New to Frodsham Marsh: Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow a bird new to Frodsham Marsh 

Greg Baker

29th August 2012.

WEATHER: Sunny with heavy showers following a more prolonged period of heavy rain earlier in the day.  Wind moderate to fresh south-westerly easing to moderate.

I arrived at Frodsham Marsh at around 5pm and spent 30 mins or so scanning No 6 Tank from the top causeway that runs along the north side of the tank.  The earlier heavy downpours had attracted many Teal and a flock of Ringed Plovers to the shallows in the centre of the tank and I noticed the recently resident 4 Ruddy Shelducks feeding on the mudflats further in from the shore.  There was a steady stream of hirundines moving west over No 6 Tank with more (mainly Barn Swallows) feeding over the  adjacent No 5 Tank.  Looking at the Ruddy Shelducks once more, I noticed that the rain had created a number of small pools towards the south-west corner of the tank, close to where the main pipe deposits dredgings onto the tank from the Ship Canal.  Rather than returning back along the causeway, I decided to drive to the south-west corner to check out these pools.  Looking over the embankment there, I found an interesting mixed flock of Pied, White and Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Greenshank.  There were also more hirundines, but here their progress west was more leisurely than on the north side, as many were taking advantage of the shelter and presumably good feeding provided by the south embankment.

A small flock of mixed Barn Swallows and House Martins were feeding above the south-west corner and I was quickly attracted to one individual in particular.  This was clearly a swallow rather than a martin, being larger and with a flight action like a juvenile Barn Swallow with wing-beats appearing more rushed compared with the suppleness of an adult in its pursuit of insects but not as flickering as on a martin.  It was with about 4 Barn Swallows feeding at a height of about 30 metres above me and at a slightly lower elevation than the House Martins, however it was clearly not a Barn Swallow.  From below a dark vent and pale throat with no hint of a breast band drew immediate attention.  The underparts were off-white and appeared a little duskier compared to the Barn Swallows, though I could not detect any obvious streaking.  The tail streamers were longer than on the House Martins but seemed no longer than on a juvenile Barn Swallow nearby.  By this time I recognised I might be onto something interesting but I had still not seen anything of the upperparts.  Thankfully the bird banked twice in excellent light and I was able to clearly see a pale rump, showing a peachy-white tinge where the rump patch joined the dark blue back but otherwise being whitish, plus a pale collar.  The rest of the upperparts were similar in colouration to a juvenile Barn Swallow, lacking the typical gloss shown by an adult. Now I was sure it was a Red-rumped Swallow.

DIGITAL ART. RED RUMPED SWALLOW. WSM

I watched the bird for another minute before it began to drift off west along the south embankment of No 4 Tank in advance of another rain shower.  I contacted Mark Payne and Paul Brewster to put the news out.  Mark was in the area and soon arrived, later followed by Frank Duff.  By now large numbers of hirundines had begun to gather over the south embankment of No 6 Tank as the wind began to lessen and the latest shower moved on but unfortunately, and to my knowledge at least, the bird was not seen again.  No photographs were taken and the bird was not heard to call.

I believe the Red-rumped Swallow was a juvenile given the length of the tail streamers, lack of any glossy sheen on the upperparts and paleness of the rump and collar, neither of which showed any marked rusty tinge.

N.B.  I have experience of seeing Red-rumped Swallows in the Mediterranean region, Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent.

Greg Baker

30.12.12. Birdlog

30.12.12. Birdlog

Frodsham Score did it again when Mark P hit a hat trick of Frodsham goals! First up was a Great White Egret along with 6 Little Egrets and then 17 Barnacle Goose…back of the net! Mark made a few enquiries and contacted Graham Clarkson from WWT and apparently there is a regular flock, in the Martin Mere, Prescott, Eccleston and Knowsley areas, they could be from here? Other birds from the same watch included, 1,000 Canada Geese, 500 Lapwing and a solitary Merlin.

Observer: Mark Payne

The Weaver Bend had 28 Common Teal, 2 Greenshank and 20 Redshank there also.

