Saxon Falcon

Saxon Falcon

In the year AD 915 the area south of the River Mersey was under the Kingdom of Mercia and was overseen by a Princess named Ethelfleda. She was the daughter of the Saxon King Alfred the Great. If you’re of a curtain generation then you may remember being taught this at school – Alfred was the king who burnt the cakes (teachers taught you about proper history ‘when I was a lad’). Being the daughter of the king, Ethel was given charge to control the land of Mercia in this area up to, and including, the south shore of the River Mersey (the river derives its name from a Saxon word meaning ‘boundary’). The land to the north was controlled by the Danes (or Vikings if you like).

In more recent times the towns folk of Runcorn and Widnes got to gether and celebrated the naming of the railway bridge to their favourite daughter Ethelfleda.

There is a point to this…when you travel across Runcorn Bridge from a southerly direction you can see adjacent to the road bridge a sandstone constructed railway bridge (Ethelfleda)  – both of these cross the River Mersey at the narrowest part of the Upper Mersey estuary.

04.07.16. Peregrine, Ethelfleda Railway Bridge. Bill Morton (1)

A car passengers view of where the Peregrine usually sits up on the railway bridge.

20.06.16. Peregrine, Runcorn Bridge. Bill Morton (2)

Peregrine chasing Wood Pigeon. Image by Nigel Case.

Peregrine on bridge by Dave Stewart (2)

Over the last few years I have noticed something that you can only observe when you are being driven across in a car from the south. There are four heraldic shields depicting, two of Britannia seated and holding shields, one of a bird (which looks like a Black Stork but is probably a Cormorant) and one heraldic shield. Just below both of the Britannia shields is a metal via ferrata type ladder. Some days (normally during the winter months) you get a really good (but very brief) view of a fine adult Peregrine Falcon just perched up on the ladder. If there are feral pigeons on the bridge then it’s likely there will be no falcon.

Note of caution! If you travel along this road make sure that you are the car passenger! Safety is paramount and at a  moments distraction a driver can cause an accident! So, remember only look if you are the passenger!

Peregrine, Runcorn Bridge. Bill Morton


Ethelfleda Railway Bridge where the Peregrine rests up (viewed from Mersey Road, Runcorn).

The iron ladder is the site where the Peregrine rests up. For the safest view, you should set your scope up at the west end of Mersey Road, Runcorn – it’s also a good site to watch the winter Starling roost (wear a hat – it can get quite messy!).

Today 07.11.12. I saw the adult female perched on the ladder on two trips across the bridge in the morning and in the afternoon.

Image 4 by Nigel Case, image 5 by David Stewart and all  other images by WSM.

Post updated 04.07.16.

Nature Notes #16

Nature Notes #16

Sparky and I spent our day off walking the trails of Delamere Forest and checking out two of the sinister sounding but in reality serene Dead and Black Lakes there.

Green Man Beech Tree Sculpture at the Whitegate car park, Delamere Forest.

We came across this recently carved art work at the end of the Whitegate car park (where the Xmas trees and village is usually situated). On the reverse of the tree is a message, have a look if you’re in the area!

Autumn reflections and colours at Dead Lake, Delamere Forest. WSM.

The first port of call was at Dead lake where we inspected the hornet tree from previous nature notes. The hornets were no longer in residence but the Common Wasps were still active with critters coming and going continuously. To the side of the area is a steep bank which supported several Fly Agaric fungi.

Fly Agaric at Dead Lake (slug damaged), Delamere Forest.

Oak colours at Black Lake, Delamere Forest.

Above image of Black Lake looking anything other than black.

Migrant Hawker Dragonfly (female), Black Lake, Delamere Forest.

The anticipated dragonfly find was more in hope than any real expectation of seeing anything. So, it was a great surprise to find a female Migrant Hawker and just within its extended flying period. She was still attempting to lay eggs but spent most of the time patrolling the warmer west side of the lake.

