16.09.16. Birdlog

16-09-16-peregrine-runcorn-bridge-bill-morton-3 An early dart from work and  visit to the marsh starting as usual at Ince. The new pools near the pig farm held a pair of Grey Wagtail, Common Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and a single Shoveler more pools have been created and could be an asset in the future?

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A Whinchat was at the gates to the Ince Berth and several Chiffchaff were along the canal path. Further out on the salt marsh were a couple of Great White Egret and 4 Little Egret were notable.

16-09-16-raven-frodsham-score-paul-ralston

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A party of Raven playing in the wind were joined by 2 Peregrine and a game of tag went on for a good 10 minutes, at one point a Marsh Harrier looked like it wanted to join in but thought better of it. Over at the Canal Pools a Mute Swan had 2 cygnet in tow and a Common Snipe fed at the edge while a Wheatear sat on a rock.  Another egret spp flew up from the grass behind the Canal Pools where the cattle were feeding, I thought a possible Cattle Egret but looking at my photographes taken from a long distance I can make out a hint of yellow on its feet.

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The scrape near the ‘Splashing Pool’ held another Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. Out on the marsh an odd goose sat with the many Canada’s had of the characteristics of a Heinz 57 Variety Goose.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-4) and the patriotic Peregrine on Runcorn Bridge today by WSM.

15.09.16. Birdlog & Gowy Meadows Notes

15-09-16-avocets-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1

Another brief evening visit to the marsh just to see what’s been coming or going. My destination was the north banks of No.6 or the south banks of No.5 tank depending how you look at it.

A flock of 10 Avocet were leftover from the flock that had arrived yesterday and they were joined by 15 Ruff and 7 Dunlin.

Ducks are a big feature on Frodsham Marsh at the moment and some species are always the bread and butter birds  (Tufted Duck and Common Teal). While others are passing through or beginning to spend the winter (Shoveler and Wigeon). All in all it’s worth spending some time working your way through the flocks you never know you might find the juvenile Garganey which which I again picked out from the hundreds of teal.

A juvenile Marsh Harrier flew from No.5 tank and then disappeared over the mitigation which in turn had 21 Common Teal to show for all the money that’s been  spent on it!

15-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-7

15-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-1215-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-1Earlier I came across this partial leucistic Carrion Crow in a stubble field. I’ve often come across crows with various degrees of leucism but this one was one of the better marked birds,

Observer and images: WSM.

Gowy Meadows

An evening walk along the Gowy Meadows and the highlights were a Red-breasted Merganser and Kingfisher. A ‘white’ Starling was seen in a flock near the air products site along the Shropshire Union Canal  earlier in the day.

Observer: Paul Ralston.

14.09.16. Birdlog

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With the temperature gauge nudging 25.5 degrees it deserved an evening visit to the marsh to watch over the waters of No.6 tank. It was soon obvious that the duck numbers have again increased with over 200 Tufted Duck present for starters, then there was 5 Common Pochard, 12 Gadwall, 123 Shoveler, 14 Common Shelduck, 400 Common Teal, 30 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 100 Mallard and a juvenile Garganey. Little Grebe were again in double figures with 18 Mute Swan still present.

The exposed muddy area had 15 Ruff and a good count of 23 Avocet.

A Sparrowhawk flew in for the Starling gathering and then 10 Raven heading to their roost rounded off my brief visit.

Observer and images: WSM.

12.09.16. Birdlog & add-on Nature Notes #53

12-09-16-raven-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1

12-09-16-juvenile-common-shelduck-stuck-in-mud-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2A big increase with ducks onto the open water and in the flooded daisy beds of No.6 tank. My count included seeing 12 Little Grebe, 34 Wigeon, 230 Common Teal, 103 Tufted Duck, 3 Common Pochard, 143 Shoveler, 2 Pintail, 32 Common Shelduck, 14 Gadwall and 18 Mute Swan. A sad sight was of a juvenile Shelduck sucked up to its flanks by the sticky mud. It lay in an area which could not be reached and would have posed too dangerous for rescue. The first Avocet of the month dropped in for a feed, bathe and preen while a couple of Black-tailed Godwit joined up with 8 Ruff on the exposed muddy areas.

