Nature Notes #49

Gorse 8585

17.05.16.  Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.As I have mention before in ‘Nature Notes’, if you look hard enough, Frodsham Marsh has a lot more than birds on offer. On the occasional quiet birding day I slow the pace down and have a look around for what else I can find of interest. Looking closely at trees in blossom, flowers in bloom and the insects associated with them often reveals a hidden world. I find it fascinating and at times starkly beautiful.

Spring often gives the feeling that it’s late in coming. The days remain cold and there is often persistent rain and westerly gales as low pressure and Atlantic fronts refuse to give way to high pressure or winds from the south that would bring the first migrants in. Even when the first Sand Martin and Wheatear trickle in, the marsh has already woken up and the Gorse in flower with its coconut-scented deep yellow flowers filling the air with a hint of suntan lotion. When I look closely I always think that they are reminiscent of goose barnacles in shape.

Blackthorn flowers 8707Fast on its heels comes the Blackthorn, the delicate white flowers lighting up the landscape just as the Hawthorn is just coming into leaf in late April. A close look at the flowers reveal them to be anything but white with green sepals, yellow-brown anthers and lemon stigma. They hug the bare branches for a short time to be pollinated by insects before the leaves appear and the fruit begins to develop into the familiar misty-blue sloe berries that ripen as the autumn nights cool. One particular moth, the Sloe Pug is associated with this plant.

Apple blossom 9188

Almost as delicate is the blossom of Apple trees, beautiful soft pink petals and yellow anthers. There is a single tree by the old log along Brook Furlong Lane that has been particularly showy recently.

Hawthorn flowers 9197

Hawthorn Tree 9127As the days in May get warmer and there are dry sunny spells with southerly winds, two more trees put on a show. Some years are better than others and 2016 has been spectacular for Hawthorn blossom. The trees look as though they are covered in snow at the moment, some of them having so many flowers that it’s difficult to see any leaf. From a distance it looks whitish, but close up they are wonderfully different with the white flowers having a lime green centre and stigma surrounded by rose-red anthers. Pollinated by insects, bees and flies, they develop into the familiar red berries much beloved by lots of birds but in particular thrushes.

Horse Chestnut flowers 9160

Horse Chestnut 9134As the Hawthorn puts on its show, one other tree tries to out-do it with bright green leaves and large candelabra of creamy white flowers. Horse Chestnuts are familiar to all young boys as ‘conker trees’ the hard seeds used in many a boyhood conker contest that has resulted in skinned and bruised knuckles. The spikes of flowers are spectacular enough, but get up close and the individual flowers are superb. Cotton-wool textured flowers, centred lemon-yellow and pinky-red with strongly up-curved brown-tipped stigma remind me of ice cream with raspberry and lemon sauce. Bees love these flowers and Buff-tailed and Common Carder Bumblebees were in evidence on the trees below the old log this week.

Fork-jawedNomad Bee - Nomada ruficornis pos 9175 -   CopyHoverfly - Cheilosia variabilis 9759The original track down from the old log (south-east corner of No.1 tank) to the River Weaver is alive with insects on warm sunny days in May and besides the numerous Cow Parsley, there is a single umbellifer, a Hogwort, in flower that is attracting some of the more interesting species. The nicest species is a Nomada bee, tentatively identified as Fork-jawed Nomad Bee, Nomada ruficornis, a parasitic species which lays its egg inside the egg chamber of the Orange-tailed (Early) Mining Bee, Andrena haemorrhoa, and the larvae hatch, kill the original occupier and then lives off the food supply. There was also an Ichneumon Wasp, but I’m not confident at identifying most of this family. I did manage to sort out a black hoverfly that was basking on bramble leaves in the sunshine, Cheilosia variabilis, (illustrated above) a widespread species.

Ichneumon species 9216

My challenge to you is to go to the marsh armed with a camera/note book and capture some of these critters and then let us what you have found?

Written and illustrated by Tony Broome.

Frodsham Marsh Wind Farm in Photos #7

18.05.16. Views of Frodsham Marsh from Oglet shore. Bill Morton (9)

16.05.16. Views of Frodsham Marsh from Oglet shore. Bill Morton (10)20.05.16. Wind Turbines from Pickerings Pasture. Bill Morton (2)A few views of the wind turbines from a different perspective across the river at Hale Head.

16.05.16. Wind farm, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)The third turbine tower is erected over on Helsby marshes.

19.05.16. Turbines at Helsby Marsh from Hale head

The same turbine but from across the river at Hale Head.

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The first rotor blade inserted.

20.05.16. Wind Turbines from Pickerings Pasture. Bill Morton (1)

Then the third rotor blade finishes it off.

19.05.16. Wind turbine on Helsby Marsh from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (3)19.05.16. Wind turbine on Helsby Marsh from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)A view of the Helsby Marshes from No.6 tank at dusk.

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A view from Townfield Lane, Frodsham of the turbines.

All images WSM except image 9 which was taken by David Stewart.

