30.06.16. Birdlog

30.06.16. Common Swift, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.I was a little later than I anticipated due mainly to the traffic build up through Clifton and the bypass works going on there. When I eventually arrived on to the marsh I walked along the track that borders both No.5 & 6 tanks. There was a steady drizzle of rain which turned into a steady down pour. In between the rain I attempted to keep my optics dry long enough to do some birding. Duck counting wasn’t on my agenda this evening but what I could see didn’t really amount to much anyway. Common Teal, Tufted Duck and Pochard were in reduced numbers but Common Shelduck appeared widespread.

30.06.16. Little Egrets, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton. Bill Morton

The flowering Michaelmas Daisies were sheltering 150 Black-tailed Godwit with 34 Avocet and a couple of Curlew flying over. There were two Little Egret still lingering in the area.

A female Marsh Harrier flew over from the east.

30.06.16. Common Swifts, No.5-6 tanks, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton. Bill Morton25.06.16. Common Swifts and wind turbines, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (67)The highlight of the evening was the huge amount of Common Swift taking advantage of the low gatherings of midge clouds hanging above the trees, track and banks. These creatures are rapidly becoming my favourite bird on the marsh this summer. The swifts were so engaged in feeding they were giving intimate views down to inches as they whizzed past to snap a morsel of dancing midges that were enjoying the space above my telescope. A really enjoyable period of birding despite the awful rain.

Observer and images: WSM.

30.06.16. Grey Heron, Beechwood, Runcorn. Bill Morton (1)

Aside from Frodsham Marsh I saw this Grey Heron house sitting in Beechwood, Runcorn on the way to the marsh and at Weston Village a luecistic Mistle Thrush (pity, I didn’t manage to get a photo though).

27.06.16. Birdlog

26.07.16. Avocet, Titchwell, North Norfolk. Bill Morton (11) - Copy

26.07.16. summer Ruff, Titchwell, North Norfolk. Bill Morton (10) - Copy - CopyA day off and a mid afternoon birding walk along the track on the south side of No.5 but looking south to No.6 tank. A fine gathering of summer ducks included: 116 Tufted Duck, 11 Common Pochard, 4 Shoveler and the usual commoner ducks with their ducklings in tow.

The 3 Little Egret were again wading through the tall boggy grass on the south side with 19 Mute Swan for company. A Great Crested Grebe was standing guard over his brooding partner while a family party of Dabchick scooted past.

26.07.16. summer Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell, North Norfolk. Bill Morton (17) - Copy

27.06.16. Ruff, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)The Black-tailed Godwit flock were as always feeding in the flooded vegetation and equally frustrating was the views of 24 Common Teal which are rapidly moulting out of their breeding plumage. I say frustrating because I agree with Mr Craven over at Hale that the Green-winged is possibly concealed here somewhere?

25.06.16. Common Swifts and wind turbines, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (37)

There were a few Redshank dotted about with a couple of finely plumage Ruff and a new high count for the marsh of 42 Avocet. Presumably these are birds displaced from Burton Mere?27.06.16. Tufted Ducks and Pochard, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

27.06.16.Police Helicopter over Weston Point chimney from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (9)The godwit and duck flocks were very agitated and would often fly up and around for short periods as if there was an imminent threat! It all came apparent when a male Cuckoo flew across the area (all Sparrowhawk like).

The recent arrival of low flying Common Swift were again in their hundreds over the banks of six.

The Peregrine was again perched up on the blue-topped chimney before being disturbed by the ‘copper chopper’ patrolling over Weston Point and the surrounding area on the lookout for ‘scrote’ activity no doubt.

Observer and images: WSM.

26.06.16. Birdlog

26.06.16. Kestrel, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (2)

26.06.16. Black-tailed Godwits and Sparrowhawk, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1)Out and about this morning making a start from Ince Berth and around tanks 4 and 6. There was a Marsh Harrier over 4. Followed by two groups of Raven each holding court to a sheep carcass out on Frodsham Score, while another group were tag-playing in the wind above the Manchester Ship Canal.

A long line of Canada Goose were strung out on the edge of the Mersey marshes and a solitary lonesome Curlew fed forlornly on the salt marsh.

The Canal Pools were quiet with only Coot noted, the smaller pool is covered in lily’s which will be a sight to behold once they flower.

26.06.16. Little Egrets, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston.

There was no sign of the any Avocet on No.3 or 6 tanks? The Black-tailed Godwit flock were feeding close to the bank and could be heard chattering away. The three Little Egret were still about and fed with the godwits and Common Teal. Other species present included: Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Shelduck. A male Sparrowhawk passed over head and put a section of godwits in to the air and a second bird (a female) was seen later over No.4 tank.

