15.10.16. Birdlog

15.10.16. male Stonechat, Pumping Station, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

15.10.16. Hale lighthouse from Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe morning ahead did not look promising with a steady drizzle falling from a heavy grey sky and a brisk breeze. By the time I arrived on the marsh it began to clear up and the temperature was steadily rising.

No.6 tank was surprisingly little with ducks gathered in clusters and apart from a ‘in and out’ flock of 200 Dunlin, 1 Ruff and a heard only Golden Plover there was no other waders. However, there was some compensation when I managed a count of 293 Shoveler a new record for the marsh! 267 Common Teal, 21 Pintail, 11 Gadwall, 20 Common Shoveler, 56 Tufted Duck and 10 Common Pochard were the best of the rest.

15.10.16. Green Sandpipers, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

15.10.16. Eroded bank on Manchester Ship Canal, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonI met up with AC and we wandered across to look over Frodsham Score with the ebbing tide. It soon became apparent this wasn’t going to be a good day for shorebirds and apart from a couple of flocks of murmurating Dunlin, 12 Golden Plover, 14 Little and a single Great White Egret that was about it! Three Green Sandpiper were flushed from the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal as a ship passed by.

Walking back we bumped into a pair of Stonechat that were behaving nicely in the bright sunshine and another female was on No.3 tank.

We carried onto Marsh Farm where there was 2 male and a female Stonechat by the farmers discarded metal dump. Looking out from the last cattle grid it was good to catch up with some of the 29 Avocet that Alyn had seen earlier on his visit (see next paragraph). Scanning out across the estuary from the farm and using my telescope on full mag, I managed to poached a Mediterranean Gull from several hundred Black-headed gulls following a tractor ploughing a field adjacent to the lighthouse.

Alyn watched from Marsh Farm this morning and produced the following: 82 alba Wagtail, 12 Meadow Pipit and 5 Skylark south. 39 Linnet, 11 Goldfinch and 4 Chaffinch east along the ship canal. A Merlin flew through a couple of times. 29 Avocet and 3 Ruff with Lapwing on the Mersey estuary. 2 Common Sandpiper on the ship canal.

15-10-16-common-sexton-beetle-by-the-manchester-ship-canal-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonThere were a few butterflies encouraged out by the warm afternoon sunshine which included Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. Elsewhere a Migrant Hawker or two were still patrolling the tracks on No.5 tank. A Common Sexton Beetle was on the canal path from the Pumping Station.

Observers: Alyn Chambers (image 5), WSM al (images 1-4).

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My first visit to the marsh for ages this afternoon and I saw.2 Stonechat near the farm, 1 Green Sandpiper on canal until flushed by a passing ship. The Weaver bend, 2 Ruff, 5 Redshank, 6 Common Snipe,1 Green Sandpiper (probably same bird), 17 Black-tailedGodwit..and no birders, think they’ve all headed off to Spurn!!

Observer: Sean O’Hara.

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There were literally tens of thousands of spider silk strands (“ballooning”) cast across No.2 tank and glistening like a cloak between the thistle beds.

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15-10-16-water-wave-wash-from-the-cemsol-ship-passing-along-the-manchester-ship-canal-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-115-10-16-water-wave-wash-from-the-cemsol-ship-passing-along-the-manchester-ship-canal-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-12Earlier while we were watching from the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal a large ocean-going vessel the Camsol sailed back disturbing the huge rafts of Canada Goose from their slumber and little parties of duck and Coot including the 3 Green Sandpiper mentioned earlier.

WSM.

11.10.16. Birdlog

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I wasn’t going to write-up a post this evening because it didn’t really add much to what has already been seen this week. But a chance encounter leaving the marsh made me think again!

On my arrival at No.6 tank after 4.30 pm saw yesterday’s RC Pochard was no longer to be found but 9 Common Pochard were. There was 300 Common Teal, 120 Shoveler, 13 Pintail, 60 Tufted Duck, 10 Common Shelduck and 7 Mute Swan. The congregated Black-headed Gull pre-roost build up reached 679 birds. A single Avocet was new in, 10 Ruff and two Black-tailed Godwit were the only additions to my watch.

A Chiffchaff and a small flock of Long-tailed Tit were active along the track while loose flocks of Raven were heading through to the south.

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While I was driving onto Marsh Lane from the marsh my attention was drawn to a pair of piercing yellow eyes glaring at me from the base of a garden fence. I parked up and grabbed my camera and peeped my head around the corner and found a young Sparrowhawk trapped at the base of a fence that was covered in chicken wire. I can only presume that the raptor had crashed through the hedge after a sparrow (which they often do along the lane hedges here) and then It was obvious its escape route was blocked. After grabbing a pair of gloves (that I borrowed from MacDuff sometime ago), I attempted rather gingerly to extract the ball of fury from the netting. This in truth was rather harder than I first envisaged. After peeling back the wire and lifting it up from the base and receiving several well-aimed beak stabs I coaxed it from between the wires to the bottom of the fence. After one last beak thrust at my hand the raptor made its escape…the ungrateful sod!

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10.10.16. Birdlog

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An after work visit and another birding quest to add YbW to the marsh list (although I did find one today but not here).

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10-10-16-rainbow-and-turbines-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4I walked along Brook Furlong Lane but a long arm hedge strimmer was working the patch of lane I wanted to cover, so I guessed there wouldn’t be much in the way of passerine activity. Looking along the pipes across No.1 tank revealed two male Stonechat.

