Old Tom the Birder (27.02.17)

Les Baird, Hubert Sinar, Tom Edmondson and Frank R Horrocks “Do you know, Dave?  Today has been one of the greatest days of my life.  Thank you for arranging it.

These words were at the end of our last face-to-face conversation on June 9th, 2009, on the occasion of the naming of the hide overlooking the top end of Pengy’s Pond at Pennington Flash in Tom’s honour. Family members and a small group of Leigh Ornithological Society devotees had gathered to share in a moving, long-overdue and deserving act of recognition of the pioneering work of Tom Edmondson who sadly passed away on February 27th (2016) at the age of 93.

Two days after the naming ceremony, the late Lesley Richards wrote a very fine account of the day under the headline ”Hide at Flash named after Conservationist” in the Leigh Journal, and three short extracts from her article deserve to be repeated at this time. They are:-

By Lesley herself –

“Leigh’s ‘father of conservation’, 86-years-old Tom Edmondson, has been honoured. The former New Hide at Pennington Flash has been renamed Tom Edmondson hide and was unveiled by the pioneer himself on Tuesday.”

Tom Edmondson

My contribution was –

“It’s no overstatement to say that Tom’s pioneering spirit makes him the father of conservation, not just in Leigh, but for the borough as it is now. His contribution to alerting people to the importance of the Flash as a wildlife haven was massive.”

And Tom’s own comment, in connection with the aspirational, but short-lived Leigh Field Naturalists and Town Improvement Society (1948-1950), read –

“The scheme was visionary and ahead of its time, and a decade or so would elapse before the movement to establish county conservation trusts became widespread. However, the rich bird life of the Flash had been established and the emergence of a group of like-minded individuals eventually resulted in the formation of the Leigh Ornithological Society. One of the Society’s many aims was to promote wildlife conservation in the Leigh area.”

Tom’s parents, Martha (nee Derbyshire) and James, were born in Wigan, and Tom was the fourth of five sons. He was educated at St. Peter’s School (in Firs Lane) and Leigh Boys’ Grammar School; studied later at Manchester Technical College; qualified as a Chartered Chemist and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry; and thereafter worked as a research chemist to various companies. His marriage to Sheila Cartwright of Bedford was blessed with a daughter, Linda, and a son, Stephen. In his own words, Tom’s non-professional interests were ‘The British countryside and its flora and fauna. Particular interests in Chat Moss, the birds of the South Lancashire flashes and in the conservation of prime sites.’

With regard to the beginnings of the local conservation movement, my brief account of over thirty years ago in ‘Birds and Birdwatching at Pennington Flash’ still holds true:-

“The earliest landmark in a history of continuous concern by local naturalists was on 29th September, 1938, when Tom Edmondson (while still a student at Leigh Grammar School) persuaded three other young men – Wilf Cartledge, Tom Durkin and Frank Horrocks – to consider the formation of a local association (to be named the Firs Lea Naturalists’ Association), two of its objectives being “to study and record the natural history of the Leigh district” and “to promote the preservation of the local countryside.”

Uppermost in the minds of these pioneer conservationists was concern about the future of Pennington Flash. The 1939-45 War brought about an end to the ‘association’, but did not dampen the enthusiasm of Tom Edmondson, who motivated interest in the flash and other local sites in his capacity as secretary of the short-lived Leigh Field Naturalists’ and Town Improvement Society (1948).

There was a brief resurgence of local interest in the 1950s, no doubt brought about by concern at the commencement of tipping of refuse by Leigh Corporation and coal waste by the National Coal Board. A public meeting held in Leigh Technical College in March, 1958, and chaired by Dr. Brian Fox of Atherton, heard a strong case for the conservation of the Leigh Flash area, the main aim being “To create an area of undisturbed natural beauty and to provide a centre for naturalists and students of various sciences.”

By this time, Tom had left Leigh for good, but an article of his which appeared in the Journal in September, 1956, in response to a proposal to introduce hydroplane racing on the flash, concluded with a paragraph which was both visionary and a template for those who have continued the conservation struggle until the present day. Under the subtitle “Much Abused Region”, it reads –

“Local citizens would appreciate it if local councils were to show awareness of fundamental problems by publishing, for all to see, a full development plan for the district. In such a plan, if civilised ideals are to survive, it is necessary that ‘green belts’ should be clearly defined so that the abuses which have continued since the war and which threaten to increase may be checked. Among other things the future of Leigh Flash should be assured, and it should be confirmed as a nature reserve where sailors, anglers, naturalists and countrylovers exist peacefully. When that occurs we may have hope for a much abused region which has long been one of the Cinderellas of an industrial country.”

