24.07.14. Birdlog

24.07.14. Birdlog

The cauldron effect of the marsh basin set in an amphitheatre (bordered on three sides by much higher ground) in summer can become stiflingly hot and humid. Combined this with an array of insects with varying degrees of biting parts all wanting a birders blood is not for everyone. Tony braved all this to spend the day birding here.
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Starting at No.6 tank he saw: 90 Tufted Duck, 20 Common Teal, 1 Pochard, an Athya sp or hybrid? (top right of picture), an adult and the first juvenile Dunlin of the summer. Also present were 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plover. 1 Common Sandpiper, 120 Black-headed Gull, 15 Common Gull and 10 Pied Wagtail.
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A unwelcomed flytip by a not so caring citizen of this or a nearby parish leaves you a tad angry.
Marsh Farm followed next 21 Greylag Goose by the farm and 2 Yellow Wagtail and 30 Sand Martin were about the buildings there. Further down the river on the Weaver Bend was 250 Black-tailed Godwit.
The Canal Pools held 2 Common Sandpiper and 3 Raven on No5.  30+ Marsh Farm
Swallow 15+ Marsh Farm.
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Frodsham Score and the Manchester Ship Canal had an impressive 5,000 Canada Goose (if not for the sheer volume of birds).Greylag 21 Bank opposite Marsh Farm
Butterflies again were a notable diversion from the birds and huge numbers were on the wing in the heat of the day. These included:  a Common Blue on No.4 tank, 50 Small Skipper, 100 Peacock, 120 Gatekeeper, 10 Small White, 1 Large White, 10 Small Tortoishell, 2 Comma, 1 Red Admiral and finally 50 Meadow Brown.
Observer and images: Tony Broome

22.07.14. Birdlog

22.07.14. Birdlog

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The Red-necked Grebe continues its summer sabbatical without a care along the River Weaver.

Walking alongside the water to the I.C.I tank culminated in a variety of shorebirds with 10 Oystercatcher, 260 Black-tailed Godwit, 25 Redshank, 4 Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 4 Common Sandpiper. Additionally 170 Curlew were on Frodsham Score.

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On the Shooters’ Pools a Green Sandpiper shared the area with an adult and juvenile Red-legged Partridge. The highlight in beautiful summer sunshine was an Emperor Dragonfly a species under recorded here.

Elsewhere 10 Yellow Wagtail from No.5 tank to Marsh Farm and 1,000 Starling at the latter site. The blue-topped chimney at Weston Point harboured the Peregrine.

Typically for this summer, butterflies were about in considerable numbers which included: 80 Peacock (30 in one Buddleia bush), 10 Small Tortoisehell, 1 Comma, 50 Meadow Brown, 100 Gatekeeper, 5 Green-veined White,  1 Great White and 5 Small White, 2 Red Admiral and a single notable Common Blue.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

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From dusk I was stood watchman-like overlooking the Weaver Sluices on the incoming tide. From my position I could see a gathering of 1,000 Common Shelduck, 9 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Dunlin, 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Little Egret but hardly the leg work TB put in today.

Observer: WSM

20.07.14. Birdlog

20.07.14. Birdlog

19.07.14. Great Crested Grebe, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonTwo months and counting for the Red-necked Grebe and now sharing the river off Redwall Reedbed with a family of Great Crested Grebe. Sometimes the adults take umbrage to the red-neck and bully it down river but generally they tolerate it. 19.07.14. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh

The Weaver Estuary looking west towards the sluice gates. 19.07.14. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh.

The Weaver estuary looking east towards the Weaver causeway and the ‘Bend’ beyond.

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Single Yellow Wagtails were over No.4 & 6 tanks. While 6 Raven on Frodsham Score and 2 Buzzard were over  No.3 tank.
DSC08780Butterflies are a big feature during this month and many were on the wing including: 50 Peacock, 100 Gatekeeper, 20 Green-veined White, 50 Meadow Brown. 40 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Red Admiral, 50 Small Skipper and 10 Comma were all noted.
Observer: Tony Broome (images 4 & 5). WSM (images 1,2 & 3)

19.07.14. Birdlog

19.07.14. Birdlog

19.07.14. Wildflowers on No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The heavy overnight rain continued into the morning, the reeds and attendant vegetation seemed to be holding gallons of water. Walking along the track below No.1 tank from the old log parking area entailed brushing through the reeds and each one shedding its watery load. By the time I reach the track on the Weaver causeway no amount of waterproofing was enough to keep me dry and I was a little sodden to say the least.

