Birders Against Wildlife Crime
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Birders Against Wildlife Crime
Follow the link and show your support: http://birdersagainst.org/
Local bird news: The Nordic (Corvus monedula monedula) Jackdaw was again by the small boating lake by Park Road, Runcorn at 08.30 and if not here it can be found with the (Western) Jackdaws on the football fields. Nearby, two Chiffchaff were moving through the trees in the cove walks on Runcorn Hill (close to the small bridge that crosses the path off the Weston Road/Sandy Lane entrance), one of which was giving a peep call attributed to Siberian Chiffchaff. Limited views obtained of both birds before they moved away.
Out this morning from Ince berth along the Manchester Ship Canal and around No.4 produced a Little Egret flying overhead at the berth. A large flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls in a nearby field mixed in with them were Curlew and a few Black-tailed Godwit. Birds seen from the ship canal path was a Great White Egret out on Ince Marsh with several Little Egret seen on the marsh . A flock of 30 plus Stock Dove flew east also along the canal and a Green Sandpiper and Common Snipe were present along the path.
Another Great White Egret was feeding alongside a mixed flock of Mute and Whooper Swans close to the canal bank (pictured above hiding behind the score banks with the swans). A party of Ravens were putting on an aerial display with several barrel rolls in their entertaining excitment. At the junction of No.4 and No.6 tanks a Kingfisher was in the ditch and was also seen further along Lordship lane . A quiet day for raptors with only Common Buzzard and Kestrel seen.
Observer & images: Paul Ralston.
Further out on the marsh edges a couple of rare Treecreeper were with a roving tit flock which included Goldcrest and Coal Tit.
Observer: Frank Duff.
The wind speed was a force 7 borderline 8 this morning with little shelter we managed to use Tony’s car as a wind break behind the banks overlooking No.6 tank.
A roost of mainly Common and Black-headed Gulls included several Agenteus with a single Argentatus Herring Gull, numerous graellsii and an adult intermedius type Lesser Black-backed Gull. The gull roost didn’t really want to expand too much energy so after an initial scare by a sub-adult peregrine they decided its threat wasn’t immediate and soon settle down while the falcon sat in a low branch nearby.
Ducks were sheltered below the banks of the tank but appeared to be struggling with the big waves washing over them. 3 Tufted Duck, 10 Shoveler, 8 Mallard and 11 Common Shelduck were faring better in the rough conditions than the 67 Common Teal.
Three Cormorants sat in the dead tree included two types of the continental sinensis showing the characteristic gular pouch angle, in full breeding plumage and shocking white head dress.
A windy No.5 tank: http://vimeo.com/116471742.
A windy No.6 tank with tumbleweed (Sea Aster dried stems) blowing in front of a gull roost: http://vimeo.com/116471740
80 Stock Dives were also disturbed by the Peregrine and flew out of the vegetation on the tank a few times.
Observers: Tony Broome (images 1-2 & videos), Frank Duff, WSM (images 3-5).
Round the Back
Frodsham Score salt marsh is an area of something quite rare and at risk from many factors not least the tides that rise and fall twice daily. The Irish Sea enters the River Mersey at New Brighton/Bootle a distance of approximately 16 miles (as the crow flies) to Frodsham Score.
The salt marsh is always in a state of flux with its river edges eroded by the tides, frost, water, wind and rain and often huge clumps fall into the river. These clumps are soon broken down by wave wear and are carried as silt with the tides out into the river, creating sandbars or washing ashore elsewhere to rebuild river edges. There is an organic life to the Mersey marshes being created and eroded, being recreated – a cycle that is timeless. The only issues that could effectively cause this cycle to end would be the intervention by man, proposals like a tidal barrier would cause a shift in the hydrodynamics and thus change the replenishments of tidal water that is important to the bird and wildlife that use the river.
Since the rise of the development of the shoreline a hundred and fifty years ago we have had limited access to the river on its southern banks and this exclusion zone stretched from Moore near Warrington right up to New Brighton, Wirral. I remember watching from Runcorn Docks the tantalising mudflats that lay beyond and seeing hundreds of wintering Pintail on an area of land behind the gantry wall called ‘No Mansland’: an area of salt marsh that had been created by the shifting silt as mentioned earlier.
Some great birds were seen from my distant position perched like a cabin boy in a crow’s nest, clinging by one arm to an old barge berthed in Runcorn Docks overlooking the Mersey mudflats. I was craving to get my feet on the Mersey marshes and see the birds up close. My opportunity eventually came one very bright, sunny and extremely cold, frosty morning in 1978. The North Cheshire RSPB group had organised a field trip to Mount Manisty, an area managed by the Merseyside Naturalist Association and the group are still going strong today. I remember well my bitterly cold hands grasping a pair of Prinxlux 10 x 50 binoculars and impatiently waiting to view through the only telescope own by one of the field officers (probably Don Weedon) to view the huge numbers of handsome Pintail, Common Teal and Wigeon.
