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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Observers: Frank Duff, WSM (all images).
A juvenile Wheatear from Marsh Farm.