17.05.16. Birdlog

17.05.16. Marsh Harrier (female), frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

With the weather forecast for rain until Sunday, I decided to make the most of the last ‘nice’ day and head for the marsh. It turned out to be a good move with light southerly winds and a high of 22c. It was truly beautiful to be stood in the sunshine, blue sky to the horizon, all the summer warblers in full song and the heavy scent of Hawthorn filling the air…there are not many days that can beat that!

17.05.16. Black-tailed Godwits, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

17.05.16. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.To add to the spectacle was the endless yellow of the oilseed rape covering the fields, ditches, banks and verges, fabulous. I decided to walk from the old log along Brook Furlong Lane and across to the I.C.I tank, then walk around it and back via the path along the Weaver Bend and back to the old log where I was parked. Whitethroat seemed to be everywhere with smaller numbers or Sedge and Reed Warbler, and then a few Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. But other than the warblers it was quiet. A Little Ringed Plover on the ‘Bend’, a displaying Common Buzzard near to  the I.C.I tank and plenty of Lapwing chicks watched over by their anxious parents.

17.05.16. Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

As I reached the start of the path along the Weaver Bend back to Redwall reed bed I noticed several black and red beetle-type insects on the oilseed rape, which flew or hid when I approached. In the end I managed to pin one down (not literally) and managed to take a photograph.

17.05.16. Froghopper, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

Nomada WaspRed and Black Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata, a common species but the first I remember seeing here. I’d never seen a froghopper fly either! I carried on taking the overgrown path to the old log (situated at the south-east corner of No.1 tank), rather than over the stile and across the field. The parasitic Nomada wasps were plentiful at the beginning of the track as was a jet black hoverfly which needs identifying. I enjoyed my cheese buttie and coffee lunch before moving onto to the south side of No.6 tank.

17.05.16. Marsh Harrier (female), frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

17.05.16. Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.From the top of the bank with the sun behind me, the waders could be watched in comfort and as the Black-tailed Godwit flock was just beneath me I stood and enjoyed watching them feed in earnest. There were 138 which included a colour-ringed bird from Iceland, 2 Avocet and another Little Ringed Plover. I quietly left and headed for the car just as a female Marsh Harrier flew along the fields between me and the motorway. A great bird and a fitting end to a quiet but interesting day on the marshes.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

16.05.16. Birdlog

16.05.16. Peregrine and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

16.05.16. Short-eared Owl, No. tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)An after work visit to the marsh this evening in glorious sunshine. A walk along the top banks of No.5 tank overlooking No.6 tank was rewarded with fine views of a flock of 260 Black-tailed Godwit with one sporting colour leg rings (details of this bird at bottom of this post). A smaller flock of 45 Dunlin 6 Avocet, 6 Redshank and 32 Ringed Plover. All these birds would inevitably attract the attention of the local Peregrine, a male hurtled in scattering the godwit flocks which in turn retaliated and began to mob the falcon.

16.05.16. Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

There was a huge gathering of ducks on the tank tonight with Common Shelduck being the most prominent species numbering c300 birds, Gadwall were well represented with 126, followed by 100 Mallard, 67 Tufted Duck and a solitary drake Common Pochard

16.05.16. Short-eared Owl, No. tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

Over on No.5 tank itself a Short-eared Owl was observed pouncing into tall grass before perching up and then heading over the reed beds on six.

16.05.16. Head of Lapwing (deceased), No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Bizarrely, I came across the severed head of an adult Lapwing on the banks close to the track

16.05.16. Wind Turbines, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Observer and images: WSM.

Black-tailed Godwit colour ringed as above:

Chick – Green/White-Orange/Black 10.07.15 Kaldaðarnes, Árnessýsla, S Iceland

GW-OB 31.08.15 Gilroy Nature Park, West Kirby, Merseyside, NW England

GW-OB 7.11.15 Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire, NW England

GW-OB 16.05.16 Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire, NW England

GW-OB 17.05.16 Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire, NW England

15.05.16. Birdlog

15.05.16. male Blackbird, Delamere Forest. Bill Morton (11)

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.

15.05.16. Lesser Whitethroat, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

Hawthorn blossom, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)

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.

15.05.16. Common Swift, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (4)15.05.16. Whitethroat, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)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.

15.05.16. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)leaves by Tony BroomeStill 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.

15.05.16. Kestrel, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeInsects 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.

15.05.16. Wind Turbines from No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

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).

14.05.16. Birdlog

14.05.16. Raven, No.2 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley (1)

A very early start from sunrise for a couple of hours to capture the morning light and early birds..

14.05.16. Meadow Pipit, No.2 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley

14.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley (2)A Grasshopper Warbler ‘reeled’ away with both Sedge and Reed Warbler adding to the chorus line along Lordship Lane. Also female Blackcap present near the owl box field, There were a couple of Raven on No.2 tank performing well to the lens and an equally photogenic Meadow Pipit in same area. The pylon image is from the model aircraft field looking east.

Observer and images: Paul Crawley.

Frodsham Marsh Wind Farm in Photos #6

12.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh.Tony Broome (4)

A series of more recent images of the first and second wind turbines and artistically captured by Tony Broome (images 1-4).

