31.01.16. Birdlog

31.01.16. Song Thrush, No.5 tank. Frodsham Marsh,

30.01.16. Little Egret. Paul CrawleyA walk out from Ince and around No.4 tank and then to No.6 on this wet and miserable morning. A total of 15 Collared Dove in Ince village  and a large flock of Curlew on the fields by the Pig Farm which also held many Fieldfare. There were 18 Little Egret again in the field by the berth which had all moved on when I walked along the canal path to get a better view? A herd of 6 Mute Swan were grazing in the field alongside the Holpool Gutter amongst the reduced numbers of Lapwing and Golden plover with the rest of the mixed swan herd still out on the salt marsh. The Manchester Ship Canal was quiet with only a couple of Little Grebe and a Great Crested Grebe were noted.

31.01.16. Raven, No.5 tank. Frodsham Marsh,

31.01.16. Robin, No.5 tank. Frodsham Marsh,The mitigation pools are looking good with Lapwing, Redshank and Common Teal making use of them. No.6 tank held a good selection of wildfowl with more Teal and Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and two Kestrel hunting the bank. There were 10 Raven feeding on a another dead sheep with several more in the area while two sat on the fence. A model plane went down on the tank and was retrieved by its owner I saw another plane washed up on the east bank a couple of weeks ago. Back along the canal path and I caught a fleeting glimpse of a large raptor with a white rump disappearing over the bank on No.4 but couldn’t relocate it and presumably the Hen Harrier seen over at Hale?. Large numbers of Goldfinch and Linnet were feeding on the weed seeds along the path.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 3-4).Images 2 by Paul Crawley.

A series of images of an abnormally long-billed Blue Tit I saw on my RSPB Bird Garden Watch this morning. Images by WSM.

30.01.16. Birdlog (Dedicated to Martin S Garner)

30.01.16. A view over No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

garnerI was walking along Brook Furlong Lane this morning with the intention of making my way out to the Weaver Estuary. There was very little to occupy my time birdwise except for a couple of Blue Tit hiding in the lichen covered branches of the Hawthorn hedgerow and attempting to be something they were not. I received a call from an old friend Doug Percival who gave me the sad news about the passing of our friend Martin. The reason why I mention (today of all days) about making my way to the Weaver Estuary on a whim was that nearly forty years ago (almost) to the day was the spot where I first bumped into a young birder called Martin Garner. Little did I know that on that day we would forge a friendship and both would grow up birding together. A few years later we conceived the idea of setting up a ‘birdlog’ on Frodsham Marsh to share bird news with our friends. Decades later that ‘birdlog’ would morph into this bird(b)log. 30.01.16. A view of Frodsham Hill from Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

30.01.16. Curlew, Marsh Farm-Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonWhen I eventually got to the Weaver Estuary it was blowing a bone chilling westerly wind with little or no shelter to seek. A party of feeding Goldeneye were braving the centre of the river while the less hardy ducks like Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and a couple of Black-tailed Godwit were sheltering in the lea of No.1 tank.

Walking back to the old birdlog I met Frank who had only just returned from a business trip to South America and from 35 degrees temperature to barely above freezing was a bit of a shock to his system but we paid a visit to Marsh Farm to look over the River Mersey and watch the tide roll in. A ‘ringed’ Curlew was on the embankment across the Manchester Ship Canal from Marsh Farm but was obviously too far to read any numbers. There was a selection of Oystercacher, Curlew and a few gulls coming in from Arpley tip after it closed for the day but there was nothing untoward amongst them.

The male Peregrine sat hunched up on the blue-topped chimney keeping an eye on proceedings. After a while Frank left to be replaced by Alyn Chambers. Alyn had earlier watched over No.6 tank where he had seen 40 Common Pochard, 140 Tufted Duck and 100 Shoveler. A Marsh Harrier was spotted earlier over No.3 tank (PC).30.01.16. A view over the Weaver Bendm Marsh. Bill Morton

Walking back along Brook Furlong Lane Alyn spotted a Bullfinch and a Siskin but apart from that it was a little subdued.

