A short walk along the Holpool Gutter to the Manchester Ship Canal produced one of three Marsh Harriers over No.4 tank and an adult Peregrine with prey plus an additional juvenile further along the canal.
Observer and images: Paul Ralston
This mornings sightings along the Holpool Gutter included a Green Sandpiper and good numbers of young Mallard, Moorhen with Tufted Duck also in attendance. The Manchester Ship Canal attracted a couple of Common Sandpiper with both Common Buzzard and Raven overhead. I heard Sedge Warbler but along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff they were difficult to observe. The Canal Pools had several broods of Coot of different ages only two Mute Swan cygnet with their parents. Hirundines were moving through with Sand, House Martin and Swallow over the pool but surprisingly no Swifts seen with them. A young Kestrel was hunting insects (hobby style) over No.6 tank was being harassed by several Pied wagtail . A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in a stand of dead trees on Lordship Lane while hungry young buzzards could be heard calling from the wood along side the Growhow works. A male Peregrine put on a show hunting feral pigeons and was later joined by a large female.
Observer: Paul Ralston
Image: Tony Broome
Nature Notes # 41
Umbellifers by the waters edge
On Saturday I had a walk along the River Weaver on Frodsham Marsh with Bill, looking for the Red-necked Grebe from its usual spot. A Common Tern flew lazily up and down the river making half-hearted stoops at fish but never completing its dives. It always surprises me how uncommon they are on the marsh. They should be breeding! As with most plants, different umbellifer flower at different times of year. I would guess that one of the reasons is so that they don’t compete for the insects that pollinate them. The grebe wasn’t to be found, but as I looked around I noticed the big white globular heads of a umbellifer at the bottom of the bank, almost hidden by the tall, rank grass. I recognised it from Poynton Pool but couldn’t remember the name. The flower heads were covered in insects. There were some more accessible ones further on, so as we would be passing them, I made a mental note to stop and look at them. They turned out to be Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, a waterside species and a magnet for hoverflies and bees.
It was nice to be stood by the water instead of up on the bank. There was also another umbellifer in flower next to the Wild Angelica. I’d almost missed it, the flower heads were so small, although much more numerous. I crushed a leaf and it smelt overwhelmingly like celery. Not putting two and two together I thought it may be Lovage which has a similar smell, but its flowers were yellow, not white like this plant. It was actually Wild Celery Apium gravedens, another lover of damp habitats including ditches and river margins with a mainly coastal distribution.
It’s been a relative poor year for dragonflies and damselflies. A bit of a mystery really, but maybe connected to the weather conditions in previous years when the larvae were developing, but I’ve no idea really. For the last two months the pools and scrapes have been devoid of these beautiful insects. Only during the last few days have some began to appear.
The Shooters Pools had a brilliant Emperor Dragonfly the other day and I’ve had distant skimmer which I am pretty certain was Black-tailed. On the Weaver path, a damselfly perched up briefly and I managed one picture only. It’s cerulean blue and black markings identified it as a Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, which should have been everywhere but not this year.
Written and illustrated by Tony Broome.
Top image by WSM
A later than normal visit this evening which lasted until dusk. A Peregrine was sat atop the blue-topped chimney overlooking the Mersey Estuary. On a less lofty note but a little more aerial was a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting the fields of No.5 tank.
No.6 tank was a little below par but still attracted 14 Common Teal, 12 Common Shelduck and 30 Mallard. The Cormorant roost held 34 Cormorant. Shorebirds gathered in small flocks with 54 Curlew dropping into roost with 2 Little Ringed Plover and 14 Lapwing.
An adult and juvenile Water Rail were skulking in the reedbed margins at the secluded pool on No.6 tank.
Quite a few moths were out and about at sunset which included an Ermine Moth the first of the year for me.
Observers: Emily Traynor (images 2&3), WSM (and image 1).
Expectations were not particularly favourable with the tide barely high enough to force many birds from the estuary, nevertheless migration south is always possible in late July. The warm sunshine, little wind and Cleg Fly activity at its most virulent added to a testing walk across the marsh. I met Frank briefly on No.6 tank then later joined up with Tony after he eventually made it on the marsh from a long crawl along the westbound lane of the M56.
No.6 tank had a gathering of 100 Tufted Duck along with 2 Pochard, 56 Mallard, 12 Common Teal, 1 Shoveler, 2 Common Sandpiper, an adult plus juvenile Little Ringed Plover and a juvenile Ringed Plover. A couple of Dunlin were sitting low down in a crack in the dried mud to avoid the heat of midday. 240 Black-headed Gull included 14 Common and a 1st summer Herring Gull at the gull roost. The highlight was a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting the western reedbeds.
A need to cool off and a change of scenery sent us to the Weaver Estuary where the breeze was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat of No.6 tank. 7 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Little Grebe, 56 Coot, 8 Mute Swan on the river were to be expected unlike a sinensis Cormorant and a Common Tern which ranged from the ‘Bend’ to the Weaver Sluices.
The Weaver Bend had a summering flock of 350 Black-tailed Godwit with smaller numbers along the river edge. 20 Common Snipe, 12 Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper which later flew from the river to the Shooters’ Pools were all part of a movement of waders. Also present on the pools were a number of Common Snipe and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover.
Other birds of note was a flyover Yellow Wagtail and the lack of the Red-necked Grebe which alas looks to have left the area? The last confirmed sighting was on 22nd.
