01.05.17. Birdlog (Part 2) & NN #58

I thought this mornings watch by Joe from Chester couldn’t get any better considering the volume of marsh terns sweeping across Cheshire  (how wrong could I be).

Myself and Sparky decided to spend some of Bank Holiday Monday walking the trails of Delamere Forest. When we arrived it seemed that all the world, its wife and kids had come up with the same idea (that Gruffalo in the forest has got a lot to answer for ;O). Renegotiating our route we walked out to the former Eddisbury Fruit Farm on Yeld Lane in the hope of seeing some of the lingering Waxwing that were reported yesterday. Drawing a blank we were just about to turn tail and wander back into the forest when the trilling calls lured us up the lane to a tree where the flock were sat out in the open.

The birds were still gorging themselves on the fermenting apples still bubbling away on the floor of the  orchard. Going by the methane haze hanging above the tree you can only imagine the wind swaying the branches (and I’m not talking about the breeze). The highlight was the bizarrely unique experience of trilling Waxwings and a singing male Cuckoo in the distance…surreal!

While we were in the forest I received a text from PR who was out on the marsh and kept me abreast of the Black Tern situation on the Weaver Bend…they were still there!

When you have a partner who isn’t remotely interested in birding it can take a lot of diplomatic negotiations to persuaded them that a Black Tern is of paramount importance. If that doesn’t work, falling to your knees and sobbing uncontrollably usually does the trick!

We had a lovely walk in the forest with a Redpool flock and a Crossbill heard. When Paul sent me another text saying that there was now 14 terns we delayed a visit to the local supermarket and was on the Weaver Bend in the blink of an eye.

On arrival Sparky was the first to spot the Black Tern flock hawking over the ‘bend’ while a Lesser Whitethroat was singing from the eastern banks of the I.C.I tank. Although the lads on scrambler bikes could have been a bit more thoughtful (as if).

Other birds noted this afternoon included: Swift, Cetti’s Warbler and 2 Marsh Harrier per Shaun Hickey, Gary Worthington.  Also spotted from the Hale side of the estuary was an Arctic Tern flying alongside Frodsham Score plus 4 Black Tern leaving the Weaver estuary and a Little Gull by the sluice gate close to Marsh Farm Farm. Observers: Dave Craven & Ian Igglesden.

Paul was situated on the bank watching the terns and we both took loads of photographs while they were unconcerned by our presence. During the course of our watch more birds joined those already present and another 16 were added. At the last count 32 birds were on the river.

Nature Notes #58

Paul had witnessed earlier in the day the spectacle of a Stoat killing a young Rabbit and managed to capture the moment on his camera.

Observers: Frank Duff, Mike Turton (image 1), Paul Ralston (images 5 & 7-13), Sparky, WSM (images 2-4 & 6).

19.03.17. Birdlog

A walk around No.6 tank this morning starting off from Godscroft Lane where a Chiffchaff was calling by the M56 bridge and a flock of Curlew passed overhead. A mixed flock of waders were on  the mud on No.6 and featured Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Redshank, Curlew and a small amount of Dunlin with 3 Avocet. The ducks were in good numbers with Common Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a few Pintail were all noted .

The mitigation area pools held more Black-tailed Godwit and a single Ruff with more Shoveler and Common Teal on the water there. A flock of Raven were tucking in to the Sunday Spring lamb dinner and holding their own against the Great Black-backed Gulls. A walk along the footpath to view the Whooper Swan herd of which there were 20 grazing with a flock of Black-tailed Godwit feeding alongside them.

On the flooded field were c300 Golden Plover sat with the Lapwing flock and were then joined by more godwits and Curlew.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

We spent the morning walking the trails around and through Delamere Forest with the prospect of dropping in at Yeld Lane by the former Eddisbury Fruit Farm. The Waxwing flock that have been present for some time were close to the road flying in from the poplars trees to the west of the farm. I estimated that there were 45 birds although there have been nearer to 170 birds in the week. Watching the flock through the hedgerow for 30 minutes was good value until a big female Sparrowhawk dropped by and scattered the punkettes.