Correction: The dragonfly labelled Southern Migrant Hawker at Black Lake, Delamere on this post was a typo error and not the mega! Thanks to Paul Derbyshire for drawing my attention to it. A long day, a long night and tired are my excuses. Anyway, it’s been corrected and apologies. WSM.

All Images by WSM.

05.11.12. Birdlog

05.11.12. Birdlog

An hour and a half’s birding this evening was rewarding with a wealth of birds to be had.

No 6 tank continued to support the same water bird species as the previous evening. Lapwings were in much larger numbers with approximately 680 present along with reduced numbers of Golden Plovers totalling 400 birds. Also present were 40 Dunlin, 2 Ruff and 6 Redshank. Water Rails were ever present and calling from the depths of the reedbeds.

Upwards of 7 Ravens were gathered along the field fence on No 5 tank and, like yesterday were not allowing the presence of a young Buzzard to go unattended. One particular bird was colour-ringed (update on its orgin as and when I find it).

Colour-ringed Raven harassing Common Buzzard, No 5 tank.

Colour-ringed Raven, No 5 tank.

The sound of a Skylark sub-singing from the air was really puzzling until I found it in hot pursuit by an immature/female Merlin. I often find when Skylarks are chased by a predator they will either call loudly or even sing. So, without exception this lark was proving its flight prowess against the inexperienced Merlin by …just taking the ‘P’!

The Merlin was later sat on the fence bordering No 6 tank (below images) and it allowed me to get really close in the dwindling evening light.

A little grainy but close image of a (immature female) Merlin, No 6 tank.

All images by WSM.

04.11.12. Birdlog

04.11.12. Birdlog (No 6 tank unless otherwise stated).

24 Tufted Duck, Pochard, RD, 600 Common Teal, 2 Wigeon and 24 Shoveler.

650 Golden Plover, 300 Lapwing, 170 Curlew, 3 Dunlin at the roost. 8 Redshank feeding in the manner of Avocets, shifting bill from side to side and all in a compact group. An impressive count of 30 Common Snipe was notable.

Winter Golden Plover flock. Image by Mike Roberts.

Water Rails continue to call in the reedbed below the northern banks of the tank.

5 Ravens were holding hostage to a bewildered (presume juvenile) Common Buzzard until I drove past and gave the Buzzard enough distraction to make a bolt for it. Also noted was the female Sparrowhawk.

Several Redwings were heard as they flew over head at dusk.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM.

03.11.12. Birdlog

03.11.12. Birdlog

No 6 tank had the wintering flock of Golden Plover, Lapwing and 1 Ruff.

A fall of winter thrushes including good numbers of Blackbirds at the Ship Street entrance. Along the Brook Furlong Lane (track by the old birdlog) was a female Sparrowhawk and keeping a watch over her was a Grey Wagtail and Bullfinch.

Stonechat at Marsh Farm. Image by WSM.

Immature male and male Stonechat along track leading to Marsh Farm. Also fluttering along the track was a late Comma Butterfly.

Observer: Frank Duff.

A Barn Owl was seen in fields close to Bridge Lane and Frodsham Swingbridge on the A566 road at 6.00 pm.

Observer: Dave Stewart.

01.11.12. Birdlog

01.11.12. Birdlog (All sightings from No 6 tank unless otherwise stated)

I managed 40 minutes birding (after work) before the sun slipped quickly below the western horizon.

400 Common Teal, 45 Tufted Duck, 20 Common Pochard, 30 Common Shelduck, 24 Shoveler and 10 Mallard.

454 Golden Plover with 600 Lapwing, 2 Ruff and 3 Redshank.

A Water Rail was calling from below the north bank of No 6 tank.

5 Raven en route to roost on Frodsham Hill.

Observer: WSM.

Please note there is now a gate attached to the previously ungated posts on the ramp to No 6 tank. If you get locked (unlikely) in, there is a contact number on the new signs along the northern side of the tank (below).