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.

Nature Notes #55 ‘Fungal Jungle (Part 2)’

06-10-16-earthstar-hale-woods-dave-stewart-2

20-12-15-earthstar-delamere-forest-bill-morton-6I have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to fungi. I always have since I discovered an antique green coloured spotted Verdigris toadstool when I was a kid and ever since whenever the opportunity comes along I’ll take a peep or photograph them. I consider myself an enthusiastic spotter of fungi rather than a mycologist ( I’ll leave all the expert stuff to Fungal Dave).

September – October starts the puffball rolling and with the arrival of autumn comes a time of plenty, beneath the berry laden hedgerows, hidden in fields and scattered in the leaf litter of a woodland floor are the fungi families and a life form which is more tuned to us humans than they are to plant life. I try my best to identify what I can and as a rule I generally don’t rely on posting any photographs to forums or online experts of the fungal species which I find. If I make a mistake with identifying them it’s my mistake and an added opportunity to learn from it.

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What fascinates me about fungi is the variety of species from slime moulds through to the intricately structured ornate species and the variety of habitats they occupy plus they come in some weird shapes, colours and wonderful forms.

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Where are the best places to get to see them and when. The best place I know to see fungi is without doubt Delamere Forest although examples can be found anywhere. The growth in the use of wood chippings from garden centres has increased the dispersal of some species. I’ve found earthstars, stinkhorns and milkcaps in weird places and well away from their usual habitat. Local Nature Reserves are a good source of spotting toadstools/mushrooms. One particular site close to me is Runcorn Hill and its declining heathland and its mixed deciduous woodland. Keep a lookout for fruiting Fly Agaric and with the mild weather conditions I would expect to be seeing them well into December.

Images 1 & 5 Dave Stewart and images 2-4 WSM.

05.10.16. Birdlog

05-10-16-mediterreanean-gull-adult-winter-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3I had an hour to burn up after work so I decided I’d flog the pinata that is my patch on Frodsham Marsh. After taking a peek over the mitigation there was a return to form with birdvoid. So, I retraced my steps to look over No.6 tank. It was surprising to find that the muddy margins of the open water was also absent of any birds?

05-10-16-mediterreanean-gull-adult-winter-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-7However, the open water was littered with upward of 1000 Black-headed Gull and hidden in their throng was a smart-looking adult winter Mediterranean Gull. At least something to salvage from my saunter to the marsh this evening. Small flocks of these gulls drifted off inland and included the Med Gull. I followed their course and found where they were heading for. A ploughed field at the junction of Moorditch and Lordship Lanes, the field must have been ploughed earlier in the day because it also attracted 100 Lapwing, 8 Ruff and of course the gulls.

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A couple of Chiffchaff were calling from the reedy ditches on No.5 tank but I’m still optimistic about another phylloscopus spp here before these easterly winds change direction. There was a obvious movement of thrushes with both Mistle Thrush and Blackbird present.

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05-10-16-blackbird-and-rowan-berries-yardinere-bill-morton-3Observer and images: WSM.

03 & 04.10.16. Birdlog

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03.10.16. Birdlog

With all those Yellow-browed Warblers basically dropping out of the trees from Pickerings Pasture out to the furthest reaches of ‘Old Cheshire’ on the Wirral, I foolishly and with a little expectation scoured the lanes from Brook Furlong to Redwall reed bed., Then after drawing a blank I continued along Moorditch Lane out to the upper reaches of No.3 tank and with a couple of Chiffchaff, a solitary Goldcrest and a small flock of Long-tailed Tit later I was losing the will to continue. If we’re going to see a YbW on the marsh then it will have to do so by chance…I’m giving up chasing shadows.

Apart from my fool’s errand I did get a chance to pop my head over the banks of No.6 tank and saw the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper joining up with 5 Ruff and the usual ducks which appeared to lack any counts of Wigeon?

Observer: WSM.

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04.10.16. Birdlog

04-10-16-common-snipe-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-3I decided to try for Yellow-browed Warblers along Brook Furlong Lane and headed down there early via the coffee shop as usual. I was heartened to see the first Redwing fly over calling as I walked back to the car. The wind was a fresh SE2-3 and the sky clear blue. Surely the marsh would give up something. After all, we were in the middle of one of the biggest eastern vagrant periods in recent years with hundreds of Yellow-browed’s throughout the country. I parked up at the old log and got ready for a short vigil whilst sipping the coffee. A trickle of Meadow Pipit and the odd alba Wagtail went over calling high up, heading south. Two Swallow hugged the tree tops as they too headed for warmer climes. I wandered down towards Redwall reed bed and the field below the log, straining my ears for the high-pitched call that would give away the position of a Yellow-browed Warbler, but despite straining really hard, there were none to be found, despite Hale and Pickerings boasting birds on the other side of the Mersey for their second day.

