Review of the Year 2014
January: 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.
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.
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).
April: 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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..
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!
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.
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…www.facebook.com/pages/The-Birds-of-Frodsham-Marsh 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.