In the field and hedgerows from Ship Street was 20 Pied Wagtail and both Siskin and a small roving band of Long-tailed Tit.

Observer: Lee Lappin.

Common Buzzard by Findlay Wilde

A Common Buzzard is confused does it turned left or right?

Stonechats by Findlay Wilde

Two images (above) by 10-year-old Findlay Wilde who visited the marsh today with his dad Nigel. Findlay writes his own blog http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk .for more of the same.

29.12.12. Birdlog

29.12.12. Birdlog

29.12.12. Dunlinflock, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Dunlins streaming on to No 6 tank.

High tide brought an incredible 15,000 Dunlin to No 6 tank but, a combination of a nearby  motor trail bike and a Sparrowhawk forced most of them back out to the river. 5,000 remained but were unsettled and constantly flew then settle before flying again. Additionally, 1,000 Golden Plover and 2,000 Lapwing were also present but more reluctant to take to the wing.

56 Mallard, 4 Shoveler, 22 Pochard, 24 Tufted Duck, 18 Wigeon, 2 pairs Pintail and 230 Common Teal.

5 Raven were still hanging around No 5 tank.

Observer: WSM

Moore Birds for your Money. WSM.

I called into Moss Side, Moore on the way home (okay, I normally go in the other direction) an old stomping ground when the late Colin Antrobus ploughed a lone furrow there. The lure of some birding goodies to round the year off was too tempting. Anyway, this bevy of beauties was well worth the effort. Smew (female), Waxwings and a 1st winter Glaucous Gull.

2013 Frodsham Marsh Checklist

Frodsham Marsh Birders 2013 Checklist

cropped-se-owl-logo2.jpg

I’ve put together a species checklist for Frodsham Marsh for your use and it’s free! The checklist is in Microsoft Word format. If you want to start the New Year off or tally up your personal Frodsham Marsh list. For a free copy please email mudlark1@live.co.uk

Black-tailed Godwits, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh by Paul Crawley

Some of the 2012 highlights included: 3 Great White Egret (vagrant); Spoonbill; Mandarin (locally rare); 3 Greenland White-fronted Goose (county rarity);  6 Ruddy Shelduck; Ring-necked Duck (vagrant); Red Kite; Buff-breasted Sandpiper (vagrant); Yellow-legged Gull; Ring-billed Gull (vagrant); Arctic Tern; Cheshire’s highest ever count of Raven with 52; Green Woodpecker (locally rare); Cetti’s Warbler; Red-rumped Swallow (a first record! Vagrant); Waxwings (a first record!) and lest we forget Paul Crawley’s infamous ‘Whatwit’ photograph (above) with a few muffled coughs nationwide!.

Any ticks there for you?

Good luck and if you’re over 200 on the list you’re doing well!

26.12.12. Birdlog

26.12.12. Birdlog

Teal, No 6 tank. Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

A brief visit produced the usual selection of duck on No 6 tank including: 30 Wigeon, 120 Mallard, 300 Common Teal, 3 pairs of Pintail, 30 Shoveler, 22 Pochard and 34 Tufted Duck. Also 11 Redshank kept a low profile hiding under the banks.

Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and an adult Peregrine (overhead) were present on the marsh.

Ravens continue to loiter around the north banks of No 5 tank.

Brown-lipped Snail, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

A Brown-lipped Snail on the road by the motorway bridge to Marsh Lane,

Observers: Sparky, WSM.

25.12.12. Birdlog.

25.12.12. Birdlog

25.12.12.Common Buzzard, No 5 tank. WSM.

This Buzzard stayed put when I approached in my vehicle. The branch overhangs the track on No 5 tank and holds either this bird or a Raven or sometimes both.

14 pairs of Wigeon, 300 Common Teal, 4 pairs Pintail, 18 Common Pochard, 24 Tufted Duck and 50 Mallard on No 6 tank at high tide.

Two big female Peregrines enjoying the spoils of a Wood Pigeon Christmas dinner in the middle of No 6 tank. Both birds forced the assembled roosting flock of 1,000 Lapwing and 900 Golden Plover onto No 3 tank to avoid a similar fate. 850 Wood Pigeons were also disturbed off Lordship Marsh at the same time and headed east towards Frodsham Hill.

