18.07.14. Birdlog

18.07.14. Birdlog18.-7.14. Tufted Duck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

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A big concentration of 180 Tufted Duck, 23 Common Teal and 64 Mallard were unexpected on No.6 tank and were obviously birds from the River Weaver.

A Yellow Wagtail was over No.6 tank while a male Marsh Harrier was noted on No.4 tank.

Typically for this time of year were several species of butterfly on the wing including this not so scarce Small Tortoiseshell.

Observer & images: Tony Broome.


Nature Notes #40

Nature Notes #40

I was asked to co-cover the WeBS count on Sunday July 13th and made my way west along the M56, calling in at Frodsham High Street for the obligatory latte take-out. I parked up overlooking the water on No.6 and immediately set the scope up ready for the influx of birds on the high tide at 1300 hrs. It was sunny with big cumulus clouds after a night of rain and there was a fresh north-westerly blowing which wasn’t too bad for birding but frustrating when it came to photographing insects, which inevitably what happened. The birding was quiet except for a large post-breeding flock of Black-headed Gulls which settled on the sand. I counted around 720 and was surprised to note only twenty juveniles. I wondered why there were so few?

Insects were feeding on the nearby flowers and I noticed the umbellifer that I’d originally seen last week but didn’t recognise, so I had a closer look. Tall, small flower heads, tapering pinnate leaves. In the end I took some photos and identified it later with Barry Shaw confirming my initial suspicions. It was Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica, a plant of grassy habitats on dry soils. I couldn’t remember seeing it before.

PHOTO 2 Upright Hedge-parsley FM Jul13th14 8289 (1280x960)

PHOTO 1 Upright Hedge-parsley FM Jul13th14 8360 (1280x960)Upright Hedge-parsley Torilis japonica
After completing the bird count, I wondered around looking at flowers and insects. The richness and diversity of Frodsham Marsh goes way beyond the amount of birds here and, if you take the time to look, there is diversity rarely found in many other places. I may do some of the plants next time, but I took many photos of flowers and flower meadows along the tracks and on the dry beds. The variety of plants is brilliant.

PHOTO 5 Flower rich settling bed FM July13th14 8432 (1280x960)

A blaze of flower power along the trackside verges.

PHOTO 7 Comma FM July13th14 8367 (1280x956)

Comma Polygonia c-album

PHOTO 8 Red Admiral FM July13th14 8390 (1280x957)Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

There were many butterflies about, mainly Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, but a couple of Comma Polygonia c-album and tens of Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta. Because of the wind they tended to stay settled low down. You can’t walk past them without taking pictures.

Continuing the thread from last week there were many hoverflies on the umbellifers and Sow-thistles and I crept up quietly on a few of the insects and snapped away. The commonest species in Britain is the Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus and late July is the peak time for this colourful insect. Mass influxes from the continent also occur and they can be found almost everywhere.

PHOTO 9 Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus FM Jul13th14 8332 (1280x981)Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus
There were lots of yellow and black striped hoverflies about as well, I thought that they were Syrphus species and will do some research. Close-up they are really beautiful things and made for some nice images.


PHOTO 10 Syrphus sp FM July13th14 8321 (1280x975)
Syrphus sp

PHOTO 11 Great Pied Hoverfly  Volucella pellucens FM Jul13th14 8502 (1280x1059)

Much easier to identify was one of the largest species in Britain and its black and white markings with dark wing clouds are unique. The Great Pied Hoverfly Volucella pellucens is a resident, its larvae living in the nests of social wasps where they scavenge amongst the debris at the bottom of the nest cavity.


PHOTO 12 Thick-legged Hoverfly Syritta pipiens FM Jul13th14 8297 (1280x992)

Much smaller but very obvious were Thick-legged Hoverfy Syritta pipiens. So named because of their thickened hind femoras….the top of the back legs to you and me. They are common and sometimes very numerous as immigrants from the continent begin to arrive.

