30.01.14 Birdlog

30.01.14 Birdlog

29.01.14. Curlew, Rake Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Staurt Maddocks.....Frodsham today: 3 Redwing, 3 Reed Bunting, 6 Pied Wagtail by the horse paddock. 4 Moorhen nearby, benefitting no doubt from the cleared drainage ditch. One male Stonechat and 13 Linnet by Marsh Farm. 20 Curlew flying East. 7 Ravens in total, also 4 along the ship canal and another 3 on No. 5 tank.

An adult female Marsh Harrier patrolling the banks of the ship canal. c130 Goldfinch by the gate West of No. 6 tank. 80 Curlew in field North of the Growhow plant and one Little Egret nearby. Another 20 Linnet on Lordship Lane as well as one Skylark and just a single Meadow Pipit.

28.03.13. Pumping Station pool, Frodsham Marsh

Two Little Grebes on the splashing pool. Good numbers (c 1000) of mixed Golden Plover and Lapwings on various parts of the marsh stalked and regularly taking wing in fear of their nemesis (Peregrine). 3 Buzzard and several Kestrel including an adult male. 4 Grey Heron. Lots more Magpie than usual (c30) feeding on the sodden fields. 30 Canada Geese on No. 3 chomping on grass next to 10 Coot. The usual retinue of Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Cormorant and Shelducks on No. 6 Buzzed by a Police helicopter.

Potholes getting deeper and fly tipping at its worst but a good day.


Guido D’Isidoro

Images: Stuart Maddocks


29.01.14. Birdlog

29.01.14. Birdlog

29.01.14. Rams & Whooper Swans, Rake Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Staurt Maddocks.....

I grabbed a quick opportune hour today via Ince and ventured onto a bitterly cold squally grey marsh. I also managed to steer my nervous ‘Chugabug’ van along the muddy Rack Lane at the back of the Growhow plant. There were 6 Little Egret by the Growhow berth alongside the Manchester Ship Canal and then my cockles were warmed despite the bone chilling easterly as I came across a bevy of 17 Mute and 4 Whooper Swan.

 29.01.14. Whooper and Mute Swans, Rake Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Staurt Maddocks.....
The other highlights were a good flock of Curlew by the Pig Farm at the start of Marsh Lane and a stud of young rams flexing their neck muscles alongside the swans in the field mentioned earlier.
 29.01.14. More Rams, Rake Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Staurt Maddocks.....
I was glad to get back home for once if only to get out of that bitterly easterly blast, brrr!
Observer and images: Stuart Maddocks


25.01.14. Birdlog

27.01.14. No. 6 tank at dusk, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A walk from Growhow works and along Holpool gutter to No. 6 tank this morning produced a Peregrine on one of the stacks. The Great White Egret was again on Frodsham Score and a Merlin seen from along the ship canal path. A Marsh Harrier missing from the marsh for the last few weeks reappeared again over No. 6  tank. Last week I counted 11 Little Egret  in a field beyond the old wood and a leucistic lapwing in a flock of normal birds alongside the Gowy at Thornton le Moor.

Observer: Paul Ralston.

Above image is of the distant Growhow factory beyond No. 6 tank by WSM

27.01.14. Birdlog

27.01.14. Birdlog

27.01.14. Dead Badger, Station Road, Delamere Forest. Bill Morton

A walk along Station Road at Delamere Forest today was marred by finding a dead Badger (pictured) on the roadside by the entrance to the caravan park. This road can be a frightening place when you’re walking alongside it, particularly when you need to cross over to gain access to other parts of the forest.  The road stretches for about 3/4 mile and drivers are often tempted to press the pedal a bit more than they should and often the result is a dangerous crossing place for wild creatures. 

27.01.14. Dead Badger, Station Road, Delamere Forest. Bill Morton

Towards the day’s end we ended up on Frodsham Marsh and on a track above No. 6 tank and bumped into Arthur who was out and about after his recent operation.