12.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh.Tony Broome (3) 12.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh.Tony Broome (1) 12.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh.Tony Broome (2)

The above images show the installation of the second turbine situated close to Marsh Farm, No.1 tank (Cell 1).

14.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley (2)

14.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley (1)These images by Paul Crawley (images 5-6) show pylons marching across the marsh and then a more modern power source at dawn with the illuminating lights at Weston Point.

12.05.16. Birdlog

13.09.15. juvenile Peregrine, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (3)I thought I’d have a day in the sunshine and I wasn’t to be disappointed at least with the weather which peaked at 26 c in a bright easterly wind. Every (almost every) inland water in the county appeared to have a tern of one description or another. Surely Frodders would deliver? After 10.5 hours in the field, a few warblers, the odd wader and it still hadn’t delivered and I was a little exasperated. Of course it’s always nice to see the common migrants, but every now and again it would be good to expect the unexpected…I’m thinking about across the river at Hale where tonight Iggy found a Broad-billed Sandpiper feeding with a Dunlin flock within sight of Frodsham Marsh and still their Temminck’s Stint lingers.

02.05.13. Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwits, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.Anyway, what did I manage to conjure up on my 10.5 hrs in the field? There were singles of both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, three new in migrants a Cuckoo along Brook Furlong Lane, 2 Yellow Wagtail heading north and 7 Greenshank on No.6 tank. After that warblers were out in force with 20 Sedge, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat, while Swift moved through in small numbers. A few Common Sandpiper worked the banks of the River Weaver while hirundines hawked the ‘bend’.

23.04.16. Whimbrel, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Shorebirds also included 74 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel, 27 Redshank and 7 Ruff on No.6 tank, the latter were in their ritual posturing display. Rather late this spring were five 1st summer Common Gull. A female Marsh Harrier was briefly watched over No.4 tank while a Peregrine fought with another over the spoils of a recently caught pigeon.

20.06.15. drake Gadwall, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonNine Avocet was present while 76 Gadwall was a really good summer count with another 20 on the River Weaver nearby. There were also 72 Tufted Duck and likewise 50 on the river. Four Shoveler and 3 Common Teal made up the rest. Oddly enough I only saw two Raven all day.

I scanned the River Mersey at high tide but missed the 50 Arctic Tern that Iggy had spotted. Sometimes birding doesn’t always deliver…next time maybe?

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1 & 3).

Images 2 & 4 by WSM.

08.05.16. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

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Out this morning from Ince Berth along the Manchester Ship Canal and around No.6 tank. The ship canal held Mute Swan, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck. The canal path was alive with Whitethroat, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Sedge and Reed Warbler all competing for territory.  On the small compound by the Holpool Gutter a female Yellow Wagtail sat and a male flew overhead.

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On the mitigation pools on No.3 tank were 4 Avocet several Redshank and Lapwing feeding while a Black-headed Gull sat on a nest. On No.6 its self were a couple of hundred Black-tailed Godwit which were resting and even more feeding in the shallows. A party of Mute Swan contained unfortunatelya  dead bird in the water. A single Avocet  was also noted. Along Lordship Lane there were lots of Reed and Sedge warbler with Reed Bunting in good numbers. A single Grasshopper Warbler was heard while overhead a Peregrine passed by heading towards Frodsham town. Back on the canal path a Fox was seen with a young Rabbit clapped in its jaws. A Cetti’s Warbler  was heard in a secluded reed bed.

Observer: Paul Ralston (all images).

WeBS Count by Don Weedon

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he high tide was another monster one out on the river and again totally flooding the salt marshes and leaving little room for shorebirds to settle.

The counts from No.6 tank included: 11 Mute Swan, 2 Canada Goose, 83 Common Shelduck, 73 Gadwall. 58 Mallard, 6 Common Teal, 77 Tufted Duck, 10 Lapwing, 300 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff, 6 Avocet, 5 Redshank, 60 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 7 Ringed Plover, 3 Grey Heron.

No.3 tank count: 2 Mute Swan, 39 Canada Goose, 4 Greylag Goose, 7 Common Shelduck, 3 Mallard, 1 Common Teal, 4 Gadwall, 14 Lapwing, 5 Avocet and 3 Whimbrel.

Frodsham Marsh Wind Farm in Photos #5

07.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (10)The first windmill is erected and towers over No.1 tank.

07.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)

Imposing and viewable from across the river at Pickerings Pasture/ Hale Head and obviously from much closer to home.

05.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)

Viewed from No.6 tank.

05.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

07.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank from No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)The orange cranne is installing the second tower also on No.1 tank and much closer to Marsh Farm.

07.05.16. Wind Turbine, No.1 tank construction, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

Marsh Farm is at the bottom left of the photograph.

If you have been birding, walking, cycling or generally enjoying the benefits of being out and about on Frodsham Marsh and you are approached by Servo Security  and they tell you that you are not permitted to be on the marsh tracks. Please ask them for their i.d/name and write down their details including vehicle registration. I will forward you complaints to the local authority and the wind farm committee. Please bare in mind under no circumstances is anyone permitted into the compound work areas.