26.05.16. Birdlog

26.05.16. Pheasant, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (8) - CopyA walk up and down the track on No.5 tank taking in the birds present on No.6 tank this evening. It was a still evening with the steam, smoke and whatever pollutants that are emitted into the local atmosphere could clearly be seen from the local industry surrounding the marshes.

26.05.16. Still skyline from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (12)

26.05.16. Pheasant, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (19) - CopyA flock of 200 Black-tailed Godwit were  nervous and flighty tonight, although I didn’t notice the cause of their concern. A smaller wader was present along with 3 Ringed Plover with the godwit flock which flew straight out to the Mersey Estuary.

There was a build up of Common Shelduck with 216 either paired up or loitering about with 67 Tufted Duck and an assortment of Mallard, Gadwall and a pair of Common Teal. Also present were 16 Coot, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Grey Heron and 30 Common Swift.

All in all not much to add to the last few days but the water level is low on No.6 and looks really good to entice a flyby shorebird (here’s hoping).

Observer and images: WSM.

23.05.16. Birdlog

23.05.16. Marsh Harrier and Wind Turbines from No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)

A couple of hours post work birding on and from No.5 tank. I met Arthur along the track on Moorditch Lane and we birded together looking over No.6 tank.

22.05.16. Curlew Sandpiper, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (13)

22.05.16. Curlew Sandpiper, NoThe usual suspects were on offer including a smart gathering of Tufted Duck and territorial Common Shelduck. The Black-tailed Godwit flock were busy feeding in the centre of the water with the occasional Redshank. A short distance away on the drier bed were 4 Ringed Plover along with the three-footed combo Curlew Sandpipers.

21.05.16. Shelduck fighting No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh

A Common Buzzard was hovering over the banks while a female Marsh Harrier (pictured at the top of the page) headed through from the east.

22.05.16. Swift, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

A couple of Yellow Wagtail and the ubiquitous Common Swift zipped over the banks and one almost gave Arthur’s barnet a side parting…it was that close!

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (and images).

22.05.16. Birdlog

22.05.16. drake Garganey, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

22.05.16. Wren, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeAn early start saw me arrive on Moorditch Lane before eight o’clock. I headed for the south bank of No.6 tank and parked up for a quick look over the bank. Of course there was a latte to polish off and boots to put on before any birding was done. However, I’d only been stood  there for a couple of minutes when a Short-eared Owl floated past me following the line of the ditch westwards. I didn’t even need to put my bins up it was so close and it looked at me with bright yellow eyes which met my baby blues, before it carried on and crossed the road and went up and over the bank of six. A magical moment. I climbed the bank and stealthily looked out across the tank. One of the first birds was the male Garganey, feeding just below me. I stood still, partially concealed by the nettles and oilseed rape.

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22.05.16. Wren, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeNothing moved and all the birds carried on feeding. 334 Black-tailed Godwit were spread out across the tank but few other waders. Parties of Swift flew low and skimmed my head as they fed. A second summer Common Gull preened in amongst the Black-headed. There was also 4 Little Grebe, 14 Coot, over 60 Gadwall, a single drake Shoveler and 3 Common Teal. Time to move on and I drove around to park up for a walk out to the north-east corner of No.4 tank. It was a lovely morning, very warm, calm and muggy. It felt more like a July day rather than mid May. As I walked out along the path to watch over Frodsham Score, I looked at the wildflowers in bloom. Carpets of sky-blue forget-me-nots and pink stork’s bills and crane’s bills, white stitchworts, deep yellow Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil and pale yellow Mouse-ear Hawkweed.

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Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Sedge and Reed Warbler all competed for song-time, interspersed by the local Wren and flocks of Goldfinch. Common Buzzard displayed overhead, mewing as they dived from way up in the clouds.

22.05.16. Reed Bunting, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome22.05.16. Swift, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (10)Raven flew inland carrying food for their hungry chicks and a leggy Fox was mobbed by some Carrion Crow as it made its way along the Score bank. I wandered around looking at anything remotely interesting before moving on to No.3 and 6 tanks for high tide. Avocet were on both tanks and I parked up overlooking No.6 from the north side. The sky behind me was black and rain blotted out the distance. As it came closer, hirundines dropped into feed over the water.  30 House Martin, 40 Sand Martin, 20 Swallow and a couple of hundred Swift. Waders began to drop in and with the 80 or so Dunlin were 3 Oystercatcher, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, one in full summer plumage, and 2 Sanderling, one similarly striking, being bright orange and white in its breeding plumage. Redshank numbers were low with around 10, there was a single Whimbrel and about 30 Ringed Plover.

22.05.16. Curlew Sandpipers, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (2)

22.05.16. Curlew Sandpiper, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA female Marsh Harrier drifted past, ignored by the feeding waders. A male and female Yellow Wagtail fed in among the waders and there were 6 Pied Wagtail on the far side. The rain arrived and it was time to retire to the car for lunch. It was so heavy that having a window open even a little bit resulted in the car getting wet inside, so I sat it out until the sun reappeared about an hour later and the wind dropped and warmth returned.