In a short note about the time he lived in Cheshire since 1957, Tom mentioned that his main activity was now botany, and included intensive studies of plant distribution in the parishes of Frodsham and Helsby and then, following the family move to Chester, of Flintshire and the eastern part of Denbighshire. In the Botanical Society of the British Isles publication ‘Dandelions of Great Britain and Ireland’ (1997), his contribution was recognised in the Acknowledgements with the statement –

“Foremost among the workers in the British Isles has been Tom Edmondson, who, despite ill-health, has made an important and original contribution to the study of the dandelions of North-West England.”

This praise would have been accorded Tom on account of his commitment to botanical studies in general and to his identification of two new species of dandelion – Taraxacum nigridentatum (Edmondson) and Taraxacum edmondsonianum.

In recent years, Tom took a keen interest in identifying the moths which came to his garden trap and, throughout his half century of birdwatching in Cheshire, he maintained a great fondness for Frodsham Marsh, a dedication recognised in an entry in the Frodsham Marsh Birdblog of December, 2013. Under the title ‘Old Tom the Birder’, Bill Morton wrote –

“Many years ago there was an old chap who used to visit Frodsham Marsh and would regale tales of his early birding visits to the marsh and many other sites (mainly Pennington Flash) in the North-West. Tom was a proper old school birdwatcher and he would raise an eyebrow if I ever called him a ‘birder’. One thing Tom had was time to spare and share his love of birds and birdwatching. I’m a sucker for such things, especially those pioneers of Cheshire birding in the years following the end of WWII. Tom was a generous old man and would kindly give me copies of photographs and documentation from the marsh during his pioneering days here.”

Throughout his lifelong interest in natural history, Tom Edmondson was a prolific writer whose style and vocabulary suited any occasion, be it notes on bird recording, letters to newspapers, descriptions of treasured sites, tales of memorable past events, or whatever was required to please the reader. His output, chiefly between 1942 and the 1990s, included contributions to the North Western Naturalist (14), the Field Naturalist (3), Country-Side (16) and the Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley Journal (42). With such a vast collection of interesting material, I propose to use a few of the most memorable extracts to allow Tom, in a way, to use his own words to conclude my article of profound appreciation and admiration.

On submitting records to the County Bird Recorder, when often only numbers and dates suffice, an account of two races of Redshanks at Astley Flash in 1958 reads –

“8 believed “Icelandic” (‘robusta’) sleeping together with several active ‘britannica’ a few yards away for comparison. Seen in bright sunlight at thirty yards with steady 30x telescope. White nictitating membrane closed. Appeared a little bigger and bulkier than ‘britannica’, but this may have been because they were hunched up in sleep. Plumage, under conditions of observation, perceptibly different – upper parts much darker brown, bill dark red at the base, remainder greyer than ‘britannica’ with smoky grey flanks and breast much more heavily streaked and darkly marked. Only flew when disturbed. April 20th.”

Part of the chronological account in ‘The Spring Migration of Wagtails and Hirundines in South-East Lancashire” illustrating committed recording and a huge change in the local status of wagtails in the past half century –

1951. April 8th: gale force W. wind. 1 White Wagtail with 10 Pied Wagtails on Chat Moss. At Leigh, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 1 Chiffchaff. Also 4 Wheatears at Leigh and 23 on several mossland fields. These migrants may have been “grounded” by the wind strength or may have been deflected from a preferred coastal route April 9th – 14th: cold, bright cyclonic weather, gale force on the 14th. April 15th: strong southerly wind. At Leigh, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Sand Martins and 2 Swallows. April 16th: W. gale. 2 Yellow and 2 White Wagtails, several Swallows moving north across the strong wind. April 17th – 25th: fine, warm and dry, anticyclonic with light variable winds. During this period, Swallows and Sand Martins were moving north continually in small numbers or small flocks; a mixed party of 80 halted at Astley on the 20th. 2 Swifts appeared at Leigh on the 22nd – the earliest record for the district.