Out on Frodsham Score there was c100 Pink-footed Goose, 14 Whooper Swan, Great White Egret, 12 Raven and again the Marsh Harrier per Dave Craven and his excellent Birding The Boundary.

30.01.16. Pied Wagtail, Marsh Farm. Frodsham Marsh, Bill Morton

Alyn’s birding tally from the day. 58 species seen during 6 hours on the marsh includes: Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck (7 on No.6 tank), Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler (100 on No.6 tank), Pochard (40 on No.6 tank, 2 on Weaver estuary), Tufted Duck (150 on No.6 tank, 2 on Splashing Pool, 13 on Weaver estuary), Goldeneye, Pheasant, Cormorant (6 on No.6 tank), Grey Heron (5), Little Grebe (4), Great Crested Grebe (2), Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit (1 on Weaver estuary), Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove (3), Woodpigeon, Kestrel (4), Peregrine (1), Magpie, Jay (1 south of No.4 tank), Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark (1), Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff (1 on south bank of No.4 tank), Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush (3 on ramp to No.6 tank), Redwing (20 in horse paddock by Moorditch Lane), Mistle Thrush (1 south of No.4 tank), Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch (1 along Brook Furlong Lane), Linnet, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting.

30.01.16. A view over the Weaver Bendm Marsh. Bill Morton

A belt of snow coming in from the north-west set against Rocksavage power station was quite impressive.

Observers: Alyn Chambers, Paul Crawley, Frank Duff, WSM (and images 1 & 3-7).

Image 2 by Yoav Perlman.

This Frodsham Marsh Birdlog is dedicated to you Martin. 

23.01.16. Birdlog

23.01.16. Common Buzzard, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (8)Forecast to be bright and sunny with a southerly wind, Saturday promised to be a good birding day with blue sky and sunshine. There was to be some cloud later on in the day as a front came in from the south-west but as long as most of the day was fine, I could put up with that. Everything was ready except for the coffee and sandwiches, but they were always best done fresh. The M56 was clear and I cruised westwards, listening to Sounds of the Sixties and to the news that the eastern seaboard of the United States was due to be hit by the worst snow storm in a hundred years. As long as it didn’t stop todays birding, it could do what it wanted to!

23.01.16. Lapwings on No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17)

23.01.16. Kestrel on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

I arrived at the bridge over the motorway dead on 8 o’clock and turned left towards No.4 tank and the Score beyond. 8 Pied Wagtail fed in the horse paddock around a small flood. The tracks were scandalously deep in a glutenous mud that squelched as I drove through it. The local farmer and construction traffic had churned it up into a blancmange-type semi solid and only driving slowly prevented it covering the car completely. No.6 had over 500 Canada Geese on it but I drove on to get to the northwest corner of No.4 for the high tide, my intention being to go straight there and take a good look at was being moved off the Score by the tide. But, as I rounded the corner of the slope down to No.3, I was met by the spectacle of over 500 Lapwings wheeling around over the flooded area and as they began to settle, I couldn’t drive past without taking a few snaps.

23.01.16. Common Buzzard, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (16)

I then noticed a Common Buzzard sat on a post. I moved the car forwards it until I was a few metres away. Ridiculously confiding, it allowed me to get within two metres but flushed as a construction tractor sounded its horn to ask me to move. Typical! The only other vehicle all day. What a lovely bird it was. Video here: https://vimeo.com/152829190

I parked up thirty minutes later than planned and walked to the corner and set up for a scan over the Score. It was surprisingly cold, a fresh southerly wind feeling more like it had a touch of north in it. There was a lot of activity as the tide was already high, although not fully up until around 11.00 hrs. White egrets dotted the Score to the west, around 12 Little and 2 Great White Egret. Smoke-like flocks of Lapwings, maybe 6000 or so, flew back and forth in the distance, spooked into flight by an unseen predator.

