Graham Thomason – Pioneers of Birding

Pioneers of Birding – Frodsham Marsh style

Graham Thomason


Graham Thomason at the MRG 50th anniversary. Image by (Chris Benson/Kenny McNiffe. Merseyside Ringing Group)

Frodsham Marsh 1953

My first visit to Frodsham Marsh was to No 4 tank Sludge pool (now referred to as tanks) was on 26th September 1953, and during the rest of that autumn I saw all the expected waders-Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Greenshank etc which were all new birds for me.

During the winter of 1953/54 I continued my visits most Saturdays and duck numbers built up, giving me my first Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler and birds such as Short-eared Owl, Peregrine and Merlin.

On Saturday 13th February 1954 I was cycling along the road on the south side by, what was then, the old farm building, when I heard calls of Wigeon just over the bank.

Dropping my bike in the grass I walked down the track and climbed up the bank. On reaching the top I peered through the grass, to see a sight that is still vivid in my mind today. Below me, at very close range, the ducks were spread out on the water-20 Mallard, 200 Teal, 70 Wigeon, 32 Pintail, 28 Shoveler, 17 Tufted Duck, 22 Pochard and 2 immature male Smew-not more than 60 ft away! I lay there admiring my first Smew, watching them diving and surfacing with small fish, before swallowing them.

After cycling round to the north side of the sludge pools I later returned to have another look at the Smew, before I headed for home but there was no sign of them.

At this point I thought of the Weaver estuary a place I had not been to before, and had no idea how to get to! However, I set off, pushing my bike across No 1 sludge tank until I stumbled across the River Weaver. Just as I dropped my bike down and looked across the river 7 Smew flew passed me flying up river-4 male and 3 female together with a female Goosander. Also on the other side of the river, on Weston Marsh (before it became another sludge pool) 47 White-fronted Geese were grazing. In those days White-fronts were regular visitors and although they usually spent the day on the Dee meadows, they nearly always flighted back to the Mersey to roost-often up to 3-400 birds.

That evening I telephoned R.H Allen and arranged to meet him the following morning. He informed Major A.W Boyd and the next morning we all met up to look for the Smew, which was the biggest flock in Cheshire for over 20 years.

By then their numbers had dropped to 3 birds a single male and 2 females but the Goosander was still present and 2 female Scaup had appeared. Not a bad weekend for a beginner!

Graham Thomason

20.08.12. Birdlog

20.08.12. Birdlog

The juvenile Curlew Sandpiper continues its stay on No 6 tank sharing it with 120 Ringed and 1 Little Ringed Plover, 19 Black-tailed Godwit (including a colour ringed bird), 3 Dunlin, 1 Green Sandpiper and a Peregrine surveying the proceedings. A male Marsh Harrier moving through was  suggested to be a migrant passing through? The Water Rail and her two chicks were again viewable in the warmth of the evening sunlight.

9 Common Sandpiper on Weston Marsh side of the Weaver Bend and along the hedge rows were a single Willow Warbler and 6 Chiffchaff.

Observers: Paul Crawley, Peter Twist, Arthur Harrison, WSM.