PHOTO 13 Scaeva pyrastri FM Jul13th14 8384 (1280x970)

Among the common residents and partial migrants was a true migrant, Scaeva pyrastri, which was feeding on Elder flowers and very skittish, not allowing more than a few seconds of stalking before it spooked and flew off. Its immigration is similar to Red Admirals and Clouded Yellows, and in some years it can be almost absent. When it does turn up, it can breed locally. Luckily, it’s a relatively easy one to identify with the abdomen being black with whitish comma-shaped markings. I wonder if Clouded Yellow are next in this long hot summer?

PHOTO 14 Lispe tentaculata FM July13th14 8379 (1011x768)

Lispe tentaculata

As I walked along the side of No.6 tank to see if there were any waders on the small pool, I noticed some tiny flies running around the edge of a dirty puddle. I became more interested when they began to display and walk across the water. Knowing nothing about what they could be I sneaked up on them and managed one identifiable photo which a couple of experts on the Dipterists forum confidently identified as Lispe tentaculata. Part of the Muscidae family of flies, which includes House Flies and Bluebottles, this species is more specialised and lives around stony puddles and pools. The inflated white palps on the face are one of the features to look for. They eat other insects and small larvae. I have no idea how common they are in Cheshire but the NBN Gateway doesn’t show any.

PHOTO 16 Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus FM July 13th14 8474 (1)

Lastly, something bigger and more familiar. I walked across the dried up east corner of No.4 bed and flushed some grasshoppers. I managed to corner one and identified it as a Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus. They are one of the commonest grasshopper species in Britain and occur in anywhere with long grass. But you hardly ever stop to look at one, let alone identify it, or at least I don’t.

Written and images by Tony Broome

15.07.14. Birdlog

15.07.14. Birdlog

15.07.14. Fox, Delamere Forest. Bill Morton

A morning and afternoon ramble around Delamere Forest resulted in spotting this young Fox out hunting. It was totally unaware until it walked by and stopped to looked up and see us standing there looking down on it. Observers: Sparky, WSM (and upper image).

Red Necked Grebe 1 Weaver Bend 15 07 14 copy


15.07.14. Red-necked Grebe. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Little later and an evening stroll through the jungle track to the river from the old log. After arriving the Red-necked Grebe was spotted asleep on the river, it eventually woke up long enough to sit for several photographes.

11 Great Crested Grebe included the mother from the Weaver Bend with her stripey headed chick. 183 Tufted Duck all along the water and the count didn’t include their ducklings (of which there were many). Also present were Common Shelduck and Gadwall with their youngsters. 3 Pochard and a single Teal, 100 Coot and a couple of Little Grebe were also part of the mass of birds on the river/estuary.

15.07.14. Ducks. Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, 11 Dunlin, 6 Common Sandpiper, 3 Common Snipe, Oystercatcher and 12 Black-tailed Godwit added to an already busy river.

A slight interruption came when a female Marsh Harrier flew low over the Shooters’ pools before drifting away.

15.07.14. Sunset over No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

About 1,000 Black-headed Gulls dropped into the Weaver estuary for a bath before moving over to Weston lagoon to roost. They came from two directions (SE & NW) with hundreds of juvenile birds also present.

Observers: Mike Roberts (2nd image), WSM (lower images).

13.07.14. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

13.07.14. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

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The count for No.6 tank featured 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 720 Black-headed Gull (incl 14-20 juvenile birds), 5 adult and a single 1st summer Common Gull, 1 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 adult Great Black-backed Gull.

Duck numbers are beginning to increase with 155 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard, 1 Gadwall, 11 Common Shelduck, 33 Mallard, 29 Common Teal. Other species icluded 4 adult, 1 juvenile Coot, 11 Moorhen, 1 Common Buzzard,, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 adult Dunlin, 2 Stock Dove, 70 Swift, 50 Sand Martin, 20 House Martin, 2 Raven.

Additionally, there was a single Green Sandpiper on the Canal Pools. On the River Weaver/Estuary was a pair of Gadwall with 3 young. 300 Swift low over the water there. 7 Chiffchaff below No.1 tank.

