17.12.16. Birdlog

17-12-16-little-stint-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-9A peek out of the kitchen window first thing this morning and a blanket of fog was laying overhead. Sometimes you have to question the gods for their weekend weather choices. Nevertheless, I persevered and headed down to the marshes for the high tide and my day early WeBS count.

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On arrival at No.6 tank it was evident that the fog on the marshes was present only along the Weaver valley and out onto the Mersey estuary. This did change later when it extended out onto the marsh and beyond to the M56.

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17-12-16-grey-heron-and-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1I set up overlooking No.6 from the northern banks. The late morning/afternoon light was causing a few headaches but the volume of birds were well worth the effort. Ducks were back to their winter best with an incredible 43 Common Pochard, 130 Tufted Duck, 23 Pintail, c600 Common Teal, 56 Mallard, 2 Common Shelduck, 10 Gadwall and 2 Goldeneye. 12 Mute Swan were lingering in the eastern side of the water.

Shorebirds were also back in numbers and a Little Stint joined 1000 Dunlin spending the high tide here along with 2 Ruff, 130 Redshank, 25 Common Snipe, 200 Lapwing, 300 Golden Plover and 560 Black-tailed Godwit. A short video of the feeding Dunlin here: https://vimeo.com/196115498

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A fine male Stonechat was again in the area of No.5 tank from my previous visit while the Raven hoard were still bothering the Common Buzzards on the fence line above the deserted mitigation area. A Sparrowhawk was harrying the Goldfinch flocks while a couple of Kestrel looked on.

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Not a brilliant day compared to Dave’s tally from across the water, but it did have an atmospheric effect a tad like Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’

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Observer: WSM (images and video).

A Marsh Harrier and 5 Ruff were spotted by Keith @warringtonmoon .

11.12.16. Birdlog

11-12-16-tufted-duck-with-one-flying-upside-down-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeWith 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.

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11-12-16-stonechat-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeA male Stonechat perched up on the wires along the track and a pair were watched washing in a small pool near the white pipes.

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.

11-12-16-goldeneyes-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeI 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.

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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’.

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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.

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An image of a Common Sandpiper from today if anyone wants to reidentify it?  Eds.

10.12.16. Birdlog

10-12-16-female-merlin-manchester-ship-canal-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-410-12-16-little-stint-and-waders-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-1Walking out from Ince this morning and the lane from the pig farm which on my last visit was crawling with winter thrushes. Today there was only a handful of Blackbird and Song Thrush with the hawthorn hedges now stripped of all their berries! A few nest boxes have been placed in the trees along the lane and a screen has been built along the ditch overlooking one of the new pools which presumably will be shot over? The pools held a few Mallard and Grey Heron with a flying Little Egret overhead.

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On to the Manchester Ship Canal path and 3 adult and 1 juvenile Whooper Swan were in a field close to the berth with a further 5 out on the salt marsh. Several Little Egret and there were a couple of Great White Egret also noted.

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A Merlin shot over the marsh and put a couple of thousand Lapwing and Starling up into the air. On the ship canal were the usual Mallard, Common Teal, Tufted Duck with 3 Great Crested Grebe amongst them. Common Buzzard and Kestrel were hunting in between the turbines on No.4 tank and a Water Rail could be heard in the reed bed.

A pair of Stonechat and a flock of Meadow Pipit were on the canal bank. Later the pipits were the main target for a female Merlin which pursued them with fury before returning back on its favoured perch.

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A small skein of Pink-footed Goose passed high over heading north.  Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank joined together to feed with a Little Stint (top right hand side of wader image). The usual flocks of Mallard, Common Teal, Shoveler, Common Shelduck and smaller numbers of Common Pochard and Pintail.

Goldfinch and Linnet were in good numbers again and a large flock of Chaffinch were in the bushes on the west bank of No.6.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

A Nordic Jackdaw (revisited)

08-12-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-fields-bill-morton-1608-12-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-fields-bill-morton-13A couple of years ago 19th December 2014 to be exact I came across a Jackdaw with pale whitish patches to the sides of its neck and concluded it was a Nordic Jackdaw belong to the form Corvus monedula monedula. I regularly saw the bird in an area parkland off Park Road, Runcorn throughout the winter and into the following Spring. During that summer it was paired up with a Western Jackdaw C. m. spermologus and was even seen attending to a nest site in the chimney of a nearby house. I saw the bird again in late July and then again in the autumn and into the new year of 2015. There were sporadic sightings of the bird again throughout 2015.

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I didn’t have an opportunity of keeping a regular watch on the Nordic Jackdaw from April 2016 but did notice it was still present at the end of November. The bird was again seen into December.

A great opportunity for those observers/photographers interested in seeing this race in Cheshire and getting some excellent photographs. The bird is attracted to food and can be seen down to a few feet.