During the course of my observation a juvenile Marsh Harrier put most of the ducks to the wing when it got too close for their comfort. Other raptors present were 6 Kestrel, 7 Common Buzzard and a Hobby chasing down a flock of 340 House Martin that had dropped in.

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There were many butterflies and dragonflies still on the wing and wind along the sheltered warm track on No.5 tank.

12-09-16-wasps-nest-blakemere-delamere-forest-bill-morton-5

12-09-16-wasps-nest-blakemere-delamere-forest-bill-morton-1012-09-16-wasps-nest-blakemere-delamere-forest-bill-morton-6A walk around Blakemere at Delamere Forest and a recce for mushrooms and toadstools was a little uneventful. That is apart from finding an active Wasp nest at the base of a cut down birch tree.

Observer and images: WSM.

11.09.16. L.O.S. Field Trip

11-09-16-leigh-ornithological-society-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton

It was good to be invited to guide a walk for Leigh Ornithological Society’s September field trip to Frodsham Marsh today. After a brief introduction we headed along Brook Furlong Lane aiming to look over the River Weaver by Redwall reed bed. There wasn’t much activity on the water with the freshening breeze forcing the birds to loiter alongside the marshy edges on the Weaver estuary.

11-09-16-sickly-fox-no-1-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6After a slight change in the direction of our walk we headed off along Alder Lane to watch the pipes across No.1 tank. The expected Wheatear was found eventually hiding between the pipes and was soon followed by another bird. A Fox was out in the fields but didn’t look too well it had gooey-eyes and looked quite sickly…erm?11-09-16-hobby-over-no-2-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6

11-09-16-hobby-over-no-2-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-9A couple of adult Hobby hawking over the thistle beds were presumably feeding on something but we couldn’t see exactly what they were catching? These birds performed for all the time we were watching including the time it took us to the mitigation 40 minutes later. Also present was the pale phase Common Buzzard that has been in the area for a couple of years now, There were two Sparrowhawk, a kettle of 6 Buzzard, 6 Kestrel and from No.4 tank emerged the juvenile Marsh Harrier. It would have been a six raptor day if the Peregrine had taken up her usual perch on the blue-topped chimney.

The Raven flock were gathered over the embankment overlooking Frodsham Score and took great pleasure in harassing any bird of prey that flew by including the local Kestrels.

11-09-16-kestrel-over-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-martin-lotus

11-09-16-leigh-ornithological-society-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4img_7821The open water of No.6 tank still had the same ducks as yesterday but the bright sunshine made viewing A lone Ruff was sat with a group of dozing Teal on the muddy edges.

Other birds of note were 8 Yellow Wagtail and pockets of hirudines heading south.

In the warm sunshine there were plenty of butterflies and dragonflies out on the wing which included: Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Painted Lady being the most proficient while Common Darter and Migrant Hawker were noted.

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11-09-16-miles-walked-with-l-o-s-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1A walk around the perimeter of No.6 tank included more Yellow Wagtail and a huge bed of teasel which should be keeping the Goldfinch flocks happy over the next few months.

Today we covered 8.7 miles according to John’s workout details on his mobile phone.

Observers: Steve Scrimgeour and Leigh Ornithological Societyimage 5 by Martin Loftus, WSM (images 1-4 & 6-9). Image

Other birds of interest included: Female and juvenile Marsh Harrier, 13 Ruff and a Little Egret.

Observer: Alyn Chambers.

10.09.16. Birdlog

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There were bigger numbers of ducks out on No.6 tank this evening. A wide variety of species included 230 Common Teal, 168 Shoveler, 2 Pintail, 12 Wigeon, 34 Common Shelduck, 4 Common Pochard and 128 Tufted Duck. Also present were 11 Mute Swan, 24 Coot and 21 Little Grebe with parents still feeding small fish to their ever hungry young. The only waders present were 18 Ruff on the oozy mud.

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img_7754A juvenile Marsh Harrier was hunting the banks along No.6 tank while the Peregrine was sat on the blue-topped chimney.

The mitigation on No.3 tank was as usual birdless apart from 6 Common Teal, 6 Yellow Wagtail and a single Wheatear.