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There were a few bits and pieces around. 4 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, an immature Marsh Harrier and 8 Common Snipe, two of which flew over eastwards, the rest flushed from the wet field. Interestingly the photos of the birds showed one with a very pale underwing and one with a dark, heavily barred underwing. Anyway, pressed for time, I headed off back up the M56… but like Arnie, I’ll be back!

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

02.10.16. Birdlog

02-10-16-great-crested-grebe-cheshire-bill-morton-2

02-10-16-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-7After missing out on the Black-necked Grebes on the River Weaver yesterday I took the early morning opportunity to get a second chance. Walking along the edge of the field below the south banks of No.1 tank passing Redwall reedbed and climbing up the dewy laden banks of the Weaver Causeway I was greeted by an almost mirror-like river. If the grebes were to be found then I wouldn’t have any difficulties in seeing them…Unfortunately they were not available for a viewing and apart from a few Great Crested and Little Grebe…I drew a blank. Anyway, such is birding, you either connect or you don’t!

The best part of looking out across the river in the early morning was the fine light and images I managed to achieve with my box brownie digital compact.

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I eventually made my way over to No.6 tank where a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was feeding closely along the edge of the muddy margins. my time birding was limited so AC took over for the rest of the day.

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Observer: WSM (images 1-4 & 6).

02-10-16-pink-footed-geese-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-alyn-chambers

02-10-16-curlew-sandpiper-juv-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-cheshire-bill-morton-7I started this morning with a watch from the corner of tanks 3, 5 & 6. A quick look over No. 6 revealed 7 Pink-footed Goose which flew off to the south. Over the next two hours there was a small movement of birds with 36 alba Wagtail, 22 Meadow Pipit, 21 Skylark and 5 Reed Bunting heading south and a flock of 38 Pink-footed Goose flew north. Also seen during this period were the female Marsh Harrier, a female Merlin, a Sparrowhawk, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Golden Plover and a Great White Egret flew up from Frodsham Score with 5 Little Egret. In the nearby trees were a Cetti’s Warbler, 2 Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff.

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02-10-16-marsh-harrier-frodsham-marsh-alyn-chambersAt midday a juvenile Little Stint was briefly on the mitigation area before moving on. No. 6 tank held 7 Curlew Sandpiper, 15 Ruff, 20 Little Grebe and a Great Crested Grebe.

Observer: Alyn Chambers (images 5 & 7-8).

On the lane opposite the Pump House going towards Kemira woods. I stopped briefly when I spotted a Hare and then noticed a Wheatear on the verge.

Observer: Ron Brumby.

01.10.16. Birdlog

01-10-16-ruff-and-green-sandpiper-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1

01-10-16-marsh-harrier-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1The day started off fairly well with the female Marsh Harrier flying through from the west stopping briefly to put the frighteners on the ducks present on No.6 tank. Soon after the first signs of rain were felt smattering the optics and the beginning of almost continuous lens clothe wiping began.

01-10-16-curlew-sandpiper-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-3-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-bill-morton-3

01-10-16-mna-looking-over-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonThe waters of No.6 tank were covered with ducks and they were soon joined by a couple of Curlew Sandpiper which were struggling to find somewhere firm enough for them to settle. The Curlew Sands were relocated some time later on the mitigation pools with a third bird alongside 17 Black-tailed Godwit. We were briefly joined by Merseyside Naturalist Association’s field trip to the marsh where they enjoyed the calidris plus a Sparrowhawk perched on a dead tree while ducks swam about it unconcerned. Other birds seen included: 15 Grey and a single Golden Plover, 20 Dunlin, 10 Common Snipe and 6 Black-tailed Godwit.

At the west end of the tank the conditions for some species were a little more favourable with 15 Ruff keeping company with 6 Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. A gathering of 25 Alba wagtails were actively engaged feeding while a Grey Wagtail flew over.

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Generally passerine passage was steady with another 45 Alba wagtail, 25 Skylark, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 30 Swallow and numerous Meadow Pipit could be seen/or heard as they passed overhead. There was a smattering of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest with a male Blackcap along the hedgerows and isolated elder bushes. A substantial flock of 300 low aerial feeding hirundines were mostly House Martin with some Swallow

A Kestrel that was perched up on a pole on the banks of No.5 tank was seen to cough up a pellet (see image).

Earlier AC had already done a watch from the Marsh Farm and some of his sightings are listed. We both had a go at watching from Marsh Farm and the Weaver Sluice gates where we found: 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, several hundred Dunlin and a Little Egret. There was plenty of birds out on the mudflats but the rain clouds rolled in again and viewing became a burden so we retreated back to the car and existed stage left.

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Above image as seen from the marsh, Runcorn’s contribution to the world…an incinerator!

Observers: Alyn Chambers, WSM (all images).

As mentioned earlier the MNA field trip to the marsh continued after they left us. Soon after sheltering from the (at times heavy) rain they continued to the Weaver estuary and discovered two Black-necked Grebe on the river there. They also saw a Peregrine devouring a pigeon, so a good day all round.

Observers: Alexander Mansfield and MNA.