A few hours to spare this afternoon and my obvious choice was to spend it watching the waders on the muddy edges of No.6 sludge tank. When I arrived all the birds were gathered in the centre of the mud and were some distance away. As is sometimes the case and without any obvious reason all the birds exploded from their roost and shot off in all directions. I know enough about these birds to know they are frequently disturbed by marauding raptors that frequent the marshes. After 20 minutes all the birds returned and resettled to feed, bathe and roost on the bare ground. The majority of shorebirds were Dunlin and during the course of my watch their numbers fluctuated between 1-3000 birds. Eventually the feeding birds fanned out and made their way from the main flocks and edged closer to the banks where I was watching from.
One of the first birds to lead the way on feeding forays from the main flock is the petite yet robust and pioneering Little Stint. Today there was just the two 1st winter birds left from Saturday and typically bullying Dunlin that got in their way (Little Stint are a personal favourite of mine).
It was obvious the big tides out on the river over the weekend encouraged a few additional species to linger longer on the sludge tanks. Apart from the feisty stints a Grey Plover hooked up with several hundred Lapwings on the waters edge. A flock of 250 Black-tailed Godwit were positioned further out on the southern edges of the tank. A splinter group of these birds chose the margins of the north bank a little to the left of my position. I carefully walked along the track so as not to flush the Common Teal that are usually a flusher species. Both the teal and godwits weren’t bothered by my pressence so it was easy to look through their numbers. I was surprised to find a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit (presumably one of which Alyn saw two days ago?) preening knee-deep in the water and giving some excellent views. A group of 32 Redshank were nearby nervously bobbing their heads, so I made a point of not getting too close and retraced my steps to watch from my original position.
Video of Bar-tailed Godwit here: https://vimeo.com/199791779
I have mentioned previously that ducks are bread and butter birds here on the marsh and today was no exception. Common Pochard were again with Tufted Duck at the east end of the tank and numbered 39 and 68 respectively while Shoveler have increased with 120 birds. Pintail and Mallard were keeping to the centre of the tank and Common Teal were again in their hundreds. I could hear a Pink-footed Goose yapping in flight in the distance but couldn’t locate it. About half an hour later it circled the tank before dropping in for a wash and brush before heading out to the estuary.
During the course of the afternoon the shorebirds were becoming more agitated and unsettled so when the sub-adult male Marsh Harrier flew across the open water this was too close for comfort for most of the Dunlin. The whole flock rose up and flew back to their main feeding grounds on the River Mersey.
The Peregrine I mentioned at the start of this post was very attentive to the huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover out on the salt marshes and it frequently forced thousands of plovers into panic flocks high above Frodsham Score.
Passerines were fairly low-key and the Raven groups were enjoying a late winter sheep offal bonanza, while 9 Fieldfare and a roving tit/crest group were along the elder bushes by the track.
I made a brief visit to Milner Street in Warrington prior to visiting the marsh this morning to catch up with the Waxwing flock there. When I arrived the birds were sat on top of a tree at the entrance to the car showrooms then flew out to the berry-bearing trees at the main junction. A nice little diversion as I dipped the one’s in Liverpool last week.
Observer video and images: WSM.