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.


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.


09.12.12. Birdlog

09.12.12. Birdlog

A brief visit at dusk had the same species of duck present on No 6 tank. 400 Common Teal, 43 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck, 16 Wigeon, 6 Pochard and 50 Mallard.

1200 Lapwing and 500 Golden Plover were disturbed from their roost with no obvious reason, some of the Lapwings return but the Goldies left and went out to the score? 26 Common Snipe flew up and settled back onto the tank.

10 Raven were loitering on No 5 tank. 1,000 Starlings were gathering to roost in the reedbed on No 6 tank.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, Sparky and WSM.

08.12.12. Birdlog

08.12.12. Birdlog

The eastern quarter of No 6 tank was frozen over night. 3 Whooper Swans on the tank there this evening joined 400 Common Teal, 5  pairs Pintail, 15 Wigeon, 34 Shoveler, 6 Pochard and 30 Mallard already in situ. When the shooters and model aircraft flyers eventually left for their respective evening dinners the Lapwings, Golden Plovers and 150 Curlews had time for a quiet rest before no doubt it resumes again tomorrow?

08.12.12. Whooper Swans, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Whooper Swans on No 6 tank this evening.

08.12.12. Weaver Estuary, Frodshm Marsh. WSM.

The Weaver estuary a welcome refuge for wintering duck away from the mayhem elsewhere on the marsh.

A motor bike scrambling along the banks of the Weaver Bend and Pheasant shooters blasting away by their Cheshire Wildlife Trusts endorsed ‘Snipe Marsh’, were too much for the timid wintering ducks on the River Weaver. All of them spent their time on the relative safety of the Weaver estuary. They included 15 (5 male, 2 juvenile and 8 female) Goldeneye, 43 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard (and a small bunch of 10 Little Grebe joined them there). 100+ Gadwall were opposite the Weaver sluice gates.

15 Skylark in the Lum fields and 200 Fieldfare, 30 Redwing and 20 Blackbirds were present on the eastern banks of No 5 tank.

08.12.12. Stonechat (male), Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. WSM.

Male Stonechat at Marsh Farm.

17 Raven were down on yesterdays counts but nonetheless both active and vocal on No 5 tank and Marsh Farm. A male and female Stonechat found the sheltered pool area ideal for a spot of fly-catching.

A Peregrine was again roosting up on the sheltered side of the blue-topped chimney towering over the Weaver estuary.

A Barn Owl was seen briefly in a fishermans car headlights at approx 7.00 pm along the track leading from Marsh Farm.

All images and comments by WSM.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM