The Marsh from the Hill

The Marsh from the Hill

Three images taken yesterday (25.11.12.) from Overton (Frodsham) Hill looking down to the marsh.

Panorama of Frodsham Marsh from Frodsham Hill. WSM.

No 6 tank (and pointers) from Frodsham Hill.

View of Mersey and Weaver Estuaries, No 1 tank and flooded fields east of No 5 tank. All images WSM.

Linnet Trapping in Cheshire by Andy Harmer

Linnet Trapping in Cheshire by Andy Harmer

This article originally appeared on the Cheshire Active Naturalists site and is reproduced here with permission of the author. You can check their work and courses out at

Red Lane , Frodsham cottage (photographer unknown).

The above photograph was taken around the late 1800’s and shows cottages on Red Lane, Frodsham. The image is also published in Paul Hurley’s ‘Frodsham and Helsby Through Time’ where he suggests that the bird cages hung on the external walls are Linnet cages. The term Linnet was quite generic at this time and referred not only to the European Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) but other passerines such as the Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) which was known as the Red Linnet, and the Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) which was known as the Green Linnet, all with a sweet song and easily trapped by using a decoy bird in a trap or more likely birdlime, a thick adhesive substance prepared using a variety of methods including boiled up bark, mistletoe berries and even linseed, ironically the food that the Linnet takes its name from. The Linnet derives the latter part of its binomial name – cannabina – from its fondness for the seeds of Hemp, and its English name from its liking for Linseed, the seeds of Flax (Linum usitatissimum). Flax and Hemp were favoured plants for the textile industry as their strong and flexible fibres suited requirements for fabric. The linen trade was so pervasive that it would have touched many people’s lives in Cheshire. Not just production, harvesting, and transportation but it’s washing at water features that still bear the association in their names; Lin-mere and Flax-mere.

Goldfinch (Red Linnet). Image by Andy Harmer.

Frodsham and its hinterland would have been perfect for these passerines in the late 1800’s and the report that ‘the linnets’ were trapped on Frodsham Marsh fits with the habitat that would have been there at that time. The construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in the latter half of the 19th century would have required a development footprint a lot wider than the actual cutting and the disturbed earth and new spoil distribution would soon be covered in ruderal vegetation. A lot of excavated spoil would have been transported out to earmarked places such as Mount Manisty, a large mound of earth on a narrow stretch between the canal and the Mersey northwest of Ellesmere Port. Both this and the adjacent Manisty Cutting were named after the engineer in charge.

Greenfinch (Green Linnet). Image by Andy Harmer.

The colonising plants, or ruderals, making up this pioneer community would have persisted for many years after completion of the canal and provided an abundance of food for the ‘linnets’. Mayweed, Chickweed, and Dandelion all have seeds that make up part of the diet of these birds, but Teasel and Thistle are particularly favoured by the Red Linnet (Goldfinch). These ruderal habitats would no doubt flank the canal for its entire length. Geoffrey Egerton-Warburton, a Rector from Warburton near Lymm mentions in his natural history notes from the late 1800’s that “despite County Council orders, Red Linnets (Goldfinches) are being caught on the rough ground next to the Manchester Ship Canal and earning the trappers several shillings per week”.

24.11.12. Birdlog

24.11.12. Birdlog

467 Common Teal, 23 Shoveler, 36 Tufted Duck, 14 Pochard and 2 pairs Wigeon on No 6 tank. A female Sparrowhawk was watching from a tree stump but made no attempt in concealing itself. A flock of 26 Common Snipe were spooked by shooting on the marsh

7 Raven continue to settle down with a group of 5 Common Buzzard on No 5 tank.

The Lapwing, Golden Plover and Dunlin flocks were constantly disturbed from the resting/feeding areas by weekend pheasant shooters from the fields adjacent to No 6 tank.

Guide D’Isidoro, WSM.


Guido enjoying his desert. Image by WSM.

I very rarely get to go on a ‘twitch’ these days, but when Guido offered me a lift to Rhyl in North Wales to see the Desert Wheatear resistance was futile. I thought you might like to see how tame this little beauty performed today. No excuses, except it was a little quiet at ‘Frodders’.

Guido found an Iceland Gull at Llandulas and 8 Velvet Scoters were the highlights from watching the hundreds of Common Scoters leap frogging each other in the feeding waters off shore.

23.11.12. Birdlog

23.11.12. Birdlog

1,200 Lapwing, 500 Golden Plover, 120 Dunlin and 2 Redshank on No 6 tank.

