 4 and looked out across the salt marshes and saw a single Great White and 5 Little Egret but not a lot of anything else.


I spent the rest of the day up until dusk watching the gathering of 1000 Lapwing and 900 Golden Plover to their roosting places on No.6. A male Sparrowhawk made a half-hearted attempt to ambush the roost. The plovers had a clear view from all sides and were up and over before the raptor could make any attempt to catch one. The highlight of the evening was the arrival of an immature female and a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier performing acrobatic manoeuvres over the reed beds.

…and the birds to end the year go to the two adult Peregrines watching the end of the day on top of the blue topped chimney.

Video of No.6 tank here: https://vimeo.com/197942678

Observer: WSM (video & images 1-3 & 5-6).

22.10.16. Birdlog


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.


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).


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.

The Marshes c1900

the-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-c1900-2I have been looking a long time for images of Frodsham Marsh shortly after the Manchester Ship Canal was completed and today I have been successful. The first image shows the Weaver estuary (inner top left) with its marshland edges and the cultivated fields stretching inland to the village of Frodsham. At the far right hand side is the Weaver Bend with the small island visible and Weston Marsh which today is under a disused sludge tank.






The second photograph shows the flooded No.1 sludge tank occupying the river marshland area.The container walls are excavated soil taken from the interior of the sludge bed and are no higher than a couple of metres.   It is only speculation what this tank situated a stone’s throw from the River Mersey would have attracted all those years ago. There were no ornithologists/bird watchers in the area to catalogue the huge flocks of waders, not to mention the numerous Nearctic shorebirds that surely must have appeared each autumn. I’ll have to get me one of those time travelling machines when they get invented.

On both images it is interesting to note the lack of development in Runcorn and across the Liverpool skyline.


Views on and from No.6 tank


23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17) - Copyselection of images from today at No.6 tank of views that would be unfamiliar to regular visitors and taken on a fine summer’s day. 

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7) - CopyHelsby Hill is a dominant feature to the south-west of the marshes and the open water in front was once open farmland and part of the vast Lordship Marsh.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

A remnant and solitary hawthorn tree is one of the last dead hedgerows that once formed the field boundaries on Lordship Marsh.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11) - Copy

Today this area occupies No.6 deposit sludge tank that contains the sludge and silt from the nearby Manchester Ship Canal.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (24) - Copy

The Growhow works is part of an encroaching industrial sprawl from west of the Holpool Gutter at the former Ince Marshes.

23.04.16. Ramp track off Moorditch Lane, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

The ramp track to No.5 tank off Moorditch Lane.

23.04.16. Old drainage shaft tower, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

An old drainage tower on No.5 tank which is slowly falling into disrepair.

All images by WSM.

Recent Short Films

Youtube videos

A short video of the Great White Egret on Frodsham Score.

A 2.45 minute video of part of the Starling roost and their entrance into the Canal Pool roost.

A female Merlin.

The Cattle Egret at the Canal Pools.

Above videos by Paul Ralston and taken over the last week from the marsh.


Sunsetting over Frodsham Marsh by WSM.