Now that the festive season is upon us it was with relish that my visit to the marsh today was eagerly accepted. I arrived to an overcast sky with a cold wind and poor light conditions, which wasn’t a good start. The reason for my eagerness was firstly, time off work and secondly, birding! It didn’t take too long to get into the full swing of things with the feeding Dunlin flocks relativity close by to the edge of the embankment I was stood upon.
A gathering of 340 Dunlin included 3 wintering Little Stint (pictured above in flight and the three with a Dunlin together pictured below). These birds have appeared over at Pickerings Pasture on a few occasions but it’s the first time they have joined together on this side of the river. A Black-tailed Godwit flock were scattered across the tank and numbered 220 birds with 120 Redshank and a nice total of 15 Ruff. Looking to the north of big flocks of Lapwing could be seen disturbed from thier feeding fields with a rough estimate of 2000 birds. There was a smattering of Golden Plover flocks moving around as well.
Little Stint video here: https://vimeo.com/196965719
The ducks were again gathered close into the bank due to the cold westerly blow with the exception of 121 Common Shelduck which braved the centre of the open water. Common Teal reached 331 birds with 12 Tufted Duck flighting in, 31 Common Pochard, 6 Pintail, 3 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 67 Mallard and 70 Shoveler were already in situ.
Birds of prey were very much in evidence and included a couple of Peregrine perched up together on the blue topped chimney at Weston Point. There were 2-3 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and a female Sparrowhawk. A 2nd winter male Marsh Harrier was seen briefly carrying prey before it dropped out of sight into the reed beds on No.6 tank. This was an interestenly plumaged bird with a pale barred tail and rump, chocolate-brown upper parts creamy head and lapels and two-toned wing pattern. It eventually reappeared and was seen leisurely quartering the area an hour later.
The usual male Stonechat was on No.5 tank while the Raven assembled on an unseen carcass on the tank. Stonechat video here: https://vimeo.com/196967657
I paid a visit to Runcorn bridge at dusk to see if I could locate any early white-winged gulls but despite not seeing any. I did manage to see 3 separate Peregrine and a murmuration of c1000 Starling gathering to roost on the girders below the footpath there and slightly above a roosting Peregrine (see image). The Peregrines included two on the bridge and a third perched up on the Deck housing units close by.