30.05.12. Birdlog

Wind slight south-west, humid low cloud cover with periods of prolonged sunny spells.

Paul Crawley saw a male and female Bullfinch on the marsh side of the motorway bridge at Marsh Lane. 4 Avocet, 3 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Yellow Wagtail were all on No 6 tank.

Paul also received a text from John Gilbody who had seen 2 Short-eared Owls on the evening of the 29th. Interesting to find birds still present here, it makes you wonder?

Common Whitethroat is a typical summer visitor to Frodsham Marsh and their scratchy song is evident on these warm summer evenings. Image by Paul Crawley.

27.05.12. Nature Notes #2

A young male Fox prospecting again for nesting birds but was given short sharp shrift from the nesting Black-headed Gulls and was sent packing.

Managed this image of my first Painted Lady Butterfly of the year sunning its self on the raised bank of No 6 tank.

Observer WSM

Paul Crawley sent me this image and message about the Raven featured below.

I got these shots of the Raven yesterday showing its nictitating membrane.

You can find more of Paul’s photographs on the Birdguides website gallery.

Just up the road from Frodsham is  Riverside Campus off Percival Lane, Runcorn docks, I found a new site for Bee Orchids with well over 50 in flower.

Image by WSM.

27.05.12. Birdlog

Evening visit. Wind warm moderate from the north-west. Bright and sunny.

1 (male) Marsh Harrier, 9 Dunlin, 4 Avocet, 7 Black-tailed Godwit (including the ringed individual from previous weeks, now with a broken leg), 40 Mute and a single Black Swan, 100 Tufted Duck, 25 nesting pairs of Black-headed Gull, (singing) Cuckoo, 1 Yellow Wagtail .

Observer WSM.


Ferry alongside the Mersey


The photograph below of either the ‘Tulip’ or ‘Royal Daffodil’ Mersey ferry travelling along the Manchester Ship Canal twice weekly from Liverpool during the summer months. Although the image looks like the boat has run aground. It is really sailing along the canal but, sandwiched between the (north) raised banks of Frodsham Score and the  Marsh Farm fields (south) in the foreground. The ferry enters the ship canal at Eastham locks on the Wirral and travels to Salford Quays, returning the following day.

If you’re looking for a budget cruise with really close views of Frodsham Score, Runcorn Bridge and Wigg Island then contact the Mersey ferry company online (there’s even a bar onboard!). A return coach is available at the end of the line. The last time I saw the price list it was  £37.00 per adult.

Image by Paul Crawley

26.05.12. Nature Notes (…and so it begins!).

…and so it begins…

…our little friends the Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillars are beginning to munch their way through the Spindle bushes along the top track on No 6 tank today. Watch this area over the next few weeks.

It starts like this…

…and ends like these two pictures below taken in 2010.

All from a little Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillar which grows to one of these critters.

All images by WSM

26.05.12. Birdlog (Another bloggers blog)

Bright warm sunny weather with a refreshing strong Easterly wind. Clear skies and good visibility.

2 Black-tailed Godwit, one of which is the ringed bird from late April. It appears to have a swollen knee-joint and is hopping whilst feeding. 4 Avocets, 8 Dunlin, 1 Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel calling, 49 Mute Swan and the Black Swan present. Pair Pochard, drake Wigeon, 100 Tufted Duck, male Marsh Harrier, 2 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, 4 Raven, 2 Cuckoo, 2 Yellow Wagtail.

Image by Paul Crawley

Observers: PC, FD, WSM, John Spottiswood

Included below is an account of John’s visit to the marsh and his observations and comments.

For a change I decided to skip Weaver Bend and pay special attention to No.6 tank involving my first ever walk all the way round. 12 Common Whitethroats (11 singing) 6 singing Sedge Warblers 3 Yellow Wagtails Cuckoo heard only 7 singing Skylarks 10 singing Reed Warblers 94 Tufted Ducks 20 Shelducks Male Wigeon Black-tailed Godwit 3 Avocets 5 Gadwalls 3 Ringed Plovers Shoveler 2 reeling Grasshopper Warblers by the lane below No.6. Lesser Whitethroat audible over the fields there towards the M56. For those who remember the glory days when Frodsham was definitely one of the UK’s premier birding sites check out this excellent new blog at https://frodshammarshbirdblog.wordpress.com/ It is still one of the best sites in Cheshire so let’s get out there and see if we can bring in some new glories. Recent years have seen such delights as Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Red-backed Shrike so it can still deliver even though there is a lot less prime habitat and less coverage. The blog also has some recent sightings, a virtual equivalent of the legendary Frodsham bird log, a big notebook with a pen on a piece of string in a metal box nailed to a telegraph pole (it was cutting edge technology back in the day. JS

It certainly was John and it started with me and Martin Garner manually digging a huge hole at the base of the drainage brick tower on No 1 tank in December 1986, to cement the wooden post and box there. It was later relocated to its present site at the south-east corner of No 5 tank.

