30.09.16. Birdlog

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30-09-16-drakeand-female-sholever-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonI started out from Ince this afternoon where the new pools there held Common Teal, Mallard with Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen kick starting my watch. A few Jay were alarm calling in the hedgerows while a couple of Raven cronked overhead.

Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and a flock of the ever-present Goldfinch were feeding on the thistle heads.

Out on Frodsham Score were 8 Little Egret spread out on the marsh. Raven and Common Buzzard were both indulging in the abundant dead mutton on offer. A large flock of mixed gulls were resting on the marsh which contained mostly Black-headed with lesser numbers of Common, Great Black and Lesser Black-backs. The water of the ship canal held a Great Crested and several Little Grebe which were with Mallard and Tufted Duck.

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There was an obvious movement of Meadow Pipit which were plentiful in the fields and 2 Stonechat were near the ‘Splashing Pool’ with another 3 birds located on No.5 tank. The mitigation pools held only a few Common Teal and a couple of Buzzard which were perched on the fence posts.

Good numbers of wildfowl were again on No.6 and featured more Common Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Common Shelduck. Wigeon, Gadwall and Pintail with Mute Swan and Little Grebe noted.

Along Lordship Lane there were even more Goldfinch flocks feeding with Linnet which out numbered them for a change. A Sparrowhawk was keeping an eye on the finches from above.

At least 50 Curlew and 15 Ruff were feeding in a field opposite the southern ramp to No.6 and a Marsh Harrier passed over No.4.

A large flock of corvids near the Growhow Works held a black and white bird.

On my return to the new pools at Ince a single Black-tailed Godwit was feeding at the edge of the water.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

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I was watching a passage of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail in a field adjacent to EA Pumphouse by the pipe bridge when this beauty (above image) dropped in.

Observer: Ron Brumby (image 4).

29.09.16. Birdlog

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Some would say that September is the best month for migration and others would argue that May brings the sunshine birds. I’ve always been in the September camp and every year I look forward to what it brings to my part of Cheshire. This September has been a little under par to say the least and without any species worthy of bragging about I paid another visit after work to the marsh. I unpacked my expectations and brought along plenty of enthusiasm for three hours worth of birding.

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29-10-16-garganey-juv-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-14Arriving on No.5 tank I set up overlooking No.6 from the north side. The light was good and ducks were very tolerant of my presence as I stood above them on the bank. I scanned the ducks hoping to see something new from the regular assortment. The Common Teal flock were spread out from the flooded daisy beds to hauling out on the south bank. The 200 Shoveler had obviously increased from the last week and birds were scattered widely. Out on the water were 12 Pintail, 130 Wigeon and smaller counts of Common Shelduck, Mallard and Pochard. A flight of 100 Tufted Duck flew in from the river at dusk and soon settled with others already present.

A flock of  9 Ruff and 7 Avocet were the only shorebirds on the mud. A young Peregrine tested out its hunting techniques scattering the ducks and forcing the Ruff to leave the area for 30 minutes. The young falcon settled on the dried out mud in the centre of the tank close to a strutting Stock Dove which did’t appear too unduly concerned by the raptor sat close by. No sooner had the ducks resettled than a juvenile Marsh Harrier caused them to rise into the air again before they dropped down on the open water.

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I moved along the track to view the mitigation area on No.3 tank and was surprised to find that there were some birds feeding on the muddy scrape! On closer inspection a group of 8 Curlew Sandpiper were feeding with 9 Black-tailed Godwit and 12 Common Teal.

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29-10-16-garganey-juv-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-12A Spotted Crake over at Northwich gave me the incentive to check the secluded pool but despite me hanging on there until dark I could’nt conjure one out of reedbeds. A juvenile Garganey was some compensation along with a late juvenile Reed Warbler which was clambering in the reeds. A Cetti’s Warbler gave out a couple of blasts of song from the willow thickets at the junction of tanks 3-5 and 6.

I ended the evening walking back to my car stopping briefly to watch an adult Peregrine fly up to the blue-topped chimney to roost.

No real rares (as they call them these days) but some nice birding.

Observer and images: WSM.

27.09.16. Birdlog

27-09-16-hale-lighthouse-and-the-mersey-estuary-at-sunset-bill-morton-5The fine weather today was a lot more enticing to pay a visit to the marsh for a spot of birding compared to the deluge we experienced yesterday.

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Along Moorditch Lane I was taken aback by a Kingfisher that flew from the ditch to cross my path and fly up the embankment of No.5 tank before doing a U-turn and fly back and pose briefly on an iron pipe stretched across the ditch.