I continued along Moorditch Lane where the ploughed field produced 8 Ruff feeding in the troughs with both Lapwing and Starling flocks. A Goldcrest was calling from the Ash trees but nothing else worthy of attention.

Taking the ramp track to No.5 tank I positioned myself overlooking the mitigation fields. Apart from a couple of Black-tailed Godwit feeding in the rapidly diminishing wet scrapes and several hundred chattering away unseen in the excluded pools there wasn’t much else to report on. Things started to pick up when an adult winter Mediterranean Gull flew over heading towards the Mersey estuary.

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Returning back to look over No.6 tank it was rewarding to see 15 Common Snipe emerge from the daisy beds while Water Rail were screaming from the reed bed below where I was standing. A couple of Kingfisher were playing tag along the edge of the pool and a male and female Sparrowhawk were hunting the 500 strong Goldfinch flocks gathered in and over the thistle beds.

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The young female Garganey made a reappearance since Saturday and was associating with a Little Grebe on the open water but when it caught sight of me it became agitated and flew off into the reeds.

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10-10-16-red-crested-pochard-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-11Several hundred Common Teal and Shoveler were a return to late September numbers while Pintail where in double figures and as the sun was setting I conjured up an eclipse drake Red Crested Pochard with a group of 6 Common Pochard but by then the light was fading fast so I only managed a few record shots.

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The evening concluded with a gathering of Starling against a sunset sliding behind the turbines…But another blank on my continued YbW quest.

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Observer and images: WSM.

09.10.16. Birdlog

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A short walk from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal and along the Holpool Gutter this morning. One of the new pools at Ince Marsh again held Common Teal, Mallard, Moorhen and a single Black-tailed Godwit while soaring overhead were both Raven and Common Buzzard. Onward to the canal footpath and 2 Little Egret were flying west along the canal.

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Out on the far bank a Green Sandpiper was joined by a Common Sandpiper and they both were content to preened together, a little later they were joined by another Common Sandpiper. A large flock of Canada Goose had 2 Wigeon hidden amidst their herd. Out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh there were 2 more Little Egret noted and a large flock of both Lesser and Great Black-back Gull were resting while the Raven feasted on mutton which was again on offer.  Along the Holpool Gutter Common Teal and Mallard were in company with Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe. Both Pied and Grey Wagtail were in the field bordering the gutter and a large flock of Lapwing and Starling were feeding on the newly sown field. Along the lane back towards my start a dozen Mistle Thrush sat on the steel work of the new incinerator plant under construction and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 2).

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We again scoured the lanes the length and breadth of the marsh today and the YbW net is slowly closing around this little sprite! That is until the east wind changes direction and then they’ll be much chagrin and wailing. I won’t be relinquishing my quest to see one on the marsh (although, it’s not a Frodsham tick!). Anyway, we started off walking along Moorditch Lane and climbed the ramp to No.5 tank. There were plenty of Common Buzzard activity with several dog fights between them and their old enemy the Raven.

A distant skein of 60 Pink-footed Goose were heading west across the Weaver estaury.

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09-10-16-grey-heron-juv-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-15The waters of No.6 tank were rather quiet but the old boys with their model aeroplanes flying over the tank may have had some bearing on this. What did stay despite this nuisance included 100 Shoveler, 200 Common Teal, Gadwall, Common Pochard and Shelduck. A flock of 150 Black-tailed Godwit shared the muddy margins with 4 juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and close by a Green Sandpiper was fast asleep.

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09-10-16-red-admiral-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4Along the track a small band of roving Long-tailed Tit and a Goldcrest raised a few hopes but didn’t contained the required bounty. A small passage of Swallow heading south included a late Sand Martin.

Out on the mitigation pools a flock of partially hidden Black-tailed Godwit occasionally rose to reveal their hiding place.

A stricken Red Admiral lay on the track and I placed it on top of a pole while a curious little spider came out to investigate. There were still Common Darters and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies about with both Red Admiral and Small White’s on the wing.

09-10-16-marsh-harrier-female-immature-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-18Lordship Lane harboured a few passerines with a flock of 11 Reed Bunting, an overhead Siskin and a Kingfisher. Another Kingfisher appeared at the junction of Moorditch Lane while overhead an immature female Marsh Harrier circled high up. A young Grey Heron didn’t know where to put its self looking awkward as it sat on the embankment of the tank.

The quest for WbW goes on…

Observers: Sparky, WSM (images 1 & 3-7).

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.

07.10.16. Birdlog

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Walking out this afternoon from Ince and I found the track from the pig farm was busy with construction traffic so not a lot about on that part of my walk. Things started to pick up along the Manchester Shipp Canal path with 4 Redwing in the hawthorns and a mixed tit flock which hid in the cover when a Sparrowhawk cruised by. There was one possibly two Green Sandpiper along the canal bank and a female Merlin crossed over from the Frodsham Score salt marsh. A large flock of Lapwing and Starling were feeding on the field alongside the Holpool Gutter and were joined by several Stock Dove.

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A skein of 60 Pink-footed Goose were high up heading north as they passed over in two long lines, while a couple of thousand Canada Goose fed on the ‘Score’.

The mitigation pools held Common Teal and a dozen or more Black-tailed Godwit while No.6 tank had a decent selection of duck with Shoveler, Common Teal, Gadwall, Common Shelduck, Mallard with Mute Swan and Little Grebe also noted.

While I was walking back along the canal there were 5 Little Egret out on the salt marsh and a Grey Wagtail was by the berth. With the light fading fast and no construction traffic on the lane the new pools had come to life with Mallard, Teal, Coot, Moorhen, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and a Little Egret making use of them.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.