A Short-eared Owl glided by with eyes like a cat looking right through me, checking back in mid-flight to drop like a stone in the tall dried grass bordering the salt marsh for a vole and then carrying it away, throwing back a glare at me like a surly youth.
The only relief from the biting easterly wind was a broad warm water pipe that we took turns to sit on just to warm our ice-cold butts.
Reminiscing apart, that was my only experience of the birding on Frodsham Score in my teens and I’ve never been back since. One day I hope to repeat it. Today the only people allowed to go ’round the back’ and view the marshes on the southern banks are Chris the farmer, Wildfowlers and the BTO WeBS counters.
If you fancy taking the boat across the Manchester Ship Canal, from the jetty at Marsh Farm or Stanlow, you can either become Chris’s farming assistant, a wildfowler or a voluntary counter for the BTO: I know which one I prefer.
The views of Frodsham Score on Frodsham Marsh are limited to an area of 2 km west of the Canal Pools where the score banks falls away to join the flat open vista of the Mersey marshes. It is here that I’ve spent some of my favourite watches and sometimes shared them with a few birders like Tony and Frank.
Shaun Hickey inspired this article after he sent me his fine selection of photographs taken during the monthly WeBS counts at Frodsham Score. There have been some great birds seen on these counts like Broad-billed Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Great White Egret and last year two Guillemots. It is truly a wild place edged in by a lot of industry and at threat by many things…not least the tide.
WSM: image 1.
Heather Wilde image 2.
Shaun Hickey images 3-4, 7 & 9.
Stuart Maddocks image 5.
Paul Scoullar image 6.
Tony Broome image 8.
A link to the RSPB and the Mersey Barrage:
More of Paul’s superb images here: here: http://www.photo4me.com/paulscoullarwildlifeandaviation
Eastern Jackdaw in Runcorn
During the last couple of winters I have on several occasions seen Jackdaws with a shock of silvery white on their necks, but never had the opportunity to get photographs and at the end of 201 I still hadn’t, but I know someone who did.
The further east you go in Northern Europe the nominate Western Jackdaw (the form we get in the UK) gets replaced by one of the Eastern forms, and one form Corvus monedula monedula aka Nordic Jackdaw has been reported on numerous occasions, mainly during the Autumn and Winter in the UK and Ireland. Although many of these birds maybe intergrades between western and eastern birds.
The video link below shows a bird which I initially found on 13th December 2014 close to the boating lake at Heath Park, Runcorn and then refound by Dave Kennedy who managed to get his video of the bird. He obtained further images (above) and video (below video link) of this bird which appears to be paired with a Western Jackdaw and prospecting a chimney stack at a house close by. Make your own mind up on the racial identification of this bird, but if you are interested in seeing it for yourselves then early morning is best. The flock of seventy-odd birds is best seen before the dog walking co-operatives are out and about. It associates with a ‘normal’ Jackdaw which has some white in the wing, so not too difficult to find.
Christmas Day 2014. Heath Park Football fields, Runcorn. http://vimeo.com/116152088
Second video shows the bird on a chimney top.
Images and video by Dave Kennedy.
A cold frosty start to the day and with bright sunshine throughout it, it never really got any warmer. When the sun finally dipped below the horizon (again producing some spectacular sunsets) it was replaced by a full moon rise.
The immature Marsh Harrier was over No.6 tank and a Peregrine on the score. The Barn Owl was hunting the southern banks at first light.
Frodsham Score continued where it left off yesterday with both Tony and Frank taking the watch during the high tide with 6 Pintail there and 30 Gadwall on the Canal Pools. The Great White Egret reappeared after spending yesterday north of the river at Hale Marsh.
5 Barnacle Geese flew in and settled with the usual assembled Canada Goose herd out on the salt marsh. The gathering of Whooper and Bewick’s Swan were again off the old magazine site with a Ruff and Merlin adding to the count there.
Along the River Weaver was an assortment of ducks with the highlight being Goldeneye and 20 Pochard.
A male Bullfinch was in the hawthorn hedgerow bordering Brook Furlong Lane and the horse paddock had a small flock of Redwing with other thrushes below the hedge there. Worthy of note was Song Thrush with 19 on No.3 along the track, plus 10 on No.4 and 20+ elsewhere, totalling c50…not bad! Other song birds adding to the day list were a Chiffchaff at NW side of No.6 and 2 Stonechat together on No.1 and 2 more on No.6 on opposite side. Finally, Starlings – about 2-3000 went due ESE out of site over the I.C.I tank.
