The mild weather of late had disappeared virtually overnight and an arctic northerly was forecast to blow all weekend. There were Leach’s Petrels on the coast, maybe there’d be some on the river?
I was up ridiculously early, for me anyway, 05.45 hrs. Breakfast eaten, coffee made, butties packed and off out into the chill air, westwards down the M56 towards the Frodsham Marsh, making one stop en route because it was still dark at 7 am. Yes, an extra hot latte with orange from my favourite coffee emporium in Frodsham.
I arrived at the corner of No.4 tank around 7.30am and was surprised to see Frank role up shortly after me. He’s never early! It’s amazing what a potential grip off will do to a man! On the other side of the river DC was already in situ next to the lighthouse. Wall to wall blue sky for a change. I followed Frank out to the north-west corner of No.4 to do some river watching as the 7 am tide fell and birds began to move about. It was a low high tide, just over five metres and not the best to drag in seabirds, both height-wise and time-wise. Add to that, a howling northerly gale that made 3c feel like -3c and we were going to struggle. Dawn came and as the sun rose above Frodsham Hill, it lit up the vista in front of us like a searchlight. But it was bitterly cold! We both got down behind bank to try and get some respite from the searing cold, but it only worked to a lesser degree.
Two and a half hours later with only a Peregrine and a Little Egret to show for our efforts, we walked back for coffee. 5 Pink-foot Goose flew north in the distance. No petrels, no skuas, no…nothing! DC had seen a flock of Bewick’s Swan, 2 Great White Egret, a male Red-breasted Merganser and two flocks of Redpoll, some of which looked so pale that they looked like Mealies, and one which perched up near him later proved so.
Frank left for breakfast and set off to have a wander about. It wasn’t that easy in the cold wind and seeing anything was hard enough it was so strong, but hearing anything was impossible, my hood covering a wooly hat..and my ears. Frodsham Marsh is totally exposed and any wind is a problem, but a northerly poses special difficulties. Curlew and Golden Plover fed in the fields and I flushed a single Common Snipe and 5 Skylark.
So, the day was to be totally normal after so much expectation. 5 Kestrel, 70 Goldfinch, 12 Linnet, a male Stonechat on No.6 tank, 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Gadwall on the Secluded Pool, 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Grey Wagtail and 2 Sparrowhawk. Thrushes were in evidence. 15+ Blackbird, 20+ Redwing and 120+ Fieldfare fed on Hawthorn berries in several areas. Kimera Wood had a Great-spotted Woodpecker but little else. The head-high nettles and fallen branches made entry and exit into the wood a very slow process and I emerged an hour later feeling stung and battered….but very hot.
I stood by the corner of No.4 tank enjoying another brew and Frank turned up. He’d had some Goldeneye and a few Whooper Swan on the Weaver Bend but little else. As we chatted a Merlin went through over No.4 and onto No.3 tank. It, or another was hunting in the area in late afternoon. As I drove off towards home, I stopped by No.5 to watch a couple of Short-eared Owl perched on posts and hunting over the rough grassland. A couple, relatively new to birding had stopped and the owls were a lifer for them. Off course I’ve forgotten their names, possibly Ray and Lyn, but a nice way to end the day for all of us.
Observers : Tony Broome (write-up and images), Frank Duff and over at Hale Dave Craven (some minor alterations by the editor).