Understandably most of the birds left the area with a few left to guzzle up the fermenting fruit laying on the orchard floor. Just before we left the “kyow” calls of a Mediterranean Gull drew my attention to a pair overhead and giving me the unique view of flying Waxwing and Med Gull in the same binocular view.

We continued our walk via Linmere Farm where there were 3 Crossbill flying overhead and these or another group could be heard flying over Black Lake an hour later.

Observers: Sparky & WSM (images 5-7).

Marsh

february-2017-waders-and-hale-lighthouse-shaun-hickeyA few gloomy wind-swept images taken by Shaun Hickey from the WeBS count on Sunday last. The above picture is of Dunlin flying out to the Hale side of the River Mersey.

february-2017-swans-and-turbines-on-no-4-tank-from-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyA flock of swans head out to the marsh from Frodsham Score.

february-2017-lapwingsfrom-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyLapwings disturbed from their resting grounds rise up over the fields of Stanlow.

february-2017-ince-berth-shaun-hickeyThe turbines with Ince Berth alongside the Manchester Ship Canal.

february-2017-pink-footed-geese-from-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyA skein of Pink-footed Geese string along the sky above the Mersey Marshes.

All images by Shaun Hickey.

Winter Solstice Edition

02-10-16-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-9Now that we’ve finally reached the shortest day and what is effectively the true celebration of this season. I have collected a few images from the last week or so to illustrate the marsh in just a few of its mid winter moods.

Above the power station at Rocksavage is mirrored in the still waters of the River Weaver.

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The second image shows the change in weather systems from a cool clear day to the brief period when the Weaver valley and the marsh are shrouded in morning fog. The image above has a curious disruption through the clouds which could be caused by an aircraft flying through the canopy?

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Looking west from the banks of No.5 tank across the mitigation area of No.3 tank fields to the turbines on No.4.

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No.3 tank and the mitigation area . Unfortunately much was expected from this site but as yet it has reaped very little for the time and effort afforded to it.

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Looking east along the ancient road that is Lordship Lane looking to Frodsham Marsh from Ince Marsh fields. The old Kamira woods lay to the right of the image.

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The flooded fields of Lordship Marsh and Frodsham Hill beyond. Whooper Swans occasionally use the fields to graze when there is little disturbance.

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No.5 tank looking east to the turbine substation and the old fence line where hopefully we’ll being seeing Short-eared Owls if the weather turns colder.

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No.2 tank just south of Marsh Farm an excellent site for Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover.

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The steaming plumes of vapour emitting from Fiddlers Ferry Power Station in the distance and the incinerator plant beyond the blue-topped (ex) power station chimney at Weston Point.

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A flock of Lapwings in flight and behind the Mersey estuary and the gantry wall that shields the Manchester Ship Canal from Christchurch at Weston Point.

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Finally, the omnipresent wind turbines caught in the ebbing sunset over No.6 tank. One of my favourite pictures from the marsh this month is this Tolkienesque image of the dark watch tower of Barad-dûr laying across the (literally) dead marshes.

Images: 1-2 & 11 by WSM and images 3-10 by Tony Broome.

A Nordic Jackdaw (revisited)

08-12-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-fields-bill-morton-1608-12-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-fields-bill-morton-13A couple of years ago 19th December 2014 to be exact I came across a Jackdaw with pale whitish patches to the sides of its neck and concluded it was a Nordic Jackdaw belong to the form Corvus monedula monedula. I regularly saw the bird in an area parkland off Park Road, Runcorn throughout the winter and into the following Spring. During that summer it was paired up with a Western Jackdaw C. m. spermologus and was even seen attending to a nest site in the chimney of a nearby house. I saw the bird again in late July and then again in the autumn and into the new year of 2015. There were sporadic sightings of the bird again throughout 2015.

