Upper Image Paul Crawley and lower image WSM.
A pair of hybrid Ruddy Shelducks took up territory in the ploughed field adjacent to Moorditch Lane (approach track to No 6 tank). The way these two are behaving it’s only a matter of time before we hear the sound of pattering (webbed) feet. The male was defending the females honour by chasing off any Common Shelduck who dared approach his betrothed…There goes the neighbourhood!
Observers: Arthur Harrison, Paul Crawley, WSM.
Arthur managed to get the Cuckoo that is lingering along the track on No 5 – No 6 tanks and a White Wagtail for good measure.
Eco-tastical! (a racy little number)
29th April 2003
Recording as many birds as possible in a calendar day is a popular pursuit amongst the birding fraternity. Most attempts to do this from teams of birders usually involve rallying around a defined area, usually a county. During the 1990’s, I had the honour of “racing” with a team that included one of Chester and District Ornithological Society’s finest up and coming birders of the time, Chris Done. The excitement of months of planning meetings, sponsorship (we raised a fair bit of cash for Birdlife International), building a team of staker-outers for the day, and belting around Cheshire in hire cars all appealed to our youthful team and resulted in us recording a phenomenal 141 species during a calendar day in Cheshire in 1992.
Previous Bird Race experiences such as this were to be beneficial when we organised what we titled an “Eco Bird Race” on Frodsham Marsh on 29th April 2003. The concept was not too complex – record as many birds as possible on foot around the marsh, simples !
Frodsham was the chosen location as it was Chris’ local patch for many years, and 29th April chosen as there was a reasonable tide (& tide time!) on the Mersey, and we thought it would be a good time of year for lingering winter visitors, spring migrants and returning summer visitors.
Just after 2am, with minimal planning required to set a route, we started the days’ birding at the Weaver Bend in the industrial glow of the artificial lights on the ICI works.
Ruck sacks were packed to Baden-Powell standard, catering for a 20 hour birding marathon and all the meteorological possibilities that might bring !
And so our Hillary/Tenzing-esque long trek began with an accompanying soundtrack of the ubiquitous Lapwing, a chatty Sedge Warbler, a “Cuckoo-ing” Cuckoo, “whinnying” Little Grebe, a “reeling” Grasshopper Warbler (on Marsh Farm Scrape) and, rather appropriately as we were up with the lark, the classic melodic cadence of a Skylark, as we paced on the track along the south side of Number six tank.
Around 5am, despite the ever-increasing drizzle, the dawn chorus sprang into life, including Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat.
A Buzzard rose from it’s overnight roost site in Kamira Wood (on the south-west corner of Number four tank) and flew strongly towards the Mersey. Kamira Wood also produced one of the bonus birds of the day, a Great Spotted Woodpecker !
The worst of the rain had now passed and we made our way to the south-western boundary of the site, to Spring Farm, an essential site for the day-list for those Frodsham mega’s, House Sparrow & Collared Dove. These were clinched, plus a Raven spotted soaring over the Old Man of Frodsham and views of a singing Lesser Whitethroat along the lanes, taking us over the 50 species mark before 8am.
We climbed up the embankment on the south-west corner of number four tank to encounter a shallow water pool hosting Black-tailed Godwits, Common Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtails and a drake Shoveler, whilst the first of a large, day-long movement of c200 Common Swifts powered overhead.
With impeccable timing (we knew the score!), we parked ourselves on the northern embankment of number four to see what was on the River Mersey on the incoming tide.
Great Crested Grebe, gulls, waders (Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Curlew) and ducks (Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser) was the answer, then just before we were about to carry on trekking, I picked up a Ruddy Shelduck, a Frodsham favourite, amongst the Shelducks feeding distantly on Ince Marshes. This bird was one of at least 4 birds present on the Mersey during Spring 2003.
Two Ruddy Ducks sat innocently on the Canal Pools, while the airwaves here were tuned to Reed Warbler FM ! Pacing yourself is key to any Bird Race, and we ploughed through the hard graft of the early mid afternoon lull on number six tank, with Sand and House Martins, Swallows and Swifts keeping us entertained, and also attracting an adult male Hobby, dashing over number five tank, showing off compact size, steely grey wings, black cap, streaked underparts and orange shorts, yet another superb bonus.