Although the weather was obviously suitable for migration, both kinds of wagtails were constantly at both flashes. Feeding conditions at Astley were exceptionally good and there were two peaks in numbers there on April 20th (45 Yellows, 12 Whites) and April 24th (124 and 34). On both these days there were halting flocks of hirundines. On the rich feeding grounds at Astley some 20 Pied Wagtails fed regularly during this period. These were nesting in the district and when approached too closely they flew away in various directions. Migrant parties of Meadow Pipits were similarly attracted.

April 26th – 29th: strong, cold northerly winds with rain. Wagtail migration was retarded and their high numbers remained constant; on the 27th, many were sheltering from the wind behind tussocks of reeds. There were “build-ups” of Swallows and Sand Martins. As is usual under such conditions, they were fly-catching and flying upwind very low over the flashes. May 1st – 3rd: light SE winds, mild.. Rapid decrease in wagtail population at both Leigh and Astley. No obviously migrating Yellow Wagtails were seen after May 3rd: there were about 25 breeding pairs at Leigh and 15 at Astley.”

On a late summer walk with members of the fledgling Leigh Field Naturalists across part of Chat Moss in 1948 –

“Even more people went on the early September meeting, probably because the mosslands were unknown and intriguing. About thirty folk walked from Astley to Glazebury across the moss, seeing such new birds, at least to some of them, as Turtle Doves, Whinchats, Wheatears and Corn Buntings. Attendances remained high during the society’s first year and the future seemed secure.” 

In praise of a site at Gathurst and a local poet (Leigh Journal, 3rd September, 1948) – “Dean Wood not only has a rich plant and bird life, but, because of its situation in the valley, has an intrinsic beauty of its own. It has captivated many country lovers, but perhaps none more so than Arthur Hodson, who dwelled there for several years and described his experiences in 1,300 lines of verse.”

The opening lines of his first poem, “My cherished woodland memories”, are a fitting introduction –

“It may have been a glacial torrent
That carved, through rock, a bleak ravine
And Nature’s healing hand had fashioned
An Eden from the cheerless scene.’
Truly an Eden, a hidden gem of beauty near a wilderness of industry.”

A short extract from a Leigh Journal article on 14th November, 1947 –

“Every year, in nature’s inexorable way, vast numbers of Redwings from Northern Europe and North Asia seek the milder climes of the British Isles and the North Mediterranean countries. This year, I heard that welcome sound, so full of mystery, over Leigh on October 17th, which is also the average date for eight years. The following evening there occurred one of the greatest migratory movements that I have ever known. Above the glare of the brilliant lights, great multitudes were flying south-west and, during lulls in the traffic’s roar, their calls were distinct but ignored by the crowds below. In the quieter reaches of the town they could be heard continually.”

Movingly bemoaning the destruction of a much-loved place, from “Astley Flash: A Lost Bird Haunt” in the magazine Country-Side (1970) –

“For many years Astley Flash gave considerable pleasure to birdwatchers. Unfortunately, coal production was increased after re-organisation of the industry and the spoil was tipped into the flash at an increasing rate. I re-visited the site after a few years’ absence and found little left. I walked over the vast new tip where the flash lay buried and tried to visualise the teeming life of previous years. All was silence and death as if a primeval monster, regretting its act of grace, had devoured its own fair child. Even avoiding all sentiment, I felt that I was witness to a crime which ought not to happen in a proper society.”

In the closing lines of two of the last letters he wrote to me, reminiscing about two sites which are still being developed as wildlife havens. Of the Bickershaw complex – “ … a haven for a young lad who was fascinated by the countryside – as he is still”: and of the mosslands – “I must make an effort to look over Chat Moss again. A good day on Bedford Moss or Woolden Moss was as joyous as anything that I have enjoyed in the wilds of Scotland.”