23.01.16. Pink-footed Geese on Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (32)

The herd of Whooper Swan numbering c30 and 164 Pink-footed Goose fed out towards the far western edge of the salt marsh, the latter joined by another 130 which dropped in from the north.23.01.16. Dunlin flocks over Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (13)

Wheeling blizzards of Dunlin careered over the water, the sunlight making the white of their underparts look like snow flakes, also amongst them were smaller numbers of Grey Plover, 100 and 6 Knot. The Dunlin numbered around 10,000 birds. Duck numbers were low in comparison with only about 150 Wigeon and 3 Pintail of note.

23.01.16. Lapwings on Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

Bill joined me and we scanned beyond the river towards Pickerings Pasture but the Shag that had been reported during the week didn’t materialise. A lone Greenfinch was new for the year and 3 Jackdaw overflew going south-west. There were fragmented flocks of Goldfinch which swerved around the edge of the tank. A sharp-eyed Merlin was perched up on its favourite hawthorn bush, bobbing its head in anticipation of a hunt, but it wasn’t to be. A Peregrine did a fly past chased by a Great Black-backed Gull but was quickly lost to view behind the bank where 22 Raven gathered around a dying sheep. A Chiffchaff worked its way along the north bank of four and was a little reluctant to show itself.

23.01.16. Great White Egret on Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

A couple of Great Crested Grebes  and 6 Stock Dove were also noted. Apart from a handful of Golden Plover, surprisingly no big numbers like last week. 6 Oystercatcher and 20 Redshank were the only other waders with no sign of any Bar/Black-wits. At midday the sun came out and the landscape was bathed in a golden glow. It looked warm, but certainly wasn’t. An hour later it had disappeared with thin high cloud making the sun watery before thick grey cloud came in threatening rain.

We retired to the car for some lunch and relaxed as the heated seats and hot coffee brought our internal temperature back up to something like normal. Bill helped me finish off my meagre cheese sandwiches and a bag of crisps and drank most of my coffee to save it going cold. He even polished off my Garibaldi`s (oo-er). That’s what good friends are all about…

23.01.16. Starling flocks, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17)

23.01.16. Digger on No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)After the raid on my lunch box I managed to stir enough enthusiasm to walk out again and then spent some time looking for Jack Snipe. There wasn’t any luck but I did flush out 2 Common Snipe, 2 Gadwall and 3 Skylark which were the best I could muster. Bill wandered to another area and saw a few more Common Snipe. As we met up at the car, a Grey Wagtail perched up on some scaffolding around the outlet sludge pipe to No.6 tank.We then drove to the slope on No.3/6 and watched over the reed beds and rough pasture. Again there were no harriers or any owls to keep us distracted.

23.01.16. Starling flocks, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11)

However, the pool on No 3 held around 200 Lapwing and a massess of Starling with an estimate of 6,000 birds crowded shoulder to shoulder in a pre-roost gathering next to the water, their noisy chattering conversation filling the air until a Sparrowhawk went through low and they all took flight and headed towards Runcorn Bridge and a safer roost. They looked like a black carpet on the ground and then a swarm of bees in the air. Bill caught a murmuration on his camera which resembled a Killer Whale shape.

23.01.16. Sheep and lamb on Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

As we packed up to go, impressed by the spectacle we’d just witnessed, a Water Rail squealed, hidden, from the phragmites on No.6… A good day’s birding… and the first lamb of the year was with its mother out on Frodsham Score earlier.

Written by Tony Broome.

Images 1-12 & video: WSM

Additional notes by Paul Ralston and WSM included a Marsh Harrier, sinensis Cormorant, 20 Little Egret and a Kingfisher. Ducks present on No.6 tank were: 74 Shoveler, 6 Wigeon, 120 Common Teal, 34 Mallard, 11 Tufted Duck and 14 Pochard (including 5 females).

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Slide show by Tony Broome.


22.01.16. Birdlog

22.01.16. Starlings, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11)

An after work ramble onto the marsh didn’t produce the hoped for Short-eared Owl but a gathering of Starlings along Moorditch Lane and then over on No.3 tank were rewarding to watch. There was no distinct murmurations this evening and after feeding in fields the birds streamed out to the north and presumably headed for the Runcorn Bridge roost?