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The Nordic Jackdaw site is at Park Road, Runcorn and can be seen at the boating lake attracted to bread thrown by families feeding the Mallards or on the nearby playing fields within c130 Western Jackdaws. Grid reference: SJ510815. Nearest post code: WA7 4PU

Video of Nordic Jackdaw here: https://vimeo.com/194849552

Observer and video/images: WSM.

05.12.16. Birdlog

05.12.16. Water Pipit, Town Lane, Hale, Cheshire. Colin ButlerPatch Poaching Carla Lane (aka Carr Lane Pools)

After Tony’s patch poaching at Pickerings/Hale on Saturday (I was otherwise engaged) it was my turn to follow suit. I arrived at Town Lane and parked on the bridge. The flooded fields adjacent to the road known locally by birdwatchers as Carr Lane Pools were frozen and have recently played host to upwards of 5 Water Pipit. A bird that is usually difficult to catch up with on the Mersey marshes and was here for all to enjoy. I was alone and after setting up my telescope and giving the area a quick span I picked up the Peregrine. This bird regularly sits out on the dead trees of the duck decoy across the road on Hale Marsh.

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A few Little Egret were waiting for the water to unfreeze while a very confiding young male Kestrel was unconcerned by my presence. A group of Golden Plover and Curlew flew over disturbed briefly by the Peregrine which flew from the decoy before returning to its perch. The main reason for my off piste patch poaching across the river was to see a Water Pipit. It didn’t take too long before one appeared in the distant grass. Eventually walking through the vegetation and frozen ice to reach the spot where I was standing. A fine male Stonechat popped up on the hedge by the road before heading off to the salt marsh. I was joined during the course of my observation by Colin Butler and after a catch up I said my farewell and then headed south to the mothership that is Frodsham Marsh.

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The reassuring glow from the emitting industry awaited my arrival back on the marsh after a short hiatus. Along Moorditch Lane the winter thrush flocks were still present with the chacking and seeping calls of Fieldfare and Redwing filling the air. A big brutish female Sparrowhawk was working the hawthorn bushes attempting to force hiding thrushes from their safe refuge and causing mass panic with the Scandinavians. With the new arrival of immigrants into the area the raptor tally had increased with notable appearances by both Common Buzzard and Kestrel.

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I made my way to the viewing area above No.6 tank and was surprised to find that there was a large area of un-iced water available for the ducks. 23 Common Pochard outnumbered the only Tufted Duck present by a considerable margin (for a change). 30 Pintail, 2 Wigeon, 110 Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and 400 Common Teal were also on view. A flock of toing and froing Black-tailed Godwit peaked at 260 birds. A few Common Snipe got jittery whenever I shifted my position on the bank but a Ruff was unexpected but expected if you know what I mean?

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The mitigation area was frozen but a  Common Buzzard sat on a post drawing the attention of 5 Lapwing (unusually) repeatedly stooped at it (almost Spring like behaviour).

A roving band of Long-tailed Tit foraging through the shrubby banks included a brief Chiffchaff. Also on the warbler front an equally brief blast of a Cetti’s was there to remind me that it was still in the area.

05-12-16-stonechat-male-no-5-tank-frodsham-marsh-cheshire-bill-morton-2A very engaging male Stonechat kept me company while nearby a flock of 134 Goldfinch dropping down into the grassy fields of No.5 tank had 50 Meadow Pipit for companions.

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I left earlier than normal but the Starling roost was beginning to make it self known to the Sparrowhawk which I had been seen earlier.

Observer: WSM (images).

Image 1 by Colin Butler.

04.12.16. Birdlog

04-12-16-redwing-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome04-12-16-winter-thrushes-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-1After the excitement of yesterday on the dark side of the river I headed for Frodder’s as planned. Stopping off first at the enticing coffee shop and their festive frothy lattes.

I crossed the bridge on Marsh Lane around 09.15 hrs and immediately the hedgerow along Brook Furlong Lane were alive with thrushes, each one vacuuming up the last hawthorn berries. I parked up at the old birdlog at the south-east corner of No.1 tank. The sky was that ice-blue that only a winter’s morning can deliver, enhanced by a usual warm winter sun. I had a look around as I sipped my steaming beverage.

The field on No.1 was covered with Lapwing and a count determined 473 birds with 6 Golden Plover mixed in with them.

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04-12-16-goldfinch-frodsham-marsh-tony-broomeA Pair of Reed Bunting landed in a nearby bush and I scoped them, only to be drawn to the male which had the usual buff bits replaced with grey. It was a striking bird but it flew as I fumbled for my camera but it dropped out of sight and didn’t reamerge.

