I decided a day down on the marsh would be in order but at a more leisurely pace and I arrived around 10 am with a couple of lattes from the usual coffee fuel stop at a branded coffee company in the village. It was overcast a fairly still but warm, high grey sky hiding the sun after a night of rain. It soon cleared with a fresh north-westerly breeze picking up and the sun came out to heat the air further and strangely, the 18 c felt a lot hotter.
A quick look at No.6 tank revealed a lot of water and mostly ducks and gulls. Around 150 each of Common Teal and Shoveler, 2 Wigeon, 2 Common Pochard and 200 Black-headed Gull. 2 Ruff fed closest to the north bank where I was stood but apart from 4 flying Common Snipe and 70 Lapwing which pitched in further to the west, they were the only waders. A car pulled up with birders looking for Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint. They’d heard it was a good place. It may be at times, but not today! There was an air of late summer, that still period where nothing much is moving or showing. The rest of the day would prove to be hard work with little reward. One thing I did notice was the carpet of Michaelmas Daisy/Sea Aster covering a lot of No.6 tank which was covered in swarms of hoverflies and honey bees. There must have been thousands on insects.
I carried on towards No.3, to see what was on the mitigation area. Rabbits by the side of the track showed signs of myxomatosis, as they did elsewhere on the marsh. I wondered if someone had deliberately introduced it? No.3 was virtually birdless and only redeemed itself in a small way by producing a single Green Sandpiper at the west side. Six Linnet flew past, small parties of Goldfinch fed on thistles and twos and threes of Stock Dove went by.
Common Buzzard were obvious with up to four together over No.5, probably around 12 birds in all, with 2 Kestrel and 2 Sparrowhawk hunting between 3 and 4. There had been a Marsh Harrier (per Arthur Harrison) sighting, but not for me. I looked out over the Frodsham Score but the heat haze was so bad that it made any serious attempt, pointless. As the air heated up mid-afternoon, hirundines filled the sky over No.3 tank. 500+ Swallow and a handful of House Martin, 10 counted, plus 2 Sand Martin, hawked low above the thistles for insects, occasionally perching on docks and other vegetation to take a rest. A few birds but nothing to make the heart hesitate.
I had a look on the river but there was no sign of yesterday’s Little Gull, just lots more Black-headed Gull. The field below the old log was being cut but two old tractors. It’s the first time I’ve seen that field cut and wondered why? I also drove up to Marsh Farm but birds were few. More Raven brought the day’s total to 10. It was low tide and I looked across the sandbanks towards Hale Lighthouse where, earlier in the day, DC had watched a Nuthatch depart out across the river towards Frodsham Marsh… which would have been a mega here but disappeared into the haze on his side and never reappeared on the south side of the water.
What struck me about No.3 tank/mitigation area was the complete lack of management (see image above). I thought the plan was to prepare it with livestock and mowing machines to produce short turf so that migrant and wintering waders had somewhere to feed. The lined water holes are useless, their banks too steep or the water too deep, the thistles are too high and too extensive and the long grass uneaten. The only real scrape, closest to the road was virtually dry and as usual birdless. A very disappointing affair considering how much Peel Energy had promised the local community, RSPB, CAWOS, local birders et al
Observer and images: Tony Broome.