22.05.16. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Mortone

I had another final look but didn’t see anything fresh and drove around to Brook Furlong Lane and eventually Marsh farm where a pair of Wheatear perched on fence posts, occasionally dropping down to take insect prey. A Greenland form was along Lordship Lane (MG). I finished the day stood in the warm sunshine, sipping what was left of the coffee and scanning the sky for high-flying goodies. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, at least not today.

Written by Tony Broome (images 1-6 & 8)

Contributions by: Frank Duff, Findlay and Heather Wilde, Mark (Whipper) Gibson.

22.05.16. Curlew Sandpiper, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonI spent a couple of hours birding from the banks overlooking No.6 tank with the evening sunlight illuminating the shallow waters below. It was ideal conditions to reveal some birds that perhaps Tony et al may have missed earlier.

A small bunch of Ringed Plover hiding in the daisy stubble on the margins of the water included the two (one partial and one full summer plumage) Curlew Sandpiper that had been seen in the afternoon. The full summer plumaged bird was behaving a bit oddly, at first I thought it was watching the sky above whilst feeding in a crouched posture. On closer inspection it was evident the bird was missing its left foot. I didn’t notice this behaviour yesterday or certainly it wasn’t obvious. Anyway, they are both splendid birds to watch especially in the light of the setting sun. A Little Ringed Plover joined the birds for a brief period on the mud.

22.05.16. Swift, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)A 1st summer Marsh Harrier flew over carrying a fledgling and disappeared beyond the horizon. In the distance a Cuckoo was singing from the area bordering the shooters fields off Brook Furlong Lane. The evening skies were once again filled with feeding Swift over the embankments including this (no Photoshop or enhancement) headless bird.

Observer: WSM (images 7 & 9-12).

21.05.16. Birdlog

21.05.16. Swift, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde (2)21.05.16. Common Swifts over the track on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)The weather threatened something black and ominous as it loomed over from the south-west. I was hanging out for it to bypass us on the track above No.6 tank. It wasn’t to be, when finally the heavens opened, AC and myself sought sanctuary in the remaining shelter of the trees bordering No.6. The trees didn’t afford much cover and when the cold rain found a way through my “waterproof” overcoat it didn’t become a pleasant birding experience. The storm clouds eventually moved through and when it did, it did become a birding spectacle as the Swift hordes flew low down and through the dancing mosquito clouds that hung above the trees. Each bird appeared to line up in flight to pick them off with snapping bills and swooshing wings.

21.05.16. Alyn Chambers and Swifts, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6) - Copy

21.05.16. Commo Swifts over No.5 tank Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)There were literally hundreds upon hundreds of Common Swift brought low by the clouds and rain.

21.05.16.Curlew Sandpiper, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Findlay Wilde. - Copy

21.05.16. Curlew Sandpiper, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)Emerging from the comfort of their dry vehicle was Heather and Findlay with Nan Stewart in support. Findlay wisely produced his dry optics and expertly picked out a couple of summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper within a gathering of 40 Dunlin. Their appearance was short-lived when a midday fly over Short-eared Owl flushed everything. The 216 strong Black-tailed Godwit flock that had been roosting out the rain storm rose into the air and added the owl to their mobbing tally. When eventually the waders settled  the two Curlew Sandpiper joined up with a Ringed Plover flock and hid in cover (mostly) out of sight in the daisy stubble. They didn’t reappear until some hours later.

21.05.16. Storm over No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)AC had earlier watched a couple of drake Mandarin drop into the ditch along Moorditch Lane/Marsh Lane bridge but they never reappeared. Likewise, a female Marsh Harrier flew over but didn’t put in another appearance.

21.05.16.Coot on nest, No.6 tank,  Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7) - Copy

A Sparrowhawk and several Common Buzzard were noted and a Raven flying towards Frodsham Hill with a full crop suggest a local breeder.

Water birds were lesser in number on No.6 tank and a flock of 26 Coot and a nesting bird were interesting additions to the day. Common Shelduck and Gadwall were the commonest species while 3 Common Teal and 67 Tufted Duck added to the count.

21.05.16. Wader flock, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde21.05.16. Bill, Findlay and Alyn, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde - CopyObservers: Alyn Chambers, Findlay (image 5), Heather Wilde (images 1 & 9-10) and Nan Stewart, WSM (images 2-4 & 6-8).

20.05.16. Birdlog

06.09.15. Hobby, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (2)

A quick walk around No.6 tank after an early finish. There were Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler in good numbers along Lordship Lane with Chiffchaff calling in a couple of places. On No.6 there were many Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, a few Shoveler and Mute Swan in attendance. Also on the water were a flock of Black-tailed Godwit with Redshank  and a single Dunlin which was in summer plumage.

Avocet, Frodsham Marsh. Emily TraynorThe numerous Swift and Martins attracted the attention of a Hobby which shot over in pursuit of its prey and was lost to sight. The mitigation pools on No.3 tank had young Lapwing feeding on the edge with their parents on constant alert and pursuing any passing crow or buzzard. The 3 Avocet were busy feeding while the Black-head Gull was still sitting tight. There were several broods of Coot noted and the Canada Goose pair were on the secluded pool with their brood. A juvenile Pied Wagtail was being fed by its parents over on No.4 and Skylark were singing overhead.

