15.01.21. Birdlog.

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I started todays exercise at Ince where a pair of Mute Swan were on the flooded field and when it eventually thaws it will attract more waders and egrets once again. A mixed flock of c60 Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Gadwall, plus a single Little Grebe on the ice free parts of the various pools.

A skein of Pink-footed Goose could be heard but not seen as they made their way to Frodsham Score to join a more visible Great Egret foraging on the marsh close to the Manchester Ship Canal, and joined by a Little Egret.

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A herd of 11 Mute and 22 Whooper Swan were on the field alongside the Holpool Gutter, but were not mixing together and sensibly social distancing. A Western Marsh Harrier drifted over flushing a flock of c40 Northern Lapwing. Another flock of c150 Linnet with European Goldfinch were feeding on the banks of No.4 tank.

I made my way towards Kinsey Lane, Ince where the pig fields are situated, a Sparrowhawk flew low over the fields flushing several Wood Pigeon and Eurasian Curlew on its way.

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There were 2 Little Egret, one of which had a bloodied head injury and competed against 3 Grey Heron for the grubs unearthed by the pigs feeding. A flock of c50 Common Snipe were again in the stubble and 2 Common Chiffchaff were in the same area as previously.

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Out on Inch salt marsh the tide came in and a mass of Dunlin were moving up and down the River Mersey and were kept mobile by a Western Marsh Harrier in hunting mode, another harrier was noted crossing the ship canal.

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Hundreds of Common Shelduck, Mallard and Canada Goose were spread about the marsh and a dog Red Fox marking its territory as it went along, and trying to ambush unwary prey. A further 3 Great Egret and several Little Egret were feeding in the tidal channels as the tide pushed small fish along with it.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-5).

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Like Paul we took our one daily form of exercise by walking the lanes of Frodsham Marsh. Walking up to the junctions of Moorditch-Lordship-Hares and Godscroft Lanes would normally be uneventful, but if there was a convenient phonebox to change into my super hero(n) costume I would have. The reason for my marvel capers was because I found an injured Grey Heron with a broken leg, after which I contacted the RSPCA from my phone (which took a while to make my way down from caller 15 to caller 1), but eventually I got through and after giving directions I was assured that an officer would be present as soon as one was available…fair enough. We gave them our contact number and continued our trek.

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A look across the fields at Ince marsh and the 22 (2 juvenile) Whooper and 11 Mute Swan were still present.

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Further on and the salt marshes produced 5 Barnacle Goose with the 100’s of Canada Goose herds.

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Several egrets were about and two Peregrine included one sat on a post and a female was perched on the edge of the River Mersey. Also present were 43 Grey Plover and c70 Eurasian Oystercatcher.

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No.3 tank had several hundred European Golden Plover and c30 Black-tailed Godwit with numerous Northern Lapwing.

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No.6 tank was mostly unfrozen with ducks keeping close to banks and out of the freezing breeze. Back on Moorditch Lane and a return call from the RSPCA officer to say she was on the marsh, but couldn’t find the spot where the heron was orginally located. After giving her directions we all converged on the spot (keeping our distance) and the heron was located and safely secured, placed into a box for transportation to Stapely Grange wildlife hospital near Winsford for an unknown fate?

Observers: JS & WSM (images1 & 6-13).

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Like a giant dandelion clock the turbines blowing off plovers. She plovers me, she plovers me not.

Image by Phil Barker.

14.01.21. Birdlog.

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Some information from the Avalon Marshes Group on the origin of this darvic ring which was not one of their birds, but possibly a Spanish bird?       

A large skein of c5000 Pink-footed Goose passed over Stanlow heading east this morning a change in direction and numbers (2000) from yesterday when there were yesterday. A look over the salt marsh at high tide and a mass of Dunlin were moving about the tide line many settling by the mouth of the River Gowy.