As we made our way back to the log book area, we saw Grey Partridge in the fields along the Marsh Lane track, before a heavy rainstorm moved in for over an hour ! The rain stopped around 4:30pm, and the remainder of the day’s birding was spent around the River Weaver, highlights a lingering Short-eared Owl on the ICI Tank & a pair of pioneering Avocets on the Weaver, a species that was just beginning to colonise north-west England, a perfect sight under a rainbow lit sky, and the 82nd species of a quality day.
If only Carlsberg did Bird Races.
By James Walsh (upper image) & Chris Done (lower image).
Ironic that 10 years later to the day we are still getting the legacy from those pioneering Ruddy Shelduck (see the next post and ‘The Birds of Frodsham Marsh’ Facebook page for video), eds.
Hybrid Ruddy Shelduck X Common Shelduck in ploughed field behind model aircraft flying site (Lordship lane). A Common Sandpiper and 6 Swift on and over No 6 tank.
Observer: Frank Duff.
Wheatear on Lordship Marsh and 8 Swift over No 3 tank. A female Marsh Harrier flew over No 5 tank then over No 6 tank. 52 Common Shelduck on field south of airfield and male Marsh Harrier bouncing around everywhere.
The 6 Greylag Goose goslings are still going strong on pool area by the farm.
Observer and images: Paul Crawley.
A Cetti’s Warbler singing close to the Bailey bridge was again notable like it’s observer, Mark Wotham.
Welcome to our British Summer! Yesterday morning we had some warm(ish) sunshine but it was quickly replaced by rain followed by hail stone and then the wind got up. Today cold, wet and completely miserable weather by tea time so I made my excuses and called in at the marsh for a spot of bird…
…spotting where I saw 2 Avocet joining the Common Shelduck on No 6 tank and then a Cuckoo was leap frogging the fence as I attempted to get a record shot with my camera (above image). One of the immature female Marsh Harrier flew into roost at dusk.
05.05.13. Ryanair flying over the blue-topped power station chimney at Weston Point.
Image by Paul Crawley.
Dredger, pumping station and No 6 sludge tank pipe
A new category showcasing images from Frodsham Marsh and local areas of interest.
Black Gold! It’s the sludge that makes all this possible.
A brooding hail storm over Frodsham Hill
A Grasshopper Warbler ‘reeling’ away by the ramp track on the banks to No 4 tank from Lordship Lane.
Observer: Frank Duff, Heather and Harley Wilde.
Frodsham Score: 24 Raven having a ‘much as you can eat’ buffet with lamb and mutton being the only food option. 2 immature female and a male Marsh Harrier were nearby. Two further Grasshopper Warbler were heard on the Weaver Bend and the west end of Lordship Lane where the 32 Mutes still attracted the now summering Whooper Swan in a grassy pasture field west of the model flying site off Lordship Lane and a Whimbrel flew over.
Counts of Common Shelduck reached 50 birds and numbers are increasing here. However, 10 Mallard, 12 Common Teal and 14 Tufted Duck are dwindling. On the wader front 9 Black-tailed Godwit on No 6 and a similar number of Golden Plover on No 3 tank.
The widespread Wheatear continue to be evident with birds on No 3 and 5 tanks where 12 were present, and a single male on Frodsham Score. A single Yellow Wagtail flew north west over the Pumping station pool.
Two singing Cetti’s Warbler at the Bailey Bridge were on a continuing advance through the Weaver valley.
Observer: Frank Duff.
No 6 tank: Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, 2 Swifts flew over at about 5.45 pm, c200 Shelduck in and around No 6 tank.
Mike Buckley, Shaun Hickey.
Check out Mike’s blog at http://birdmanofelporto.blogspot.co.uk/
A deceased Long-eared Owl discovered by the roadside at Ince and found by Kev Breen who found it while cutting a grass verge at Ash Road, Ince. Presumably a road kill?
Images: Whinchat by Paul Crawley, Pied Wagtail by WSM, Common Whitethroat and Common Shelducks by Heather Wilde and (deceased) Long-eared Owl by Mike Buckley.
7 ‘summer’ Golden Plover and 40 Wheatear on No 3 tank was a bit of a surprise along with 2 Whinchat perching on the convenient dung piles in the short grazed grass. Nearby on No 6 tank 53 Common Shelduck and 10 Pied Wagtail had with them 4 White Wagtail.
The ploughed field behind the model aircraft flying field along Lordship Lane had an additional 14 Wheatear with some chunky ‘Greenland’ forms present and a single Yellow Wagtail. 130 Common Shelduck and 4 Whimbrel were notable.
