A warm day forecast with the NW wind decreasing to barely a breeze…at least that is what the weather forecast said. However, Frodsham Marsh has a unique micro climate in that it’s windy even when it isn’t supposed to be and that’s why they’ve put a wind farm there. It was cold out of the sun and the fleece never came off, with a NW 3-4 all day and a maximum temperature of 16 c.
I started off on No.4 tank and after the compulsory latte, wandered down to the pumping station in the hope of photographing the Whitethroat there. As I waited, 4 Little Egret flew west down the Manchester Ship Canal, visible through a gap between two trees before being lost from sight. Another white egret-type bird appeared shortly after them and I put the bins up and was surprised to see a Spoonbill flying west, followed by another Little Egret. Not a bad start! The Whitethroat did put in an appearance but only briefly. Paul Ralston joined me and we walked down towards Ince Marsh fields but couldn’t see the Spoonbill again and the egrets were little white dots in the distance though the heat haze.
Swifts were in at last and throughout the day I had approximately 300 in small parties, all heading west into the wind. There were a few more hirundines present as well with 30 Swallow and 20 Sand Martin, but no House Martin which usually . arrive later to breed here. All the usual warblers were in and singing, but I also had a female Lesser Whitethroat on Brook Furlong Lane, quietly feeding in a Hawthorn. A Sparrowhawk went through high, a Peregrine loitered over the River Weaver and a female Marsh Harrier was seen sat a long way out on Frodsham Score plucking something. At first it looked like an Osprey from the rear, the cream head appearing startling white, but when it flew mobbed by two Carrion Crow it was carrying a wader of some sort.
Still small numbers of Raven, only 3 to be exact. Avocet were on No.3 and No.6, but it was No.6 which held most of the waders, with over 160 Black-tailed Godwit, a small number or Redshank, 22 Dunlin and another wader that looked very long-winged and was lacking a black belly patch. The distance, the heat haze and the sun all made for a challenging identification. In the end it proved to be a Sanderling. Other than that there was a single summer-plumage Golden Plover in the evening and singles of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover on the Weaver. The Hale birders thought that they might have had the Spoonbill again by the Weaver Sluices but couldn’t be sure given the distance and…yes…the heat haze. It makes birding extremely difficult and frustrating at times.
Insects were plentiful. There were loads of Orange-tip, Small Tortoishell, Peacock and a few Large White. The nicest thing about the day was the amount of blossom. The Hawthorn looked like they were covered in snow, really amazing, and all the Horse Chestnuts were full of pyramids of cream…. There’s so much more to Frodsham than you might expect on seemingly quiet birding days.
Written by Tony Broome (image 2-5 & 7-8)
Also present for part of the day were Findlay and Heather Wilde, Sparky, WSM (images 1 & 6 & 9).