And, finally and fittingly, the closing lines of Tom’s loving account of his spiritual home from his last article for the Leigh Journal in 1954 – “Leigh Flash in the Spring” –

“In future years, when flicking through the pages of memory’s notebook, I shall always remember the spring of 1954 and the sight of thirty-odd exquisite Black Terns floating and swinging in the air against a background of colliery headgears and mill chimneys. Perhaps, however, I shall recall those things which belong more permanently to Leigh Flash – an elegant White Wagtail hurrying along Sorrowcow Creek and Swallows arrowing to and from their nest in the barn, elusive Sedge Warblers scolding the intruder from the depths of the reeds, or clamouring Redshanks on the west shore, unheedful of miners cycling homeward along the cinder path. The last birds I saw at the Flash before returning to the Metropolis were three young Lapwings – little, animated blobs of down, cheeping and tottering on tiny legs. That is what I preferred, since it is the birds which make the place their home which belong there most.”

In concluding my words of appreciation for a dear friend, I need to mention that Tom’s superb photographic collection, along with copies of his writings, will now be lovingly catalogued and made available to a wider audience when/if the proposed Leigh Archive opens in the Town Hall. As our “Father of Conservation”, his contributions towards the town and its surroundings will occupy its rightful place alongside those other daughters and sons deserving of recognition – good, ordinary folk in company with the more well-known – Alfred Wilkinson VC; James Hilton, the author of “Goodbye Mr. Chips”; the world of music’s Tom Burke (the Lancashire Caruso), Georgie Fame and the recently-departed old boy of Leigh Grammar School, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music; and countless others from many fields, not least in sport during peace-time and in other activities during war-time.

As for the future, Tom would surely wish that more people would become personally involved in the struggle to protect and conserve our countryside and its wildlife, especially at this time of great uncertainty and when important decisions are made by those who care little or nothing about our natural environment. Total reliance on one or two committed diehards in the L.O.S. and those of professional conservation bodies is certainly not an option. Perhaps our greatest collective tribute to Tom would be for many of us to follow his example of skilful observation and recording; determining the degree of dependence by individual species on specific habitats; emphasising the importance of retaining and enhancing certain sites; and using the acquired information to challenge, verbally or in writing, the cavalier attitudes and decision-making which might destroy even the smallest parts of our cherished wildlife surroundings. There is no doubt that there will be a few successes, but more likely many disappointments as the pressures mount on finding ways and places to accommodate an ever-increasing population.

The pleasure in what might be achieved through individual involvement in local conservation will often involve a degree of wistful looking back to earlier times, and this was captured by Tom in a short article from 2006, where he welcomed the creation of the Pennington Flash Country Park, but with a moving reference to earlier days :-

“The flash became a new Country Park in 1981 but before that the splendid east reed bed and the equally fine south-side marshland east of Sorrowcow Creek had been tipped on.
The main water is still there but no longer can you stand on the eastern shores, far from habitations and people, in an autumn dusk and listen to garrulous wild ducks from afar as they cross the moon and pitch gratefully into the welcome reed beds.”

‘The Conservation of Pennington Flash: Early Considerations’
Tom Edmondson C.Chem. F.R.S.C.

Written by David Wilson

David Shallcross


Member of Wigan MBC’s  Greenheart Forum &  Bickershaw Steering Group.

Delegate to Wigan Borough Environment & Heritage Network.  &  Trust in Leigh

Pennington Flash User Group and Pennington Flash Volunteers 

Leigh O.S. website      Leigh O.S. young birders group     Leigh O.S. on facebook

Pennington Flash Flickr site        Bickershaw Flckr site     Lilford Park Flickr site

With many thanks to David Wilson and David Shellcross for their permission to include this article in the Frodsham Marsh Birdblog. WSM.

19.02.17. Birdlog

19-02-17-mediterreanean-gull-and-black-headed-gulls-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2A collective group of sightings from the marsh today starting with a watch over Frodsham Score where 200 Pink-footed Goose were seen to land on the salt marsh. There was also a movement of Grey Plover disturbed by the tide and a sighting of a Great White Egret.

Observer: Frank Duff.


I made my last visit to the marsh after work this week and met Alyn on the banks of No.6 tank where he was on his way home but stopped long enough for a brief chat. I’ve included some of his sighting within this post.

