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.

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.

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.