Cormorants were beginning to arrive to spend the night on what was left of the old trees on the flooded east end of No.6 tank.
Sometimes you can see thirty birds perched on this tree at roost time.
Stopping on the motorway bridge that crosses the M56 at Brook Furlong Lane on the way home and a rusty full moon poked its head above Dutton woods.
Observers: Arthur Harrison, Tony Broome (images 1-3), Frank Duff, Sparky and WSM (images 4-7)
The weather up until 1.00pm was nothing short of depressing and not conducive to birding, or keeping yourself or your optics dry. It was a sodden Frank I met on his way back from a soggy towpath along the Manchester Ship Canal (overlooking Frodsham Score). I’d held back from visiting the marsh until later, so by the time I met him the rain was easing slowly. I replaced Frank’s spot overlooking the Mersey salt marsh and the weather started to clear, and the sun emerged from behind the rain clouds to fill the river below with bright sunshine and mist.
10 Redshank, 12 Dunlin, 1000 Lapwing and 600 Golden Plover were roosting during the morning tide on No.6 tank. 18 Shoveler and 38 Common Teal were the only ducks in any numbers here.
A Little Egret joins Bewick and juvenile Whooper Swans feeding on the salt marsh at Frodsham Score?
The wintering flock of Arctic swans featured 26 Whooper (including 5 juveniles) and 8 Bewick’s Swan (all adults).
Also present in a consideration flock were 2-3000 Canada Goose with a few Greylag, 5 Barnacle and 8 Pink-footed Goose. Several hundred Wigeon were grazing on the saltmarsh and the odd Pintail flew over.
Further out on the edge of the shoreline a pair of Peregrine kept an eye on the proceedings and a female Merlin was perched up in a hawthorn before spotting an opportunity and flew in low level flight across the score. The immature Marsh Harrier was ranging widely and both Kestrel (including the one illustrated) and Common Buzzard were encountered at several locations today.
There was no sigh of the Great White Egret today but 8 Little Egret and 5 Grey Heron were noted. The flocks of plovers on the score included 2000 Lapwing and smaller numbers of Golden Plover. Small flocks of Redshank and 200 Curlew reflected the state of the ebbing tide with most of the shorebirds enjoying the Mersey bounty on the mudflats.
A small group of Common Snipe flew in and a Green Sandpiper was on the reedy pools below the banks of No.4 tank. A Brambling was with the Chaffinches along the scattered hawthorn and Elder bushes along the north banks of No.4 tank.
The Barn Owl was spotted hunting in the area of the horse paddock and perched up for a while late afternoon. (per Mary Gold).
Walking back along the track bordering No.3 and 6 tanks and some goodwill to all men was provided by a selfish act of offloading their Xmas detritus in a passing place.
Observers: Frank Duff, Paul Ralston (image 1), WSM (images 2-9).
Additional birding information: 9 Greenshank in a field by the approach road to the Ince Berth. Observer: Paul Ralston.
Wilde About the Marsh
We started off today at the Weaver Bend in an icy, strong wind. There wasn’t big volumes on the bend, but there certainly was quality including 2 stunning pairs of Goldeneye. Other ducks include, Mallard, Teal (40), Tufted Duck in the far distance (100) and Pochard (20). The Peregrine was watching from his blue tower and a noisy flock of about 30 Goldfinch did a fly by.
We had a look at the new scrape area on No.3 tank, which was full of Lapwing, about 300 of them. The Golden Plover were still in the field by Marsh Farm and a solitary Common Snipe was snoozing in amongst the Lapwing. 2 Kestrel were perched near each other on the fence posts by the cow field and took off together when a flock of 11 Curlew flew low over the field. 10 Pied Wagtail were feeding on the mud round the new scrape.
We stood on the top corner near No.4 Tank closest to the motorway to watch for owls in the moonlight as it got dark. Sadly no owls, but massive flocks of roosting Fieldfare kept flying past close enough to reach out and touch.
We’ve been to the marsh every day so far this year (tongue firmly pressed into cheek).
Observers and images: The Wilde Bunch.
Where’s What on Frodsham Marsh?
Updated February 2015 Frodsham Marsh Map
With the start of a new year it would be a good time to renew and refresh some of Frodsham Marshes most popular birding spots. Attached is an updated map and with the aid of these photographs we hope it helps to put a bit of meat on the bones of that map.
The photograph above shows the main birding spots to the central-eastern part of the marsh.
The decommissioned power station blue-topped chimney at the former I.C.I works (now Ineos Chlor). The chimney is a favourite resting spot for one or two Peregrines. Beyond the Weaver Sluice gates that now regulate and hold back the flow of the River Weaver is the River Mersey and estuary. The Weaver Estuary is an ideal area for wintering ducks and grebes. The raised bank of the Weaver Causeway provides access to the Weaver Bend.