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Arriving on to No.5 tank I met Arthur where we both bumped into a couple of birders who mentioned seeing two Marsh Harrier and two Curlew Sandpiper on the mitigation site. We both made our way to that area but apart from a single Common Teal (no change there) we didn’t see anything else.

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On returning to look over the muddy area of No.6 we soon relocated the two juvenile Curlew Sandpiper which were with a solitary Dunlin and 15 Ruff. The area was alive with ducks and a conservative estimate of species included: 12 Pintail, 120 Wigeon, 100 Shoveler, 47 Mallard and a few Gadwall. There was a couple of Great Crested Grebe while Dabchicks numbered 16 birds.

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27-09-16-peregrine-blue-topped-chimney-bill-morton-2A Fox was presumably the concern of many of  the ducks which were a little flighty. A Water Rail was calling from the reed beds below the bank while close-by a singing Cetti’s Warbler shattered the otherwise serene scene.

One of the Marsh Harrier (a female) flew over disturbing the 400 already nervous Common Teal. Further out at Weston Point was a big female Peregrine perched up on the blue-topped chimney before launching off to hunt the estuary at dusk.

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A fine sunset over the Mersey Estuary ended a much better return to some quality birding for a change.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (all images).

25.09.16. Birdlog

25-09-16-little-egret-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1

25-09-16-chiffchaff-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2I started my walk at Ince again this morning where there were plenty of Swallow and House Martin flying over the Pig farm. The new pools here attracted 6 Grey Heron, 2 Little Grebe, Mallard and Common Teal which were much to their liking. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and several Chiffchaff were moving along with a flock of Blue and Long-tail Tits. Out on Frodsham Score were 5 Little and 2 Great White Egret were seen while a large flock of Lapwing nervously fidgeted as an unseen raptor flew by.

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I followed the Holpool Gutter around the west edge of No.4 tank but nothing of note was seen apart from a large flock of Pied Wagtail feeding in the crop field. Back on the lane to Ince a Great Spotted Woodpecker which is normally a bird of the marsh periphery was in Kamira Wood by the Growhow Works. Nearing the pig farm a Kingfisher left a patch of marsh ground and flew along the ditch in front of me.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-3).

A Common Sandpiper was on the Weaver estuary while along the hedgerows 6 Chiffchaff, a male Blackcap and a Goldcrest were by the old birdlog.

Observer: Tony Broome.

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25-09-16-2-peregrines-on-the-blue-topped-chimney-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2After a visit to Delamere Forest we decided to take a walk along Moorditch Lane on the marsh at Frodsham where a scaffolding structure has been erected. I asked the security guard why it was being constructed? He said that it was to support new telegraph wires so if you’re in the area, now you know.

A Chiffchaff was contact calling in the hawthorns bushes bordering the lane within a mobile roving tit flock.

Eventually we found ourselves looking over the open water and muddy margins of No.6 tank. A brisk westerly was blowing and typically ducks were sheltering in the water flooded flowerbeds. The Wigeon flock appear to have taken a liking to this area and can be found within the daisy beds picking off its seeds.  Also adding to the picture were 350 Common Teal, 120 Shoveler, 8 Pintail with an assortment of Gadwall, Mallard, Common Shelduck and 18 Little Grebe seen in small parties. A Little Egret (Image #1. I know it’s blurry but I like it) was flushed by a mini-panic attack caused by the ducks and flew off the tank towards the river. There was a pre-roost gathering of 800 Black-headed Gull on the water with numerous Common Gull joining them.

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The mitigation area on No.3 tank is really avoided by most birds but a dozen Common Teal and a single Wheatear were trying desperately to add a little kudos for Peel Energy here.

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There was a light passage of Swallow moving south while on the blue-topped chimney two adult Peregrine shared their lofty watch tower.

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Observers: Sparky, WSM (images 1 & 4-8).

23.09.16. Birdlog

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I took a stroll along the River Weaver to its junction with the Manchester Ship Canal at the Weaver Estuary this evening. A few of the regular Common Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck and a Pintail were on the river but not in any big numbers. Several Great Crested and Little Grebe were present with a single Common Sandpiper that was altered and flew across the river on my approach. A Kestrel and Common Buzzard were hunting the banks and Raven were on the prowl looking for an easy meal.

