Review of the Year 2014

Review of the Year 2014

07.05.13. Yellow Wagtail. Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley

16.02.13. Great White Egret, Frodsham Score. Bill MortonJanuary: started where 2013 left off with a wintering Chiffchaff and a number of Stonechats scattered at several places. A Merlin joined the ever-present Marsh Harrier and out on the river salt marsh were a couple of locally rare Bar-tailed Godwits. 10,000 Dunlin flashed across the mudflats and the first Ringed Plover (early arrival) of the year arrived plus 100 Knot looked impressive. Two Great White Egrets muscled in with the Little Egrets on Frodsham Score. Two Bewick’s Swans, 19 Whooper Swans teamed up with a flock of wintering Pink-footed Geese.

01.02.14. Red-breasted Goose with Common Shelducks, Frodsham Score. Bill Morton

February: More Bar-tailed Godwits added to the thousand plus Black-tails on the river. Highlight if a little AWOL was a Red-breasted Goose riding the tide in with the ubiquitous Canada’s. The Whoopers continued to winter along on the marsh with Pink-feet and a Marsh Harrier. Following in the wing beats of that raptor was a Hen Harrier and Merlin. Great White and Little Egret continued their trend by staying put, with the occasional bouts over at Hale Marsh. A ‘sinensis’ Cormorant heralded the start of spring. The undisputed highlight of the month was only for the eyes of Mike Buckley and Ian Coote, when not one but two winter plumaged Guillemots swam off Frodsham Score on the WeBS count. Other birds of note this month were an Avocet, Woodcock, Mediterranean Gull, Kingfisher and Cetti’s Warbler.

01.03.14. Twite, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

March: Birds from the winter period included the Whooper Swans with Pink-feet and Barnacle Geese on Frodsham Score and a contingent of Whoopers in fields by the M56. The Hen and Marsh Harrier were easily available, as was the Merlin and tower top sitting Peregrine. Likewise, both Great White and Little Egrets on Ince and Frodsham Score marshes. A Short-eared Owl passed through as did a French ringed Black-tailed Godwit. A Mediterranean Gull and 9 Avocets arrived from warmer climes. Finally, with the first arrival of Spring migrants the month ended on a high note when a flock of Twite settled by the Manchester Ship Canal at the score and performed well enough for a short video (featured on the blog).

05.04.14. Ring Ouzel (female), Frodsham Score. Bill MortonApril: A major rarity in my teens the Great White Egret’s range expansion has beennothing short of incredible but, still a surprise to see them readily available on Frodsham Score, then prospecting on No.6 tank this month, It is only a matter of time before we get them breeding in Cheshire, and with Frodsham’s reputation of breeding firsts for the county it won’t come as a surprise if it’s here?  Migrants were coming thick and fast and with the usual seasonal arrivals we managed a beautiful female Ring Ouzel by the pier at Marsh Farm. A female Redstart shared the marsh with some lingering winter waifs like Whooper Swans, Goldeneye and Pink-footed Geese. A Cetti’s Warbler gave it’s self away by the explosive song at a private site. A flock of 47 Raven were never short of a ready meal out on the salt marsh. A Short-eared Owl passed through heading north-east. A Pair of Marsh Harriers set up territory and more Avocets arrived with a similar idea in mind.

27.05.14. Lesser Scaup, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Allan Conlin

May: The main migration month saw a Blue-headed Wagtail to an area by the Holpool Gutter. The Avocets raised young but unfortunately none of them got to the flying stage. However, Black-headed Gulls at the Shooters’ Pools raised chicks. A Whooper Swan started a lengthy stay and sharing the same stretch of the Weaver estuary with a splendid summer Red-necked Grebe. The grebes protracted stay drew in a steady procession of admirers. The months highlight was discovered by Sean O’Hara one evening when a drake Lesser Scaup was with the Tufties on No.6 tank. The month ended with a Hobby.

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

June: Both the Lesser Scaup and Red-necked continued their summer vacation here and even drawing in a few Wirral birders from their back waters. A Whooper Swan in mid summer isn’t usually expected in the middle of the year. Although not the first time the species has summered here, it was nice to get views of it and the RNG in the scope together. The Marsh Harrier activity was subdued but a female Common Scoter on No.6 tank was good compensation, even sharing the camera view finder together. Frank Duff was responsible for adding a new butterfly to the marsh list when he spotted a Ringlet on the banks of the I.C.I tank. Once a Cheshire rarity it is extending its range out from the south of the county.

