For the last 4 years at least I have always made sure of getting in a full days birding on the first day of the year regardless of the festivities the night before, for 2016 I had Frodsham written on the calendar for at least 3 weeks prior to today, looking forward to the diverse numbers of species I usually see on the marsh.
The only advantage of the short winter days is the fact that daylight on the 1st usually starts at 8am giving a reasonable lay-in. I arrived on the marsh at 7.45 am and parked up at the Weaver Bend with the plan of doing both Marsh Farm and the Bend first.
The first bird of the day was a Buzzard as I parked up, as I made my way on foot to Marsh Farm 2 Fieldfare flew from the trees on No.5 tank, further along I scanned the pipes for Stonechat but to no avail, on approaching the bend on No.2 tank 2 Raven were heard before being seen and a further 25 yards gave me my first target species as a Merlin flew low and into Marsh Farm scattering a number of Starling and finches. The Starling numbers were in the thousands as the birds left their roost and headed in a westerly direction. Marsh Farm and Frodsham Score produced all the expected species including Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Grey Wagtail.
I made my way to the bend and had all the usual duck species, 9 Goldeneye, 3 Pochard, 2 Pintail, 13 Little Grebe, 9 Tufted Duck, 3 Teal, 3 Great-crested Grebe, passerine species consisted of a roving tit flock with the usual, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 6 Blue Tit, 2 Great tit, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush.
I scanned the towers on the works and finally located a Peregrine sitting up with recently killed prey.
As the light improved I decided to head for No.6 tank and look for the Green-winged Teal, as I approached the first viewing area I scanned the tank and had a brief look through the several hundred Teal, I then noticed Bill further up the path in a sheltered spot and together we failed to locate the Green-winged Teal, a quick look at the news services informed us a Green-winged Teal was present at Burton Mere so the enthusiasm waned and we checked through the other birds on the tank. Other species present consisted of 24 Shoveler, 21 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 16 Tufted Duck, 8 Pintail and 27 Wigeon.
After an hour or so we headed for Frodsham Score and Bill located the Great White Egret, as we scanned Frodsham Score a flock of 50 Pink-footed Goose flew in from a north-westerly direction and landed on the score and a female Peregrine sat for some time on one of the fence posts. On several occasions we had the magnificent spectacle of several hundred Lapwing and Golden Plover taking to the air, mainly due to the Peregrine undertaking its rounds. The Whooper Swan flock observed over the preceding weeks were still present along with several Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Little Egret, blogging passerines consisted of 50 Linnet, 200 Goldfinch and the odd Meadow Pipit.
We headed back to Marsh Farm to see if we could locate the Shag which was reported from a few days previous but the sharp cold wind was increasing which made viewing difficult, no new species were recorded and the light started to fade fast.
I left Bill at 3 pm when the rain started to set in and finished with a quick scan of the 185 Black-headed Gull and a drive up and down No.5 tank for the Short-eared Owl but none seen.
A total of 61 species was recorded over the day. I look forward to getting back on the marsh for some field sketching and painting over the coming months!
Written by Ray Scally
Also present WSM (map and images)