The weather forecast was warning of gale force winds with driving rain! After popping my head out of the window this morning apart from a few swaying trees it didn’t look so foreboding. I metaphorically saddled up my birding horse and high tailed it to the marsh (gale force winds and rain weren’t going to deter me today!).
A quick look over the embankment of No.6 tank on my arrival didn’t reveal a lot. A count of 123 Tufted Duck, 6 Common Pochard and 87 Common Teal were wimping out and mostly tucked into the leeward side of the south bank out of the wind. A female Tufted Duck still had very young ducklings on the ‘Splashing Pool’.
A juvenile Marsh Harrier was actively hunting the reed beds by the secluded pool and the female replaced it later in the day. A juvenile Hobby was attacking the hirundine flocks that were over the banks between No’s 3, 5 and 6. The big Peregrine must have taken a firm grip perched aloft the blue-topped chimney at Weston Point in the high winds. A few Common Buzzard were loafing on top of several fence posts and a juvenile Sparrowhawk confidingly perched up conveniently for me to grab a photo on a fence along the track on No.3 tank.
I had a change of plan anticipating today’s high tide and the shorebird movement out on the river. I guessed that because of the height of the tide there wouldn’t much land on the salt marshes for them to sit the tide out. The drier area at the south west corner of the sludge tank must surely be utilised by these shorebirds.
I found a position that looked perfect and after making a platform I settled down and waited. It didn’t take too long before the first birds flew in and briefly settled before flying off (typical behaviour for waders here). Eventually they started to arrive in loose flocks of tens and then a couple of hundred. They were mostly Dunlin with some associated Ringed Plover but a flock of 50 Black-tailed Godwit didn’t linger and flew back to the estuary. The birds that stayed soon settled and I began my thorough grilling process systematically working my way through their dense flock of 1500 Dunlin. My first juvenile Curlew Sandpiper of the Autumn gave itself up quickly followed by my first juvenile Little Stint. I counted ten Curlew Sandpiper (including a partial summer adult) and after putting out a tweet I was soon joined by MacDuff and he spotted another five birds which were displaced from a water channel in the centre of the tank. Towards the end of our watch the birds trailed off to the river on the ebbing tide and a juvenile Peregrine practising its hunting techniques (or should I mention its lack of technique) made their departure all the more urgent.
It was good to get to see some waders on No.6 tank for a change but how many more shorebirds would we be seeing if the water level was much lower? I’m not even mentioning the poor excuse of a wetland area that is the mitigation on No.3 tank.
The Raven are gathering along the banks above the Manchester Ship Canal by the Canal Pools enjoying the turblent air that rises in strong winds here. I counted 30 birds today and I’m sure there will be even more on the WeBS count tomorrow.
Observers: Frank Duff, WSM (and images).