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).

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.

Birding the Dark Side!

03-12-16-cormorant-pickerings-pasture-tony-broome25-11-16-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-mortonHaving seen photo’s of a Common Sandpiper at Ditton Brook, that one of the patchers had taken, had been ‘re-identified’ online as a Spotted Sandpiper, I was keen to go and see for myself, not because I doubted the original identification, but because I couldn’t form an opinion or argue for or against without actually having seen the bird for myself (which is always the best way). The photo in question was a relatively poor quality picture of a bird at an odd angle and into the light. So, with a sense of adventure, I headed down the M56 motorway and came off at Junction 12 as I normally do, but turned right, not left and drove towards Runcorn Bridge. It was a struggle. The car’s auto pilot tried to carry on left and I had to fight to get it to veer north across the river. There was also no coffee stop, no frothy latte, no banter with the experts who knew exactly how I liked my coffee in the morning. What was I doing!? I persevered and eventually wound my way around to arrive in Hale Village and having asked for directions, pulled into Pickering Pastures LNR car park. Phew, I made it! No border guards, no visa stamp, no inoculations and not even an interpreter needed. Bill had implied I would expect all of these.

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I headed for the white bridge over Ditton Brook, staring longingly at the tall white turbines in the distance, about two miles across the Mersey,  that marked the position of where I felt I should be on the weekend and at Frodsham Marsh. I stopped and watched some Goldcrest, their tiny size evident as they sat about a metre away. Blackbird abounded and fed on the path and in the leaves under the trees. The wind was cool, a breeze from the east whilst the sky remained gloomily grey, perhaps promising brightness at times but failing to actually deliver. I arrived at the bridge and noticed a couple already on the bridge. Rob and Carol Cockbain, two regular stalwart. We chatted about the sandpiper and local birding and they wandered off back towards the car park. I waited patiently for a sign of a wader, dodging the steady stream of cyclists that had planned their day out along the Trans Pennines Way, and as it happened, me. A few saw that I was trying to wait quietly for a bird and apologized for disturbing the peace and quiet. Most just talked loudly and carried on their way. The tide came in quickly. A nearby Cormorant caught a big flatfish of some description and swallowed it whole in no time.

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03-12-16-peregrine-from-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-7I watched out across the river. A gathering flock of waders fed and preened on the nearest sandbank. 500 Golden Plover, 700 Lapwing and 1500 Dunlin, watched over in turn by a Peregrine on a heraldic shield on the bridge. Dave Craven turned up, a birding friend I’d never actually met in person. Another local birder on the Hale side, who along with Ian Igglesden, regularly gripped us Frodsham birders off with tales of good birds almost every day. As if by magic, Dave declared a sandpiper present on the mud along the brook and we both grilled it thoroughly in an attempt to confirm the original identification as a Common Sandpiper. It wasn’t difficult because that’s just what it was, a Common Sandpiper with all the correct plumage and structural requirements. Job done, we walked back towards the cars where we parted company, Dave heading off back home and me pouring a coffee and munching on my sandwiches.

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I finished the food and walked over to the screen hide where birds fed around the feeders. More Goldcrests. The photograph (image 3) showed one to have black feet and legs, aren’t they usually yellowish? Ian Igglesden appeared and we walked back to get the cars before driving around to Carr Lane pools. Full of birds, I was hoping to see a Water Pipit. There’d been up to five on this site. One called and landed amongst the grass, giving good views as it fed unconcernedly. 5 Little Egret darted about the pools in amongst the Teal. A Merlin perched up on a thin vertical branch, its tiny size evident and a Cetti’s Warbler called and showed briefly from the channel by the bridge. I left Ian there with a couple more regulars and headed off westwards and home, getting lost almost at once and took the long route via the M62. As it happened it didn’t make much difference, around 36.5 miles. Frodsham Marsh was a mere 26 miles.

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It had been a good day and completely different to birding Frodsham Marsh. More people but less traffic noise and a lot more close birds. Birds that you didn’t have to strain to see through a haze in the distance. It does make such a difference. However, a patch is a patch and walking about seeing very little on the south side didn’t seem to matter and as I left I was already mentally planning my route out for tomorrow. Intending to try for Woodcock.

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1 & 3-4 & 6-7.

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The rocky/muddy shoreline below the railway bridge. The heraldic shields often provide a handy perch for a Peregrine (see image 4).

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No Man’s Land as seen from West Bank/Pickerings Pasture Trans Pennine Trail.

01-12-16-views-from-westbank-widnes-bill-morton-4 Looking west along the Trans Pennine Trail to Pickerings Pasture.

Achieve images (2 & 5 & 8-10 ) by WSM.

01.12.16. Birdlog

23.02.14. Whooper Swanss, Lordship Marsh, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton8 Whooper Swan were back in the flooded fields adjacent to the blue slurry tank on Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Shaun Hickey.

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29-11-16-common-sandpiper-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-5Elsewhere there are wintering Common Sandpipers to be found on the Weaver estuary where there are 1-2 birds present.

Other birds are across the river at Pickerings Pasture scrape, Within Way, Spike Island and Ditton Brook. (images WSM).

A Black Redstart was found yesterday on the Gateway construction site road on Wigg Island.

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.

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A brief history of time.

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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.

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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.