An early start saw me arrive on Moorditch Lane before eight o’clock. I headed for the south bank of No.6 tank and parked up for a quick look over the bank. Of course there was a latte to polish off and boots to put on before any birding was done. However, I’d only been stood there for a couple of minutes when a Short-eared Owl floated past me following the line of the ditch westwards. I didn’t even need to put my bins up it was so close and it looked at me with bright yellow eyes which met my baby blues, before it carried on and crossed the road and went up and over the bank of six. A magical moment. I climbed the bank and stealthily looked out across the tank. One of the first birds was the male Garganey, feeding just below me. I stood still, partially concealed by the nettles and oilseed rape.
Nothing moved and all the birds carried on feeding. 334 Black-tailed Godwit were spread out across the tank but few other waders. Parties of Swift flew low and skimmed my head as they fed. A second summer Common Gull preened in amongst the Black-headed. There was also 4 Little Grebe, 14 Coot, over 60 Gadwall, a single drake Shoveler and 3 Common Teal. Time to move on and I drove around to park up for a walk out to the north-east corner of No.4 tank. It was a lovely morning, very warm, calm and muggy. It felt more like a July day rather than mid May. As I walked out along the path to watch over Frodsham Score, I looked at the wildflowers in bloom. Carpets of sky-blue forget-me-nots and pink stork’s bills and crane’s bills, white stitchworts, deep yellow Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil and pale yellow Mouse-ear Hawkweed.
Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Sedge and Reed Warbler all competed for song-time, interspersed by the local Wren and flocks of Goldfinch. Common Buzzard displayed overhead, mewing as they dived from way up in the clouds.
Raven flew inland carrying food for their hungry chicks and a leggy Fox was mobbed by some Carrion Crow as it made its way along the Score bank. I wandered around looking at anything remotely interesting before moving on to No.3 and 6 tanks for high tide. Avocet were on both tanks and I parked up overlooking No.6 from the north side. The sky behind me was black and rain blotted out the distance. As it came closer, hirundines dropped into feed over the water. 30 House Martin, 40 Sand Martin, 20 Swallow and a couple of hundred Swift. Waders began to drop in and with the 80 or so Dunlin were 3 Oystercatcher, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, one in full summer plumage, and 2 Sanderling, one similarly striking, being bright orange and white in its breeding plumage. Redshank numbers were low with around 10, there was a single Whimbrel and about 30 Ringed Plover.
A female Marsh Harrier drifted past, ignored by the feeding waders. A male and female Yellow Wagtail fed in among the waders and there were 6 Pied Wagtail on the far side. The rain arrived and it was time to retire to the car for lunch. It was so heavy that having a window open even a little bit resulted in the car getting wet inside, so I sat it out until the sun reappeared about an hour later and the wind dropped and warmth returned.
I had another final look but didn’t see anything fresh and drove around to Brook Furlong Lane and eventually Marsh farm where a pair of Wheatear perched on fence posts, occasionally dropping down to take insect prey. A Greenland form was along Lordship Lane (MG). I finished the day stood in the warm sunshine, sipping what was left of the coffee and scanning the sky for high-flying goodies. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, at least not today.
Written by Tony Broome (images 1-6 & 8)
Contributions by: Frank Duff, Findlay and Heather Wilde, Mark (Whipper) Gibson.
I spent a couple of hours birding from the banks overlooking No.6 tank with the evening sunlight illuminating the shallow waters below. It was ideal conditions to reveal some birds that perhaps Tony et al may have missed earlier.
A small bunch of Ringed Plover hiding in the daisy stubble on the margins of the water included the two (one partial and one full summer plumage) Curlew Sandpiper that had been seen in the afternoon. The full summer plumaged bird was behaving a bit oddly, at first I thought it was watching the sky above whilst feeding in a crouched posture. On closer inspection it was evident the bird was missing its left foot. I didn’t notice this behaviour yesterday or certainly it wasn’t obvious. Anyway, they are both splendid birds to watch especially in the light of the setting sun. A Little Ringed Plover joined the birds for a brief period on the mud.
A 1st summer Marsh Harrier flew over carrying a fledgling and disappeared beyond the horizon. In the distance a Cuckoo was singing from the area bordering the shooters fields off Brook Furlong Lane. The evening skies were once again filled with feeding Swift over the embankments including this (no Photoshop or enhancement) headless bird.
Observer: WSM (images 7 & 9-12).