Up 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.
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.
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.
A selection of images from Overton Hill looking down to the marshes.
Observer and images: Tony Broome.