I parked up as usual at the old log (south-east corner of No.1 tank) and scanned the clear blue sky for flyovers, the hot latte warming my hands. Mid-April and it felt good with a feeling that there was going to be birds about and I set off down Brook Furlong Lane to do a tour of the area and walking back along the I.C.I tank and the River Weaver. Chiffchaff were much in evidence again with pairs displaying and the males trying to out-do each other in song. 2 Swallow sat quietly on top of a Hawthorn bush, perhaps having dropped in after a night flight.
A Blackcap put in a brief appearance and a mixed flock of Linnet and Goldfinch erupted as a female Sparrowhawk appeared on the prowl out of nowhere. By the I.C.I tank a flock of hirundines, mainly Swallow and Sand Martin contained my first House Martin of the year! There were 2 Willow Warbler singing from the tank willow thickets, their sybyllic descending songs always the sign of Spring for me. A Redpoll sp called as it flew over unseen as I dropped down to the footpath along the river from the Weaver Bend to Redwall reed bed. Singles of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover fed along the far shoreline.
It was quiet until I got back to the car when a loud liquid bubbling call got me looking skywards immediately. Whimbrel! Excellent birds with a haunting call that evokes thoughts of faraway places and desolate marshes…I never tire of hearing it. A couple of big black cumulus clouds and the strengthening of the wind to a cold north-easterly brought a Swift down, another new migrant.
I walked up to Marsh Farm and a female Marsh Harrier circled over the reedbed before drifting off towards No.4 tank. 3 Wheatear fed on the Score bank opposite the farm but waders were hard to identify in the growing heat haze. I drove around to No.6 tank, stopping occasionally on Lordship Lane. There were 4 more Blackcap, another Willow Warbler, and yet more Chiffchaff, these totalling 25 or more for the day. I looked out across No.6 from the south side and sifted through the mass of waders.
An excellent gathering of 1680 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 8 Ruff, 1 Knot, 100+ Redshank, 6 Avocet, 290 Dunlin, 48 Golden Plover, 1 Common Snipe and 4 Common Gull. A fine tally, I continued around to No.4, the mitigation on No.3 and the other side of No.6. There was a steady trickle of hirundines heading north. 40+ Swallow and 50+ Sand Martin flew low into the fresh northerly wind. It was 10 c but felt much colder. 3 more Whimbrel came off No.3 and disappeared south at a rate of knots, calling continuously.
A pair of Sparrowhawk displayed over the motorway, the slow wing beats and dives of the male a pleasure to watch. 2 female Marsh Harrier hunted together, one chasing off a Common Buzzard that came too close. a flock of 40+ Linnet flew from bushes on No4 and out over No.6. I sat in the car and scanned the fields towards the motorway. The Black-tailed Godwit were leaving No.6 in parties of a couple of hundred to feed in a wet field alongside the motorway. mixed in with a few Curlew. All of a sudden a small bird hopped out of the nettles next to the car and sat there looking at me. a Whitethroat! Another new migrant for the day. It disappeared just as fast and despite searching for it I only got brief glimpses and no calls or song at all.
If you add the insects, Small Tortoishell, Peacock and Orange Tip Butterflies and Common Carder Bee, Red-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, it had been a brilliant day’s birding in sunshine and blue skies, even if it was a little on the cold side!
Observer: Tony Broome.
A view from the old bird log looking to Brook Furlong Lane.
A view of No.6 tank (secluded pool).
View from the I.C.I tank looking north-west to the Weaver Bend.
View from the I.C.I tank looking south-west to Helsby Hill.
The track from Ship Street to the I.C.I tank.
All above images by Tony Broome.
Overlooking the pipes that stretch across No.1 tank from the cattle grid were 2 Wheatear. A Common Sandpiper was below Marsh Farm on the score side of the Manchester Ship Canal. A couple of released Red-legged Partridge on the dumped dung pile just off Moorditch Lane. The female Marsh Harrier was flying over No.4 tank before drifting off to No.6 tank. One Whimbrel over the marsh also seen by Ray Atkinson.
Observer: Paul Crawley.