19.07.14. Common Scoter, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

The reward for the soaking was a wary drake Common Scoter on the Weaver Estuary. This sea duck surprisingly kept a safe distance, not tolerating any close approach. A bird less self-conscious was the Red-necked Grebe which was further down the river by the Weaver Bend, (for a change) briefly before drifting up to its usual spot opposite Redwall.

19.07.14. Common Scoter (drake) in flight, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh

Other birds of interest included 9 Great Crested Grebe, 100 Tufted Duck, 4 Common Teal, 10 Greylag Goose, 2 Ringed Plover, 10 Common Sandpiper, 23 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Redshank, 12 Dunlin and 12 Oystercatcher. 400 Common Swift were over the ducks on the river.

19.07.14. Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (8)

19.07.14. Sand Martin, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

Marsh Farm was quite productive with a passage of 400 Sand Martin with lesser numbers of Swallow heading south. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling, while a couple of Pied were on the farm building.

The Weaver sluice gate area and the flood water released into the River Mersey held 25 Great Crested Grebe (1 juvenile). Further out on the mudflats was a Little Egret seen flying across the estuary from Hale lighthouse. Also noted were 2,000 Common Shelduck, 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 20 Curlew.

Perennial Sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis FM Jul13th14 8347 copy


Observers: Tony Broome (images 2, 4,5 & 6), WSM (images 1 &3).

18.07.14. Birdlog

18.07.14. Birdlog18.-7.14. Tufted Duck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

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A big concentration of 180 Tufted Duck, 23 Common Teal and 64 Mallard were unexpected on No.6 tank and were obviously birds from the River Weaver.

A Yellow Wagtail was over No.6 tank while a male Marsh Harrier was noted on No.4 tank.

Typically for this time of year were several species of butterfly on the wing including this not so scarce Small Tortoiseshell.

Observer & images: Tony Broome.


Nature Notes #40

Nature Notes #40

I was asked to co-cover the WeBS count on Sunday July 13th and made my way west along the M56, calling in at Frodsham High Street for the obligatory latte take-out. I parked up overlooking the water on No.6 and immediately set the scope up ready for the influx of birds on the high tide at 1300 hrs. It was sunny with big cumulus clouds after a night of rain and there was a fresh north-westerly blowing which wasn’t too bad for birding but frustrating when it came to photographing insects, which inevitably what happened. The birding was quiet except for a large post-breeding flock of Black-headed Gulls which settled on the sand. I counted around 720 and was surprised to note only twenty juveniles. I wondered why there were so few?

Insects were feeding on the nearby flowers and I noticed the umbellifer that I’d originally seen last week but didn’t recognise, so I had a closer look. Tall, small flower heads, tapering pinnate leaves. In the end I took some photos and identified it later with Barry Shaw confirming my initial suspicions. It was Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica, a plant of grassy habitats on dry soils. I couldn’t remember seeing it before.

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PHOTO 1 Upright Hedge-parsley FM Jul13th14 8360 (1280x960)Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica
After completing the bird count, I wondered around looking at flowers and insects. The richness and diversity of Frodsham Marsh goes way beyond the amount of birds here and, if you take the time to look, there is diversity rarely found in many other places. I may do some of the plants next time, but I took many photos of flowers and flower meadows along the tracks and on the dry beds. The variety of plants is brilliant.

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A blaze of flower power along the trackside verges.

PHOTO 7 Comma FM July13th14 8367 (1280x956)

Comma Polygonia c-album

PHOTO 8 Red Admiral FM July13th14 8390 (1280x957)Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

There were many butterflies about, mainly Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, but a couple of Comma Polygonia c-album and tens of Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta. Because of the wind they tended to stay settled low down. You can’t walk past them without taking pictures.

Continuing the thread from last week there were many hoverflies on the umbellifers and Sow-thistles and I crept up quietly on a few of the insects and snapped away. The commonest species in Britain is the Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus and late July is the peak time for this colourful insect. Mass influxes from the continent also occur and they can be found almost everywhere.