The old log area east of No 1 tank held a pair of handsome Bullfinches and small numbers of Redwing were present.

Observer: WSM

Merry Christmas and like the Peregrines I’m off for my Christmas dinner!

22.12.12. Birdlog

22.12.12. Birdlog

There was enough rain today to float a boat and it wasn’t until 1.30 pm that it abated long enough for some birding on Frodsham Marsh for the remainder of the day.

Zombie Sheep. WSM.

The Zombie Sheep of Frodsham Marsh . There are plenty of ewes on the marsh covered in burs from the Burdock plant and their fleeces are matted with them. So, it’s highly unlikely they will be hand selected by the Uggs Company for their winter collection.

22.12.12. Buzzard drying its wings, No5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Common Buzzard hanging out to dry on No 5 tank.

No 6 tank held the usual species of duck with 67 Mallard, 2 pairs Pintail, 26 Common Pochard, 5 pairs Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 31 Tufted Duck, 22 Shoveler, 450 Common Teal and a drake Goldeneye.

16 Redshank, 1400 Lapwing and 960 Golden Plover roosting on the tank.

A Sparrowhawk took advantage of the half-light to spook a charm of 400 Goldfinches and, 12 Raven gathered together for the night on No 5 tank.

22.12.12. Starling roost on No 4tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Part of the massive Starling bait-ball over No 4 tank.

A huge gathering of 10,000 Starlings coming to roost in the trees and reedbed on No 4 tank was really impressive.

All images by WSM

Raven about Frodsham Marsh BTO

Raven about Frodsham Marsh BTO 

The official email from the BTO regarding the Raven found on No 5 tank on 05.11.12.

05.11.12. Colour ringed Raven, No 5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSm.

BTO Logo 2010
20 December 2012
Thank you for taking the time to report to us details of a bird ring you found. Information about this bird and its movements is given below.
Ringing Scheme: London Ring Number: HT83485         Species of bird: Raven
This bird was ringed by J A Lawton Roberts as age nestling, sex unknown on 11-Apr-2011 at Tyddyn Uchaf, Pen-y-Cae, Wrexham
OS Map reference SJ****, co-ordinates **deg 0min N 3deg 6min W.
Colour marks left below knee: N,O, right below knee: O,M
It was found on 05-Nov-2012 at Frodsham Marshes, Cheshire
OS Map reference SJ5078, co-ordinates 53deg 18min N 2deg 45min W.
The bird was Sight record by non-ringer    Identified by Colour Ring(s)
Remarks Copy for your information
It was found 574 days after it was ringed, 41 km from the ringing site, direction NE.

15.12.12. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

15.12.12. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

15.12.12. No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Above: No 6 tank and a view looking west to Stanlow.

Below: Dunlin leaving after high tide.

15.12.12. Dunlin flock over No 6 tank. WSM.

Duck numbers were looking good with 462 Common Teal, 24 Common Pochard, 12 Tufted Duck, 68 Mallard, 16 Shoveler, 10 Common Shelduck and 5 pairs of Wigeon.

15.12.12. Dunlin flock, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Dunlin ‘blizzard’ on No 6 tank.

High tide on No 6 tank was really dramatic with 12 Ringed Plover, 200 Grey Plover, 94 Knot, 4,600 Dunlin, a single Bar-tailed Godwit, 120 Curlew, 2 Redshank and chaperoning the assembled throng was a persistent female Merlin upsetting the roosting flocks.

15.12.12. Merlin and Dunlin flock, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

A Merlin playing skittles with the Dunlin and Grey Plover flock.

No 3 tank held 890 Lapwing and 700 Golden Plovers and for a change only one shooter today!

Raven numbers appear down on previous weeks perhaps the present high tides will bring some fresh sheep carcasses on the Score?

The Weaver Estuary was good for Goldeneye with 6 males and a mixture of 11 immature/females making up the remainder. 10 Little Grebe, 50 Common Teal, 10 Pochard and 6 Tufted Duck made up the rest.