Observers: Tony Broome (and images), Emily Traynor.

Red-necked Grebe, Frodsham Marsh

11 Great Crested Grebe including at least one tiny chick sailing around on the back of one of its parents. A juvenile Little Egret fishing in the river. Female Gadwall with 7 tiny ducklings off Redwall Reedbed.

3 Little Ringed Plovers: two at Weaver Bend and 1 on No.6. 5 Ringed Plover, 11 Dunlin, 10 Redshank , 5 Common Sandpiper then a Common Snipe on Weaver Bend and the Shooters’ Pools where a Red-legged Partridge was present.

Observer: John Spottiswood.

126 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Ruff along the Weaver below No.1 tank.

Observer: John Gasgoine.

Elsewhere the Red-necked Grebe pulled in a few more admirers.

12.07.14. Birdlog

12.07.14. Birdlog

12.07.14. Red-necked Grebe, River Weaver, Frodsham Marsh. Simon Chambers

11.07.14. Emily birding through the jungle, River Weaver, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

11.07.14. Weaver estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonMonday sees the 7th week for the summering summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe so plenty of opportunity to grab a cracker before it eventually moves to waters new. In the meantime it continues to be found on the river by Redwall Reedbed. The grebe was again sharing the river with the usual assortment of juvenile Coot, ducks and ducklings of Tufted, Gadwall and Shelduck providing a slight distraction.

The image opposite gives some scale of the height of the reeds that you need to wade through to see the grebe.

This picture shows the site where the grebe can be found by the Weaver Estuary.

Top image. Simon Chambers.

Lower images: WSM

Nature Notes #39

Nature Notes #39

Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva FM Jul5th14 8023Other common things that can be seen frequently are Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva and Nettle-tap Moths Anthophila fabriacana.
Common Red Soldier Beetles seem to be on every Hogweed umbel at the moment, most of them engaging in mating activity whilst the conditions are right.

Nettle-tap Moth Anthophila fabriciana FM Jul5th14 8020
Nettle-tap moth (pictured opposite with Red Soldier Beetles and above) are a day-flying micro that is one of the commonest moths in the UK. The adults will be seen feeding on flowers such as Ragwort and Hogweed. The larvae feed on Nettles.
On my last visit I was very surprised to see how quickly the Hogweeds had gone to seed. The path below the old log that had been full of plants in full flower the week before, but on Sunday July 6th there were only a fraction of plants with full heads on them. I presume the warm dry weather has speeded things along.

Written and images by Tony Broome.

11.07.14. Birdlog

11.07.14. Birdlog

10.07.14. Red-necked Grebe, River Weaver, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe Red-necked Grebe was mid river in the company of a Creat Crested early morning. There were several broods of Tufted Duck, Mallard and Coot also on the river. A clutch of 6 ducklings on their own had me stumped until a female Teal called them in to cover.

A pair of Common Tern flew up river dip feeding as they went and were surprisingly the first of the summer. Also present a small group of Black-tailed Godwit were feeding on the opposite bank. Plenty of Swift over head and again both Reed and Sedge Warbler were singing.

Both Mallard and Tufted Duck were in good numbers with smaller figures of Shelduck and Teal . A Fox cub near the outlet pipe didn’t look to healthy and limped off when it noticed I was there. Generally a quite day for raptors with just Buzzard and Kestrel seen. A Chiffchaff calling on the path to No.6 tank was to be expected here.

Observer: Paul Ralston.

Image: WSM

10.07.14. Birdlog

10.07.14. Birdlog

Male Common Scoter on the Weaver Bend.

Observer: Alan Booth.

10.07.14. Red-necked Grebe, River Weaver, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The Red-necked Grebe was immediately obvious this evening tucked in close to its reedy corner by the Weaver Causeway (off Redwall Reedbed). 76 Tufted Duck. 45 Coot, 5 Common Sandpiper, 18 Oystercatcher and 300 Common Swift.