19.07.14. Common Scoter, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

July: The summering Red-necked Grebe was a welcome after work diversion and provided ample opportunity to get photographs in a variety of lighting and action positions. A drake Common Scoter on the River Weaver was part of an inland invasion by the species across the north and midlands this month. The first Green Sandpiper of the summer was seen and a couple of passing Common Terns added to the picture. Marsh Harrier and Little Eret were to be expected but a Mediterranean Gull and ‘sinensis’ Cormorant are not always birds of high summer. The highlight was a low light with just the one Ermine Moth seen!

13.08.14. Ruddy Shelduck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh

August: Return wader migration usually starts in July but this year it was left to August to kick-start the action. Turnstone, Sanderling, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper all making the grade. 1200 Black-tailed Godwits are good-by anyone’s money. The first Golden Plover still in splendid summer dress and then Ruff arrived to joined the throngs mid month. More Mediterranean Gulls, a Hobby, Marsh Harrier were about. Five juvenile Goosander dropped in on No.6 tank very briefly before heading back out to the Mersey estuary. The highlight was a pair of Ruddy Shelduck initially out on the rivers mudflats and then coming in on the high tide to No.6 tank.

11.09.14. Stoat, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

September: More shorebirds were on the agenda with Curlew Sandpiper and a Norwegian colour-ringed Little Stint. ( Greenshank were notable for the length of their stay) and another Bar-tailed Godwit was seen. Kingfisher started to appear from their breeding territories. Another Ruddy Shelduck appeared mid month and a Spotted Flycatcher performed well along Moorditch Lane. A Stoat was very photogenic for Paul Ralston by Ince Marsh. After several years of waiting my bogey bird, the Red Kite finally flapped its way across my vision and out to Burton Marsh (where else) and earlier in the month an Osprey made a belated appearance..

29.10.14. Ring-necked Parakeet, Frodsham Marsh, Tony Broome

October: More waders moved through with Curlew Sandpipers, Avocet,  Knot, Turnstone, Green Sandpiper, Little Stint and Greenshank all being seen. Marsh Harrier are a regular feature these days and can be seen during any month of the year, this month proved to be popular with them being seen daily. A Great White and Little Egrets were notable out on the salt marshes. A female Scaup was seen by one birder on the Weaver Bend and a Jack Snipe was seen on a path along the ship canal tow path by one lucky observer. A Cetti’s Warbler was active this month along with passerines moving through and late autumn is always a good period to add Coal Tit, Treecreeper and Redpoll spp to your marsh list. A dark-bellied Brent Goose was found in the Canada flock out on Frodsham Score. Stonechats traditionally arrive in October to spend the winter in the Weaver valley here and Whooper Swans also arrived but from a northerly direction. The highlight for many would have been a potential first for the marsh when a Ring-necked Parakeet appeared for a week but a fancy red bling ring on its leg put paid to that!

20.11.14. Barn Owl, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

November:  Six Black-necked Grebes on the Weaver Bend by a WeBS counter was surprisingly the first of the year. More Whooper Swans arrived for the duration to the Mersey marshes along with Pink-footed Geese. A Hen Harrier joined up with the resident Marsh on the marsh. A Barn Owl(s) started a lengthy stay being noted from several locations. A Green Sandpiper or two were out by the Holpool Gutter, where a Merlin put the frieghtners on the passerines along the hedgerows there. Wintering Chiffchaffs could be found at several places. Vismiging conjured up a Rock/Water Pipit, Brambling and Tree Sparrows during the early morning listens. The highlights apart from a fly through Snow Bunting didn’t involve birds but instead several critters that we associate with warm summer days namely,  Noctule Bat, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies, Common Darter and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies all of which were out and about late in the month.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