15.12.12. Waxwing, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

15.12.12. Brook Furlong Lane and Waxwings, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Brook Furlong Lane and Waxwings.

Highlight of the day was finding a flock of 25 Waxwing along Brook Furlong Lane at around 2.00 pm. One or two of them were engaging in fly-catching sorties from the telegraph wires along the old birdlog track. New marsh birds are few and far between for me so, a worthy and much welcomed box ticked off! Arthur managed to get down to see them before they moved out towards the Ship Street end.

Hopefully, other birders will connect with them tomorrow? I know one who’ll be keener than most, Frank!

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM.

All images by WSM.

The Stilt Walker by John Rayner. 12.12.12. Birdlog Special Post!

The Stilt Walker by John Rayner (12.12.12. Birdlog Special Post!)

John Rayner, Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra. Cornwall.

John Rayner

April 20th 1984 was a Good Friday bank holiday and it was certainly a good Friday for me. I’d done a little local birding that morning and was back at home when a friend, Julian Weldrick, phoned me at about 16.30 to inform me of a bird he had just seen.

Finding a rarity always has a degree of luck about it and on that day it was lucky that Julian happened to be working in the Daily Star office in Manchester instead of his usual Chester Chronicle office in Chester. This allowed him a brief en-route visit to Frodsham Marsh to look for spring migrants. He found a Whinchat but the general migrant search came to an abrupt end when he happened upon a wader that puzzled him. Unfortunately he had to leave for work but luckily he phoned me from the Daily Star office, during his break, with news that he had seen a wader he did not recognize. “A funny Yellowlegs type” but without the bright yellow legs. Julian is no slouch on his birds so something that baffled him was likely to be worth investigating.

I called for Geoff Lightfoot and arrived at Frodsham Marsh about 18.10 with a light SW breeze and half cloud cover that allowed sunny spells. We quickly found the bird and it puzzled us as well!  It was certainly no Lesser Yellowlegs! A few common birds were eliminated and re-eliminated before we resorted to getting out the ‘Heinzel, Parslow and Fitter’.

We dare not approach too closely so settled down with our ‘scopes and went through the field guide methodically. Only one candidate stood out and I think it was I who first tentatively suggested Stilt Sandpiper. But no, it couldn’t be … Could it?

I took 7 pages of notes and here are some samples. “Bill one and a half time head length, solid black, stout not needle, decurved towards tip which was slightly ‘blob’ ended”. “Warm brown patch directly behind eye not as rich as chestnut round bill”. “Prominent white supercilium and dark lores”. “Square slightly off-white upper tail coverts”, No wing bars or white ‘V’ up back”. “Underparts heavily chevroned”.

Re-reading my original notes the identification seems quite straight-forward but at that time Stilt Sandpiper was, and still is, a mega rarity so we challenged our identification over and over again. For most of the time the bird was solitary with only a Pied Wagtail for direct comparison but we estimated it to be approximately the size of a small Ruff. Later an adult Little Stint flew in and was noted to be ringed above the knee on the left leg, worthy of further study on any other day but today it was largely ignored.

Just about the only thing wrong with this mystery bird was feeding action. It was supposed to be a Dowitcher-type sewing machine action but our bird “probed in shallow water”.

At 18.55 the bird flew of its own volition and was not relocated, so we took the cautious approach and went home to mull things over before putting out news. It just had to be a Stilt Sandpiper. Julian returned home after midnight from his shift and then phoned me anxiously. I told him my thoughts on the ID and he concurred. All that was needed now was the bird to hang on overnight.

AMB shooting the Stilt Sand. Frodsham Marsh

Tony taking photos of the Stilt Sandpiper, No 4 tank.

I went back early next morning with Tony Broome. The weather was still kind with bright sunshine and a light SW breeze and more importantly the Stilt Sandpiper was still present, it had only relocated a short distance. Unlike the previous evening, however, it was quite wary and thankfully, as it was now feeding in mud, it was hammering away like the proverbial sewing machine. The last box ticked!