4 Raven and 80 Redwings on and  over No 5 tank.

Observer: Arthur Harrison.

6 Goldeneye on Weaver Bend, The usual flocks of Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Pochard, Mallard & Tufted Duck were on No 6 tank. Golden Plover, Dunlin & Lapwing were also present.

1 Stonechat at Marsh Farm, c150 Redwing & 150 Fieldfare along Brook Furlong Lane including Sparrowhawk and Jay. 7 Raven were on No 5 tank.
Species count for afternoon was 51

Observer: Peter Twist

Local News – Waxwings

Local News – Waxwings

I found (or should I say they found me) a flock of 25 Waxwings which I observed flying directing over my moving vehicle adjacent to Picow Farm Road Recycle Centre, Runcorn this morning (9.10ish am). Fortunately, they settled briefly in two Cherry trees (minus cherries) before moving on south.

Later in the afternoon I had another flock of 12 in flight heading west along Astmoor Road, Runcorn at 2.20 pm.

Observer: WSM

18.11.12. Birdlog

18.11.12. Birdlog

High tide on the river this weekend. Sheep, Raven and Hale lighthouse from Marsh Farm. Image by WSM.

Frodsham Score: 4 Little Egret 1 Great White Egret and 3 European White-fronted Goose on Frodsham Score (1 sub adult and 2 juvenile).
Also present the wintering 8 Whooper Swan on the Score and Ince Marshes.
Tales from (the Farmyard) the Score
Greylag Goose 1.
Farmyard Goose 2 (white birds).
Hybrid White-front x Canada 1 (Looked like White-fronts from back, but Canada from front. Pale face, pink bill, size of Canada).
Canada Goose ,1300 but all not seen.
Canada Goose 1 with white rear hind neck.
Greylag Goose 1.
Shorbirds noted were 1 Grey Plover, 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 250 Dunlin from the tide on the Score .
On the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal were a single ‘wintering’ Common Sandpiper and a possible Rock (Water?) Pipit, 1 flew west along the Ship Canal calling at 13.55 hrs (a big, rangey pipit and typical call but into the light). Also 2 juv male and female Goldeneye on the canal.
Shelduck 300+ Frodsham Score.
Lapwing 930 on No 3 tank and 600 on the Frodsham Score (no idea if same birds).
Curlew 70 No 3 tank, 40 Frodsham Score.
Golden Plover 110 No 3 tank, 300 No 6 tank later at dusk.
Kestrel 1 No 1 tank 3, 1 No 5 tank, 1 Frodsham Score.
Merlin sat out on posts on Frodsham Score.
Raven 10 on No 5 tank, 15+ Frodsham Score.
Redwing 100+ Brook Furlong Lane plus 15+ No 4 tank.
Fieldfare 50+ Brook Furlong Lane.
Blackbird 20+ Brook Furlong Lane, 20+ elsewhere.
Song Thrush 17+.
Starling 5000+ Frodsham Score.
Linnet 20 Brook Furlong Lane, 60 and a 40 on No 6 tank, 80 frodsham Score (200+).
Redpoll sp 2 No 4 tank.

Marsh Harrier (immature) over Redwall (water meadows) then flew to Marsh Farm and beyond.

Observer: Tony Broome.

Reed Bunting at the Pumping Station reedbed. Image by Tony Broome.

Ben Varrey registered Ramsey carrying dry gargo to Salford. Image by Tony Broome

5+ Jays, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker also, Male and female Brambling with numerous Chaffinch in Godscroft Lane, Frodsham and Helsby Marshes.

Male Sparrowhawk at dusk today along Godscroft Lane. Image by Paul Crawley.

Male Brambling at feeder. Image by Paul Crawley.

Foraging Jay. Image by Paul Crawley.

Observer: Paul Crawley

17.11.12. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

17.11.12. Birdlog

7 Waxwings in a hawthorn hedge along Brook Furlong Lane at 10.00 am (SM).

Brook Furlong Lane (birdlog track), where the Waxwings were present this morning.

A first record for the marsh and one of seven Waxwings photographed by Stuart Maddocks. If you’re into fishing enthused with wildlife then you’ll like his blog

High tide saw 768 Common Teal, 32 Shoveler, 11 Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck, 6 Gadwall and 8 Mallard. Wader wise Golden Plover mustered an impressive 800 in various flocks. 62 Grey Plover, 1,700 Dunlin ,16 Knot and 6 Common Snipe.