December: A young Marsh Harrier was present for most of the month with another bird probably a female paying the odd appearance. They were joined by Merlin, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel illustrating the amount of prey available for these raptors on the marsh. Also present and adding to the picture were upwards of three Barn Owls and it makes the effort of visiting the marsh all the better particularly during the Starling murmurations over the sludge tanks. Passerines were well represented with 4-5 Chiffchaff, 9 Stonechats, a Rock/Water Pipit and Kingfisher. Frodsham Score on a high tide never fails to impress, with the likes of two Great White Egret, 18 Little Egret, 34 Pink-footed Geese, 20 Whooper Swans and 5 Bewick’s Swans making this a place worthy of a visit in 2015! Two Green Sandpipers nearby on the Manchester Ship Canal and a rare wintering Common Sandpiper was made even rarer by it being an albino. 1000 Golden Plover were on the mitigation area of No.3 tank at the months end. A Cetti’s Warbler at three different locations goes to show the range expansion of this species is unstoppable. The highlight of the month was found by Tony Broome when he spotted a Cattle Egret on the Canal Pools, hot on the heels of the first record for the marsh a couple of years back.

To all the photographers and birders who have taken the time and trouble to forward their Frodsham Marsh images and sightings we thank you.

Happy New Year and Good birding to all our readers for 2015.


More to be found here tomorrow and here as well… and like the page.

Credits for photographes in this post go to:

1. Paul Crawley;

2-5 & 7. WSM.

6. Allan Conlin.

8 & 11 & 13. Tony Broome.

9. Paul Brewster.

10 &12. Paul Ralston.

29.12.14. Birdlog

29.12.14. Birdlog

29.12.14. Shoveler, Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

29.12.14. Holpool Gutter, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

Out and about this morning and a bright start with 4 Little Egret out on Frodsham Score and a large flock of swans on Ince Marsh were to far out to tell which species. A female Peregrine was having a spat with 4 Raven and left the area in a hurry. Good numbers of Lapwing and smaller numbers of Golden Plover out on the score.

The Holpool Gutter was a bird free zone with a thin layer of ice on the stretch where it meets the Manchester Ship Canal. Goldfinch and Linnet were feeding on the weed seeds along the canal. The Canal Pools held Common Tea, Tufted Duck, Mallard and many Shoveler and Coot with 4 Common Snipe.

29.12.14. Fox, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

Walking back and Redwing and Fieldfare were searching the bushes for berries and a Collared Dove flew alongside a Stock Dove heading east along the ship canal. A large dog Fox was noted in a field by Ince Marsh.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

29.12.14. Starling roost over No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

After a walk around Blakemere we decided to take in the Starling roost on No.6 tank at dusk. Mary was already in situ so the three of us watched the birds fly around in loose flocks and immediately dropping into the reed bed below us. A little disappointing until a mass of 6,000 birds were noted over the Growhow works and tracking their movements west over No.4 tank, before turning east over No.3 tank then impressively dropping like a stone into the reeds below us. Pretty impressive but numbers were down on previous watches and I guess there were 8,000 birds in all. However, the backdrop of snow on the Welsh hills and their vallies filled with mist was a splendid sight from the banks of No.5 tank

29.12.14. Starling roost over No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

With all this activity it would have been difficult for their numbers not to attract a bird of prey or two and both a Sparrowhawk and a Merlin flew through, no doubt selecting a festive treat en route.

29.12.14. Sundown over No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Observers: Mary Gold, Sparky, WSM (images 4-6).

28.12.14. Birdlog

28.12.14. Birdlog

28.12.14. No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

It was a brilliantly clear start to a crisp, cold day with the -5 c not feeling as cold as it should have due to the lack of any breeze. With all the open still water frozen, No.6 tank was practically birdless except for a few hundred Lapwings and a handful of Great Black-backed Gulls. The temperature rose to a warm 2c before finishing the day back in minus figures at -2 c. The air became hazy into the distance and everything was tinged that icy blue that you only get with prolonged low temperatures. Patches of snow added to the feeling that winter had well and truly arrived.

28.12.14. Frodsham Marsh in morning mist. Tony Broome
Lapwing and Golden Plover fed in the fields and tried to roost on No.3 but were very skittish and didn’t stand for any sudden movement, scattering skywards at the first sign of any threat.

28.12.14. Lapwing and Golden Plover, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

Around 1000 Lapwing and 300 Golden Plover made up the flock with another few thousand Lapwing and 500 Golden Plover on Frodsham Score. Over 100 Curlew mixed in with them on No.5 tank during the afternoon.