We were enjoying our views when a local birder came over to advise us we were too near a Lapwing territory. We pointed towards the Stilt Sandpiper the conversation ran something like …

“Do you know what that is?”

“Wood Sandpiper, it’s been around a while”

“Er … No … It’s a Stilt Sandpiper”

“F(:>(*g  Hell!”. Came the reply

We drove back to Frodsham village and phoned the news to Nancy’s café from a call box. Of course, bird information phone services were only in their infancy in the early ‘80s and imagine a world with no mobiles, no pagers, and no internet. Rarity information usually reached the general birder in one of two ways. ‘The Grapevine’ was simply a national pyramid of birders who cascaded news down from the elite at the pinnacle to the plebs below. How quickly you received this information was determined by your position on the pyramid, it might be minutes, hours or days. Thus contacts were cultivated, phone numbers carefully stored and birders actually talked to each other frequently.

Alternatively, there was a tiny café in the front room of a house in North Norfolk which had become the nerve centre of British twitching. This was the magical Nancy’s café in Cley-next-the-Sea where information was both received and distributed. The large, old fashioned, Bakelite telephone in that front room would be constantly ringing. If you were unfortunate enough to be sitting next to the phone it was your job to interrupt your bread and butter pudding or beans on toast to answer the never-ending stream of calls asking the same question, “Anything about?” Next to the phone was a large log book with national sightings listed and also some rather good sketches of rarities. Less often the phone would ring and instead of the caller asking, “Anything about?” he might say with some urgency, “Stilt Sandpiper at Frodsham Marsh now!”

This would have been duly logged and the grapevine would have been activated. Within a few hours the first long distance birders had made a remarkably rapid journey from Norfolk, given it was an Easter Saturday. There was no need to rush, the Stilt Sandpiper stayed for 171 days!

John Rayner.

Footnote:

A Ticker’s Tale

John is right in his comments about the longevity of this 1st summer bird, it did indeed stay around for six months! It was also seen at Oglet Bay across the river and commuted between various locations in north Cheshire during its stay.

Line drawing of Stilt Sandpiper. Bill Morton

Fieldl sketch of Stilt Sandpiper at Frodsham Marsh, April 1984. Bill Morton

Field sketch of Stilt Sandpiper. WSM

I remember well the moment when Don Weedon sent his two lads  Anthony and Robert down to my house on their bikes to tell me a “Stilt was on 4” (I didn’t have a telephone in the day) .Enough said, I did have an image of a Black-winged Stilt in my head as I hurtled down to the marsh on my trusty Peugeot racing bike in record time! Both wheels were buckled and twisted negotiating the pot-holed and rutted track leading to No 4 tank. But, I only had eyes on the bird and, there it was…a ‘Stilt Sandpiper’ a real Mega tick on my local patch!

I had some memorable times watching this bird over the summer but one particular moment is etched in my memory. I recall the bird was feeding along the margins of the raised muddy island that was exposed on the Weaver Bend. Sporting a series of fine belly barring with rusty cheeks and looking splendid in its advance 1st summer dress. Unfortunately, the swollen and diseased knee-joint that had gradually worsened since the bird twisted it’s leg in a submerged muddy crack soon after arriving here. Obvious to all that this aliment caused great discomfort, the bird usually fed with one or both wings open to counter balance its feeding action. After that encounter the Stilt gradually became less attentive to the marsh and presumably spent the summer haunting Frodsham Score?

The Stilt was present 16th April until at least 7th October 1984. Subsequently it was recorded on the marsh in all months. I and many other birders had the opportunity to watch it alongside a Pectoral Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Wilson’s Phalarope at various times during the Autumn. Finally, on 7th October the Stilt Sandpiper made its last appearance at Frodsham Marsh on the very same scrape it was first discovered six months previously.

The bird forged some long-lasting memories for birders far and wide and was really responsible for putting  Frodsham Marsh on the twitching radar. I wish I was there with (The Famous Four) Julian, John, Geoff and Tony at the time of the find and identification. What a Bird! What a Find! (and) What a Place!

Additional images of this bird can be found within the ‘Birding Nostalgia’ title on the category section on the blog.

WSM.