Even though it was forecast, -1c and the thick ice on my car this morning surprised me. It took me ten minutes to scrape the windscreen. With the weather set to be fair with a south-easterly breeze, I thought I’d have a fair chance of being deluged with early migrants so I headed off down to the marsh early, calling in for the compulsory latte and arriving quite late, around 8 am. I parked up at the old log and sipped the hot drink. The south-easterly breeze was actually a near gale and it was freezing! Sunshine for most of the day with high hazy cloud, the temperature reached 14 c and out of the wind it was actually very pleasant.
The sound of Chiffchaff filled the air and I noted 24 singing birds during the day, plus a couple of Willow Warbler. I had a walk around to the ICI tank and back along the Weaver to my car, before going up to Marsh Farm and then around to No.6, No.4 and No.3 to do the WeBS count. A fine female Marsh Harrier quartered the phragmites by Redwall reedbed and a single Swallow and a handful of Sand Martin battled their way low eastwards into the wind. Wheatear (5) kept to the shelter of the banks and bathed in the puddles along the tracks. A late Siskin flew west over the I.C.I tank and there were two more over No.4 later. Any thoughts of grounded migrants everywhere was quickly dispelled as the icy wind made birding difficult. 4 Jay noisily fought for territory over the I.C.I tank and flew right at me making photographing them difficult. They were just too close! The Weaver Estuary had 2 Mute Swan, 8 Goldeneye, 80 Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 20 Gadwall, 12 Redshank and not much else.
Back at the car I poured boiling coffee from my flask and sat down for a few minutes, enjoying the break. I noticed that the nearest willow was in full flower and insects were much in evidence. Small Tortoishell butterflies, lots of Buff-tailed Bumblebees and singles of Red-tailed and Tree Bumblebees, with a few of the early hoverflies including a particularly hairy ginger one which I’ll have to try and sort out later.
The WeBS counts on No6 and 3 produced the following: 1335 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Ruff, 26 Lapwing, 164 Golden Plover, 76 Dunlin, 183 Redshank, 1 Knot, 2 Ringed Plover, 136 Shoveler, 1 male Pintail, 119 Tufted Duck (5 more on the Canal Pools), 13 Gadwall, 109 Teal, 23 Coot, 17 Shelduck, 23 Mallard, 4 Moorhen, 115 Canada Goose, 5 Greylag, 6 Barnacle Goose and 34 Pink-fooed Gooset, the last mentioned dropping in onto No.3 tank as the 10 m tide covered the Frodsham Score. It was nice to see them well at last, they are usually dots out on the edge of the River Mersey.
A flock of about 30 Curlew flew past in the distance and a slightly smaller wader in amongst them proved to be a Bar-tailed Godwit, my first of the year. 15 Mute Swan flew east along the canal, a Sparrowhawk put in an appearance, 2 Stock Dove perched up on top of a hawthorn bush and small numbers of Goldfinch and Linnet flushed from the tracks. Common Buzzard, perhaps 10 in total, seemed to be up in the air, soaring and displaying over every part of the marsh. One bird, minus it’s tail, looked for all the world like a Bataleur Eagle in the distance…I just hope it wasn’t a real one!
So, a good day…not many migrants yet, but lots of birds and it was nice to see the insects becoming active once again.
Observer: Tony Broome (images 2-9).
There were lots of Meadow Pipit over the marshes including this handsome indivdual at Marsh Farm.
The Oystercatcher which has been present was again by the farm track at Alder Lane, as were a pair of Wheatear. A small flock of Linnet and a very scary looking Raven complete with nictitating eye membrane(from latin nitare, to blink).
There were 6 Black-tailed Godwit on No.3 tank along with 2 Ringed Plover and a Ruff. Over on No.6 tank and there were more 50+ Black-tailed Godwit numbering 50 birds with more flying in as I left.
Observer: Paul Crawley (images 1 & 10-12).
Some other highlights from a very beautiful summers day included: 2 Whooper Swan, Common Sandpiper, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 6 Wheatear, a Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail (WSM et al).
Thanks to Shaun Hickey for his evocative images (13-19) from Eastham Locks of the birds of the River Mersey and its wonderful waterfront.