Skylarks were numerous throughout my walk with some singing loud and proud. Other passerines like Reed and Sedge Warbler were still holding territory and Chiffchaff and Blackcap were noted. A very pale phase Common Buzzard could be the bird from previous years and just the two Kestrel were hunting around the embankments of No.6 today.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

25.06.16. Birdlog & Nature Notes #52 (Part 2)

25.06.16. Ringlet I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11)25.06.16. Common Shelducks, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonWith the access ramp and track to No.5 tank closed by the dithering wind farm contractors, I decided to watch from the southern banks. As expected most of the birds were pushed against the north banks sheltering from the brisk north-west wind. The air was nonetheless warm so it didn’t detract from the situation but it did afford some crippling low flight views of hundreds of Common Swift zipping past and at times so close you could hear the snapping of their bills.25.06.16. Common Swifts and wind turbines, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (38)

25.06.16. Little Egrets, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (3)Out on the water there was a good selection ducks and other waterfowl which included: 126 Tufted Duck, 9 Common Pochard, 4 Shoveler, both Common Shelduck and Gadwall with ducklings, 16 Common Teal, 21 Mute Swan, a family party of Canada Goose and 3 Little Egret.

25.06.16. Common Swifts and wind turbines, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (26)

The Black-tailed Godwit flock were hard to count as the kept mostly to the emerging vegetation on the margins of the tank but they all rose as one when a predator shot through revealing 350 birds. 14 Avocet were back on the same water with the odd Redshank for company.

25.06.16. Wind Turbines as viewed from the I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

A Common Buzzard flew through with a heavy crop whilst to the right of my position another bird was hovering unconcerned by my presence. The female Marsh Harrier was seen briefly quartering the reed beds on six but didn’t linger for long.

25.06.16. Sand Martin, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (8)

It was good to see the Raven families back with c20 birds rolling and tumberling in flight over Frodsham Score.

There’s been a build up of Sand Martin onto No.6 tank this month so 340 birds perched up on the dead stems of last years daisy stalks was a little odd? A short video of Common Swifts zipping past the camera here https://vimeo.com/172243558. Also the image 5 shows a Swift about to swallow a gnat.

25.06.16. Ringlet I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (14)

After a few hours birding on No.6 tank I headed off to bird watch the Weaver Bend and the adjacent I.C.I tank, both of which I have neglected lately. As it turned out I wasn’t to be disappointed. A Grasshopper Warbler ‘reeling’ away in a willow thicket was almost drowned out by the fiddling grasshoppers in the grass on the bank of the tank. Also noted was a ‘rattling’ Lesser Whitethroat with Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap joining the cacophony.25.06.16. Blue Butterfly, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

25.06.16. Large Skipper, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)

Nature Notes #52 (Part 2)

Butterflies are always a distraction during the high summer months so it was a big thrill to find a few Ringlets on the eastern banks of the I.C.I tank. I texted Frank Duff and he joined me and we found even more, with an estimate of c80 individuals. Also present were Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, a tatty Painted Lady, a female Common Blue, 3 Meadow Brown and 4 Large Skipper. All in all not a bad tally for the day.

29.06.16. Bee Orchid, Wigg Island. Cheshire. Bill Morton (69)

Bee Orchid29.06.16. Marsh Helleborine, Wigg Island. Cheshire. Bill Morton (6)

29.06.16. Marsh Helleborine, Wigg Island. Cheshire. Bill Morton (7)

Marsh Helleborine.

Local to the area and a selection of orchids could be found with Southern Marsh , Bee Orchid and Marsh Helleborine producing fine displays.

Observer and images: WSM.

Nature Notes #52

Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea Frodsham Marsh May28th16 0274
Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus Frodsham Marsh May28th16 9655Whilst I was wandering about looking for insects at the end of May and into June, I began to look at some common species of wildflowers. As with the insects, it is easy to miss the obvious and walk past a beautiful and fascinating world, literally at your feet.
I can recognise families, but it is a long time since I’ve tried to specifically name any wildflowers let alone those growing on the various deposit tanks across the marsh.

Anyway, after noticing sprawling carpets of sky blue and cadmium yellow on No.4 tank, I began to take pictures with the aim of identifying them later. This in itself is a risky strategy as any botanist will tell you. What I had to do was to get down on my hands and knees with a hand lens and a suitable identification guide… but I am not that patient and didn’t have either a book or a lens on me anyway.

Wildflowers No4 tank May16
White Clover Trifolium repens Frodsham Marsh May 28th6 9652The added bonus was that many of the flowers were being visited by insects, there were bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and flies, so I enjoyed many hours wandering about in the sunshine looking at their interactions
I have spent a lot of time trying to correctly name the flowers below and I could be wrong, so anyone with other ideas please leave a comment and your correction. However, there was a wealth of information on the internet and many photographs to compare with, so I’m confident most are right. After all, they are meant to be ‘common’!