A seated position on the steep bank was hard work with a tripod that had a life of its own and responsible for a few choice expletives from me. The duck situation appears to be back to its usual routine…that is, fluctuating. The rare visitors spotted yesterday were conspicuous by their absence. For the sake of accuracy below is today’s duck counts from No.6 tank. The eastern end of the tank is favoured by the Tufted and Pochard flock so 31 of the latter and much lesser numbers of the former (20) were duly in their allocated spots. An increase of 18 Pintail and a decrease of 21 Shoveler, 54 Common Shelduck, 331 Common Teal and Mallard were the other players.

19-02-17-dunlins-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-13black-tailed-godwitA couple of thousand Dunlin continue to throng together with small groups fanning out from the main body to feed. Likewise the Black-tailed Godwit (including a new colour ringed bird per AC) flock did the same while 3 Bar-tailed Godwit could be picked out easily by their pale overall plumage. One of the Dunlin was attaining its full breeding plumage (AC) and there was just a single Little Stint jostling for its space within its bigger cousins roost. Nearby there was 15 Ruff occasionally joining up with the feeding Redshank.

19-02-17-marsh-harrier-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2As the evening started to draw in the first of two Marsh Harrier were performing their ritual bonding flight and could be seen for 30 minutes over the reed beds.

19-02-17-mediterreanean-gull-and-black-headed-gulls-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1An adult partial summer (white ringed) Mediterranean Gull dropped into bathe before heading out to the estuary for the evening. Another adult was watched flighting to roost with a big flock of Black-headed Gull about 20 minutes later.

Observers: Alyn Chambers (image 4), WSM (images 1-3 & 5-6).

18.02.17. Birdlog

18.02.17. Dunlin, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonI came through Stanlow on my way to the marsh today and I watched a pair of Peregrine displaying over the oil plant works which wasn’t not the best of backdrops for such a fine species. I parked by the pig farm at Ince where a small flock of Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew fed in the fields near to the new pools. The pools had Common Teal, Mallard and Gadwall with a pair of Mute Swan which appear to have taken up residence ere. Onwards to the Manchester Ship Canal path and again several hundred Canada Goose with a few Greylag Goose present on the cut. Sharing the waters here were more Common Teal, Gadwall and Mallard. The drake Mallard are looking in their best plumage at the moment and the females are appreciative of their finery.


18-02-17-raven-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonThe numerous black-backed gull species and Raven were all tucking in to the trendy salt marsh lamb on the score, while several Little Egret added a note of sophistication. A skein of c300 Pink-footed Goose dropped in from the south and landed on Frodsham Score adjacent to the Mersey side of the Holpool Gutter.  The mitigation pool on No.3 tank had a number of Common Teal, some Shoveler, Common Shelduck and Mallard with a few Redshank and Black-tail Godwit. A huge flock of Dunlin were on No.6 tank with a smaller flock of godwit and redshank. The flooded fields at the junction of No.4 and 6 held more Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and 2 Ruff with 4 Mute Swan in the fields at Lordship Marsh. The Whooper Swan group could be seen in the distance near the M56. The Mute Swan herd minus their Greylag companions were alongside the Holpool Gutter. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker were in the wood near the incinerator plant and the Rook were gathered alongside their nests in the rookery.


Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-4).

It was my turn to work this weekend so come the end of day it was with relief to spend the rest of it (until sunset) watching some really great birds. It was good to bump into Paul on the banks of No.6 tank and watch the build up of 5000 Dunlin crammed together like passangers in a Japanese bullet train. There were very few of them (Dunlin that is) venturing out from the main body to feed but the Little Stint were not with them, although they were reported earlier. A look through the c200 flock of Black-tailed Godwit included two colour ringed birds (details to follow) and a solitary Bar-tailed Godwit. A light in flight movement of Lapwing and Golden Plover featured birds in the low hundreds for a change and 15 Ruff and 134 Redshank were nice fillers.

18-02-17-5-scaup-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonI started a count of the Tufted Duck flock which were slightly out of my vision to the eastern end of the sludge tank and became difficult to see. The Shoveler flocks eased out from the banks and the tufie’s were encouraged to follow in tow. The Common Pochard were again numbering 26 birds but it was surprising to find 5 Scaup within their midst. A species that hasn’t been a regular visitor to the marsh over the last few years.

Video of Scaup here: https://vimeo.com/204800645

The wader flocks were getting agitated and every so often they would wheel up and produce some fine aerial displays but the cause of their distress eluded me.