10.07.14. Great Crested Grebe, River Weaver, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Over on No.6 tank there were 20 Cormorant, 24 Common Teal, 34 Mallard, 1 Common Sandpiper, 6 Oystercatcher and 4 Curlew.

10.07.14. Fox and Shelduck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A thirsting Fox came down to the waters edge and enjoyed a drink whilst the Shelduck and Mallard were curious enough to gather and keep an eye on their foe.

Observers: Emily Traynor, WSM (and images).

Nature Notes #38 (appendage)

Nature Notes #38 (appendage)

During my saunters through the luxurious vegetation that Frodsham Marsh has lots of, I came across two small flies with patterned wings. I’m sure that I’ve seen them before but have never stopped to look properly.

yPHOTO 1  Xyphosia miliaria FM Jun29th14 7791 (1280x966)The first was on Creeping Thistles and as I tried to get some photos, it kept hiding on the far side of the stems and flowers, well aware of my presence. Mainly yellow/orange with green and reddish eyes and patterned wings, it turned out to be a thistle specialist, Xyphosia miliaria. The fly causes galls on thistles. It has no common name which is a pity. If anyone is looking for an English name may I suggest ‘Thistle Gall Fly’?

PHOTO 2 Banded Burdock Fly Terellia tussilaginis prob FM Jul5th14 8056A similar looking fly, yellowish with red and green eyes, but more banded wings, was feeding on Hogweed. Although not easy to identify with 100% certainty, this is probably Banded Burdock Fly Terellia tussilaginis.

Banded Burdock Fly Terellia tussilaginis

Written and images by Tony Broome

Nature Notes #38

Hoverflies and similar things

Walking by the umbellifer plants along the tracks on the marsh, I noticed a number of common hoverflies. The species are a very attractive family of true flies that harmlessly feed on flowers or around trees, and possess a myriad of colours and patterns. Importantly, they are non-biters. Some species are long-distance migrants and move through the UK in late summer and over 280 species have been recorded.
Of the bright and relatively easy ones to identify, I managed to photograph four species.

PHOTO 1 Cheilosia illustrata FM Jun29th14 7833 (2) - CopyCheilosa illustrata (female), a vague Bumblebee mimic which are a Hogweed speciality. The larvae mine the stems and roots of the plant whilst the adults feed on the flowerheads.



.PHOTO 2 Leucozona lucorum FM Jun29th14 7831 (2) copy
Leucozona lucorum (male) – a striking black and white insect that Is common in lush herbaceous vegetation around damp woodland and hedgerows.



PHOTO 3 Syrphus ribesii M Jun29th14 7549 (2) copy

Syrphus ribesii (female) – one of the yellow banded hoverflies and not easy to tell apart. The female shows hind tibia that are all yellow, so I thought S.ribesii. They are a common resident plus a migrant.

PHOTO 4 Sun-fly or Footballer Helophilus pendulus FM Jun29the14 7693 (2) copy

Helophilus pendulus – known by the common names of the ‘Sun-fly’ or ‘Footballer’, the last mentioned due to the orange and black stripes on the thorax. Very common even in gardens.



PHOTO 5 Thick-headed Fly Sicus ferrugineus FM Jun29th14 7689 copy
Distantly related to the hoverflies are the Conopid Flies, the ‘Thick-headed Flies’. These are brightly coloured but very shy and difficult to approach unless feeding. The adult female waits on a leaf for a bee or wasp to fly past and darts out and lays an egg between the segments on its abdomen. The larvae hatch and drink blood before consuming the gut and intestines. The host insect dies and the Conopid over-winters in its body, emerging as an adult the following year. Didn’t Ridley Scott make a film about them?PHOTO 6 Thick-headed Fly Sicus ferrugineus FM Jul5th14 7973 (2) copy

Thick-headed Fly – Sicus ferrugineus (images 5 & 6).

Written and images by Tony Broome