With a gap in the westerly airflow due to a transient high pressure system over the UK, I headed west as I do most weekends, via my usual coffee shop stop of course. Having downed a frothy latte I headed for Marsh Farm to overlook Frodsham Score. It was a gloomy sort of day with a light south-westerly breeze and high grey cloud. It was so dark by 2.00 pm that I struggled with even basic bird photography.
No.2 tank next to the farm had a huge flock of Lapwing present, around 3,000, with about 300 Golden Plover mixed in with them. While at the farm, two wildfowlers were stood talking and I got into a conversation with them both. One of the guys showed me some bird rings that he’d found on some shot Canada Geese and mentioned that whenever he finds a bird with a leg ring he sends the details to the BTO. They also said that they didn’t agree with shooting waders which I found was positive to hear. I carried on and flushed a Common Sandpiper (see image at bottom of post) which flew off silently. This is one of the five or six wintering birds between Frodsham and Hale, on this part of the River Mersey today.
I did a few counts. 46 Coot, 5 Great-crested Grebe, 4 Pochard, c150 Tufted Duck and 18 Redshank. A small flock of Tufted Duck flew overhead and I rattled a few bursts of my Canon camera at the flying ducks. When I looked at my images later, one bird was flying upside-down! I’ve never seen any ducks do that before, amazing stuff!. A Cormorant was sat preening on the grass and had a ring on its right leg but flew before I could scope it. At the Weaver Bend there were 22 Goldeneye which consisted of 4 adult males, an immature male and 17 female/immature. They were settled until a sailing boat came into view and flushed them which then flew out to the Weaver Sluices.
I drove around to No 6 where there were big flocks of waders and ducks. The Raven hoards fed on a dead sheep that lay on No.3 and a count of 30 or so would be a fair estimate. I felt a bit peckish so I stood enjoying my lunch which consisted of soup and sandwiches whilst I looked around. There were birds everywhere. On No.6, Common Teal numbered at least 500, with 60 Dunlin, 400 Lapwing, 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Ruff and a single wintering Little Stint on the muddy areas. Some of the Dunlin were quite long-billed, probably ‘alpina’s’.
A couple of flocks of Snipe, around 80 in total flew around and dropped back in. In addition there was c40 Pintail, 100+ Shoveler and 6 Common Pochard. The light was terrible and it began to get dark very early. A Sparrowhawk flew overhead towards the Score and at sun set, a Marsh Harrier came in to roost on No.6. By dusk there was no sign of any Starling roost so I headed for my roost back along the M56.
Observer and images: Tony Broome.
An image of a Common Sandpiper from today if anyone wants to reidentify it? Eds.