After work a quick visit to Ince on my daily exercise routine produced a single Little Egret with the pigs at the pig farm on Kinsey Lane and a flock of c150 Northern Lapwing and c80 Common Snipe were foraging in the stubble. There were two possibly four Common Chiffchaff noted feeding at the bottom of a hedge and c40 Pied Wagtail and a single Grey Wagtail were also foraging in the stubble.

Out on Frodsham Score and Ince salt marsh was a Western Marsh Harrier that at on a piece of driftwood with a couple of hundred Common Shelduck feeding close by, and 2 more Little Egret and a single Great Egret were present. A party of 4 Eurasian Curlew joined forces and drove away a couple of Carrion Crow off the marsh.

Observer and image: Paul Ralston. Paul is now now twitter: @PaulRalston17

A Green Sandpiper was below the new bridge at Wigg Island, Runcorn (WSM).

10.01.21. Birdlog.

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Took my daily walk along the River Weaver this morning, but the change in weather means the birds from yesterday have moved on with no sign of the Greylag herd of the fancy decorative Black Swan pair. There was however a decent number of ducks, but alas mostly on the far side and thus to distant for scrutiny. The Tufted Duck, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Mallard, Common Shelduck, Gadwall and Common Goldeneye were all present with several Great Crested Grebe and plenty of Eurasian Coot. A herd of c300 Canada Goose and 10 Mute Swan were on the river with more Canada Goose out on the estuary.A flock of Dunlin were huddled together at the edge of the River Mersey with Eurasian Curlew and Common Redshank feeding close by 2 Little Egret joining them.

The fields close to Marsh Farm held a mixed flock of several hundred Northern Lapwing and European Golden Plover with Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Redwing foraging amongst them.

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No.6 tank still had a covering of thin ice and the Eurasian Teal were crowded together at one end but were flushed by a Common Buzzard looking for any signs of weakness in their flanks. A Little Egret was sat in the field alongside Hares Lane and another Common Buzzard sat on a post agitating the Common Moorhen in the ditch below.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-2).

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Our daily walk routine took us around No.6 tank along the tracks avoiding other walkers.

A Peregrine flew over and caused a bit of bother with the plovers feeding in the fields. Another bird (female) was sat on top of the blue topped chimney at Weston Point.

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There wasn’t a lot more to add to what Paul had seen earlier but a couple of Western Marsh Harrier coming in from the Mersey Estuary with c3000 Pink-footed Goose moving to Frodsham Score at dusk from the direction of the Dee Marshes was unexpected considering their movements recently. 400 European Golden Plover, Water Rail. Cetti’s Warbler and a Common chiffchaff were the only other distractions on our hike.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 3-4).

09.01.21. Birdlog.

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I began my routine exercise walk at Ince this morning where hundreds of Pink-footed Goose flew out from the estuary to their feeding grounds while some birds turned back disorientated by the fog.

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The nature reserve pools held decent numbers of wildfowl on the ice free parts with Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal and mostly Mallard and Gadwall which made up the numbers.

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Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal where more wildfowl were present a female Common Goldeneye were noted. A Western Marsh Harrier was watched hunting the reedbed on No.4 tank and a Little Egret passed overhead towards Lordship Marsh.

The ‘splashing pool’ was ice free at the far end and held yet more Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Teal. Finches were numerous with flocks of European Goldfinch feeding on the teasle headswith Linnet and Chaffinch joining forces to keep an eye out for the Common

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A pair of Northern Shoveler.

Kestrel and Sparrowhawk hunting the marsh.

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The Whooper Swan herd has relocated to the fields adjacent to the Holpool Gutter possibly due to disturbance from a trials bike along Lower Rake Lane.

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Back at Ince and a Great Egret was noted near the pools and was wearing a darvic ring.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images 4 & 7-8).

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I undertook a long walk down to the marshes with a walk along the River Weaver where 21 Common Goldeneye, 140 Tufted Duck, an imm drake Greater Scaup, 71 Common Pochard, c400 Eurasian Teal, 2 Gadwall, 40 Common Shelduck, 11 Mute Swan, 2 Black Swan (Rob Dennett had seen my earlier), a skein of 101 Greylag Goose flew in from the east and settled on the river, by far the largest ever flock here.