28.12.14. Ship and Cows, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
Flocks of Pink-footed Geese were moving with skeins of 43 south and flocks of c50 and 60 north in the morning. Four Common Snipe flushed from the boggy ground on No.6 and over the NE corner of No.4 tank there were flocks of 8 and 27 flying around mid afternoon.

28.12.14. Fieldfare, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

28.12.14. Coot on the Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeThe frozen water in most places meant that birds were seeking ice-free water and the Canal Pools had 45 Coot, 18 Shoveler and 16 Gadwall, with 4 more Coot on the ‘Splashing Pool’ and two more surrounded by ice on No.6. 10 more Shoveler were out on the Score where 500 Wigeon braved the guns of the hunters, even as they struggled to feed.

28.12.14. Bewick's Swan, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
A Merlin sat on a fence post on the Score for an hour or so, not far from a Little Egret, the only one I recorded but there was no sign of the Cattle Egret despite a search. The juvenile Marsh Harrier did a circuit, covering most of the tanks during the day.

28.12.14. Bewick's Swan, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
Perhaps most intriguing of all was the arrival of the first Bewick’s Swans of the winter and a party of Barnacle Goose. Six Bewick’s Swan were found resting on the mud next to a channel, off the NE corner of No.4. Four adults and two juveniles, they preened and drank for a while before going to sleep. Later on they became more active and as the tide came in, swam about near the Canada flock. One of the adult Bewick’s appeared to have a silver ring on the left leg and a white or yellow darvic on the right leg, although the distance and icy-haze made deciding which impossible.

28.12.14. Barnacle Geese, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

The Barnacles, one adult and four juveniles I assumed, although the distance was against me, appeared swimming, also near the Canada’s, before drifting off on the incoming tide. Both these species originate from the same area of NE Europe. Had they just arrived from somewhere towards there, forced west by snow and ice, and were the Barnacles genuine wild birds?

28.12.14. Starling roost, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton
Mr M joined me after work for the last glow of sunlight and the day finished with a spectacular display from the Starlings, against a fabulous winter evening sky, over their new roost site, in the phragmites reed bed below the viewing area at the junction of No.6, 5 and 3 tanks. A good day by anyone’s expectations.

Starling roost video:

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1 – 9 and video link by TB and image 10 by WSM).

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

25.12.14., No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A quick dash to No.6 tank while the taters were roasting and the turkey was being basted. Despite the wall to wall sunshine forecast on the BBC this quickly materialised into a cold wind with rain and hail. Most of the birdlife on the marsh was hunkered down in whatever shelter they could find. We did eventually get the wall to wall sunshine in the afternoon by which time, I was wearing my Christmas (Emporio Primarni)  jumper in the warmth of the indoors and writing up this festive day post.

25.12.14. Kestrel, No.5 tank, frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Kestrel was perched up on a post on No.5 tank and was reluctant to move in the rain and wind so it provided a good opportunity to get a shot of it. A small flock of 20 Chaffinch were in the elder bushes alongside the track and a cloud of several hundred Lapwing rose up from No.3 tank.

25.12.14. Dead Rat, No.5 tank, frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A (dead) drowned rat on the track was a metaphor for my being after being caught out in the rain and hail and the inserted picture is best viewed well after your dinner.


No.6 tank held a flock of 93 Common Teal with a couple of Shoveler with 20 Common Shelduck and 23 Redshank. With no activity on the local tips a few Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Common and Black-headed Gulls were riding out the storm on the water of the tank.

Observer: WSM (and images).

A Birders Map to Frodsham Marsh (Updated for 2015)

Frodsham Marsh map 2015. Bill Morton

Christmas Eve

24.12.14. Great White and Little Egret, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

A morning festive ramble out along the Manchester Ship Canal up to the Canal Pools and back. The Great White Egret was with 2 Little Egret and could be found opposite the Ince berth. At least 18 Little Egret seen throughout the morning with a group of 7 birds on the Frodsham Score and 2 Whooper Swan were with a Mute out on the salt marsh there.

24.12.14. Whooper Swans, Ince Marsh -  Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

A party of 16 Whooper’s included 2 juveniles were in a field next to the Holpool Gutter and were led on to the marsh by a small grey goose!

