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