I sat on the banks of No.6 tank with a cooling breeze and the sun sliding slowly over to the west. The light was providing an excellent side lighting to the assembled horde of birds spread out on the tank below. The only interruption to this idyllic scene was the construction traffic for the wind farm thundering past and occasionally shaking the ground beneath my tripod.
The Black-tailed Godwit flock consisted of 200 birds and these didn’t linger when a passing raptor put everything up into the air. Most of the other birds resettled but the majority of the godwits headed back out to the River Mersey with 50 birds remaining.
On first inspection it didn’t seem to be much of a variety of species present but, during the course of my watch of three hours I did manage a respectable list of goodies. The Dunlin flock from last evening remained and 4-500 birds gave some really close views. The Ruff continued to be seen and the 3 birds present hung around with a flock of 67 Redshank.
A flock of 54 Curlew dropped in for a pre-roost bathe and preen and with them came a Whimbrel.
A family party of Avocet (2 adults, 2 juveniles) also had an additional adult to keep them company. It is possible these are the birds from the Weaver Bend area but not the chicks observed at the weekend. Lapwing numbers are increasing and when the wader flock got spooked earlier they rose from the tall vegetation and I estimated there were 200 birds.
Duck species were in very low numbers, 3 Shoveler, 7 Tufted Duck (excluding 2 family parties containing 12 tuflings), a handful of Shelduck, Mallard and Gadwall were not what I was expecting. However, a small flock of 8 Common Teal brought with them a female Garganey.
There were several hundred Sand Martin feeding low and high above No.6 tank and 200 Common Swift were doing likewise.
Observer and images: WSM
A mini birdlog this evening which included the following sightings: 400 Dunlin, 100 Black-tailed Godwit, 60 Curlew, 1 Whimbrel and 5 Ruff.
Observer: Sean O’Hara.
A male Marsh Harrier was also noted.
Observer: Arthur Harrison
A brief visit after work and with the tide low on the river the expectations were not high and that was reflected in a limited selection of birds present out on No.6 tank.
However, you’ve got to be out there whenever the opportunity arises.
A couple of juvenile Marsh Harrier were again over No.4 tank.
A smaller than usual flock of 540 Black-tailed Godwit are always a welcome diversion especially when they are still sporting their finest summer plumage. There were also small numbers of Redshank and Lapwing but the six Ruff continue to be found feeding along the edge of the vegetation.
A passage of Sand Martins included a couple of hundred birds.
Observers: Sparky, WSM (and images).
A couple of hours birding in the morning and before the forecasted rain began to appear saw very little left from last night. There was no sign of either the Black-necked Grebe, Garganey or Green Woodpecker so normal service has resumed.
A sizable flock of Black-tailed Godwits began to increase during the watch and 900 birds were still present when we left with birds still coming in from the direction of the Weaver Bend along with small groups of Redshank accompanying them.
Dunlin were mostly concealed by the tall vegetation but when all of the waders took to the air from an unseen threat (by us) they revealed a flock of 150 birds.
An eclipse drake Wigeon was tucked into the banks and emerged with several Gadwall, Mallard and a crèche of 24 Shelducklings.
There were three Kestrel hunting the tanks and a male Marsh Harrier was soon followed by a very photogenic juvenile bird.
This juvenile Marsh Harrier had a metal leg ring on closer inspection.
Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (and images 1-7 & 9-11)
A short walk around No.4 tank in the rain this afternoon. A young Common Buzzard calling constantly in the wood near the Growhow works and a Peregrine overhead which put a large flock of Rook and Carrion Crow into the air from the corn fields. Several young Pied Wagtail feeding on the road alongside a small flock of Linnet. Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Mallard were all on the Holpool Gutter with Swallows snatching insects just above the water. Two juvenile Marsh Harrier sat in the reed bed and flew up to meet the male as he made a food pass to them.
Observer: Paul Ralston (image 8).
During the course of the evening: 2 Ruff, 30 Dunlin, 2 Curlew, 60 Black-tailed godwit, 20 Redshank and new in a Spotted Redshank!
A male and female Marsh Harrier were seen together.
Observer: Sean O’Hara.
These honeycomb clouds formed in the morning just before the rain came.
A juvenile Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and the male Marsh Harrier flew through disturbing the wader roost which contained 6 Ruff, 170 Dunlin and several hundred Black-tailed Godwit all from No.6 tank.
The Weaver Bend was alive with birds including: 60 Tufted Duck, 240 Black-tailed Godwit, 80 Redshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 2 adult, 2 very young juv Avocet and a Little Gull with the Black-headed Gulls (SO).
A Green Woodpecker flew from No.5 tank into the trees by the ramp to No.6 tank.
A male Yellow Wagtail and a juvenile Stonechat were on No.1 tank.
Observers: Alyn Chambers (image 2) and Sean O’Hara.
The woodpecker failed to materialise at dusk but the grebe and the ruffs were still present.
Two juvenile Marsh Harrier were over No.4 tank and a Grasshopper Warbler was in song in the scrubby bushes alongside the track on No.5 tank. A couple of Sparrowhawk were hunting the banks of the tank at dusk disturbing some of the birds further out on the water margins.
Observer and images 1 & 3): WSM
I managed a pleasant three hours of birding overlooking No.6 tank after work. Watching from a position on the banks with excellent views to watch the action unfold.
The Black-tailed Godwit numbers were nearing the big 1000 mark and there were plenty of the gaudy summer plumaged birds still present. With all these godwits it was no surprise to find other species encouraged to drop in, These included:
200 summer Dunlin (2 juveniles), an adult summer Little Stint, a summer Greenshank, 6 Ruff, 34 Redshank, 2 Curlew and numerous Lapwing. Gulls were in low numbers but included 6 Common Gulls. 67 Tufted Duck and family parties of Common Shelduck were present on the open water.