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A Great Cormorant had to defend its catch of a large fish from both another cormorant and a Great Black-backed Gull.

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A few shorebirds were about but the highlight was 3 Jack Snipe flushed from the river bank and no doubt forced here by the over night frost. There were 6 Common Snipe also seen and a flock of c100 European Golden Plover and c400 Northern Lapwing. A skein of c200 Pink-footed Goose flew over from the east and headed to the Mersey Estuary.

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A large vessel entering the Weaver Estuary caused a big tidal save that caused all of the ducks to take flight, fortunately they flew and settled closer to where I was watching from.

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Two Western Marsh Harrier were over the reed beds at dusk with ‘legoless’ the broken legged bird causing the roosting Common Starling to perform a mini murmuration.

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Video of Pink-footed Geese heading to the Mersey Estuary.

Observer: WSM (images 1-3 & 5-6 & 9-16 & video).

08.01.21. Birdlog.

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As part of our daily exercise we walk the length of Moorditch Lane taking in No.6 tank en route to the ‘splashing pool’ and back. The majority was still frozen over with a thin layer of water laying on its surface. A collective flock of c900 Eurasian Teal were present with 29 Northern Pintail, 22 Mallard, 7 Common Shelduck and 17 Northern Shoveler.

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The ‘splashing pool’ had a few Eurasian Teal and Northern Shoveler but not a lot de to the area being frozen.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 1-2).

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A late afternoon walk around Ince. My walk around Kinsey Lane didn’t produce any egrets in the pig fields, just 2 Grey Heron foraging amongst the handful of pigs left rooting about. Northern Lapwing were plentiful with several Common Snipe amongst them and c30 Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail and a charm of European Goldfinch were feeding in the stubble.

Out on Frodsham Score salt marsh were several hundred Canada Goose were by the river with c200 Common Shelduck and Mallard closer to the Mancheser Ship Canal with 3 Little Egret and a single Great Egret bring observerd from the road. The ponds held a mixed flock of c150 Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard. Gadwall, c30 Eurasian Coot, 2 Little Grebe and several Common Moorhen.

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At dusk several skeins of Pink-footed Goose, c700 made their way to the salt marsh for the evening.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 3-4).

07.01.21. Birdlog.

We walked down to the marsh as part of our allowed one period of exercise a day.I will highlight the species seen on our walk which avoided contact with other people doing likewise. No.6 tank was completely frozen over with adjacent waters no longer providing a sheltered refuge for wildfowl, presumably they have moved out to both the Mersey and Weaver Estuaries.

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The Manchester Ship Canal was partly frozen on some parts that were near to the edges. A single 1 Great Crested Grebe, numerous Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gull with smaller numbers of Herring and Common Gull. The herd of 22 Whooper Swan had joined a herd of 11 Mute Swan on fields close to the estuary.

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The salt marshes had hundreds of Canada Goose with 6 Barnacle and c200 Pink-footed Goose, 4 Great Egret, 5 Little Egret and a fly by Western Cattle Egret flying out to Ince pig farm on Kinsey Lane.

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There were two Western Marsh Harrier quatering the reeds on No.6 tank while the weather deteriorated during the course of our walk. A Common Buzzard on No.5 tank watched while European Golden Plover in the field around it.

Observers: JS & WSM (images).

Where to Watch Birds on Frodsham Marsh

Frodsham Marsh is my personal ‘local patch’, generally a local patch is an area where a single person or a group of birdwatchers choose to watch over a particular area in an attempt to see or record or even just chill out to watch its birds and/or the fauna and flora in that given area.