24.12.14. Golden Plovers, Ince Marsh -  Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

Large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover took to the air disturbed by wildfowlers who were coming off the marsh with several Canada Geese in their grasp. Settled on the waters of the Manchester Ship Canal were 4 Great Crested Grebe while a Green Sandpiper flew over.

A Chiffchaff was heard calling on the banks of No.4 tank. Returning back to the start of my walk, a large flock of Curlew panicked when a Merlin shot past in pursuit of a Mistle Thrush.

24.12.14. Curlews, Ince Marsh -  Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

Observer: Paul Ralston (and images 1-4).

24.12.14. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

I managed a walk out to the corner of No.5-6 and 3 tanks a couple of hours before dusk and didn’t really see a lot about. What I did see I’ll share with you and that included from No.6 tank: 92 Common Teal, 12 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, a pair of Pintail and 6 Tufted Duck.

24.12.14. Starling in Lapwing roost, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A smallish roost of 120 Dunlin and a Starling settled in the edge of the water with 90 Lapwing at dusk was strange?

24.12.14. Dunlin, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Chiffchaff was calling from the south west corner of No.5 tank and a Merlin shot through as I was walking back. Not much of a Starling roost this evening and I’m sure the strong westerly had a lot to do with that.

Observer: WSM (images 5-7).

For further snippits of info and pictures pop over and like

Siberian Chiffchaff

I thought you might be interested in this Chiffchaff that Andy Humphreys came across on Runcorn Hill LNR on Sunday 21st December in area of heathland called ‘The East Quarry’. The bird was bathing in a small pool and was also heard to call several times a distinct Bullfinch like “peep”.

21.12.14. Siberian Chiffchaff, Runcorn Hill. Andy Humphreys (3)The bird by call ticks the right box for an Eastern Chiffchaff but some of the plumage features falls into that shadowy area of a grey Chiffchaff. Note the all black bill, complete absence of any green or yellow on mantle and head, grey mantle, pale super and almost white underparts. There is a faint ‘double’ wing bar (a little odd) caused by the pale tips to the greater and median coverts. The cheeks are also pale or appear so from the photographs. There is the Bonellis Warbler like effect caused by the contrast between the mantle and the yellowish colour on the closed wing and a faint trace can be noted on the tail.

21.12.14. Siberian Chiffchaff, Runcorn Hill. Andy Humphreys (1)

There are three collybita race present elsewhere on the hill and these can be heard at any time of the day. Incidently, I did hear the what sounded like a tristis “peep” calling yesterday by the bowling greens in the formal park.

If you decide to pay a visit over the next few days then any comments and/or photographs would be welcomed. I have included a map of Runcorn Hill where Andy spotted the “Chiffchaff”. The access is best from the car park off Highlands road and then walk east or through the hill walks to the East Quarry (see map below).

Runcorn Hill Map (3)

Also of interest was a Nordic Jackdaw with the 73 Common Jackdaw on the football fields on Park Road last week and worth having a look for.

21.12.14. Birdlog (Winter Solstice Edition)

21.12.14. Birdlog (Winter Solstice Edition)

21.12.14. Merlin, Ince Marsh. Paul Ralston

I was out at first light from Ince berth before walking along the Manchester Ship Canal around No.4 tank and back along the Holpool Gutter. Surprisingly, a few Wigeon and Common Teal were with Mallard on the ship canal.

Frodsham Score was rather quiet with only 3 Mute Swan to be seen and beyond were Canada Geese out by the river edge. Good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover high in the air together and also noted 2 Little Egret flew by. A kestrel hunting the canal bank kept the Goldfinch and Linnet flocks moving. Several Common Buzzards and Ravens were in the area and a small party of Fieldfare flew over.

21.12.14. Green Sandpiper, Holpool Gutter, Frodsham Marsh. Paul RalstonLordship Lane had a flock of mixed tits with Chaffinch and more Linnet. On to the gutter and c15 Moorhen and 2 Little Grebe tried to hide in the shallow water from me. A Green Sandpiper was feeding on the bank.

A female Merlin sat in a bush preening for a while and caused a flock of Curlew to rise in the air when it moved to another advantage point. It then sat there before it took exception to a passing Sparrowhawk and gave chase.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston

The Cattle Egret was reported again by the Canal Pools.