The pipes across No1 tank had another Wheatear.

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Observers: Mark (Whipper) Gibson, WSM (images 1-4 & 8-10).

06-09-16-view-from-easyjet-of-frodsham-marsh-findlay-wilde-2

06-09-16-view-from-easyjet-of-frodsham-marsh-findlay-wilde-106-09-16-view-from-easyjet-of-frodsham-marsh-findlay-wilde-3Thanks to Findlay Wilde (images 5-7) for his images of the Mersey estuary and Frodsham Marsh from his holiday flight.

10-09-16-plane-from-marsh-farm-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-7

10-09-16-plane-from-marsh-farm-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-110-09-16-plane-from-marsh-farm-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2There were a couple of overshoots from the Southport airshow with a Typhoon circling the Mersey estuary followed soon after by a Lancaster Bomber.

07 & 09.09.16. Birdlog

09-09-16-adult-hobby-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-1

09-09-16-adult-hobby-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-507.09.16. Birdlog

A Merlin was seen on No.5 tank per Ron Brumby and Arthur Harrison.

09.09.16. Birdlog

A walk along the River Weaver and No.6 tank today. I started at the Marsh Lane bridge that crosses over the M56 motorway. The highlight was present even before I managed to unpack my bins. An adult Hobby was sat on a gate post in the horse paddock and was dropping down in to the grass to feed on crane flies! After recovering my composure I proceeded down to the Weaver which has it was, was quiet with nothing of note other than a single Common Sandpiper. On to No.6  and ducks featured Common Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall , Common Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler and a party of 11 Mute Swan which were on the flooded tank. Above the water there were many Swallow and martins feeding up for the long trek south. They in turn attracted the attention of a couple of Hobby which took exception to the passing Raven flock before turning their aggression on a Common Buzzed. There were other raptors seen were Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

Other birds of note include: A recent released group of a dozen Red-legged Partridge in the field near the entrance ramp to 6 and the 2 Black-tailed Godwit on the mitigation site.

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Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

The Marshes c1900

the-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-c1900-2I have been looking a long time for images of Frodsham Marsh shortly after the Manchester Ship Canal was completed and today I have been successful. The first image shows the Weaver estuary (inner top left) with its marshland edges and the cultivated fields stretching inland to the village of Frodsham. At the far right hand side is the Weaver Bend with the small island visible and Weston Marsh which today is under a disused sludge tank.

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The second photograph shows the flooded No.1 sludge tank occupying the river marshland area.The container walls are excavated soil taken from the interior of the sludge bed and are no higher than a couple of metres.   It is only speculation what this tank situated a stone’s throw from the River Mersey would have attracted all those years ago. There were no ornithologists/bird watchers in the area to catalogue the huge flocks of waders, not to mention the numerous Nearctic shorebirds that surely must have appeared each autumn. I’ll have to get me one of those time travelling machines when they get invented.

On both images it is interesting to note the lack of development in Runcorn and across the Liverpool skyline.

WSM.

R.H. Allen – The First Frodsham Birder

R.H. Allen (2)

Ron H Allen 1902-1978

Ron Allen was one of the first modern post war bird watchers locally and it was solely down to his diligent counting and observations from Weston and Frodsham Marshes that made others aware of the potential of the site. He also set the foundations for modern birding in North West Cheshire that exists to the present day. I wanted to mark Ron’s involvement at Frodsham and perhaps enlighten people to the man and his legacy.

The above photograph shows Ron seated at the front left and sat behind him his friend George Rutter who lived locally at Weston and watched over the marshes there. George was a lock keeper at Marsh Lock and it was him that alerted Ron to a pair of nesting Common Scoter on Weston Marsh.

The following is an extract from the 1977 Cheshire Bird Report written by that birding folk hero of Liverpool Mr Eric Hardy.

Although one held pre-war field-meetings and published surveys and several records of interesting species by the Mersey at Stanlow and Frodsham Marshes’ original sludge beds, it was Ron Allen’s 30 years of systematic post-war duck counts and his annual surveys of estuarine waders which gave these habitats international as well as national significance. His death at the age of 76 in January 1978, will be regretted by all who were greeted by his smiling face, tanned by Mersey sunshine and Stanlow petroleum fumes, as he appeared on the marsh by his clothes-prop of a telescope stand.