27,01.14. Great Black-backed Gulls and Ravens dispute sheep carcass, No. 5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

We all watched a battle of wills and a title bout between two brutes of the ‘Birding World’. A gathering of Ravens versus a pair of Great Black-backed Gull and as Harry Hill would say “Which is better? There’s only one way to find out: FIGHT!”

27,01.14. Great Black-backed Gulls and Ravens dispute sheep carcass, No. 5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

Gulls get the upper ‘wing’ and the spoils of a disembowelled sheep carcass on No. 5 tank..

27.01.14. Lambs and Ewe on No. 5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The first lambs of Spring were keeping close to mum on No. 5 tank and kept well away from all the stark realities of life (and death) just a hundred metres away. A flock of 400 Starling were ‘worming’ on the grassy fields and a couple of Chiffchaff were calling to each other as they moved unseen through the reed beds.

Close by on No. 6 tank a gathering of ducks included 150 Common Teal, 12 Common Pochard, 47 Mallard, 9 Pintail and a few Cormorants were gathering on the usual dead roosting tree. Several hundred Lapwings were gathering on the water’s edge joined by smaller flocks of Golden Plover.

27.01.14. No. 6 tank at dusk. Bill Morton

The local resident Peregrine flew in towards dusk and roosted high up on the power station chimney at Weston Point.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, Sparky and WSM (all images).

A History of No. 6 tank (part 3)

The first occurrence of breeding Black-winged Stilt in Cheshire by Ted Abraham

No6 tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (13)

The excavated scrape/pool where the Black-winged Stilts eventually settled to breed (flooded area at the left hand side of the picture). In the foreground is Martin Gilbert’s tent which he used to observe/record behaviour and also discourage potential egg collectors.

Black-winged Stilts doodle. Bill MortonA party of three birds-male, female and white-headed immature male – was found by Ken Croft near Cemlyn Bay on the North Anglesey shore at 15.15 hrs on 10th April. The birds were feeding in flooded fields alongside the track to Ty Lian Farm to the West of the main Cemlyn Lagoon. They remained here to dusk on 21st April. Display and attempted copulation were observed and it was thought possible that the adult birds might attempt to breed. However after a clear night, there was no sign of them on 2nd. During their 12 day stay in the same wet fields the birds were enjoyed by over 1000 birders, some travelling from as far afield as Scotland and the Home Counties and there was excellent footage of the birds on Welsh television.

 At 09.40 hrs on 22nd April, the same party of three birds was seen to fly in from the West to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Reserve. Here they remained, chiefly favouring No 2 Lagoon on until 18.40 hrs, 24th when they circled high and departed purposefully West. Remarkably they returned at 1920 hrs and remained to dusk but there was no sign of them early next morning.

 At 0900 hrs 25th, the birds were relocated at Elton Hall Flash, Sandbach where they remained to 10.00 hrs. They were refound at Frodsham Marsh New Workings at 1545 but seemed unsettled and flew off high to the North towards the nearby Mersey Estuary at 16.45. The birds must have executed a sharp left turn for at 17.00 hrs – only 15 minutes after departing Frodsham – they flew back in again at Inner Marsh Farm!

Pencil field sketch of nesting Black-winged Stilts, No6 tank, frodsham Marsh. 1993. Bill Morton

 Many observers were able to obtain remarkable up close views of the stilts from the hide at Inner Marsh Farm over the next ten days. Again display and attempted copulation and, sometimes, the immature joined in as well! They remained on the reserve until dusk on 4th May but could jot be found anywhere on 5th May. On 6th May the three birds were outside our region to Weldrake Ings (North Yorkshire) where they stayed until departing NW at 20.00 hrs.

The birds flew in yet again to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Reserve at 10.30 hrs on 8th May – a nice bonus for teams engaged in the annual ‘Cheshire Bird Race’. This time it really seemed as if the pair of adult birds were serious about nesting and they established a territory, which they defended vigorously against the local Coots, Tufted Duck, etc, on a small islet in No 2 Lagoon immediately in front of the hide. For wardening purposes they could not have chosen a better site anywhere in the North West. Nest scrapping began on 10th. The RSPB North West Regional Office finalised their plans for a round-the-clock wardening scheme and the birds were still present and looking almost certain to nest late evening 13th with wardening to start next morning. The morning of the 14th however presented a problem – the pair had departed overnight and only the white-headed bird remained.