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Out on Frodsham Score a large flock of gulls, mostly Great and Lesser Black-backs and Herring were sat on the mud bank and were joined by Curlew and Common Shelduck with 2 Little Egret in the tidal gutters. A flock of both Redshank and Dunlin were moving with the rising tide. Walking back along the river and I chanced upon a very rare visitor to the marshes a Guillemot but unfortunately it was dead at the waters edge.

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Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

A Great White Egret was spotted on Frodsham Score from the Hale side of the river per Dave Craven.

A Hobby was flying over Weston village this evening before heading to the Weaver Bend.

Observers: Sparky, WSM.

22.09.16. Birdlog

22.09.16. Meadow Pipit, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

22-09-16-starlings-and-carrion-crow-no-1-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-5My evening visits are getting shorter and shorter despite the sunny weather we have been experiencing recently. Having said that there’s still plenty of birding to be had and my usual trip to look over No.6 tank wasn’t that exciting with 13 Ruff and the usual ducks still present. A look over the mitigation was more out of habit than any real expectations and true to form I wasn’t disappointed…again.

Ever the optimist I move out to Marsh Farm and had a look at the ebbing tide on the River Mersey. The only area exposed to mud was adjacent to the Weaver Sluices where a large concentration of shorebirds were gathered. Although fairly distant a blast of evening sunlight breaking through the clouds aided my observation. There was a good count of Redshank bunched together which numbered 300 birds. Also present were 2000 Dunlin with a single Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Several hundred Curlew and 3 Knot were notable along with 54 Oystercatcher.

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High above the sluice gates perched on the blue-topped chimney was the female Peregrine which reappeared after a week or so.

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The Raven flock were gathered on No.5 tank and along with an adult Great Black-backed Gull that was oddly perched up on a telegraph pole along Alder Lane were all on the lookout for their next mutton meal.

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A small passage of Meadow Pipit were perched up on the wires by the lane.

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Observer and images: WSM.

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Earlier Ian (Iggy) Igglesden over at Hale lighthouse picked out a couple of Great White Egret out on Frodsham Score which can not be seen from the vantage point at the farm.

21.09.16. Birdlog

21-09-16-juvenile-marsh-harrier-canal-pools-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonThe evening light wasn’t that good for birding but nonetheless I made the pilgrimage to look over No.6 tank.

The open water of the tank continues to provide a safe haven for a variety of waterfowl and again both Tufties and Common Teal were the highest in number. The former reached a total of 217 while the latter totaled 312. Also present were 12 Pintail, 1 Common Pochard, 47 Shoveler, 68 Mallard, 12 Gadwall and 112 Wigeon. There were still 18 Mute Swan with a solitary juvenile Great Crested and 30 Little Grebe a new high total for the autumn build up.

Shorebirds were again low-key but 6 Avocet, 15 Ruff and a single Greenshank made some headway into the recent slump of waders.

The mitigation area of No.3 tank was again woefully poor but a juvenile Marsh Harrier was present for some time hunting the Canal Pools and the Score embankment with numerous Raven for company. A second bird was watched circling high over the estuary at the same time so, that could either be a migrant moving south or one of the other two from the summer?

Observer and image: WSM.

20.09.16. Birdlog

20.09.16. Red-breasted Merganser, MSC, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

A short walk along the Manchester Ship Canal from Ince to the Holpool Gutter at dusk there was nothing of note until a Red-breasted Merganser flew along the canal after being flushed by (no pun intended) the ship Stolt Razorbill. A poor picture because my camera was on the wrong setting and very much a record shot.

Observer: Paul Ralston.

Earlier in the day a bit of watching from across the water from Hale lighthouse revealed 3 Great White Egret and 2 Marsh Harrier.

Observer: Dave Craven.

It was inevitable that an Otter would eventually appear and this morning it did! One was seen close to Frodsham sailing club.

Thanks to Gary Powell.

18.09.16. Birdlog & Nature Notes #54

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After spotting a tweet about 4 Great White Egret from Dave Craven over at Hale lighthouse and due to my limited availability today, I decided I shouldn’t miss out on relocating his discovery out on Frodsham Score. However, the score isn’t that easy to access especially since the turbines have been erected on the marsh. So, the easier option was to watch from Runcorn Hill which would give me a wide panorama vista across the Mersey Estuary and the Frodsham Score salt marsh.

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Where I was set up the morning sun soon warmed the back of my neck and cast some excellent light across the river. It didn’t take long before I singled out a Great White Egret which flew across the salt marsh to join a second bird. Further along the tidal gutters emerged a third bird and close to a group of gorging Raven, Great Black-backed Gull and Carrion Crow feasting on another dead sheep was a fourth bird. A potential fifth bird gave a tantalizingly brief view in a gutter close to a group of 19 scattered Little Egret.

