It’s a Scary One!
I thought that I’d get down to Frodsham early today but for a number of reasons I was an hour late, arriving at Costa for the obligatory latte with orange, extra hot, one shot, to take out, at 08.30hrs.
I noticed a big flock of Wood Pigeon moving south as I entered the Frodsham and was eager to find a vantage point on the marsh, probably the north east corner of No.4 tank, to do some vis-miging. As I drove over the Marsh Lane bridge, a big mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwing flew over south, perhaps as many as 200 birds. My intentions were dashed however, as hordes of pheasant shooters headed for No.4 and No.3 tanks. So, I pulled in alongside No.6 and began to scan the ducks and waders.
Of note, there were about 500 Lapwing and 200 Golden Plover settled in, with 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Green Sandpiper, the usual Spotted Redshank, a handful of Dunlin, 10 or so Common Snipe, 8 Ruff and about 50 Shoveler with Gadwall mixed in. Everything suddenly scattered skywards as a Peregrine did a circuit and lesser numbers of birds returned. Finley (newly crowned Young Ornithologist of the Year) and Heather Wilde (proud mother of newly crowned Young Ornithologist of the Year) turned up and we chatted about cameras and settings and how many photos are deleted at the end of the day. As the sky was wall-to-wall grey, any photos of flying birds would only be average at best. Where was the blue sky?
All of a sudden, a loud call of a bird overhead grabbed my attention….the ‘shreep’ of a Richard’s Pipit. I shouted and desperately looked up but my attention was drawn to other birds going over and it passed southwards presumably, unseen….. What a shame! A great bird for the marsh! Starlings passed westwards in small parties and the odd Grey Wagtail called from the grey above……Bill turned up and we moved to the junction of beds No’s 3,5 and 6 tanks where there was excellent all round vision. But relatively little was passing except for a nice flock of 22 Skylark that went straight into the light southerly breeze.
Then news began to filter through from Hale….where from about 7 to 9.30, they had Hawfinch, Woodlarks, Ring Ouzels, Lapland Buntings, and more, in amongst 16,000 passerine and pigeons heading south west over the fields by the lighthouse. Most before I’d arrived! That hour I was late had cost me dearly!….. As we read the news, a long procession of shooters left the marsh being out on No.4 tank and the mitigation No.3 tank?
Finley (and Heather) left to get some revision done at home. Bill and I carried on up to No.4 and walked out to the north east corner, where I should have been at dawn. No passerines of note, but 5 Great White Egret, 7 Little Egret, 2 more Peregrine, a Sparrowhawk and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were nice to see, the egrets and lots of ducks including hundreds of Wigeon being flushed onto the grass by a 9.3m high tide around 2.pm. As we watched a Chiffchaff move through the Elderberry bushes, Dave Craven began to tweet from Hale…he could see a Spoonbill and two Common Scoter on our side of the river! We got onto the scoters quickly enough, 2 immature/female types, but despite a couple of hours scanning for the Spoonbill, we had no luck, it remaining out of sight, probably behind the Score bank to us. Frank turned up, freshly back from Cornwall and although couldn’t help with the Spoonbill, he did find an interesting gull, too far out to be sure about ID, but it was reminiscent of an Azorean Gull…a very striking individual. We also missed a Guillemot on the Hale side of the water. What a cracking day the Hale birders had today!
We headed back and stopped by No.6 once more and Frank left to unpack his cases, have a shower and to dress up in his Halloween costume to go out trick or treating, leaving me and Bill to enjoy the dusk. A juvenile Hen Harrier came in from the east which was a really nice, fresh bird, and it began to hunt the rough vegetation across the tank, closely followed by a Merlin and at one stage a Sparrowhawk, all of which chased the same Meadow Pipit at one point, which tried to evade capture by climbing high and jinking and twisting. The Sparrowhawk came close and had the pipit in its talons but dropped it and the pipit plunged to the ground, safe at last. No.6 emptied of gulls and Bill and I were treated to a spectacularly brooding sunset with flocks of Starlings wheeling about in the eerie light, almost forming murmurations before settling in the phragmites. A fitting end to an enjoyable Halloween.
Tony Broome (images 2-4 & 6, 7 & 9).
Additionally Sean covered some others ares on the marsh and came up with an adult winter Mediterranean Gull on the Wevar Bend and a female Goldeneye on the Weaver Estuary.
Observer: Sean O’Hara (image 6).
Image 5 by Heather Wilde.
Also present today was 500 Wigeon on the incoming tide on Frodsham Score with a smattering of 23 Oystercatcher, 4000 Dunlin, 200 Curlew, 34 Grey Plover and 1000 Lapwing with 120 Golden Plover.
No.6 tabk was busy with 200 DUnlin, 300 Golden Plover and at dusk a couple of Green Sandpiper flew in.
Images 1, 8 & 10 by WSM