22.01.16. Lapwings, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (8)

Several thousand Lapwings were disturbed out on Frodsham Score and birds were watched streaming snake-like across the sky above the Mersey Estuary.

A party of Raven were heading out from Frodsham Score to the south but generally it was a quiet evenings walk.22.01.16. Dead Barn Owl, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

We found a dead Barn Owl along Moorditch Lane with some parts of its back eaten away (rats?) but it felt thin and was probably a victim of starvation after the prolonged days of rain we have been experiencing of late?

22.01.16. Starlings, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)

Observers: Sparky & WSM (and images)

17.01.16. Birdlog

16.01.16. Shoveler, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Ron Brumby

Out and about late morning from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal and around No.4 tank and then onto No.6 tank. 17.01.16. Little Egrets, Ince Marsh. Paul Ralston

17.01.16. Golden PloverFrodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul RalstonThere were good numbers of Curlew feeding by the Pig Farm and the Little Egret flock sprung back up to 18 birds with several more out on the salt marsh. A couple of hundred Stock Dove were feeding on the edge of the marsh are becoming a regular sight this winter.

The mixed Mute and Whooper Swan herd was out in the distance on Ince marsh. Several hundred Lapwing and Golden Plover were in fields alongside the Holpool Gutter and a male Stonechat was sat on a bramble bush.

16.01.16. Great White Egret, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul RalstonA Great White Egret was out on Frodsham Score with a Little Egret for company. A large flock of finches made up mostly of Goldfinch, Linnet and smaller numbers of Chaffinch were roaming around the marsh.17.01.16. Peregrine, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

17.01.16. Marsh Harrier and Buzzards, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul RalstonAlong the path by No.6 tank there were yet more Lapwing and Golden Plover which took to the air as they were targeted by a pair of Peregrine hunting together. One flushed the flock while the other singled out a plover for the kill!

It was quiet with small numbers of Common Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Pochard and Tufted Duck out on the unfrozen water of No.6 tank. Along Lordship Lane there were more finches present along with many Blackbird feeding on what was left of the Hawthorne berries.17.01.16. Common Buzzard, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

16.01.16. Kestrel, No.6 tank, frodsham Marsh. Ron BrumbyWalking back along by No.4 tank and the young Marsh Harrier was holding its own in a dog fight with 2 Common Buzzard but left when a third Buteo joined in. Back on the Manchester Ship Canal path and a raft of 50 Coot, a Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Gadwall were on the water and the Marsh Harrier was seen crossing the ship canal out to Frodsham Score.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-7).

Images 1 & 8 by Ron Brumby.

16.01.16. Birdlog

16.01.16. Mistle Thrush, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

After the first heavy overnight frost of the year it was with some expectation that some birds would be dispersed from their frozen roosting or feeding grounds to seek unfrozen areas on the marsh. On arrival to No.6 tank it was a bit of a surprise to see 90% of the water frozen. The first birds seen were 4 Green Sandpiper fly in and settle in the flooded daisy beds. 16.01.16. Shoveler, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA few Common Snipe flew over but generally it looked and sounded quiet. There was a few unfrozen spots on the water where 74 Shoveler, 44 Common Teal and 4 Little Grebe could be found but a flock of 26 Pochard, 4 Tufted Duck and 28 Black-tailed Godwit were less fortunate and circled a few times before heading back out to the river.16.01.16. Black-tailed Godwit, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

16.01.16. juv Marsh Harrier, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe 1st winter Marsh Harrier was watched quartering the reed beds but soon settled on the carcass of a dead Teal, that was until a couple of crows discovered the free food and forced the harrier off its breakfast.

The cold weather did force big numbers of plovers onto the marsh and several thousand Lapwing were on and off No.3 tank on several occasions. It was a nice surprise to see the Golden Plover flocks back to No.5 tank with 1200 birds wheeling around before settling down to feed with 50 Curlew  joining them. All this shorebird activity attracted the attention of both Merlin and Peregrine to the area.