I have been experiencing a leaky boot for the last few weeks but today I pulled on a new pair of neoprene Wellington’s which were warm and dry. I don’t know why but they actually worked and were obviously an excellent purchase.

I walked across to the I.C.I tank, stopping to look at a flock of buntings. 12 Reed Bunting in various states of plumage, but no frosty grey ones. There were Common Snipe flushed in ones and twos with a much larger flock of 31 at dusk on No.6, the total was a respectable 48. Despite my best endeavours, the willow scrub on the I.C.I tank didn’t produce the wanted Woodcock and I walk back along the River Weaver. 200 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing were the best I could do along with perhaps 50 each of Blackbird and Song Thrush.

There wasn’t much on the river and I arrived back at my car ready for some bagging. I drove up to the Marsh Farm but saw little and turned around to go back to the junction of No.6, 3 and 5. However as I got onto Moorditch Lane, the sky filled with thrushes. A flock of around 400 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing exploded out of the hawthorns and landed on bushes in the motorway fields. I attempted to get some shots on my camera but they were too jumpy to get anything decent.

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04-12-16-common-buzzard-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2I ate lunch by No.4 in the end, overlooking No.3 and 6. Common Buzzard soared over the beds with the odd Kestrel was hovering. I had a look at No.3 but apart from a small party of Lapwing totaling 100 or so, there was little else. It was a glorious afternoon which made up for the lack of variety. The Canal Pools held  20+ Wigeon and a few Common Teal. No.4 was practically deserted. Back to No.6 in the hope that the Starling flocks would arrive at dusk. Raven groups headed inland to roost with 29 passing over me against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset that was blighted by the turbines spoiling the view.

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04-12-16-starling-roost-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-2I stood and waited as the air chilled. The Starling flocks began to arrive about 50 minutes before dark. Thousands swirled around for 30 minutes or so which gave me time to manoeuver myself into a better position and they chose to roost in the phragmites close to the track, only 50 metres or so away from me. The first flock of several hundred settled into the reeds and soon after the rest followed. As new ones came in overhead they’d do a tight turn and throw themselves into the noisy throng below. Time and again I watched the numbers build up until several thousands were sat about half way down the stems below me. The noise was deafening as they exchanged avian gossip on the days feeding sites and then small numbers began to move out to the periphery to roost quietly. I wondered if they would be any raptors about, but none came, so I spent the last fifteen minutes of light looking for any owls on No.5, but alas without success.

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I drove out over the bridge in the dark into a Christmas light spectacular illuminating Main Street through Frodsham centre. Another reminder for me to buy something expensive for the Frodders/Hale birders ‘Crimbo’ as they say across the water.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

Birding the Dark Side!

03-12-16-cormorant-pickerings-pasture-tony-broome25-11-16-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-mortonHaving seen photo’s of a Common Sandpiper at Ditton Brook, that one of the patchers had taken, had been ‘re-identified’ online as a Spotted Sandpiper, I was keen to go and see for myself, not because I doubted the original identification, but because I couldn’t form an opinion or argue for or against without actually having seen the bird for myself (which is always the best way). The photo in question was a relatively poor quality picture of a bird at an odd angle and into the light. So, with a sense of adventure, I headed down the M56 motorway and came off at Junction 12 as I normally do, but turned right, not left and drove towards Runcorn Bridge. It was a struggle. The car’s auto pilot tried to carry on left and I had to fight to get it to veer north across the river. There was also no coffee stop, no frothy latte, no banter with the experts who knew exactly how I liked my coffee in the morning. What was I doing!? I persevered and eventually wound my way around to arrive in Hale Village and having asked for directions, pulled into Pickering Pastures LNR car park. Phew, I made it! No border guards, no visa stamp, no inoculations and not even an interpreter needed. Bill had implied I would expect all of these.

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I headed for the white bridge over Ditton Brook, staring longingly at the tall white turbines in the distance, about two miles across the Mersey,  that marked the position of where I felt I should be on the weekend and at Frodsham Marsh. I stopped and watched some Goldcrest, their tiny size evident as they sat about a metre away. Blackbird abounded and fed on the path and in the leaves under the trees. The wind was cool, a breeze from the east whilst the sky remained gloomily grey, perhaps promising brightness at times but failing to actually deliver. I arrived at the bridge and noticed a couple already on the bridge. Rob and Carol Cockbain, two regular stalwart. We chatted about the sandpiper and local birding and they wandered off back towards the car park. I waited patiently for a sign of a wader, dodging the steady stream of cyclists that had planned their day out along the Trans Pennines Way, and as it happened, me. A few saw that I was trying to wait quietly for a bird and apologized for disturbing the peace and quiet. Most just talked loudly and carried on their way. The tide came in quickly. A nearby Cormorant caught a big flatfish of some description and swallowed it whole in no time.