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Observer and images: WSM (with a grateful nod to DC).

18-09-16-frodsham-score-from-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-1A walk from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal as far as No.4 tank during high tide.  A Little Grebe has joined the Mallard and Common Teal on one of the new pools at Ince and a Chiffchaff was feeding in the trackside vegetation. Along the canal path 2 more Chiffchaff were noted and the ‘Heinz 57 goose’ was on the canal with the Canada  . Two of the WeBs counters were making their way along the salt marsh ready for their high tide count in the warm sunshine.

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18-09-16-pleasure-boat-on-the-msc-from-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2A small pleasure boat made its way west along the canal and flushed a Green Sandpiper as it went by while a female Stonechat was flycatching from a hawthorn bush. A flight of several Common Snipe flew overhead on to 4. A couple of hundred Dunlin were resting by the Holpool Gutter as the tide filled the channels and were joined by Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew. There were at least 10 Little Egret and a single Great White Egret were feeding as the water covered the marsh (where the other four went I have no idea?). A Peregrine chased down a wader and landed with it in the shallow water while the local gulls and crows tried to intimidate it while the raptor impressively mantled its prey. There were at least 2 Pink-footed Goose on the marsh.

A further 25 Pink-footed Goose were spotted by the WeBS counters along with confirmation that there were 5 GWE at Ince Marsh). Eds.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 4-6).

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The middle of September 2016 and the height of the Autumn migration, or at least it is if you are on the east coast. I thought that I’d give Frodsham Marsh one more chance to prove itself as I headed down the M56 at the rather casual time of 9.30 am. It wasn’t to be a journey without incident. As I passed junction 11 I was thinking of where I’d start my bird watch off and was idling along in the middle lane (like you do) when I noticed what I took to be a big white paper bag in the outside lane close to the central reservation. As I passed it, it put its head up, looked around, and went back to sleep. An adult Mute Swan asleep with cars narrowly avoiding a collision with it! I called the emergency services but they’d had several calls already and were on their way. It had been a full harvest moon last night and I wondered whether the swan had mistaken the motorway for a river?

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Calling at the local coffee house briefly for two take-out lattes, extra hot, one shots, I headed for the junction of tanks 3, 5 and 6, parked up and set up for a raptor vigil, the clear blue sky and sunshine looking promising for big birds of prey. Common Buzzard were everywhere with at least 14 throughout the day. Add to that a Marsh Harrier quartering No.3 and 5, with 3 Kestrel and 4 Sparrowhawk and a Hobby soaring in the distance over No.3 and it wasn’t a bad tally. But no Osprey or Honey Buzzard as hoped for. The second sighting of Marsh Harrier was over No.5 where it soared through the array of wind turbines level with the middle of the blades. If they’d been going around, it might not have been so good for the harrier.

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Out on the mitigation (see image 7) 9 Wigeon dropped into the pools but disappeared into the waist-high vegetation, the pools remaining invisible due to the lack of credible management. 2 Ruff flew over onto No.6 tank.  The recent passage of hirundines were few and I only saw Swallow, perhaps 20-25 through the day. The local Meadow Pipits and a few Skylark flew about the beds but there was not obvious movement.The vast thistle beds held big flocks of swirling Goldfinch, and I guessed at over c500, but it could easily have been double that.

18-09-16-secluded-poolfrodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2Alyn Chambers appeared and joined us for an hour or so. He had walked all the way down the south side of No.4 and had many warblers during the walk. All I had Chiffchaff calling! A Kingfisher flew past over No.3 before turning around and heading for the ‘Splashing Pool’ where Alyn had seen it earlier. The dried up pools on No.3 had four alba Wagtail and a Yellow, but no waders. A Dunlin did fly over and looked as if it was interested, but thought better of it and flew back to the Frodsham Score where the high tide at around 1400hrs covered some of the Score marsh but not enough to push any waders onto the tanks. No.6 has at last got a muddy margin, but apart for a couple of waders Alyn saw, there was nothing of note.

18-09-16-migrant-hawker-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2I had a look at the secluded pool but apart from a single Tufted Duck and 3 Coot, it was birdless at first. A Water Rail did scream a little after I arrived and there were 2 or 3 Reed Warbler in the margins, but nothing major. Insects took over my attention as a fine Small Copper landed in front of me. They aren’t very common and a September one was nice. Large White’s and Red Admiral were moving south throughout the day and I saw c10 of the former and c25 of the latter, all singles and all straight through. There was a handful of local Small Tortoishell as well. The pool had a single Common Darter, 2 Brown Hawker and around 10 Migrant Hawker.