16.01.16. Short-eared Owl, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

16.01.16. Short-eared Owl, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton16.01.16. Short-eared Owl, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA couple of Kestrel on No.5 tank were quite tolerant of each offer which is more than they were with 2-3 Short-eared Owl which emerged from cover at midday. A male Stonechat was in the reedy ditch by the track on No.5 tank.


16.01.16. Stonechat, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A large flock of 80 Stock Dove were feeding on the drier parts of No.6.

Frodsham Score had 6 Grey Plover and the Whooper Swan herd of 16 birds while a couple flew over No.5 tank.

The Weaver estuary had 45 Coot, 16 Common Snipe, 30 Redshank, 25 Common Pochard, 5 male, 7 female Goldeneye and Tufted Duck. While on No.1 tank a couple of pairs of Stonechat could be found.

A Kingfisher was noted along the ditch that runs by Moorditch Lane. Along Lordship Lane a tidy flock of 60 Chaffinch and 100 Linnet added to the days tally.

Observers: Tony Broome (images 9-11), Ron Brumby, Paul Crawley, Arthur Harrison, WSM (and images 1-8 & 12-13).



Goldeneye and Golden Plovers.

16.01.16. Weaver Estuary from the Corner. Tony Broome.

A view of the Manchester Ship Canal at the confluance of the River Weaver.

16.01.16. Pile of Shit, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

16.01.16. Pile of shit, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA big pile of steaming… sheesh is that the time, must dash!

09.01.16. Birdlog

09.01.16. Whooper Swans, Frodsham Score. Paul Ralston9.01.16. juv Marsh Harrier, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA walk from Marsh Lane out to the Holpool Gutter was most rewarding. I started off looking over the Common Teal flocks on the margins of the flooded daisy beds on No.6 tank. A total of 600 birds were often spooked out of hiding by the marauding young Marsh Harrier but alas no sign of the GWT.


9.01.16. Cormorant (senensis and carbo), No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe duck numbers were also much reduced with 43 Mallard, 34 Shoveler, 14 Gadwall, 6 Tufted Duck, 24 Pochard and 44 Common Shelduck. A couple of resting Cormorant contained the same ‘senensis’ bird from previously.

The mitigation area on No.3 tank was devoid of any birdlife so I continued to my walk and took the opportunity to do a count looking over Frodsham Score. The birdlife here was very productive and it started with me flushing a Woodcock from a tangle mess of an old fallen Elder bush and a Green Sandpiper draw my attention by its call as it flew over head from the ‘Splashing Pool’.

I met PR and we both watched out on the salt marsh where the usual thousand plus Canada Goose herds with a flock of 100 grazing Pink-footed Goose and sometime later another skein flew in from the west which contained c200 birds.9.01.16. Common Teal, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

9.01.16. Common Teal, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA couple of Egyptian Goose were with the Canada’s and several hundred Wigeon were along the tide line but were a little flighty when the Marsh Harrier seen earlier hunted along the shore. The Whooper Swan flock has increased by one to 17 birds but had moved further up on Ince salt marsh.9.01.16. Stonechat, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Great White Egret was watched flying across the river towards Hale lighthouse and the flock of 14 Little Egret were again on Ince marsh west of No.4 tank while a few others were out on the score marsh.. The harrier later flew back onto the marsh and was seen on No.4 tank. Shorebirds were surprisingly scarce today but 2000 Lapwing were frequently spooked from the river and flew around in flowing ribbon flocks and smaller numbers of Golden Plover were also present. Along the canal path was a male Stonechat with two females in tow.

09.01.16. juv/fem Merlin, No.5 tank, , Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonSmall flocks of Stock Dove were feeding on the score while at Ince by the Duke of Wellington pub in Ince there were 20 Collared Dove.