Observers: Tony Broome (image 2), Frank Duff, WSM (images 1&3)
An adult Mediterranean Gull joined the gull roost on No. 6 Tank this afternoon.
Also present on the tank were 2 Avocet (Adult and Juvenile), 1 Common Sandpiper and a pair of Ringed Plovers with two small chicks.
Observer and image: Alyn Chambers.
The cauldron effect of the marsh basin set in an amphitheatre (bordered on three sides by much higher ground) in summer can become stiflingly hot and humid. Combined this with an array of insects with varying degrees of biting parts all wanting a birders blood is not for everyone. Tony braved all this to spend the day birding here.
Starting at No.6 tank he saw: 90 Tufted Duck, 20 Common Teal, 1 Pochard, an Athya hybrid? (top right of picture), an adult and the first juvenile Dunlin of the summer. Also present were 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plover. 1 Common Sandpiper, 120 Black-headed Gull, 15 Common Gull and 10 Pied Wagtail.
A unwelcomed flytip by a not so caring citizen of this or a nearby parish leaves you a tad angry.
Marsh Farm was next on the agenda where 21 Greylag Goose by the farm and 2 Yellow Wagtail plus 15 Swallow/30 Sand Martin were about the buildings there.
Further down the river on the Weaver Bend was 250 Black-tailed Godwit.
The Canal Pools held 2 Common Sandpiper and there were 3 Raven on No5.
Frodsham Score and the Manchester Ship Canal had an impressive 5,000 Canada Goose (if not for the sheer volume of birds).Greylag 21 Bank opposite Marsh Farm
Butterflies again were a notable diversion from the birds and huge numbers were on the wing in the heat of the day. These included: a Common Blue on No.4 tank, 50 Small Skipper, 100 Peacock, 120 Gatekeeper, 10 Small White, 1 Large White, 10 Small Tortoishell, 2 Comma, 1 Red Admiral and finally 50 Meadow Brown.
Observer and images: Tony Broome
The Red-necked Grebe continues its summer sabbatical without a care along the River Weaver.
Walking alongside the water to the I.C.I tank culminated in a variety of shorebirds with 10 Oystercatcher, 260 Black-tailed Godwit, 25 Redshank, 4 Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 4 Common Sandpiper. Additionally 170 Curlew were on Frodsham Score.
On the Shooters’ Pools a Green Sandpiper shared the area with an adult and juvenile Red-legged Partridge. The highlight in beautiful summer sunshine was an Emperor Dragonfly a species under recorded here.
Elsewhere 10 Yellow Wagtail from No.5 tank to Marsh Farm and 1,000 Starling at the latter site. The blue-topped chimney at Weston Point harboured the Peregrine.
Typically for this summer, butterflies were about in considerable numbers which included: 80 Peacock (30 in one Buddleia bush), 10 Small Tortoisehell, 1 Comma, 50 Meadow Brown, 100 Gatekeeper, 5 Green-veined White, 1 Great White and 5 Small White, 2 Red Admiral and a single notable Common Blue.
Observer and images: Tony Broome.
From dusk I was stood watchman-like overlooking the Weaver Sluices on the incoming tide. From my position I could see a gathering of 1,000 Common Shelduck, 9 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Dunlin, 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Little Egret but hardly the leg work TB put in today.
Two months and counting for the Red-necked Grebe and now sharing the river off Redwall Reedbed with a family of Great Crested Grebe. Sometimes the adults take umbrage to the red-neck and bully it down river but generally they tolerate it.
The Weaver Estuary looking west towards the sluice gates.
The Weaver estuary looking east towards the Weaver causeway and the ‘Bend’ beyond.
Single Yellow Wagtails were over No.4 & 6 tanks. While 6 Raven on Frodsham Score and 2 Buzzard were over No.3 tank.
Butterflies are a big feature during this month and many were on the wing including: 50 Peacock, 100 Gatekeeper, 20 Green-veined White, 50 Meadow Brown. 40 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Red Admiral, 50 Small Skipper and 10 Comma were all noted.
Observer: Tony Broome (images 4 & 5). WSM (images 1,2 & 3)
The heavy overnight rain continued into the morning, the reeds and attendant vegetation seemed to be holding gallons of water. Walking along the track below No.1 tank from the old log parking area entailed brushing through the reeds and each one shedding its watery load. By the time I reach the track on the Weaver causeway no amount of waterproofing was enough to keep me dry and I was a little sodden to say the least.
The reward for the soaking was a wary drake Common Scoter on the Weaver Estuary. This sea duck surprisingly kept a safe distance, not tolerating any close approach. A bird less self-conscious was the Red-necked Grebe which was further down the river by the Weaver Bend, (for a change) briefly before drifting up to its usual spot opposite Redwall.
Other birds of interest included 9 Great Crested Grebe, 100 Tufted Duck, 4 Common Teal, 10 Greylag Goose, 2 Ringed Plover, 10 Common Sandpiper, 23 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Redshank, 12 Dunlin and 12 Oystercatcher. 400 Common Swift were over the ducks on the river.
Marsh Farm was quite productive with a passage of 400 Sand Martin with lesser numbers of Swallow heading south. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling, while a couple of Pied were on the farm building.
The Weaver sluice gate area and the flood water released into the River Mersey held 25 Great Crested Grebe (1 juvenile). Further out on the mudflats was a Little Egret seen flying across the estuary from Hale lighthouse. Also noted were 2,000 Common Shelduck, 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 20 Curlew.
Observers: Tony Broome (images 2, 4,5 & 6), WSM (images 1 &3).