Born at Waterloo, he came to live overlooking the marshes at Runcorn’s Weston Point just after the last war and found a new outlet for his ornithological interest. As a regional organiser for the original duck counts and Shelduck moult-mogration survey in 1974, I organised counts at all the possible waters to select priorities. Ron’s beat along the Weaver produced the most exciting results, meriting the concentration he subsequently devoted to the area. (“Bird Ecology at Frodsham Marshes”, R.H.A Allen in Merseyside Naturalists Association Bird report 1952 – 3, pp 34-37).

He took up the Shelduck moult-migration survey collecting a team of equally enthusiastic co-operators for 22 annual summer eventing watching noting departures from Mersey and Dee, until he mapped the annual emigration across the Peak. In 1954, when M.N.A. formed the first bird reserve in the Mersey estuary, by the Weaver at Weston Marsh, in response to the policy of wildfowl conservationists to form at least one refuge from shooting in every British estuary, Ron became its honorary warden. Later when N.M.A. formed the tidal Stanlow bird reserve, Cheshire’s largest nature sanctuary, as its contribution to Conservation Year, he became its honorary warden. Ever ready to share his observations, he was pleased to conduct visiting societies to view the wild, unpinioned winter, waterfowl, and waders.

From 1957-71, he conducted an annual Northwest Shelduck Census of adults and young from North Wales to the Solway. The labours of his hard-working duck-counting team covered every high tide as well as the national monthly count-counting team covered every high tide as well as the national monthly count, produced the largest estuarine counts of Teal and Pintail in Britain and Ireland, and nationally high counts of Shelduck, Wigeon and Dunlin. I have masses of his field-notes and tabulated counts since he started the surveys, adding to those from Jack Hughes, who farmed lonely Stanlow Point before the war and to Squire Bankes of Weston Hill’s punt-shooting records before the Ship Canal was cut. His Shelduck notes appeared in M.N.A’s Reports 1950-1971 and a joint paper with G. Rutter (joint warden at Weston Marsh) in British Birds, 49 pp 221, & 50 pp 262-274.

Retirement from his management duties in the Cheshire cinema industry gave him more time for a field-work, as well as his other interest being vicar’s warden at Weston Church. He lately belonged to several more bird and conservation societies. I had many private outings as well as society meetings with Ron all his ornithological years he was a kindly, modest man who never spoke a word in malice, never faked a record and bore no jealousy. His mind was as friendly as the Cheshire countryside he loved to visit. Ornithology needs men of his inspiring character. He was president of M.N.A. 1955-80.

Graham Thomason is kindly continuing the organisation of the Mersey Duck and Wader counts.

Eric Hardy.

23.04.16. Common Shelducks (displaying) and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. .Bill Morton.

Ron’s close friend Don Weedon remembers the man

“What about Ron Allen”.

19.09.15. Don Weedon, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

Whenever I was down on the marshes it usually involved me messing about really and I wasn’t into birding then. I remember seeing a Buzzard down there (it would have been a rare bird at the time) but thinking back it must have been a Short-eared Owl. Me and my mate would go fishing we’d even go off fishing to the River Gowy near Chester on our single geared bikes catching gudgeon fish which we’d take home and put in a fish tank. It was after many visits to the marsh that I first met Ron Allen who was the voluntary warden on Weston Marsh which was managed in those days by the Merseyside Naturalists Association. He was a well spoken man and his day job was an accountant for Cheshire cinema’s. I always referred to him in a formal way ‘Mr Allen’ more for my respect for the man himself.

R.H. Allen (4)Mr Allen lived in Weston Village and his wife was prominent in the local community, she was the lady chair for Runcorn Golf Club. Although he never had a car and would catch the bus to Frodsham Bridge where he would walk out to the marsh from there. He was credited in finding a pair of Common Scoter breeding on Weston Marsh which would raise an eyebrow these days and once put me onto a Baird’s Sandpiper on the Weaver Bend or Weston Marsh, I can’t remember where because there was so many ‘yanks’ in those days. He then asked me to do counts for what then was called ‘The Mersey Estuary Enquiry” or duck counts as we called them in those days. I did that for many years. The best bird I remember seeing on those counts was a Glaucous Gull. I never had a car myself and it wasn’t until I was 33 that I managed to own one. It would have been Graham Thomason who gave me a lift to Stanlow to get the ferry across the Manchester Ship Canal to the south Mersey salt marshes.