Where and Why: Frodsham Marsh is situated in the north west of Cheshire on the south banks of the River Mersey and is a mixture of farmland, salt marsh, woodland, river and industry. It lies on the northern edge of the Cheshire plain at the village of  Frodsham. The route follows several tracks taking in two rivers, an active sludge deposit tank, hedgerow bordered lanes and open farmland all of which are ideal for owls, raptors, passerines and waterfowl. There is no particular time of day to see birds but high tides create the best opportunity for birds moving to and from the river.
 Route Planner

The marsh is accessed at the south end of  Main Street in the village via Marsh Lane. Once on Marsh Lane (SJ5078)  park up and/or follow the road on foot. Follow the road over the bridge which crosses the M56 for a few minutes: Brook Furlong Lane is ahead with its hawthorn hedge bordered track. The hedgerows are good for late autumn/winter blackcap and chiffchaff and in previous years waxwing and hawfinch have been seen. Continuing along the track for a third of a mile and when the road starts to climb up a short steep ramp (at the fork in the lane), follow the left track up the ramp to Marsh Farm (SJ498791). At the first cattle grid check the pipes that run the length of No.1 tank (SJ5079) for stonechat.

At the farm buildings park at the second cattle grid and view the River Mersey to watch flocks of shorebirds moving about during and after a high tide. Recent finds have featured great egret and little egret, great skua, ruddy shelduck and white-winged gulls. A peregrine can often be seen perched on the blue-topped power station chimney across the Weaver Estuary at Weston Point. Retracing our steps we return to the fork in the track back by the base of the ramp and take the right-hand path that borders a reedy ditch and a hedgerow, this opens out into a field after climbing over a stile (this can be wet and muddy in winter). Walk along the edge of the field until you reach the river. Once on the bank you have the opportunity to look up at the Weaver Estuary (SJ520796) where winter duck are usually in good numbers with scaup and long-tailed duck a possibility. Stonechat frequent this area with an opportunity of marsh harrier and short-eared owl often encountered.

Walking to your right along the river bank for a quarter of a mile, the water takes a sharp twist known locally as the Weaver Bend (SJ513793). This location is good for gulls that drop in to bathe en route to their roost on the Mersey Estuary. The ‘Bend’ is famous for attracting rarities over past years – it still produces a few surprises. Walking back to the motorway bridge we now take the left hand road: adjacent to this is an area used as a horse paddock and can be good for barn owl with one seen most autumn/winters. Follow the tarmac road until you reach a ramp track to your right, this takes you to an area between two tanks (keep a lookout for kingfisher in the ditch to your left).

To the right is No.5 tank (SJ505785), obsolete as a working sludge deposit tank. It is now open rough grazing land with a reedy ditch and scattered willow and elder trees alongside the pot-holed track. A wind farm immediately becomes obvious towering overhead. The whole area is ideal for short-eared owl, merlin and chiffchaff. Walking along the track, to your left is an embankment which overlooks No.6 tank (SJ495779), an active deposit tank and the most productive area, particularly notable for ducks (be careful not to flush the birds, a cautious approach is to be encouraged). Big flocks of tufted duck, gadwall, shelduck, shoveler and teal with smaller numbers of pintail, wigeon and pochard often present.

There is always a chance of something much rarer with occasionally wintering flocks of dunlin using the tank at high tide while green-winged teal, ringed-necked and long-tailed duck are just a few recent surprises. It is also possible to find little stint wintering on the Mersey Estuary.

Following the track to the west at the sharp S bend is No.3 tank (SJ4978) which has a series of shallow pools. This tank was set aside as mitigation during the creation of the wind farm. I once found a wintering curlew sandpiper here so again a good opportunity for those with a sharp eye. The open area is good for short-eared owl, marsh and the occasional hen harrier. It is possible to walk the perimeter of No.6 as the track circumnavigates the tank. At dusk huge numbers of starlings can gather to roost in the reed beds and spectacular murmurations create some bizarre shapes – they in turn attract raptors with sparrowhawk, merlin and harriers often seen together. 