Black-winged Stilt nest site, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. May-June 1993. Tom Edmondson.

 The pairs were presumed to have arrived at Frodsham Marsh early on 14th and here they quickly established territory around a minute and unstable mud islet in the near left hand corner of the third pool of the ‘New Workings’. These pools had been formed during the construction work being undertaken by the Manchester Ship Canal Company to build a sixth vast lagoon to accommodate sludge from the canal and in mid May work was at a critical stage with near continuous procession of massive diggers and dumper trucks passing close to the birds chosen nest site. The water level in the pools, although not too deep for the birds at this stage, was subject to sudden rapid fluctuations and could not be controlled. The birds had finally settled for a site that presented many potential problems – ease of access for egg thieves, disturbance by construction traffic  and risk of flooding should the weather deteriorate!

 The white-headed bird moved to Frodsham 15th but did not associate freely with the pair and preferred to feed alone on the fourth pool of the New Workings or at the flooded East end of the No5 Sludge Pool even making a return visit to Inner Marsh Farm evening of 19th.

Black-winged Stilt, No6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe first egg was probably laid on the mud islet on 16th since incubation began on 19th. “OPERATION STILT” swung in to action and the RSPB NW Office appointed local birder Martin Gilbert as warden. Martin began his vigil on 20th with a tent but a caravan arrived on site on 22nd. Everything went smoothly in the early stages and Martin’s daily log reflects this: “Monday 24th May 04.55 hrs – M left nest mobbing crow s. 05.22 hrs – Changeover. 06.14 hrs – F left nest mobbing crow. 06.25 hrs F turned eggs. 06.48 Changeover.” and so on. The incubation continued without any real problem until 26th May when heavy rain began to fall and went on falling for the next four days.

west side of the Black-winged Stilt nest site, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. May-June 1993. Bill Morton.   30053 010693.

 The water level in the pool could not be prevented from rising, despite the best efforts of helpful MSC staff to open drains, and crisis point was reached around 14.45 hrs on 30th May when it was lapping within a centimetre of the nest. Very courageous action was undertaken by RSPB Warden Colin Wells and Martin Gilbert who waded out into the deep pool, with unstable soft mud base, and managed to raise the water level by about 20 centimetres. Incubation resumed immediately.

Black-winged Stilt, No6 tank, frodsham Marsh. April 1993. Bill Morton

 Although the male and female shared incubation more or less evenly in the early stages, the male was now spending increasingly long periods away from the nest site – either at the East end of No5 Sludge Pool or on the Mersey Estuary. The female had to leave the nest to feed herself of course and with the male now reluctant to take share of his responsibilities it was inevitable that the eggs were sometimes left unincubated – once for a period as long as 73 minutes. It was predated by Magpies at 13.48 hrs on 31st May.

Black-winged Stilt nest site, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. May-June 1993. Bill Morton.....007..

 The female mainly, and the male occasionally, continued incubation until 05.48 hrs 4th – 17th June day of incubation – when the female left the nest for the last time. At 09.50 hrs, one egg was taken by a Coot and not long after the fourth and final egg was taken by a Magpie. The brave breeding attempt by ya pair of Black-winged Stilts in Cheshire had failed. Predation was the secondary cause of failure. The primary cause was the British weather climate. Heavy rain had caused elevated water levels in the pool which could not be controlled and which disrupted the behaviour of the birds to such an extent as to cause periods when the nest was left unguarded.

Black-winged Stilt nest site, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. May-June 1993. Bill Morton. 006...