A male Merlin was perched on the fence line across No.5 tank but I’m sure its intentions were mainly for the Sturnus types.


All in all not a bad tally for the after work slot and another fine sunset to round off the day went down nicely.

Observers: Mick Turton, WSM (images and video 1 & 4-7).

18.02.17. Peregrine, Runcorn railway bridge. Bill Morton

The Peregrine was again sat by the heraldic shield on Ethelfleda railway bridge across the  River Mersey and the Nordic Jackdaw was still coming in for scraps at the boating lake at Park Road, Runcorn today (WSM).

16.02.17. Birdlog

16-02-17-dunlin-and-turbines-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-416-02-17-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonI’m filling my birding boots this week so this evening saw me sentinel like perched on the banks of No.6 tank. The clouds were threatening to close in during the day and by tea time they had and the light wasn’t at its best. Despite this there was plenty of activity on the sludge tank below with c500 Lapwing, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 43 Black-tailed Godwit, 80 Redshank, 15 Ruff, 470 Golden Plover, 3 Little Stint and c1000 Dunlin but interestingly they all chose to stay in their specific groups.

16-02-17-black-and-a-single-bar-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2As dusk approached 90% of the caldris flew out to the estuary and the godwits followed suite with the Bar-tailed for company (positioned centre top on above image).


Ducks were again less conspicuous but Common Pochard have started to increase with 32 birds just about outnumbering the Tufties. There were a few each of Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard and 270 Common Teal which were all clustered beneath the south banks.

The sub-adult Marsh Harrier dropped in at dusk while both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk chanced their arm (or wing) at the Starling flocks passing through on their way to the bridge.

Raven were again numerous and gorging on the plentiful supply of sheep and lamb carrion. A short empathetic delivery from a Cetti’s Warbler sounded the last post for bedtime.

Observer and images: WSM.


february-2017-waders-and-hale-lighthouse-shaun-hickeyA few gloomy wind-swept images taken by Shaun Hickey from the WeBS count on Sunday last. The above picture is of Dunlin flying out to the Hale side of the River Mersey.

february-2017-swans-and-turbines-on-no-4-tank-from-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyA flock of swans head out to the marsh from Frodsham Score.

february-2017-lapwingsfrom-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyLapwings disturbed from their resting grounds rise up over the fields of Stanlow.

february-2017-ince-berth-shaun-hickeyThe turbines with Ince Berth alongside the Manchester Ship Canal.

february-2017-pink-footed-geese-from-frodsham-score-shaun-hickeyA skein of Pink-footed Geese string along the sky above the Mersey Marshes.

All images by Shaun Hickey.

15.02.17. Birdlog

15-02-17-little-stints-and-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-215-02-17-ruff-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonAnother and much welcomed after work birding session on the marsh. Again I selected the viewing area above the north banks of No.6 tank where a gathering of 347 Golden Plover had joined up with the roosting Lapwings. surprisingly the Black-tailed Godwit flock had departed the area apart from a small number tucked away in a corner of the tank. Ruff numbers have increased with 13 birds present and a flock of 240 Dunlin had 3 Little Stint for company.


15-02-17-common-teal-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4A flock of 32 Tufted Duck also saw the return of 20 Common Pochard. A drake Wigeon, 24 Shoveler, 7 Pintail and 50 Common Shelduck were typically low in compared to their usual counts.

A Water Rail was calling from the reed beds below and a steady trickle of Raven were moving south at duck.

The arrival of an unseen raptor at dusk forced all the shorebirds from their sleep and they wheeled around the tank for several minutes. Eventually they resettled after the threat had subsided and an element of calm fell over the marsh.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (and images).

13.02.17. Birdlog

13.02.17. Little Stints, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe days are getting longer and the time available after work is also getting much better to linger longer. I arrived with a day of full sunshine backed by a cold north-east wind. The evening sunshine was just as good but most of the birds had departed post high tide earlier in the day. The gathering Golden Plover and Lapwing flocks were jockeying for the best spots to settle for the night while a bunch of 215 Dunlin and a couple of Little Stint were still busy feeding below my watch point.

13.02.17. Bar-tailed Godwit. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA distant flock of Lapwing and 100 Black-tailed Godwit had an attached Bar-tailed Godwit sitting it out on the peripheries. Fortunately for all of those concerned there wasn’t any duskly marauding by the resident Peregrine.