Further along the Weaver Causeway lays the Shooters’ Pools and was very productive for birds during its first Spring and Summer. The Weaver Bend is much neglected by birders these days but is always worth a look. The Lum is a reed bed which always look likely to hold something special. The I.C.I tank was once a sludge tank but is now covered in rough grass and scattered willow/alder trees.
Four of the five pools making up the Shooters’ Pools. Weston Marsh was once managed by the Merseyside Naturalist Association (MNA). Not sure what happened to that situation but it is no longer accessible to the public.
The impressive works of the Growhow factory provides a good focal point for many sunset photographs from No.6 tank. The M56 cuts through Helsby Marshes and further out lay Ince Marsh and No.4 tank.
The Liverpool skyline dominates the backdrop from the banks of Frodsham Score with Hale Head and the lighthouse being ideal for visual migration (vismig).
The central part of the marsh with No.6 tank being the most productive area and behind it lays the newly developed No.3 mitigation area. No.2 and No.5 tanks are grazing farmland whereas Frodsham Score is an isolated salt marsh separated from the marsh by the Manchester Ship Canal.
The open flooded No.6 tank (eastern section) is ideal for ducks with the western area good for harriers. No.3 tank is already attracting big numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover (1,000 birds recently).
No.4 tank showing the meandering Holpool Gutter mostly hidden left and below No.4 tank. The white specks on Frodsham Score are Whooper and Bewick’s (honest) Swans.
The M56 bottom of photograph gives you some idea how close you drive through the marsh and how close you really are to the River Mersey.
A view of Frodsham Marsh from my old home at Froda Avenue, Frodsham.
I hope these images come in useful for when you next visit the marsh. Good Birding.
All images by WSM.
The New Year weather forecast was for a wild and windy morning throwing in wet from the afternoon. It didn’t turn out quite as bad but it was still windy enough. No.6 tank held an increase in the numbers of Common Teal with 430 birds being present.
Other duck species featured 6 Pochard, 9 Shoveler and 5 Pintail with 43 Mallard and 10 Common Shelduck. A few hundred large gulls were birds dispersed from the local rubbish tips being closed for the bank holiday. Also present with the Lapwing roost were 37 Redshank, 2 Ruff and 9 Black-tailed Godwit.
A Cormorant with white thigh patches gave a hint that Spring isn’t too far away. The immature Marsh Harrier was quartering the reed beds at the west end of the tank and close by on No.3 tank were 500 olden Plover with 1000 Lapwing and a few Redshank. A Chiffchaff was calling from the parking area at the junction of No.5, 6 and 3 tanks. Also present was a pair of Stonechat.
No.5 tank saw a female Merlin perched on the ground close to a Common Buzzard and a covey of 4 Red-legged and a single Grey Partridge and are presumably game birds set down by the shooters.
On the out skirts of the marsh was a Kingfisher, Treecreeper and a roving tit flock.
Observers: Arthur Harrison, Frank Duff, WSM (images 1-3). Image 7 by Tony Broome.
Findlay’s New Year Post.
Me and mum had about an hour at the Marsh this afternoon in the rain, but the dark clouds were a great background for the flock of Golden Plover that rose off the field near the farm. When the light caught them as they turned, it was like turning lots of small golden lights on and off. There were some Lapwing flying with them so the black and gold looked spectacular.
There were 2 Buzzards flying together along the Lordship Lane bank of No.6 tank. One was carrying food and the other was I think mobbing it a bit. The one with the food was feeding mid-flight which I have only seen once or twice before.
A Kestrel was hovering over the pony field and getting a bit blasted by the wind, so it gave up and settled in one of the trees.
I could hear a Raven croaking and then it flew past at eye level along the cattle field. I have to say, I do like those calves which are all black but have a white stripe round their middle. Another tune caught my ear and had me looking round to find the Meadow Pipit making all the noise. It flew straight overhead towards Helsby HIll.
We decided to go round to the Lordship Lane side to see if we could find the Buzzards again. One was on a telegraph post and the other was on the fence near the mobile planes green shed. It kept dropping into the field then jumping back on to the fence post.
Everywhere we looked there were big groups of Starlings, the biggest group was about 400 feeding in one of the field along Lordship Lane. Also in the field were about 120 Black-headed Gulls and another 80 Lapwing.
The rain was getting heavier so we decided to head back home. On the way out 3 Pied Wagtails were feeding round the big puddle in the pony field and a single Fieldfare stopped for a quick drink before flying on.
Just a shame we never spotted WSM, but hopefully we will next time.
Observers: Findlay Wilde (with images 4-6 & 8 by Heather Wilde).
Find out more about Findlay’s birding year ahead here: http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/