On my return to No.5 tank I met Paul Crawley who I hadn’t seen for a while and we shared a couple of juvenile/female Merlin who were vying for the best hunting post. Elsewhere, the female Peregrine was sat sheltering on the lea side of the blue-topped chimney.

09.01.16. Short-eared Owl over No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley

Finally the bird watch ended just before the rain came 2 Short-eared Owl was observed quartering the rough pasture on the tank.

Observers: Paul Ralston (image 1), Paul Crawley (image 8), WSM (and images 2-7)

08.01.16. Birdlog

27.12.15. Short-eared Owl, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (24)08.01.16. Sparky, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The Common Teal flock were out in the open on No.6 tank this evening and numbered in excess of 1000 birds, but in the diminishing light available it was difficult to spot the possibility of relocating the GWT (if indeed it was here?). The usual assortment of ducks included: Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Common Shelduck and 14 Cormorant (carbo’s) including a white-headed bird.

08.01.16. Cormorant roost, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonPeering over the banks of No.5 looking over No.6 tank and a Short-eared Owl was disturbed here and then watched flying low over the phragmites reed beds before disappearing into the damp gloom of the night.

Observers: Sparky and WSM (and images).

05.01.16. Birdlog et al

pallas's warbler02 040116 copby Mike Malpassy - Copy05.01.16. sinensis Cormorant, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonWith some time to kill before meeting up with Sparky after her school session. I made a trip to look for the Green-winged Teal that had gone AWOL of late even venturing out to the sticks at Neumann’s Flash near Northwich. Alas, it wasn’t available for comment despite 340 Common Teal reluctant to budge from the flooded daisy beds on No.6 tank. The Common Pochard flock comprised 24 birds of which 7 were females. A loose group of 16 Wigeon, 34 Shoveler, 23 Gadwall,c100 Mallard and a senensis Cormorant resting up with a carbo on the roost tree.were noteworthy.

05.01.16. Lapwings, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

The Lapwing tide roost was very nervous and a couple of distant gun shots sent them to the skies, only to resettle and then redo the whole procedure again whenever a threat loomed over the horizon. Within their midst were a few Golden Plover but the main contingent were beyond the west end of No.4 tank where the sky was filled with several thousand Lapwing (mostly) and Goldies. A small number of Common Snipe flew over but other than that these were the only waders present during the time I was there.

05.01.16. Trucks, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

05.01.16. Kestrel, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.The 1st winter Marsh Harrier was tacking the edge of the reed beds hoping to flush out a suitable prey item but it didn’t linger and was soon off on its rounds.

An artillery blast by the wintering Cetti’s Warbler below the teal viewing banks of No.5 tank was a welcome surprise and a fair size flock of Chaffinch were loitering around the dung piles adjacent to Moorditch Lane. A mournful singing Song Thrush and a few Redwing were about the horse paddock field.

05.01.16. Juvenile Great Nortern Diver, West Kirby. Bill Morton

Away (half) Day Special to the Wirral

After collecting Sparky from work we took a half day off from our usual preamble and shot over to West Kirby to ogle at the Great Northern Diver that has been present there for several weeks now. We had a unique experience when the diver started to lurch out of the water to fly catch some winter gnats above its head. In my excitement to capture this event I inadvertently knocked the dial setting on the camera and ended up with a series of under exposed grainy images (that’s my excuse anyway) and a selection of which are featured at the bottom of this posting.

pallas's warbler01 040116 Mike Malpass

Redshanks by Paul RalstonWe then proceeded down to Heswall to see the Pallas’s Leaf Warbler which has taken up residence at a water treatment plant at the end of Target Road. I met Paul Ralston there and he told Sparky that I “know the best places to take a girl out to”. Her look said it all!