Red Clover Trifolium rubens Frodsham Marsh May 28th6 9648

I’m not going into the tedious and boring explanation of identification features or habitat requirements, but will just include pictures that show the flowers off to best effect and hopefully show how lovely even those ‘common’ species that are often taken for granted, can be and, just look at some of the names i.e’Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill’…Wow! What a name! ‘Common Mouse-ear’…’Common Stork’s-bill’…and of course….’Field Forget-me-not’, a name for a flower that dates back to the 15th century and which originated in Germany as the German name for this flower is ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ which is three words, ‘Vergiss mein nicht’, in English, ‘Forget me not’.

Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis Frodsham Marsh May22nd16 9391There is a romantic legend behind the name. In 15th-Century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers. Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his armor he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to his loved one and shouted “Forget-me-not.” It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.

Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum Frodsham Marsh May22nd16 9401How romantic is that?

Common Mouse-ear
Common Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus Frodsham Marsh May 22nd16 9407
Common Birds-foot Trefoil
Dove's-foot Crane's-bill Frodsham Marsh May22nd16 9405
Doves foot Cranes-bill
Common Stork's-bill Erodium cicutarium Frodsham Marsh May22nd16 9399
Written and illustrated by Tony Broome. Flowers are: Water-lily, Yellow Flag Iris, Wildflowers, White Clover, Red Clover, Forget-me-not, Common Mouse-eared, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Doves-foot Cranes-bill, Common Storks bill.

Southern Marsh Orchid, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Southern Marsh Orchid by WSM.

24.06.16. Birdlog

24.06.16. Wind turbine installation, No.5 tank, frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1) 24.06.16. Wind turbine installation, No.5 tank, frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (3) 24.06.16. Shelducklings, No.6 tank, frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1) 21.06.16. Swift, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1) 24.06.16. Swifts, No.8 tank, frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1)A short walk along the east bank of No.6 tank as the road is still closed while contractors fit rotor blades to the turbine hub. There were masses of Common Swift and smaller numbers of Sand Martin which were feeding just above the bank and their wing-beats were audible as they passed close by overhead. Waterfowl numbers looked down on previous visits but many shellducklings were noted.  A single Great Crested and 2 Little Grebe fed alongside each other. A juvenile Cuckoo was disturbed as I walked along the bank and flew back from my earlier direction but couldn’t be relocated on my return. There were 2 unseasonal Little Egret were feeding on the west side and 7 Avocet flew in to feed in the shallows. The Black-tailed Godwit flock was seen heading out to the Frodsham Score. A hovercraft was being driven on what looks like a new track on the field behind the model air field?

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3 & 5). Image 4 by WSM.

23.06.16. Birdlog

17.06.16. No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

23.06.16. Water tower, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonWith the EU Referendum in full swing I took the opportunity to get in some birding. The newest wind turbine was being fitted into place close to the ramp track to No.5 tank. The contractors decided it would be wise to close the road/track whilst they got the (10th turbine) first and second tower slotted. I took up my position overlooking No.6 tank from the south bank with hundreds of Common Swift to keep me company.

The water was littered with 164 Tufted Duck and birds were coming and going on a regular basis to the Mersey Estuary and River Weaver. There were 9 Common Pochard with 24 Common Teal, numerous Gadwall and Common Shelduck towing along their piebald youngsters. Likewise, a pair of Little Grebe had 3 fledged young.

23.06.16. Wind turbine tower, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)The Black-tailed Godwit flock were back again with 239 birds. Also present was an Avocet and a lonely calling Curlew.

A flock of 50 Sand Martin dropped in to sit a while on the dead daisy stalks on the margins of the shallow water before heading off.

Observer and images: WSM.

21.06.16. Birdlog

River Mersey

28.04.16. Swift, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeA brief visit late on this evening to check the birds on No.6 tank. It was a slight surprise to see that the Black-tailed Godwit summering flock had relocated away from this tank tonight. There were a few none-breeding Lapwing hanging about with a single Redshank. The Ringed Plover parents were again standing close to their near juvenile plumaged young and 3 typically quarrelsome Common Sandpiper nearby. Ducks numbers were also reduced with only 9 Common Pochard and 67 Tufted Duck being the highlight but 66 Coot were post/failed/non-breeders. A Great Crested Grebe stood guard and Little Grebe were winnowing nearby.

21.06.16. Avocet chicks, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Over on No.3 tank the 2 young Avocet chicks are looking more like the species now that the black feathering is beginning to appear. A couple of Ringed Plover linger here but haven’t bred.