Lordship Lane can be reached by following Moorditch Lane as it baresleft skirting the outer walls of No.6 tank towards the outdoor carting site and model flying field. It is possible to circumnavigate this sludge tank and where it meets the ramp track between No.4 and No.6 tanks the fields towards the M56 motorway attracts a herd of whooper swan in the winter. If the stubble fields are flooded they can be good for linnet, stonechat and the occasional water pipit.

Sites and access

A Whooper Swan which has just arrived from Iceland and still with the rusty colouring from its breeding lakes.

There are some access restrictions on the marsh most notably around the wind farm construction sites and it is advised that you should not enter areas where turbines are situated. The marsh is also a working site with farm vehicles and access required at all hours so if you do use a vehicle please remember to park where you are not blocking access. The roads/tracks and paths are pitted with pot-holes which can fill with rain water and are potentially a problem for vehicles. The location is not suitable for wheel chairs and the nearest public toilets are in the village. 

Birders map of Frodsham Marsh

Maps OS Landranger 117 Chester and Wrexham, Ellesmere Port.

Images 1 by Paul Ralston & images 2-6 by WSM.

03.01.21. Birdlog.

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We decided on a long walk across the marshes starting from Moorditch Lane out to Ince marsh fields. The icy tracks were still trecherous to walk over but birding calls and you have to take the call.

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No.6 tank was 90% frozen but there areas that weren’t had c600 Eurasian Teal, 6 Northern Pintail, 1 Eurasian Wigeon, 11 Mallard, 4 Common Shelduck and 6 Gadwall.

The Whooper Swan herd of 21 birds were still in the flooded fields on Lordship Lane with a few hundred Black-headed Gull. A sien of c100 Pink-footed Goose flew over to the north.

A look by the Holpool Gutter produced 6 European Stonechat, 1 Mistle Thrush, several Redwing, 121 Linnet and 2 Common Chiffchaff (bringing the total of 5 wintering this year).

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Frodsham Score had a few Pink-footed Goose, 2 Great and 7 Little Egret but two wildfowlers out by the rivers edge must have seen most of the birds to find sanctuary elsewhere. A dog Red Fox was chasing a calling female onto the banks of the tank and a Eurasian Oystercatcher was probing the grassy banks for food.

Walking back along Moorditch Lane a male Peregrine was chasing a female in their courtship display.

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Observers: JS & WSM (images).

02.01.21. Birdlog.

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I started my days birding along Lower Rake Lane early this morning where skeins of Pink-footed Goose passed overhead on their way to the Dee Estuary for the day. A herd of 5 Whooper Swan flew in at first light to graze on Lordship Marsh. A female Peregrine was sat on its tower watching over the marsh and left its perch to drive a tercel away from her airspace. A herd of 11 Mute Swan were grazing in the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter and a Merlin was hunting pipits nearby.

Shooting was taking place out on Frodsham Score salt marsh so the Canada Goose moved towards the Manchester Ship Canal while the wildfowlers concentrated on the birds near to the river. A Great Egret was feeding in a creek alongside 3 Little Egret with more egrets dotted about the salt marsh.

The Western Marsh Harrier (the one shot gun damaged leg) was seen hunting over No.4 tank with Common Kestrel and Common Buzzard trying their luck in the same area.

Hundreds of Canada Goose were grazing near to the canal pools but flushed when the farmer arrived to feedhis cattle and a small flock of European Golden Plover passed overhead to join the bigger flock near to Marsh Farm.

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Looking over Lordship Marsh from the junction of No.4 and No.6 tanks the Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the field along Lordship Lane and c30 Pink-footed Goose circled around looking for a safe place to land. Again the Linnet, European Goldfinch and Chaffinch were numerous in the area with several Common Reed Bunting noted. A Common Kingfisher was heard then seen as it flashed by making its way along the ditch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was searching for grubs in the stand of dead trees along the lane another was seen at Ince later.