It was nice to do a bit of birding off piste from Frodder’s for a change but all these rarities can turn a lad’s head if you’re not too careful.05.01.16. Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Heswall, Cheshire. Bill Morton

A video by Greg Baker of the Pallas’s Warbler here: https://vimeo.com/151003433

A big thank you to Mike Malpass and his wife J for allowing me to publish his excellent images (1 & 7) of the Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and to Paul Ralston for his image (8) and my poor efforts are (images 2-12).05.01.16. juve Great Northern Diver, West Kirby marine lake, Merseyside. Bill Morton05.01.16. juve Great Northern Diver, West Kirby marine lake, Merseyside. Bill Morton05.01.16. juve Great Northern Diver, West Kirby marine lake, Merseyside. Bill Morton05.01.16. juve Great Northern Diver, West Kirby marine lake, Merseyside. Bill Morton

Great Northern Diver fly catching at West Kirby marine lake.

Excitedly, I ran up the embankment to see…a Lapwing?

Allan Conlin (2nd from Right) et al, Spurn Observatory 1990 (aged 18).

illustration-of-collarded-pratincole-at-frodsham-marsh-copyExcitedly, I ran up the embankment to see…a Lapwing?

As a Wirral Birder , tales of old from Frodsham Marsh seemed almost mythical to me as a then young boy with a rapidly growing interest in birds and particularly rare ones and how to identify them.

Whilst local patches such as Hilbre Island and the North Wirral shore were great places to learn, they never until very recently delivered on American waders. Frodsham was always the place to head for ‘locally’ if you were to begin your education on American wader identification.

However it is not an American wader that is my most memorable day at Frodsham but a European one and quite a charismatic one it was too.

Whilst at school on 29th April 1987 the local birding grapevine buzzed to life and news soon broke about a local ‘goodie’. After making a number of calls from my parents phone I made arrangements and was collected by an older school friend (one old enough to drive) and off we headed to Frodsham’s No.4 tank. At warp speed we made it from the Wirral to Frodsham in next to no time.

On arrival I excitedly, ran up the embankment to see… a Lapwing and lots of them, no sign of our target bird! A combination of despair and (yes) disbelief developed into a feeling of how could we have travelled 25 miles from Wirral not to see it?! The older ‘wiser’ locals assured me it was still present and that it was sitting out of sight amongst the vegetation (yeah right!).

There was clearly only one course of action left in my quest to see this mega tick and that was to get something to eat, leave the site and go to the local ‘chippy’ in Main Street!! My ever hungry teenage stomach had won over and we both left to go for some fish and chips. Looking back and with nearly 30 years hindsight what an incredibly costly and naive move that could have been, there hasn’t been another one  in Cheshire since that bird!

collared Pratincole, Frodsham Marsh. Allan Conlin

Arriving back at the No.4 tank an hour later fully sated and heavily laden with stodge. I scrambled up the embankment. The older ‘wiser’ locals were right. It was still here. Hawking up and down the  tank and a sight which was both graceful and charismatic of all the waders that I had ever seen any where in the world this was my first ever COLLARED PRATINCOLE. WOW !

Taking in all the salient features of the bird I didn’t care that on that balmy Spring evening I was being bitten alive by midges. Nor that I hadn’t done my physics homework or indeed the ‘rollicking’ that was awaiting me (for not doing my homework) when I eventually got home, after all I said I would only be an hour. It was all worth it as Frodsham had once again delivered and left me with memories that are as clear today as they were all those years ago; a Collared Pratincole in my own county – stunning!

My trips to Frodsham have become less frequent over the last 30 or so years as my dedication to my Wirral list is my primary focus. However, even to this day I will still visit at least a couple of times a year to see something rare or scarce that has been located on one of the deposit sludge tanks.

There have been big changes at Frodsham Marsh over the subsequent 29 years but three things remain constant. The area remains an important site for waders, the locals continue to find good birds and most importantly ‘Four Seasons chippy’ is still there too!

Written by Allan Conlin lighthousebirding.blogspot.co.uk

Extract from Allan’s notebook and an early image from a birding trip to Spurn Bird Observatory which are from left to right: Simon Lloyd, Levi Williams, Bill Aspin, Allan Conlin (the only one apparently birding!) and Paul Freestone.

Illustration by WSM.

More from Allan here: lighthousebirding.blogspot.co.uk

Kenny Dummigan come on down!