 The conservation department of the RSPB North West Regional Office are to be congratulated for the tremendous team effort that they organised so efficiently throughout “Operation Stilt”. In particular, Dr Andre Farrar (Conservation Officer), Colin Wells (Dee Estuary Warden) and Martin Gilbert put in many long and tiring hours well beyond the normal call of duty. We must not forget either the team of voluntary wardens who assisted during the cold dark hours of night with their torches and mobile phones including Geoff Clarke, John Dolby, Paul Hill, Bill Morton, Ken Stoba, Rob Stratford and many others including Mike Wellman of the Cheshire Constabulary. Their efforts were not in vain since it proved that when the need arises then North West birders will rise to the occasion and many valuable lessons will have been learned to put into practice should a similar operation be needed to be mounted in the future. It was particularly pleasing that it was possible to publicise the presence of the birds in Frodsham throughout their stay on Birdline North West thus enabling a great many birders to observe the daily routine of the nesting stilts. Viewing from the raised dirt road which runs alongside the New Workings from which the birds could easily be seen without the least fear if disturbance. The near continuous procession oc birders along this road seems likely to have been a major disincentive to any potential egg collector.

 On 4th – 7th June, the party of the three stilts were back together again as they had been in the beginning and they could be seen feeding, apparently contentedly as if nothing untoward had happened, in then lushly vegetated and flooded SE corner of No 5 Sludge Pool, about half a mile from the nest site. But somehow their actions and demeanour lacked the sense of urgency and hyperactivity they had exhibited on that day two months previously when they had first arrived at Cemlyn. Your report writer had been used to seeing the stilts almost daily for nearly two months. It came as a real shock to make an early morning visit to Frodsham on 8th June and find that they had at last departed. We soon learned that they had flown South and all three birds had arrived at Radley Gravel Pits in Oxfordshire later that day where they remained to at least 19th June.

Ted Abraham

Abraham E J. 1994. North West Region Bird Report 1993 (Birdline North West), pp 20-24.

Illustrations/field sketches by WSM. All photographs WSM except for # 2 which was taken by Tom Edmondson.

To be continued…

19.01.14. Birdlog

19.01.14. Birdlog

19.01.14. Pylons on Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

Sparky and myself made it to No. 6 tank just when the sun was sinking over the yardarm (or one of the electrical pylons that march through the marsh).

Ducks were gathering to roost with an increase in the numbers of Tufted Duck from yesterday with 156 birds, 12 Pochard, 100 Common Teal, 34 Shoveler and 65 Common Shelduck.

19.01.14. Cormorant roost, No. 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.The Cormorant roost looked pretty with the sun dropping behind a cloud over the distant factories and illuminating the waters of the sludge bed.

We bumped into Tony Broome at the viewing area after his visit to see the Buff-bellied Pipit over the way on the Dee Marshes.

Images: WSM (above) & Tony Broome (below).

19.01.14. Puddle tracks on Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1) 19.01.14. Puddle tracks on Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (2)

18.01.14. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

18.01.14. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

18-01-14. Pochards -No. 6 tank Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Wet and dull weather didn’t deter me today with the WeBS count to do. I usually count on a Saturday away from the normal Sunday as I am engaged in other duties on that day.

18.01.14.Helsby Hill and water reflections from No, 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh,

No. 6 tank  being my count spot and again a good variety of species to keep my interest level tuned. 100 Mallard, 43 Shoveler, 8 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard (2 females), 83 Common Teal, 2 Wigeon (male & female), 30 Common Shelduck, 9 Pintail (7 males, 2 females) in fine plumage and 2 Cormorant perched on dead trees waiting for others to join in the roost.

flying godwits. Heather Wilde.

Wader wise 800 Lapwing, 500 Golden Plover, 300 Dunlin, 34 Common Snipe (in one flock) and 150 Black-tailed Godwit flew around for a while before heading right back out to the estuary.

A Chiffchaff was calling from the reeds and bushes below the viewing area on the banks above No. 6 tank and several Ravens were about on No. 5 tank.

Observer: WSM, Heather and Findlay Wilde.

Pied Wagtail. Heather Wilde.

Heather & Findlay both had a Kingfisher flying alongside their vehicle whilst driving along Lordship Lane with a tidy flock of Linnet noted.

Paul Crawley out and about saw a Little Egret in a ditch along Godscroft Lane.

Images: first and second by WSM, third and fourth by Heather Wilde.