I think you can find John’s blog on ‘Planet Spottiswood’. Thanks for the plug John. WSM

Frodsham Marsh Birding. 22.09.90. (Part One)

I’ve had many good birding days on the marsh over the years (and a few bad ones) but, one in particular stands out above the others. Already on a high from ticking off Yellow-throated Vireo, at Kenidjack, Cornwall three days previously. Mid morning of the 22nd September 1990 saw me and Steve Jones (equally competent son of Wirral birder John Jones) ploughing through the mixed flocks of wading birds roosting up during a big Mersey tide. The wind was strong with a menacing cloud belt approaching  from the North-West. The shorebirds consisted of 5,000 Dunlin with Grey Plovers, Knot, 30 Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone and 15 of Frodshams signature bird the ‘Little Stint’, all of which required careful attention, after all it was September! As the day progressed our observation and interest began to waiver. At 2.15 pm, our attention was drawn to a bird quartering the fields behind us. During the morning a shooter had mounted a one man vendetta against the local Wood Pigeon flocks and he was knocking them off like there was no tomorrow (for numerous pigeons it literally was) and dead birds were scattered around the field. It was obvious it was a skua but which one? The dainty demure body, long narrow wings, pale grey plumage with black cap pointed to an adult Long-tailed. It lacked a tail but we considered this in identification, had both seen the species before and were familiar with all plumages of Arctic Skua.We watched the bird for 3/4 hour before heavily laden with pigeon pie it flew to the south-east, gained height and was lost to view high over Frodsham Hill. We both looked at each other like slack jawed yokels and a big grin spread across our faces. Within minutes it suddenly by magic reappeared on No 4 tank and chose its dessert of Lapwing. It was apparent the bird was unsettled and shortly after it took flight and headed to the Mersey Estuary.

Seabirds are seabirds  for a reason and although Frodsham is  in close proximity (17 miles from the Irish sea) we rarely encounter the wanderings of these ocean waifs. For example, it’s taken me 38 years to see all the skua species  within sight of Runcorn Bridge. So, to have the rarest one on my local patch was astonishing and my jaw was swinging and squeaking like an abandoned gas station sign in a dusty Arizonan desert. Steve and I couldn’t believe our eyes and no amount of rubbing them could erase this enigma before us. We hastily scribbled notes and field sketches to paper (see below). One of the highlights of being  young and impetuous birders is to bask in the glory of the find! To do that we needed to first put the news out, second put it out to the right people and beyond, and thirdly get the bird to hang around.

Fortunately for us it did! It was relocated the next morning on Frodsham Score where its culinary appetite had moved from game bird to lamb (was discovered feasting on a dead sheep): probably a victim of high tides on the river.

The story does not end there. We decided on a walk to the ‘corner’ overlooking the Weaver sluices (unfortunately, access to this area is problematic so it’s best worthy to avoid trespassing here nowadays). We settled tight into the bank to avoid the searing wind. Suddenly the omnipresent clouds broke rank and shafts of light poured out illuminating the river below. Just as our hands were turning from pink to blue a vision appeared from the Hale side of the river. That’s a big House Martin I thought? We watched the bird buffeted across the river. I couldn’t believe my eyes – the bird was a Leach’s Petrel! A Leach’s Petrel at Frodsham Marsh today of all days! It slowly made its way to within the area of the sluice gates flying the light fantastic. If I’ve ever had a spiritual moment then this was it! Because, our attention was fixated on this bird we almost missed the additional three Leach’s disciples break (water) dancing along the edge of Frodsham Score. My head was spinning and the air was punched with expletives. We met up with Steve and Gill Barber some time later and they had  enjoyed the ‘sea watch’ Frodsham scoring a Fulmar.

We chanced our luck and headed off to Neumann’s Flash in Northwich for a reported Buff-breasted Sandpiper but dipped it!

The following morning I was watching the relocated Long-tailed Skua on Frodsham Score. While in conversation with some birders two Arctic Skua flew from inland and headed out over the Long-tailed towards the sea. The only blip to the day was missing an Osprey heading south but you can’t have everything…can you?

Patch birding moments  like my 24 hours are exceptionally rare and are treasured memories. I hope you have had a day as good as mine? Please send me your Frodsham moment and I’ll put it on the blog.

Bill Morton

20.05.12. Birdlog (There she blows!)

Black Swan with 20 Mute Swans on No 6 tank were the highlight .

A sludge pipe burst on No 4 tank this afternoon and sent this blackened Balrog spectre plume 30 ft into the air. I was at work today, but Paul Crawley sent this image and it looks awesome!

One of the side effects of the burst sludge pipe was this …

This event recalls a tale which I remember from the mid eighties…In the days when you needed a pocket full of two pences to use in a phone box. I telephoned former Frodsham  birder Mike Whiteside to tell him about a rare bird at the marsh. After walking miles through Frodsham looking for a telephone box that actually worked. I made the call to Mike’s office and was greeted by his secretary. The message I asked her to pass on to him was, “There’s a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the I.C.I tank.The message he eventually received was, “There is a burst standpipe at I.C.I. I guess he figured it out, eventually. I have included a photograph of that bird taken and (if memory serves me right) found by Pete Antrobus.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. 1984. Image by Pete Antrobus.