08.10.16. Birdlog (Part 2)

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After the viz-mig trial on Overton Hill (see part one) we headed down towards the marsh and Brook Furlong Lane in the hope of finding a Yellow-browed Warbler, with two reported across the river at Hale. I had to stop off at a leading coffee shop emporium and get some lattes including a brew for that other stalwart of the lanes and sludge tanks, Bill. He wouldn’t let me on the marsh if I didn’t take him a coffee. We walked up and down the lane for an hour or more without any success apart from the odd Goldcrest, tits, Chiffchaff and a flyover Redpoll.

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Another skein of 45 Pink-footed Goose flew in against the watery sun veiled by the clouds and moved back north. Nearby 5 Pintail circled the Weaver Bend and 11 Jackdaw headed south in a tight flock. Chiffchaff called unseen or fly catched from the tops of trees in the warm air, a balmy 18c in the afternoon as the Scandinavian high continued to exert its influence westward. We moved around to No.6 tank and sat eating lunch overlooking No.3, before moving onto No.4.

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22-09-15-stonechat-no-1-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-9One plus Siskin whined south overhead, 2 Grey Wagtail followed shortly afterwards. Raptors were showy with the local Common Buzzard kettles sparring with the Raven kettles, a Peregrine came in at speed towards No.6, possibly in the hope of ambushing the ducks there, and there were Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a single Marsh Harrier. A pair of Stonechat were perched up on thistles by the mitigation area and as we headed around to the south of No.6.

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The ‘Splashing Pool’ had a few Tufted Duck on the water with a pale phase Common Buzzard perched up by the pumping station and an arboreal juvenile Moorhen feasting high up on the elder bush berries.

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Meanwhile, Bill heard a singing Cetti’s Warbler and watched a juvenile female Garganey on the ‘Secluded Pool’. While watching from the bank he spotted a Little Egret flying over the ship canal bank, a flock of 170 Black-tailed Godwit and 10 Common Snipe which were disturbed by a low flying Peregrine.

Garganey video here: https://vimeo.com/186097280

I was watching from the southern banks of No 6 which held on the open water and muddy margins were 9 Pochard, 10 Ruff and a Kingfisher plus all the usual ducks.

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Other critters on the wing included: 5 Red Admiral, a single Migrant Hawker and 3 Common Darter, plus a large ichneumon wasp spp which more or less made up the insect species. Not a bad day in the sunshine with all the raptors about, even if the true stars, the migrants, were going over above our heads at a height that made them invisible from the ground.

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Observers: Tony Broome (images 3, 9 & 11), WSM (images 1-2 & 4-8 & 10 & 12-13).

08.10.16. Birdlog (Part 1)

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08-10-16-pink-footed-geese-over-overton-hill-frodsham-tony-broome-1Up early and out down the M56 motorway towards Frodsham and the Marsh triangle… that area of sky above the patch that birds seemingly vanish into as they cross from Hale Head. I’d had a look earlier in the week from the old log and saw birds so high that only chance views through a scope had given their presence away. So today, I decided to try a different tack and headed for Frodsham’s Overton Hill, arriving about 08.20 hrs. I phoned Dave Craven over the river at Hale and he’d had several thousand Redwing already plus a Hawfinch going north and lots of finches. Interestingly he did say that the birds were high today, even over Hale. It was virtually calm with only the lightest of south-east breezes, and complete herring-bone grey-white cloud cover, making birds easy to pick up, or so I thought.

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The hill provided a great vantage point with views across the Mersey estuary towards Hale and Pickerings Pasture, and east into the Weaver Valley towards the rising sun. Birds could be picked up by accident through binoculars or through a scope coming towards us, but most were picked up on call as they flew overhead.

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The first birds that came into view were Wood Pigeon, heading south in small parties, perhaps 50 to 100 ft above the hill. The Overton Hill is just over 430 ft above sea level, so they were passing over up to 600 ft. Finches, pipits and wagtails went through, also in small parties, and usually at a similar height of the Wood Pigeon although many were even higher by perhaps another 50 ft, so around the 650 ft mark. The most surprising flock was that of about 50 Redwing which we only picked up by chance as they flew above some other birds. They were just visible through 10x binoculars, mere specks up towards the cloud base, at least 500 ft higher again, putting them at well over a thousand ft up. Amazing! No wonder you can’t see many viz-mig migrants over the marsh, they are just too high!

What was nice was a movement of Pink-footed Goose, all in from the west and all eventually turning north, as though they’d come in from Iceland and hit the coast too far south for the Lancashire mosses, so turned around and headed off up there, around 940 birds in five flocks. The first flock flew at us at eye level before turning around, giving some great views. In the photos it’s possible to see many juveniles.

The tally between 08.20 hrs and 10.05 hrs was: 10 Pied Wagtail, 41 Meadow Pipit, 123 Wood Pigeon, 3 Stock Dove, 76 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 38 finch sp, 13 Chaffinch, 8 Skylark, 1 Reed Bunting and 3 Song Thrush. Not massive numbers but I think it could be very good in the right weather conditions.

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A selection of images from Overton Hill looking down to the marshes.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.