Adult Peregrine selecting from the duck menu on No 6 tank. Image by WSM.

With all these waders and ducks about they attracted an adult Peregrine and, a persistent Merlin. The latter species spent a good ten minutes detaching a Dunlin from the main flock and veer it towards Frodsham Hill and out of sight. Presumably it was unsuccessful because, it was attempting the same thing with smaller prey when it was harrying a Goldfinch flock on No 5 tank later. A Sparrowhawk fared similarly in the open on No 6 tank and barely caused a flutter with the Teal feeding there.

16 Raven on No 5 tank and 5 at Marsh Farm and these five moving to the score soon after.

Mixed flocks of 200 Linnet and Chaffinch were field hopping. 700 Fieldfare and Redwing were unsettled and continually on the move. 14 Stock Dove, Jay and a Grey Wagtail were in fields by Ship Street.

A dog Fox stealthy worked its way through the tall grass on No 5 tank.

Observers: Stuart Maddocks, Arthur Harrison, Frank Duff, WSM.

14.11.12. Birdlog

14.11.12. Birdlog

No 6 Tank as tide came in:  850 Teal, 15 Wigeon, 55 Tufted Duck, 8 Pochard, 850 Golden Plover, 3 Grey Plover, 3 Ringed Plover, 1,550 Dunlin, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Common Snipe.
On Ince Marshes / Frodsham Score at high tide:  1 Great White Egret, 3 Little Egrets, 6 Whooper Swan, 1,700 Canada Goose, 1 Greylag Goose, 253 Common Shelduck, 16 Oystercatcher, 8 Grey Plover, c5,000 Dunlin, c300 Curlew, 1 Peregrine plus 11 Ravens on the Score embankment.
Elsewhere, 17 Little Grebes and 5 Goldeneye on the Weaver Bend, male Stonechat along the pipes on No1 tank, 300 Redwing and 150 Fieldfare along Brook Furlong Lane.
Merlin at Marsh Farm. Image by Greg Baker.
Video link to this bird by Greg and more of the same on the (Red-eyed) Video category.
Merlin showing well near Marsh Farm.  The deep brown upperparts with an almost chestnut tinge suggest it is a first winter bird rather than a female.
Observer: Greg Baker

Raven about Frodsham Marsh

Colour-ringed Raven.

Colour-ringed Raven annoying a Common Buzzard (centre bird) on No 5 tank. Image by WSM.

Listed below details of this bird from John Lawton Roberts who ringed it.

Thank you very much indeed for sending in the record of a CR Raven at Frodsham to the BTO.

We’ve been colour-ringing nestling Ravens on the surrounds of Ruabon Mountain since 2009 and yours, at Frodsham, is the most distant sighting of one of our birds to date. Black/Orange on left leg, orange/BTO ring on right was ringed by me on 11 April, 2011 in a forest on the east edge of the above moor.

We’ve been studying the expanding Raven population in the above mentioned area since the 1970s, looking at numbers, spacing of pairs and clutch and brood size. The three years of colour-ringing to date (I broke my back in July 2011 and wasn’t able to do any ringing this year) are part of a programme which will hopefully answer questions about dispersal of young, age of first breeding, site and pair fidelity etc.(I’m hoping to enlist the help of climbers next year so that we can resume the ringing.

Numbers of breeding pairs fell slightly a few years ago, this tending to involve the last territories to be occupied. We suspect that this may have been a result of the ‘fallen stock’ law.

A Raven reported as ringed green over yellow on left leg, green on right leg, was reported by a different observer at Frodsham Marsh on 5 November of this year. However, checking my records I cannot find such a combination of rings for any pullus ringed  in our project. Has anyone else seen this bird and has it, to your knowledge, been photographed? We have used the combination in question but on different  legs.

A feeding station near Ellesmere has drawn in several  Ravens from our study in the last three years and hopefully, given the bird’s ability to communicate news about good feeding places to their fellows, Frodsham may do the same. However, this will depend on the regularity with which suitable food becomes available there. (They love large lumps of fat, by the way. As long as they’re cleared up quickly by the birds, I understand that this doesn’t contravene the law).

With all best wishes and thanks, again.

John Lawton Roberts

Check out the Welsh birding at the Ruabon Mountain Black Grouse Hide which is based on the edge of Ruabon Moor at the Llandegla Forest Centre. See the RSPB website for more details on Ruabon. Eds