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!