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A quick look at No.6 on the way past revealed a couple of hundred ducks, mainly Common Teal, but the sunlight was against me and I carried on to Marsh Farm where I found the fore-mentioned Hobby still quartering the thistle beds, but still too far away for a photo. The farmer had dumped a dead calf next to the track and the putrid smell attracted hundreds of flies (and surely competed with the stinkhorn mentioned in NN#53). Surely to leave a dead animal where members of the public can walk by is against Defra policy?

A weather front approached from the west and the last rays of silver light caught the turbines on No.4. Not a bad day if only for the sunshine and 22c. It was just nice to have been out with a chance of something unusual. Maybe next time…?

Observers: Tony Broome (images 7-13) and Alyn Chambers.

Nature Notes #54

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18-09-16-black-darter-black-lake-delamere-forest-bill-morton-35A late summer walk along the sun dappled glades of Delamere Forest hoping to find a few ordanata and early autumnal fungi. At Black Lake there were still a few darters and dragonflies including a very confiding Black Darter with Common Darter and two Brown Hawker actively hunting around the water margins.

Earlier as we headed out to Black Lake from the main path we took a diversion through a less worn route which we hadn’t covered before. All along the walk in a series of spots you couldn’t avoid smelling the rancid odour of Stinkhorns. 18-09-16-stinkhorn-delamere-forest-bill-morton-1The smell hangs in the air in patches but because of the heavy growth of bracken it was almost impossible to find the fungi. One particular spot produced a rampant stipe complete with oozing head covered in flies and didn’t half pong! There were several emerging eggs ready to thrust out of the ground and it looked and reads…”Carry On-esk”.

A short distance away were a few Tawny Grisette and a rarely encountered Clitocybe Odora. Further discoveries revealed numerous Earthballs, Burgundy coloured Russula’s and Saffron Milkcaps.

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Observers: Sparky, WSM (images 1-3, 14-18).

17.09.16. Birdlog

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It’s that time of the month when we start our WeBS counts and I normally do it on a Sunday but because of an engagement tomorrow I’ll be doing the count today.

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The temperatures were reaching into the high teens and heat haze in these temperatures can be a problem but with the freshening north-westerly it wasn’t too much of a hinderance.

The Mersey WeBS counts are conducted by a large group of birders spread along both shores including the docklands of Birkenhead right past the new road bridge through and over both Wigg Island and Widnes Warth Marsh. My position is No.6 and 3 tanks on Frodsham Marsh. The main species to be countered are ducks, geese, swans, egrets and waders with a few additions thrown in. I started my count about two hours before the 13.00 hrs high tide and the tide effect forces birds that normally stay out the estuary at low water to seek a safe refuge to feed, rest and socialise during this period. There was a slight reduction in numbers of some species from earlier in the week but there was certainly enough birds to keep me busy.

The numbers of Wigeon had risen considerably reaching a peak of 132, the most prominent duck species was again Common Teal which totaled 343 birds while Shoveler had dropped off to 120. Common Shelduck numbered 45 birds, 11 Pintail, 14 Gadwall and 64 Mallard. Other birds of note included 19 Little Grebe, 18 Mute Swan and a skein of 12 Pink-footed Goose that came in with the tide and immediately circled the area before heading back to the river.

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Shorebirds were less spectacular and much underwhelmed with 8 Avocet, 4 Ringed Plover, 12 Dunlin, 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 8 Ruff  to show for all our troubles. Over on No.3 tank a Green Sandpiper flushed itself from the west end pool. An unseen flock of Golden Plover were moving high against the sun but calling constantly.

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The fine clear skies brought out many birds of prey with 12 Common Buzzard, 6 Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk and an adult Hobby again chasing craneflies over the thistle beds on No.2 tank.

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Passerines were represented by 3 Wheatear at Marsh Farm with a fourth along the pipes, 6 White Wagtail flycatching flies that have converged on a dead calf at the farm. A flock of 450 Goldfinch were in the huge thistle and nettle bed on the mitigation area. There was a light passage of Swallow, House Martin and a single Sand Martin with Yellow Wagtail and Meadow moving through. Wheatear video here: https://vimeo.com/183226173

17.09.16. White Wagtail, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Observers: Frank Duff, WSM (all images).

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A juvenile Wheatear from Marsh Farm.