Frodsham Marsh has been my ‘patch’ now for 16 years and I feel now as though I am just beginning to get to know it. Understanding a patch means that you get to know what birds to expect and at what time of the year and you also know where to find the resident species. It’s also good to know what birds are unusual or rare on ‘the patch’. For instance Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and Tawny Owl are much rarer than White-rumped Sandpiper based on the last 40 years of sightings!!
During the period I have been watching I have been fortunate to see a number of rare birds. Finding a good bird on a patch is what drives many birders to continue to watch the same area regularly and I am no different in that respect.
Field sketch of the Common Crane found by Frank on the marsh. WSM
I have been lucky enough to find a few goodies including Lesser Yellowlegs, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Common Crane, the only Hawfinch for Frodsham Marsh and Cheshire’s confirmed first breeding Little Egret. I did a Frodsham year list and got a reasonable total of 154 species in the year. I missed 8 birds that year and some of these I still haven’t seen since. So when Bill asked me to write about my best day on the marsh I couldn’t pick just one out. Instead I thought I would describe a period in time just before I became a regular at Frodsham and, in fact, what made me decide to make the Marsh ‘my patch’.
1996 proved to be an excellent year for Frodsham Marsh. The 18th May was my third visit of the year, although my first since early February. During this visit I eventually caught up with the long staying winter plumaged Red-throated Diver on the Weaver Bend. The bird showed very well both on the water and hauled up on the bank. From the bend I drove around to No 6 tank and enjoyed good views of 2 Spoonbills, although there were up to 6 present at times during May to August, and a drake Garganey.
Lesser Scaup on No 6 tank. Image by Gary Bellingham
My next visit was the 19th May and I caught up with the 1st summer drake Lesser Scaup on No.6. This was to be another long staying bird on the marsh and was last seen in early October.
Red-necked Phalarope on the Weaver Bend. Image by Iain Leach
A female summer plumaged Red-necked Phalarope has got to be on the wish lists of many birders and I saw a beauty on the Weaver Bend on the 10th July. Watching the ‘spinning’ bird feast on insects from the surface of the water was a real treat.
Woodchat Shrike by S Rowlands
…and Greg Baker’s video footage of Guido D’Isidoro’s, Woodchat Shrike find on No 4 tank. Woodchat Shrike_juv_7 Sept 8
7th September I was back again for another rarity, this time a juvenile Woodchat on the west bank of No.6. The bird hunted insects all the time from the fence lines of No’s 6 and 4. This was the third shrike species for the marsh. After having my fill of this belter I made my way to the Weaver Bend and got great views of a Pectoral Sandpiper roosting with 2 Curlew Sandpipers plus Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks.
There was then a bit of a lull but in December two Shorelarks were found feeding with Skylarks on the Lum fields and the I.C.I tank. These birds afforded great views and stayed into 1997 allowing many birders to catch up with what, for most, would have been a Cheshire tick.
Frodsham attracts good numbers of birds all year round, but especially in the spring and autumn, and its list stands at 260+. What it needs is more watchers and so if you are undecided about what patch to watch regularly come and join the regular half-dozen or so that commit their time to what is a fantastic but very under watched site. You really do have a chance of finding a rarity for yourself.