20.06.12. Birdlog

20.06.12. Birdlog.

1 Greenshank, 46 Shelduck, 10 Pochard and 63 Tufted Duck on No 6 tank this evening.

Observer: Mark Payne, WSM.

An aerial view from the north-east and clearly shows the water systems in place at Frodsham Marsh. The marsh is sandwiched between Ineos Chlor works at Weston village and Weston Point in the foreground. Stanlow oil refinery is situated in the distance. The water systems are, the River Mersey (right), Weaver estuary (left) and the Manchester Ship Canal (running through the centre right of the image). No 6 tank is positioned at top left. No wonder the marsh has got an enviable reputation for the variety of wading birds, and the marsh covers many types of the right habitat for them.

Image by WSM

19.06.12. Nature Notes #5

19.0612. Nature Notes #5

I took a morning away from Frodsham Marsh and I went for a hike  to Pale Heights with  ‘Sparky’ at Delamere Forest. Walking up the road to the hill I saw my first European Hornet in Cheshire!  The creature was most impressive and lingered only briefly before flipping over the hedge and lost to view.

If you’re out and about this week keep an eye on the wasps you may come across one of the above?

On an additional note on 21.07.12. I was topping up my birding credit by taking Sparky and her mother out for the day at the RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park, Cheshire. At some point during the day my second Cheshire Hornet actually landed on me and flew to nearby blooms before moving on! You wait all your life for a Hornet in Cheshire and two come within a month!

European Hornet (from BBC Nature)

The European hornet Vespa crabro, commonly known simply as the “hornet”, is the largest European eusocial wasp. The queen measures 25 to 50 mm (1–2 in) long; males and workers are smaller. In males, as in most members of the Aculeata, the antennae have 13 segments, while in females there are only 12; also as in other aculeates, the male abdomen has seven visible segments, while the female has six; females possess an ovipositor modified into a sting which is not barbed. See wasp and bee characteristics to help identify similar insects.

This species will sting in response to being stepped on or grabbed. They are also defensive of their hive and rather aggressive around food sources such as lilac bushes. Care should be taken when encountered in these circumstances as they may sting without warning. The pain from the sting may persist for several days with attendant swelling.

Read more at Wikipedia

Additionally, one of my favourite woods here, held several emerging Stinkhorn ‘eggs’ and tall shafts…”ooo-err missus”! Joking apart the folklore surrounding this distinctive fungi species is fascinating and some of the names are enough to make anyone blush. A cracking lifeform (excuse the pun) !

All fungi images by WSM

Good Friday 2005

A Body, a Porpoise and a Ring-necked Duck


This is an article I wrote for a regional birding magazine ‘Birding North West’ in 2005. I thought it would be relevant to share it with you considering the recent sighting at Frodsham Marsh (2012).

The story goes something like this…

…Ring-necked Duck is not the great rarity it once was but, this bird had a peculiar build up to it’s finding that is worth recalling.

5.00 pm Good Friday was not a particularly ‘good’ Friday for me. I worked as a countryside ranger based at Wigg Island Community Park in Runcorn, Cheshire.

Finishing off a grant application for some summer events there, and preparing to end the working day. The plan was to make my way to Frodsham Marsh for some relaxing evening birding.

To cut an extremely long story short…The Police arrived in squad cars, followed closely by a Police spotter plane circling overhead. Err…! What was going on? It’s not everyday you have a body floating passed your place of work! 7.00 pm leave for home, and no chance of any birding today!

Fast forward to the following Thursday…End of day, site secured, take the works van back to the depot and then down to ‘Frodders’ (Frodsham Marsh) for some  R & R evening birding…No chance!!

I was approaching the Old Quay bridge lay-by (which is adjacent to the River Mersey) on route home. Police cars parked up and a small crowd of ‘rubber neckers’ were assembled looking out to the river. ” What’s afoot?” I asked, half expecting some police wit to reply “It’s on the end of your leg”. A charming policewoman with an arresting smile replied, “ We have had a report of a blood stained dead body out on the mudflats”. ‘Not again’ I thought and then eagerly reached for my binoculars and followed her out stretched finger in the direction of the mudflat. What I saw did not appear to be the mutilated handy work of some crazed psychopath. I mentioned to the lady constable that occasionally we do get the odd dead animal washed up on the tide.

“Oh”, she replied, “we did see a dolphin swim passed a few minutes ago”. ‘Perhaps you should take more water with whatever you’re drinking,’ I thought. I gave her the benefit of my cynicism, and scanned the ebbing tide out towards ‘Runcorn Bridge’. After several minutes the dolphin surfaced from the waves, except it was not a dolphin but a Harbour Porpoise doing what porpoises do best, not a lot. It eventually swam back along the tide line towards the Old Quay bridge where I managed to get some records shots on my digital camera. Then it twigged the corpse on the mudflat was probably the porpoises mate, and this was the reason why the animal remained in the vicinity (it did stay around for 3 days). I could see the headlines now ‘BIRDER SOLVES RIVER MURDER’.

Anyway, this article should have been all about the finding of a Ring-necked Duck such is life and death, these things always come in threes…

… Two days later on 2nd April 2005 at 2.00 pm, I was working at Wigg Island CP and, following reports of  youths riding quad bikes in the park the chase was on! I was passing by the lagoon at the eastern end of the park and stopped to scan a small flock of Tufted Duck and Pochard in the distant Reedbed. One particular bird caught my attention before it turned and disappeared into the reeds. All I managed to observe of this ‘Tufted’ type was a multi-toned bill and grey flanks. I was sure that the bird seen was a Ring-necked Duck.

However, with a pair of crappy bins (first excuse) and a distant  glimpse (second excuse), could I have been positive? At that moment I texted Frank Duff (who was at Frodders) with my suspicions and immediately received a call back, Frank was on his way! The duck did not reappear from the reedbed!! It’s all very well putting news out but, when it’s on ropey views you do begin to have doubts, I was considering an early dart before Frank arrived.

Within 20 minutes the duck emerged from the back of the pool with several Tufted and Pochard, and then swam towards a smaller pool within 100 metres in full view, full sunshine and in full male breeding plumage. Frank arrived shortly after and got his Cheshire tick! He wasn’t alone over 350 birders made the trip to Wigg over the following two weeks and, I hope many more will return in the future to find their own birds here.

The moral of this story is, the more time you put into birding the more rewards you can reap. Dead bodies, cetaceans and occasionally rare birds make up a strange cocktail.

Harbour Porpoise at Wigg Island (with West Bank church, Widnes behind.)

The ‘Lagoon’ where the RND was found.

The duck…

…and Wigg Island’s ‘Biggest Twitch’!

Wigg Island is situated top right of the aerial image.

Wigg Island LNR is administered by the local authority and the former ‘Friends of Wigg Island’ group actively supported events and sort funding for projects. This has included inviting former local birding guru Martin Garner to give his first ‘Birding Frontiers’ illustrated talk in Cheshire (his home county).

All images except for aerial shot by WSM.


18.06.12. Birdlog

18.06.12. Birdlog

42 Mute Swans, 91 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard and a lone drake Wigeon were present on No 6 tank.

A male Marsh Harrier quartering the rough grassland fields of No 5 tank for over an hour mid morning was a surprise! Only to be usurped by the dashing Hobby over the same area. Two sets of Peregrines and a pair of displaying Kestrels with loitering Buzzards just went to prove the abundance of prey items available here!

Images of Hobby by Phil Woollen taken on 16th June. Check Phil’s blog out for more of the same and his adventures on Hilbre Island and beyond.  http://wirralbirders.blogspot.com/

Two Avocets and a post breeding/bachelor flock of 100 Lapwing were note worthy.

A singing/calling Cuckoo was again present (holding back the big push south).

A good day for Butterflies with Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Peacock Butterfly basking up the warm sunshine (for a change).

Observers: Sparky and WSM

Frodsham Flicks

A Post with short video footage of some of Frodsham’s birds and occasionally films from other local sites/birds/wildlife. All videos by WSM unless otherwise stated. If you have a short film and you want to share it with the World send me an email with the embedded code (YouTube).

A big thanks to Greg Baker for having the equipment and the foresight to record some of the archive material contained below.

Paul Shenton sent me this link to his blog which shows video footage of the Pickerings Pasture Golden Plover. http://birding4fun.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/golden-delights.html

A video of a Ross’s Goose at Marsh Farm. Taken by Greg Baker, 24th April 2004.

An adult of unknown origin but unringed

A Video of a Grey Phalarope on No 5 tank, 5th October 2001. Taken by Greg Baker.

An immature in first winter plumage spinning and foraging on a flooded field

Video footage of a leucistic Cormorant on No 6 tank, 22 September 2007. Taken by Greg Baker.


Video footage of an immature female Merlin at Marsh Farm. Taken by Greg Baker.


Peregrine sparring with Raven over Frodsham Score by Paul Crawley.


Water Rail chicks at Frodsham Marsh by WSM.


Ruddy Shelducks, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh by WSM.


Buff-breasted (Suits you Sir?) Sandpiper, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh, July 2012 by WSM.


Channel Wagtail, Lordship Marsh, Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire by WSM.


Short-eared Owl on No 5 tank,  Frodsham Marsh by WSM.


Marsh Harrier on No 6 tank from by WSM.


Marsh Harrier (1st cy male) on a hunting foray by David Wilson.


Garganey (drake), No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh by WSM.


Ring-necked Duck on No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh by WSM.



Whimbrel (part of a record flock of 44), No 6 tank by WSM.


Black-headed Gull (lucistic bird) on No 6 tank by WSM.


Grasshopper Warbler at Frodsham Marsh by David Wilson


Green-winged Teal, No 6 tank by WSM.


Ring-necked Duck at Wigg Island LNR, Runcorn by WSM.


Great Northern Diver at Wigg Island by WSM.


Overton Hill views (some of the marsh) by Frodsham Pictures


14.06.12. Birdlog

14.06.12. Birdlog.

Received a text from Paul C who is at the marsh this evening and he confirms that the Black-headed Gull colony has deserted. Obviously, (Not So Fantastic) Mr Fox’s handy work last night put them off returning. To be fair they were transients from the huge colony at Blakemere, Delamere Forest and were on the cusp of being flooded out or predated eventually. When you look at the bigger picture it’s all part of the circle of life.

Lets hope they can learn their lesson and invite a Great Black-backed Gull to join them…Erm! There again!!

It’s not all bad news 10-12 Avocets have returned to No 6 tank.

Observer: Paul Crawley.

13.06.12. Birdlog

13.06.12. Birdlog.

The entire breeding colony of Black-headed Gulls on No 6 tank abandoned their nests for the whole period I was birding there (2.1/2 hrs). The cause of this is directed at a Fox  looking for food. It remains to be seen if the gulls return to their nests?

5 Avocet, 42 Mute Swan, 12 Pochard (one female), 25 Tufted Duck, 10 Teal and 9 Shoveler. Marsh Harrier (male) flew over heading west and a Cuckoo was watched from its usual hiding place.

A Lesser Whitethroat sang from a Hawthorn hedge (left hand side of the approach road, leading to the dirt track ramp to No 6 tank).

Grey Heron close to nest site on No 6 tank.

Upper: Looking south from the north side of No 6 tank.

Lower: Looking south-west from the same position.

Images by WSM