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03-12-16-peregrine-from-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-7I watched out across the river. A gathering flock of waders fed and preened on the nearest sandbank. 500 Golden Plover, 700 Lapwing and 1500 Dunlin, watched over in turn by a Peregrine on a heraldic shield on the bridge. Dave Craven turned up, a birding friend I’d never actually met in person. Another local birder on the Hale side, who along with Ian Igglesden, regularly gripped us Frodsham birders off with tales of good birds almost every day. As if by magic, Dave declared a sandpiper present on the mud along the brook and we both grilled it thoroughly in an attempt to confirm the original identification as a Common Sandpiper. It wasn’t difficult because that’s just what it was, a Common Sandpiper with all the correct plumage and structural requirements. Job done, we walked back towards the cars where we parted company, Dave heading off back home and me pouring a coffee and munching on my sandwiches.

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I finished the food and walked over to the screen hide where birds fed around the feeders. More Goldcrests. The photograph (image 3) showed one to have black feet and legs, aren’t they usually yellowish? Ian Igglesden appeared and we walked back to get the cars before driving around to Carr Lane pools. Full of birds, I was hoping to see a Water Pipit. There’d been up to five on this site. One called and landed amongst the grass, giving good views as it fed unconcernedly. 5 Little Egret darted about the pools in amongst the Teal. A Merlin perched up on a thin vertical branch, its tiny size evident and a Cetti’s Warbler called and showed briefly from the channel by the bridge. I left Ian there with a couple more regulars and headed off westwards and home, getting lost almost at once and took the long route via the M62. As it happened it didn’t make much difference, around 36.5 miles. Frodsham Marsh was a mere 26 miles.

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It had been a good day and completely different to birding Frodsham Marsh. More people but less traffic noise and a lot more close birds. Birds that you didn’t have to strain to see through a haze in the distance. It does make such a difference. However, a patch is a patch and walking about seeing very little on the south side didn’t seem to matter and as I left I was already mentally planning my route out for tomorrow. Intending to try for Woodcock.

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1 & 3-4 & 6-7.

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The rocky/muddy shoreline below the railway bridge. The heraldic shields often provide a handy perch for a Peregrine (see image 4).

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No Man’s Land as seen from West Bank/Pickerings Pasture Trans Pennine Trail.

01-12-16-views-from-westbank-widnes-bill-morton-4 Looking west along the Trans Pennine Trail to Pickerings Pasture.

Achieve images (2 & 5 & 8-10 ) by WSM.

03.12.16. Birdlog

03-12-16-black-tailed-godwit-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2Walking out from Ince early this morning and a Song Thrush was in full song in the half-light. The lane from the pig farm was alive with winter thrushes striping the berries off the bushes. The new pools were quiet with just 1 Grey Heron and a few Mallard. On to the Manchester Ship Canal path and their were more winter thrushes with Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird competing with several hundred Wood Pigeon in a feeding frenzy.

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Meanwhile on the salt marsh the first of 3 Great White Egret seen during the morning out by the river with numerous Little Egret were also noted. On the ship canal itself were good numbers of Tufted Duck, Mallard, Common Teal and Coot with 2 Great Crested Grebe were on the sheltered waters. Meadow Pipit, Linnets and a pair of Stonechat were along the bank of No.4 tank and a female Sparrowhawk was in hunting mode. The ‘Splashing Pool’ held a small amount of Mallard and Shoveler while the mitigation pools on No.3 had Wigeon and Lapwing.

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Onto No.6 and Black-tailed Godwit and ducks were close to the western bank after they were disturbed by two model plane flyers retrieving their ‘toys’ from the east bank.

There was a decent selection of other duck species on the water with more Common Teal, Common Pochard, Common Shelduck, Shoveler, Tufted Duck Mallard and Wigeon noted.The shorebirds were made up of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Dunlin with a handful of Common Snipe. Along Lordship Lane and a Kingfisher was in the ditch near the junction of 4 and 6.

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The Whooper Swan were again in the fields noted in the previous post and again feeding close to the M56 while further away from the noise were the herd of Mute Swan alongside the Holpool Gutter.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston

01.12.16. Birdlog

23.02.14. Whooper Swanss, Lordship Marsh, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton8 Whooper Swan were back in the flooded fields adjacent to the blue slurry tank on Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Shaun Hickey.

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29-11-16-common-sandpiper-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-5Elsewhere there are wintering Common Sandpipers to be found on the Weaver estuary where there are 1-2 birds present.

Other birds are across the river at Pickerings Pasture scrape, Within Way, Spike Island and Ditton Brook. (images WSM).

A Black Redstart was found yesterday on the Gateway construction site road on Wigg Island.