A (female) Merlin perched and really tame on an elder bush along the track on No 3 tank this evening. This is the same bird Paul Crawley photographed last week and has some bluish-grey feathers on the upper scapulars so, a little unsure to it actual sex? Although without much to compare size with I’m fairly certain it is a female because it looked a large individual. Images by WSM.
No 6 tank: 21 Tufted Duck, 12 Common Teal, 23 Mallard and 100 Common Shelduck.
Observers: Neil Blood, WSM.
A female Ring Ouzel was seen briefly this evening before flying across the narrow pool between No 3 and No 4 tank. Also female Marsh Harrier over No 4 tank.
No 6 tank: 9 White Wagtail, 2 Little Ringed Plover and a lone Swift.
14 Wheatears in ploughed field along Lordship Lane and a female Whinchat on fence by Redwall Reed bed.
Observer: Nigel Blood.
One Yank and I’m Off!
My university days wasn’t all about learning and twitching but regular trips were made by train from Manchester to Frodsham station and the short hike to the marsh there where we explored the famous ‘beds’. I vividly remember walking along the bend around the I.C.I tank in the early morning mist and watching several Short-eared Owls. No. 4 tank was the American wader hotspot in Cheshire (although I’m sure Sandbach regulars will argue that point) at the time and many trips were made in the hope of pulling an ‘Yank’ wader out of the bag.
Sure enough I ticked my first Wilson’s Phalarope at Frodsham in September 1981. In this period there was no internet or mobile phones and Friday evenings were spent sitting in the students union bar whilst someone got on the phone to Nancy’s to find out what was about. If nothing was about Frodsham was the easiest place to get to for a days birding. The Weaver Bend attracted good numbers of wildfowl and I seem to recall flocks of Smew (well at least 3-4) in successive winters. Spring, as now, was a good time to visit the marshes and if there had been a fall you were guaranteed plenty of Wheatears, Whinchats and Yellow Wagtails with Ring Ouzel making an especially good day. Much has changed over the years and in 1979 the thought of Marsh Harriers settling in the area was never even considered. At that time the only place to see Marsh Harriers was Minsmere with the whole UK breeding population numbering around 3 pairs. Recent sightings at Frodsham of Red Kite are also a sign of the changes as ‘the’ place to see them was Tregaron Bog in Wales. The UK population numbered less than 14 pairs! Cetti’s Warblers were confined to the south and southwest whilst Little Egrets were extinct as a British breeding species and didn’t re-colonise until the 90’s. Its unbelievable today but I twitched my first one in Devon!
As for Great White Egret…..don’t even go there. Small numbers of White-fronted Geese still occasionally visited the nearby Gowy water meadows and odd birds were seen at Frodsham.These are now a rare bird in Cheshire. Other losses from Frodsham include breeding Corn Bunting and regular wintering Twite.
A trip to Frodsham Marsh was always followed by a pint at the Bears Paw before getting the train back to Manchester – in winter we were invariably in front of the open fire warming ourselves after experiencing the chill of the infamous Frodsham winds. The photo above (bottom left) in 1979 and shows me alongside Andy Swash and his (now) wife Gill. Standing behind are Dr. Lesley Lace & Dr. Martin Jones who both now lecture in Biological Sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University. An accomplished group!
Frodsham has a fantastic record for rare birds and rare bird breeding attempts with the first County records of Black-winged Stilt, Spoonbill and Avocet nesting or attempting to nest. It’s great to see the area getting more attention in recent years and I’m sure it’s only time before it turns up another ‘rare’.
Wilson’s Phalarope on the I.C.I tank by Tony Murphy, Great White Egret on No 6 tank by Paul Crawley and line drawing of the breeding Black-winged Stilts by Julian Hough. Eds.
A female Marsh Harrier over Number 6 Tank and a single Whinchat on Weaver Bend causeway.
Observers: Andy and Mike Warner.
3 male Whinchat, 1 Wheatear, Sedge Warbler on walk out to the Weaver Bend at 3.00pm.
1 Wheatear on No 5 tank and 1 Whitethroat singing by path between No 5 and No 6 tank.
1 male Marsh Harrier hunting over reedbed no 6 tank then went over far end where joined by female both hunting over reedbeds
6 Whimbrel on No 6 tank at about 4.30pm, 20 Curlew on fields near Lordship Lane.
2 summer Mediterranean Gull feeding in with flock of Black-headed and Common Gull in ploughed field just behind model plane club at 6 pm.
Observer: Sean O’Hara.
Image by Stuart Maddocks.