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I didn’t have an opportunity of keeping a regular watch on the Nordic Jackdaw from April 2016 but did notice it was still present at the end of November. The bird was again seen into December.

A great opportunity for those observers/photographers interested in seeing this race in Cheshire and getting some excellent photographs. The bird is attracted to food and can be seen down to a few feet.

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The Nordic Jackdaw site is at Park Road, Runcorn and can be seen at the boating lake attracted to bread thrown by families feeding the Mallards or on the nearby playing fields within c130 Western Jackdaws. Grid reference: SJ510815. Nearest post code: WA7 4PU

Video of Nordic Jackdaw here: https://vimeo.com/194849552

Observer and video/images: WSM.

05.12.16. Birdlog

05.12.16. Water Pipit, Town Lane, Hale, Cheshire. Colin ButlerPatch Poaching Carla Lane (aka Carr Lane Pools)

After Tony’s patch poaching at Pickerings/Hale on Saturday (I was otherwise engaged) it was my turn to follow suit. I arrived at Town Lane and parked on the bridge. The flooded fields adjacent to the road known locally by birdwatchers as Carr Lane Pools were frozen and have recently played host to upwards of 5 Water Pipit. A bird that is usually difficult to catch up with on the Mersey marshes and was here for all to enjoy. I was alone and after setting up my telescope and giving the area a quick span I picked up the Peregrine. This bird regularly sits out on the dead trees of the duck decoy across the road on Hale Marsh.

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A few Little Egret were waiting for the water to unfreeze while a very confiding young male Kestrel was unconcerned by my presence. A group of Golden Plover and Curlew flew over disturbed briefly by the Peregrine which flew from the decoy before returning to its perch. The main reason for my off piste patch poaching across the river was to see a Water Pipit. It didn’t take too long before one appeared in the distant grass. Eventually walking through the vegetation and frozen ice to reach the spot where I was standing. A fine male Stonechat popped up on the hedge by the road before heading off to the salt marsh. I was joined during the course of my observation by Colin Butler and after a catch up I said my farewell and then headed south to the mothership that is Frodsham Marsh.

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The reassuring glow from the emitting industry awaited my arrival back on the marsh after a short hiatus. Along Moorditch Lane the winter thrush flocks were still present with the chacking and seeping calls of Fieldfare and Redwing filling the air. A big brutish female Sparrowhawk was working the hawthorn bushes attempting to force hiding thrushes from their safe refuge and causing mass panic with the Scandinavians. With the new arrival of immigrants into the area the raptor tally had increased with notable appearances by both Common Buzzard and Kestrel.

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I made my way to the viewing area above No.6 tank and was surprised to find that there was a large area of un-iced water available for the ducks. 23 Common Pochard outnumbered the only Tufted Duck present by a considerable margin (for a change). 30 Pintail, 2 Wigeon, 110 Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and 400 Common Teal were also on view. A flock of toing and froing Black-tailed Godwit peaked at 260 birds. A few Common Snipe got jittery whenever I shifted my position on the bank but a Ruff was unexpected but expected if you know what I mean?

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The mitigation area was frozen but a  Common Buzzard sat on a post drawing the attention of 5 Lapwing (unusually) repeatedly stooped at it (almost Spring like behaviour).

A roving band of Long-tailed Tit foraging through the shrubby banks included a brief Chiffchaff. Also on the warbler front an equally brief blast of a Cetti’s was there to remind me that it was still in the area.

05-12-16-stonechat-male-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-cheshire-bill-morton-2A very engaging male Stonechat kept me company while nearby a flock of 134 Goldfinch dropping down into the grassy fields of No.5 tank had 50 Meadow Pipit for companions.

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I left earlier than normal but the Starling roost was beginning to make it self known to the Sparrowhawk which I had been seen earlier.

Observer: WSM (images).

Image 1 by Colin Butler.