A Little Egret flew in to spruce up before dusk and with the 14 Common Teal was a Garganey (I did say it looked good for one).
Over on No.4 tank was a male Marsh Harrier with 2 juvenile birds. A Common Buzzard kept a watchful eye on the waders on the tank. While sat on the blue-topped chimney was an adult Peregrine and sat on a post out on No.5 tank was a juvenile Sparrowhawk.
Observer and images: WSM
A little blustery this evening but the low cloud and wind combined to bring the Common Swifts to feed low over the banks of No.6 tank.
My heart missed a beat when a square tailed bird flew low overhead and disappeared out into a mass of 700 other swifts…A moment to reflect and process what I’d just seen…realisation dawned…reflect, take note…yes it had a square ended tail! Moments later it reappeared and gave some excellent views above the track…A Common Swift without outer tail feathers…Phew!! It can happen just like that. Maybe one day?
800 Black-tailed Godwit were back on the tank for the duration of the tide before peeling off in loose flocks out to the River Mersey as the tide turned and ebbed. Dunlin numbers have been increasing over the last week and 174 birds included a couple of juvenile birds.
A Green Sandpiper was confidingly perched on a plant base above the flood water and a link to a video of the sandpiper here: https://vimeo.com/134143558.
There were numerous Redshank and they contained several juvenile birds. A couple of Ringed Plover joined the crowd and Lapwing flocks are also beginning to increase.
The male Marsh Harrier flew through and with five hungry beaks to feed he was kept busy. The Peregrine was sat on top of the blue-topped chimney at Ineos Chlor at Weston Point.
Observers: Sparky, WSM (and images).
An early evening walk around No.4 tank started with a Grey Wagtail on the Holpool Gutter and several clutches of Moorhen ranging from newly hatched to fledged juveniles on the water.
The salt marsh was alive with thousands of Canada Geese with a few Greylag mixed in. A family of Raven were bullying the local buzzards and forcing them off the salt marsh.
On the Manchester Ship Canal a single Great Crested Grebe kept company with Tufted Duck and Mallard. Sand Martin and Swift were feeding above the canal and gained height when a Peregrine appeared over the canal bank. 3 juvenile Marsh Harrier were in the air together and a Sparrowhawk flew through at speed. A rainbow over the marsh added a splash of colour to the scene.
Observer and images: Paul Ralston
An over high tide watch at No.6 tank saw a Turnstone appear with a single Knot, 4 Ruff, 1 Common Sandpiper, 75 Dunlin and 25 Redshank with the Black-tailed Godwit flock from yesterday. 1 Common Gull joined the Black-headed Gulls.
The female Marsh Harrier was over No. 4 tank.
The Weaver Bend had 4 Avocet (3 Adult and 1 Chick) and a Common Sandpiper while nearby the Weaver estuary held 150 Coot and a Common Tern flew out towards the Mersey.
A further Common Sandpiper was on the Manchester Ship Canal below Marsh Farm.
Observer: Alyn Chambers (image 1).
A late afternoon walk around No.6 tank which produced the following sightings: A Chiffchaff seen and heard at the entrance ramp alongside a family of Wren. Many young Goldfinch feeding on the thistle heads with smaller numbers of Linnet in the area.
Common Shelduck and Tufted Duck made up the majority of wildfowl on the open water with a good many Mallard and several Common Teal also seen. The Black-tailed Godwits fed on the edge of the water with Redshank and Dunlin.
A female Marsh Harrier drifted over the dried up mitigation pool putting several Lapwing in to the air. The Splashing Pool held more Mallard and Tufted Duck with the addition of Coot and a single Little Grebe. The dredger was pumping more black water on to No.6 tank and the Black-headed Gulls some of which are moulting out of their breeding plumage were taking advantage of the insects disturbed by the rushing water.
Along Lordship Lane a Common Whitethroat was still feeding a late brood and young Sedge Warblers were feeding themselves in the vegetation . A juvenile Marsh Harrier had a disagreement with a Common Buzzard and then carried on hunting the banks alongside six. A couple of hundred Swift were feeding high up before they begin their push on a long migration south and were joined by small numbers of Swallow and House Martin.
A Red Kite on the Runcorn express way by the I C I works early on in the afternoon it’s the second time I have encountered it in the same area since Monday last.
Observer (and images 2-3): Paul Ralston
Nature Notes #46
It’s been a while since we did a nature notes for this blog so after a walk up to Pale Heights and down to Black Lake at Delamere Forest for a ramble and decided to put this post out.
The road up to Pale Heights had five Comma Butterflies with 3 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Gatekeeper and a couple of Meadow Browns so not an abundance of these critters about there.
We continued up and over the heights passing the ‘counties stone circle’ high above the forest, where young Carrion Crows were actively seeking scraps of food from picnickers.
Eventually we made our way down to the banks of Black Lake and apart from a few damselflies and a Four-spotted Chaser there was little of note to report.
A small sandy coloured grasshopper was intriguing and I guess it was a Meadow Grasshopper (if you disagree drop me a comment). The grasshopper was very photogenic and provided ample opportunity for for some macro shots.
The above image shows a diving beetle pushing up the water surface tension. When a beetle swims to the surface, it sticks its abdomen out into the air. The beetle traps an air bubble on its abdomen. It can then dive underwater, carrying its air bubble under water so it can remain there for longer.
The header image was taken shortly after the beetle dived and created a chrome effect ripple.
A Pond Skater does the opposite from the last image and has the surface tension supporting its body weight while a small fly zips over.
Observers: Sparky and WSM (and images).