Frodsham Marsh Bird Checklist 2014

Attached is the new revised version of the bird list covering Frodsham Marsh with a few (not included in totals) additions to download. Thanks to John Gilbody for the labourious task of inputting the data with a few tweaks by myself. It is in Microsoft Excel format so you can amend the columns to your own taste. One species Cattle Egret has yet to be formally accepted and another the Marsh Warbler (2 records) is omitted from the list. The first record of that species was observed by myself and Martin Garner and was rejected by the Cheshire Rarities Committee after years of toing and froing. The status of the more recent bird was contentious and as far as I am aware was never submitted.

Frodsham Marsh 2014 List


A History of No. 6 tank (part two)

A History of No. 6 tank (part two)

Map of No. 6 tank as of November 1994. Bill Morton

Map of No. 6 tank as of Summer/Winter 1994.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (1)

To keep the Manchester Ship Canal navigable to large craft, vast quantities of sludge and silt are dredged up by specialist craft more or less continuously. The dredgings are transported along the canal to a Pumping Station bordering the canal and then pumped through huge pipes into vast sludge deposit grounds. These are the famous “Frodsham Sludge Pools” and they now occupy over half of the flat reclaimed area of pasture and arable land known as Frodsham Marsh.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (9)

Since about 1941, these sludge pools have been well-known as a superb habitat for birds. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 Sludge Pools have each in turn, both during the construction phase and then during the subsequent years of infilling, proved ideal to the requirements of a remarkable variety of migrant, wintering and breeding wetland species.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (10)

(Above image is of No 6 tank soon after the first excavation work commenced and without the retaining embankments in place. This area is buried under 23 years worth of sludge/silt and currently several feet of water. Presently the area is situated below the viewing area on the south bank of No 5 tank.)

During the last three years, a new sludge deposit ground has been referred to by local birders as “Frodsham Marsh New Workings/Frodsham New Tank Excavations/Frodsham Marsh No6 tank Sludge Pools”. Top soil is scraped out of the marsh to create a 15 metre high bank surrounding the whole area to be later filled with sludge. The scrapings create shallow freshwater pools and these soon acquire muddy margins, reed fringes and a healthy supply of invertebrates.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (12)

The whole area rapidly becomes a veritable paradise for birds and birdwatchers. Once sludge starts to be pumped into the tank, the habitat starts to deteriorate. It is expected that pumping into No6 Sludge Pool will commence in 1995. Frodsham Marsh bird recorder Bill Morton has drawn a detailed map showing the “inside” of the new workings as they were in Summer/November 1994 – before any pumping operations started and as most birders will nostalgically remember the site in years to come.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (14)

If you visit the area please remember that you are private land and managed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company and that you must respect any reasonable request from their representatives. Also note that the pools are often shot over by wildfowlers between September and February, usually at dusk. However there are public rights of way across the marsh for bona fide naturalists there should be no real problems of access.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (15)

Here are some of the highlights from Frodsham Marsh New Workings in its ‘glory years’ of 1992 – 93 – 94.

1992 – Temminck’s Stint 14th – 17th May.

1993 – at least five different Little Egret between 10th August and 22nd September, adult Spoonbill 12th – 15th July and again 24th – 29th and 6th – 7 th August, peak Garganey count of 16 on 7th September, two Quails calling in late May/early June, juvenile Spotted Crake 31st August to 10th September, three Black-winged Stilts 25th April and again 14th may to 7th June with failed breeding attempt, Temminck’s Stint 8th – 12th May.

1994 – adult Spoonbill 23rd June – 2nd July, eight Ruddy Shelducks 31st August, 13 Garganey in August, Osprey 1st October and 600 Black-tailed Godwit (Unusual high number in the early 1900’s) 9th August.

Ted Abraham.

Ted wrote this article called ‘Frodsham Marsh New Workings 1992 – 94’ for North West Region Bird Report 1994. The glory years he talks about above were in reality still to come, the period after 1994 saw a tremendous increase in activity with some incredible birds and birding.


All images and illustration by WSM except for photo 1,2 & 6 by Tom Edmondson.

To be continued…