The Peregrine was again perched up on the tall blue-topped chimney overlooking the River Mersey and a Hobby was attracted to Frodsham village by the huge numbers of Common Swift present.

Observer: WSM (images 1&3).

Image 2 by Tony Broome.

20.06.16. Summer Solstice Edition

20.06.16. Peregrine, Runcorn Bridge. Bill Morton (2)20.06.16. Shelduckling, Lordship Lane ditch, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1)An afternoon walk around No.6 tank started off with two Common Shelduck chicks with no apparent sign of their parent bird or any other siblings, they fed unconcerned in the ditch along Lordship Lane. Also in the ditch were a pair of Shoveler. Both Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat were feeding fledged chicks in the bank side vegetation while a Kestrel hovered above in search of a prey. 18 Mute Swan fed in the flood water and good numbers of (96) Tufted Duck, (32) Gadwall, Mallard and 120 more Common Shelduck with a small amount of (8) Common Pochard and (46) Common Teal were noted. Lapwings were busy giving a Common Buzzard a hard time as it flew over their nesting sites while the godwit flock continue their vacation here and most look splendid in breeding colours. The 2 Avocet chicks are fearlessly protected by both parents and are growing quickly. A Stoat was seen on the tail of a Rabbit and a party of Raven were sat on the fence for a change.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 2).

20.06.16. Avocet chick, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

20.06.16. Avocet, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)An evening trip over Runcorn bridge as a car passenger to Widnes resulted in capturing the pagan Peregrine Falcon (top image) perched up with Britannia in situ and the Union Flag at her helm.

While Paul took the morning shift I had to wait until after tea to take my usual ramble along the track north of No.6 tank. I stopped off briefly to watch the two Avocet chicks which by now are considerably bigger than the local adult Ringed Plover present (see image 3).

20.06.16. Ringed Plover and chicks, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)

Over on No.6 tank much the same birds were noted that PR had watched earlier in the day. The exception being a finely plumed male Ruff and two Avocet. There were several hundred Common Swift, Sand Martin and Swallow high over the marsh. A male Cuckoo was seen briefly before it was inadvertently flushed from a tree overlooking the south-east corner of six.

Another Peregrine was perched up on the blue-topped chimney over at Weston Point.

20.06.16. male Chaffinch, Widnes. Bill Morton (1)

Observer: WSM (images 1 & 3-6).

18.06.16. Birdlog

18.06.16. Reed Warbler and turbine blade, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.18.06.16. Reed Warbler and turbine blade, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1) - CopyAll the rare bird action seems to be happening elsewhere this Spring/Summer, so it was a little gratifying to find a 1st summer Little Gull (image 3) resting with a small group of similarly aged Black-headed Gulls on No.6 tank. The Little Gull disappeared without trace for a short while before reappearing to settle again. That was before a sub-adult Peregrine flew over munching on a small wader in flight (Hobby like). The gull didn’t linger much longer and departed to the south-west over Helsby Hill.

18.06.16. Peregrine, Helsby Hill. Tony Broome.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the ducks just prefer being on No.6 tank and there were totals of 164 Tufted Duck with Common Pochard whiched today numbered 19 drakes and a single female. There were 6 Shoveler, 23 Mallard, 54 Gadwall, 50 Common Shelduck and 64 Common Teal (while the Green-winged is still enjoying its stay across the river at Carr Lane). The area is flooded with water from a combination of recent heavy rain and the pumping of sludge from the Manchester Ship Canal. These are ideal conditions for ducks and the 2 pairs of Little and a pair of Great Crested Grebe are taking to it kindly.

The summering Black-tailed Godwit flock of 447 birds have taken to feeding and roosting in the newly emerging Sea Aster/ Michaelmas Daisy clumps and a foppy dressed male Ruff joined them for a period.

18.06.16. Little Gull (1st summer), No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1) - Copy


07.06.14. Avocet chick, Shooters' pool, Frodsham Marsh. Alyn Chambers.The Avocet chicks are still looking like they can fend for themselves under the tuition of their overly protective parents.

A female Marsh Harrier was knocking about out on the marsh while the occasional Kestrel and Common Buzzard were present.

There were still plenty of passerines either feeding young in or out of the nest including a singing Reed Warbler using one of the (ready to be inserted) turbine rotor blades as a resonating sound board (top two images). The high flying build-up of Common Swift continues with birds a plenty over the marshes.

18.06.16. Car on fire on M56 as from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5) - Copy

A car burst into flames on the M56 (west bound) with smoke billowing high over Lordship Lane and was visible from No.6 tank.

Observers: Frank Duff, Dermot Smith, WSM (images 1-2 & 4 & 6). Image 3 by Tony Broome and 5 by Alyn Chambers.