Eric Hardy had a typical scouse sense of humour despite him being a military man and a Captain in WW2 in charge of messenger pigeons. Like Mr Allen, Eric never had a car and he would rely on public transport to ferry him about. I used to go with my brother-in law Peter Mayers who could drive and we both used to be members of MNA and both worked at the Old Quay yard and did maintenance at Frodsham Pumps on the Manchester Ship Canal. Peter knew Bill Owen the stoker on the pumps who worked 24 hours on 24 hours off. Bill in turn knew Mr Hardy then and he introduced us both to him.

I had a dark complexion with black hair and whenever the summer sun shined I tanned very quickly. On one occasion on the Mersey Marshes we could see Eric ahead of us and as we approached him he said in a loud military voice “I knew it was you Don but this lot thought you were an illegal immigrant”, this confused his group (and obviously comments like that were of a time and a place).

Ron Allen used to bird watch on the marshes with Boyd and Coward (both heavy weights of the national bird watching scene). He was a regular contributor to various journals and his Shelduck moult migration from the River Mersey to Heligoland was featured in British Birds magazine and the MNA reports. When the North Cheshire RSPB group was formed in the 1970’s Ron was picked to be their first field officer and I became deputy field replacing him when he fell into ill-health with Altziemers Disease. Despite his illness I would take him out every other Tuesday mornings we’d go to Marbury Country Park or Frodsham Marshes for a walk and a chat. I remember in the latter stages of his life on one of our walks he spotted a female Mallard which was quacking and said “look Don one of my favourites”. He eventually ended up in hospital and after a visit by Stan Edwards of the North Cheshire RSPB group he didn’t recognise him and sadly Ron passed away soon after.

Don Weedon.

Images of Ron (1 & 4) courtesy of Andy Ankers.

Image of Don (3) and Shelducks by WSM.

Below a link to accounts of the Shelduck moult migration.

British Birds R.H. Allen and G. Rutter

05.09.16. Birdlog

05.09.16. Wheatear, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)A day off and an afternoon visit to the hot-house that is Frodsham Marsh. The temperature was soaring into the low twenties and if it wasn’t for the warm breeze it would have made my man flu much harder to live with.

05.09.16. Little Grebe family, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

A look over the waters of No.6 tank revealed the sounds of pestering baby Dachicks harassing their parents for food. There were 3 pairs of grebes and each had youngsters in tow. The ducks were well scattered over the water with Common Teal numbering 167 while Tufted Duck reached 124 birds and 5 Common Pochard were still present. A lone Pintail was amongst the Mallard and Gadwall, Shoveler and Common Shelduck were noted. A Water Rail was calling from the reed beds while a Reed Warbler was tut tutting away. The muddy area just about held on to 37 Black-tailed Godwit while a Ruff found the sticky mud difficult to walk through.05.09.16.Sheep asleep, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

05.09.16. mitigation on No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

05.09.16. mitigation on No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)05.09.16. mitigation on No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (3)A lack of any birds on the mitigation of No.3 tank and half way through the wader migration season would sound unusual but the whole land management process has been an embarrassing matter from start to finish. I think the sheep image just about sums the whole thing up.

High over the river and marshes airborne insects attracted Black-headed Gull while 11 Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and 4 Kestrel were enjoying the spiraling thermals.

05.09.16. pipes, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton05.09.16. Peregrine, Blue-topped chimney, Bill Morton (1)A couple of Wheatear were on the pipes across No.1 tank and a juvenile was with a White Wagtail at Marsh Farm. Looking to the tall blue-topped chimney from the farm revealed the Peregrine watching over everything.

05.09.16. Secluded pool, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17)

05.09.16. Secluded pool, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (19)The two last images are of the secluded pool.

Observer and images: WSM.