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At Ince flocks of Pink-footed Goose were heard calling as they left Ince salt marsh and flew in all directions after being targeted by the wildfowlers. A single Western Cattle Egret, 2 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron were amongst the pigs with Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Curlew in good numbers in the nearby fields. One of the pools had an ice free area which had Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Northern Shoveler took advantage of the open water and one of the teal was sporting a ring.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-5 & ).

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We took a hike around No.6 tank being careful not to slip on the icy paths. A look over No.6 tank was vertually ice covered and the small area whic wasn’t was kept clear by the 200 Eurasian Teal, several Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler. The leg damaged Western Marsh Harrier flew across to its roost.

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A Common Raven flew over No.3 tank from Frodsham Score with areas of its wings missing big chunks and obvious gunshot pellet holes.

Walking out to the junction of No.4 & No.6 tank looking across Lordship Marsh where the 22 Whooper Swan were still frequenting the flooded fields with manys Eurasian Curlew and 8 Ruff. A small skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over from the south and moved out to the Mersey Estuary.

Looking across to a ship sailing along the ‘big ditch’ aka the Manchester Ship Canal flushed a flock of c600 Eurasian Teal which twisted and turned inflight like a flock of Starling. A couple of Common Chiffchaff were in the vegetation on No.3 tank while overhead Common Raven flew south to their roost in NE Wales.

Finally walking back down Moorditch Lane in the cold and dark a Peregrine flew over and landed on top of a pylon by the horse paddock.

Observers: JS & WSM (image 6). 

01.01.21. Birdlog.

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A very early start and a walk out to the River Weaver in the hope of catching up with last years Garganey but alas most of the Eurasian Teal had departed the river overnight and left c200. A flock of 17 Common Goldeneye, 51 Common Pochard, 147 Tufted Duck, 17 Common Shelduck, 11 Gadwall and 6 Mute Swan. A solitary Black-tailed Godwit joined a small group of Northern Lapwing and Common Redshank and a wintering Common Sandpiper.

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Observers: Paul Ralston (1-3 & 10 & 13-16) and WSM (4-9 & 11-12).

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After our disappointment we headed in our own directions and I walked back along Brookfurlong Lane where a Cetti’s Warbler heralded the new year with a track from its back catalogue.

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No.6 tank was still frozen over with the only area free from the freeze was adjacent to the marshy vegetation. A gathering of c100 Northern Shoveler, c270 Eurasian Teal, 15 Northern Pintail and 12 Mallard.

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A small flock of 18 Black-tailed Godwit were knee deep in freezing water.

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A skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over from the east and a small segment dropped down onto No.3 tankand joined up with the c100 Canada Goose herd.

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Walking back to my car and at the ramp track to Moorditch Lane a pale grey Chiffchaff had all the hallmarks of a ‘tristis’ until it called like a ‘collybita’?. It was feeding in the ditch and gave great views and one of the images I managed is above.

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Observer: WSM.

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A Jay was along Brook Furlong Lane at first light. On the Weaver Estuary was a single Common Sandpiper on the river bank. A couple of European Stonechat were on the fence line and c300 European Golden Plover with large flock of Northern Lapwing were at Marsh Farm.

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The Whooper Swan herd had split into 3 groups and were spread across Lordship Marshand a large mixed flock of finches mostly Linnet and European Goldfinch with smaller numbers of Chaffinch and Greenfinch were in the stubble along Lordship Lane. Common Kestrel and Common Buzzard were active throughout my walk.

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I stopped of at Kinsey Lane, Ince on the way home and a single Western Cattle Egret, 4 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron were foraging amongst the pigs. There was 13 Common Snipe and many more Northern Lapwing were noted in the stubble with groups of Eurasian Curlew passing overhead.

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Out on the sFrodsham Score salt marsh were over 1000 Pink-footed Goose grazing with the Canada Goose and Common Shelduck. A mass of Dunlin were moving about at the edge of Stanlow Island with a Great Egret nearby.      

Observer: Paul Ralston.