Observer and image 1: Paul Ralston.

The drake Garganey was again on No.6 tank where 293 Black-tailed Godwit were present.

Observer: Tony Broome.

Image 2 by Emily Traynor.

19.05.16. Birdlog

19.05.16. (drake) Garganey, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (13)19.05.16. (drake) Garganey, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (19)A brief evening visit in between periods of rainfall. I walked along the south side of No.5 overlooking No.6 tank. The first bird I noticed was a drake Garganey which swam towards me and settled to preen below the bank in thick vegetation. There was a lot of ducks present tonight with Common Shelduck, Gadwall and Tufted Duck showing similar numbers to a few days ago (so no change really), the drake Common Pochard was again here with a couple of drake Common Teal and the odd Shoveler.

A flock of 150 Black-tailed Godwit were roosting in the centre of the water while just 3 Dunlin could be found on the muddy margins with 2-3 Redshank.

28.08.15. Common Swift, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The real highlight of the watch was the 500 Common Swift and 200 mixed hirundines hawking insects which had been forced down by the low cloud and rain.

The shallow scrapes on No.3 tank were a disappointment and relatively birdless with just a solitary Avocet present.

Observer and images: WSM.

Nature Notes #49

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17.05.16.  Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.As I have mention before in ‘Nature Notes’, if you look hard enough, Frodsham Marsh has a lot more than birds on offer. On the occasional quiet birding day I slow the pace down and have a look around for what else I can find of interest. Looking closely at trees in blossom, flowers in bloom and the insects associated with them often reveals a hidden world. I find it fascinating and at times starkly beautiful.

Spring often gives the feeling that it’s late in coming. The days remain cold and there is often persistent rain and westerly gales as low pressure and Atlantic fronts refuse to give way to high pressure or winds from the south that would bring the first migrants in. Even when the first Sand Martin and Wheatear trickle in, the marsh has already woken up and the Gorse in flower with its coconut-scented deep yellow flowers filling the air with a hint of suntan lotion. When I look closely I always think that they are reminiscent of goose barnacles in shape.

Blackthorn flowers 8707Fast on its heels comes the Blackthorn, the delicate white flowers lighting up the landscape just as the Hawthorn is just coming into leaf in late April. A close look at the flowers reveal them to be anything but white with green sepals, yellow-brown anthers and lemon stigma. They hug the bare branches for a short time to be pollinated by insects before the leaves appear and the fruit begins to develop into the familiar misty-blue sloe berries that ripen as the autumn nights cool. One particular moth, the Sloe Pug is associated with this plant.

Apple blossom 9188

Almost as delicate is the blossom of Apple trees, beautiful soft pink petals and yellow anthers. There is a single tree by the old log along Brook Furlong Lane that has been particularly showy recently.

Hawthorn flowers 9197

Hawthorn Tree 9127As the days in May get warmer and there are dry sunny spells with southerly winds, two more trees put on a show. Some years are better than others and 2016 has been spectacular for Hawthorn blossom. The trees look as though they are covered in snow at the moment, some of them having so many flowers that it’s difficult to see any leaf. From a distance it looks whitish, but close up they are wonderfully different with the white flowers having a lime green centre and stigma surrounded by rose-red anthers. Pollinated by insects, bees and flies, they develop into the familiar red berries much beloved by lots of birds but in particular thrushes.

Horse Chestnut flowers 9160

Horse Chestnut 9134As the Hawthorn puts on its show, one other tree tries to out-do it with bright green leaves and large candelabra of creamy white flowers. Horse Chestnuts are familiar to all young boys as ‘conker trees’ the hard seeds used in many a boyhood conker contest that has resulted in skinned and bruised knuckles. The spikes of flowers are spectacular enough, but get up close and the individual flowers are superb. Cotton-wool textured flowers, centred lemon-yellow and pinky-red with strongly up-curved brown-tipped stigma remind me of ice cream with raspberry and lemon sauce. Bees love these flowers and Buff-tailed and Common Carder Bumblebees were in evidence on the trees below the old log this week.

Fork-jawedNomad Bee - Nomada ruficornis pos 9175 -   CopyHoverfly - Cheilosia variabilis 9759The original track down from the old log (south-east corner of No.1 tank) to the River Weaver is alive with insects on warm sunny days in May and besides the numerous Cow Parsley, there is a single umbellifer, a Hogwort, in flower that is attracting some of the more interesting species. The nicest species is a Nomada bee, tentatively identified as Fork-jawed Nomad Bee, Nomada ruficornis, a parasitic species which lays its egg inside the egg chamber of the Orange-tailed (Early) Mining Bee, Andrena haemorrhoa, and the larvae hatch, kill the original occupier and then lives off the food supply. There was also an Ichneumon Wasp, but I’m not confident at identifying most of this family. I did manage to sort out a black hoverfly that was basking on bramble leaves in the sunshine, Cheilosia variabilis, (illustrated above) a widespread species.

Ichneumon species 9216

My challenge to you is to go to the marsh armed with a camera/note book and capture some of these critters and then let us what you have found?

Written and illustrated by Tony Broome.