PHOTO 9 Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus FM Jul13th14 8332 (1280x981)Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus
There were lots of yellow and black striped hoverflies about as well, I thought that they were Syrphus species and will do some research. Close-up they are really beautiful things and made for some nice images.


PHOTO 10 Syrphus sp FM July13th14 8321 (1280x975)
Syrphus sp

PHOTO 11 Great Pied Hoverfly  Volucella pellucens FM Jul13th14 8502 (1280x1059)

Much easier to identify was one of the largest species in Britain and its black and white markings with dark wing clouds are unique. The Great Pied Hoverfly Volucella pellucens is a resident, its larvae living in the nests of social wasps where they scavenge amongst the debris at the bottom of the nest cavity.


PHOTO 12 Thick-legged Hoverfly Syritta pipiens FM Jul13th14 8297 (1280x992)

Much smaller but very obvious were Thick-legged Hoverfy Syritta pipiens. So named because of their thickened hind femoras….the top of the back legs to you and me. They are common and sometimes very numerous as immigrants from the continent begin to arrive.

PHOTO 13 Scaeva pyrastri FM Jul13th14 8384 (1280x970)

Among the common residents and partial migrants was a true migrant, Scaeva pyrastri, which was feeding on Elder flowers and very skittish, not allowing more than a few seconds of stalking before it spooked and flew off. Its immigration is similar to Red Admirals and Clouded Yellows, and in some years it can be almost absent. When it does turn up, it can breed locally. Luckily, it’s a relatively easy one to identify with the abdomen being black with whitish comma-shaped markings. I wonder if Clouded Yellow are next in this long hot summer?

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Lispe tentaculata

As I walked along the side of No.6 tank to see if there were any waders on the small pool, I noticed some tiny flies running around the edge of a dirty puddle. I became more interested when they began to display and walk across the water. Knowing nothing about what they could be I sneaked up on them and managed one identifiable photo which a couple of experts on the Dipterists forum confidently identified as Lispe tentaculata. Part of the Muscidae family of flies, which includes House Flies and Bluebottles, this species is more specialised and lives around stony puddles and pools. The inflated white palps on the face are one of the features to look for. They eat other insects and small larvae. I have no idea how common they are in Cheshire but the NBN Gateway doesn’t show any.

PHOTO 16 Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus FM July 13th14 8474 (1)

Lastly, something bigger and more familiar. I walked across the dried up east corner of No.4 bed and flushed some grasshoppers. I managed to corner one and identified it as a Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus. They are one of the commonest grasshopper species in Britain and occur in anywhere with long grass. But you hardly ever stop to look at one, let alone identify it, or at least I don’t.

Written and images by Tony Broome

15.07.14. Birdlog

15.07.14. Birdlog

15.07.14. Fox, Delamere Forest. Bill Morton

A morning and afternoon ramble around Delamere Forest resulted in spotting this young Fox out hunting. It was totally unaware until it walked by and stopped to looked up and see us standing there looking down on it. Observers: Sparky, WSM (and upper image).

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15.07.14. Red-necked Grebe. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Little later and an evening stroll through the jungle track to the river from the old log. After arriving the Red-necked Grebe was spotted asleep on the river, it eventually woke up long enough to sit for several photographes.

11 Great Crested Grebe included the mother from the Weaver Bend with her stripey headed chick. 183 Tufted Duck all along the water and the count didn’t include their ducklings (of which there were many). Also present were Common Shelduck and Gadwall with their youngsters. 3 Pochard and a single Teal, 100 Coot and a couple of Little Grebe were also part of the mass of birds on the river/estuary.

15.07.14. Ducks. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, 11 Dunlin, 6 Common Sandpiper, 3 Common Snipe, Oystercatcher and 12 Black-tailed Godwit added to an already busy river.

A slight interruption came when a female Marsh Harrier flew low over the Shooters’ pools before drifting away.

15.07.14. Sunset over No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

About 1,000 Black-headed Gulls dropped into the Weaver estuary for a bath before moving over to Weston lagoon to roost. They came from two directions (SE & NW) with hundreds of juvenile birds also present.

Observers: Mike Roberts (2nd image), WSM (lower images).