13.02.17. Golden Plovers and Lapwings. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Duck numbers were again very low with a pair of Tufted Duck, 7 Pintail, 13 Shoveler, 78 Mallard, 98 Common Shelduck and c400 Common Teal being present.

13.02.17. Sunset and turbines, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Kestrel was hovering illuminated by the setting sun while a female Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the reed beds before retiring for the night and Raven were abundantly ubiquitous.

Observer and images: WSM.

12.02.17. Birdlog

10.02.15. Whooper Swans and Sheep, Ince Marsh. Bill Morton (1)I was off birding duty today but it didn’t stop me from rubbernecking the Whooper Swan herd close to Hill View Farm as we sped west along the M56 this morning.

Observer and image: WSM.

The high tide brought in 3 Little Stint, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1100 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Ruff, 1500 Dunlin, 2000 Lapwing (various spots across the marsh), 150 Golden Plover, 100 Redshank, 250 Common Teal, 15 Pintail and 6 Shoveler.

Observer: Frank Duff.

11.02.17. Birdlog

11-02-17-bar-tailed-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-11It was quite a contrast weather wise from last weekend with a bitterly cold north-east wind cutting through my fleece/padded jacket combo today.  The first bird on my arrival this morning was virtually (apart from a Robin) the sub-adult male Marsh Harrier. The harrier was spotted flying from my right, over the track before flipping down the north bank of No.6 tank and finally flying over the heads of the pre-tide roosting shorebirds. That wasn’t a bad start to my birding day and it reappeared a couple of times during the day sparring with a few Raven over the reed beds.

11-02-17-dunlin-flock-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-711-02-17-bar-tailed-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1The build up of waders during the rising tide on No.6 was again an impressive spectacle.  I wanted to get out of the wind chill so I edged ever the bank carefully to avoid disturbing the birds below. I settled on a prepared shelf on the bank and sat and waited for the birds to get accustomed to my presence. It didn’t take too long and the Dunlin were busily feeding and patrolling closer to my position. A sleeping flock of c100 Black-tailed Godwit (some containing breeding plumaged birds) looked sedated with an occasional eye-popping open to check on things. It took quite a while before the bunched up flock parted enough for me to pluck out a Bar-tailed Godwit from their number. It was also a great surprise to find another 7 birds hiding away. This is the largest group of ‘barwits’ to have been recorded on the sludge tanks and I really wasn’t expecting to see that today! Paul joined me and I managed to share the experience with him.

11-02-17-dunlin-flock-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3The Dunlin flock were also tightly bunched and it was hard to estimate their number? A model typhoon jet appeared over the tank from the direction of the ‘adults playground’ in the fields to the south. The entire flock scattered and rejoined to form their usual mesmerizing murmuration over the water. This gave me an opportunity to make an estimated count of c6500 birds. Meanwhile one of the staple species, the Lapwing were hidden below the southern banks with 330 Common Teal and were protected by the sight of the flying toys and thus avoided being flushed.

11-02-17-dunlins-and-golden-plovers-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonAfter the Dunlin have resettled the Golden Plover flocks started to arrive on cue. The plovers circled the area for some time before settling with the other birds and contained some attaining their handsome summer dress. I guess there was c570 birds present but they were very nervous and didn’t settle for too long.


A peculiar deformed (hair grip) shaped bill tip of a Back-tailed Godwit today.

Golden Plover and Dunlin video here: https://vimeo.com/203602533 and a video of both Bar and Black-tailed Godwits here: https://vimeo.com/203614084 

A solitary Little Stint was present during the tide period and was elusive (for a change). The only Ruff noted was initially with the godwits but soon joined a flock of 230 Redshank engaged in feeding.

11-02-17-bar-tailed-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3I briefly mentioned Common Teal earlier but generally it was a very poor showing by ducks. The species total was below the usual collection with Tufted Duck and Common Pochard being completely absent. The counts included: 89 Shoveler, 43 Mallard, 24 Pintail, a drake Wigeon, 114 Common Shelduck and 2 Gadwall. A couple of Little Grebe, 12 Mute Swan and a wayward Greylag Goose were the only other additions.

A bloated deceased sheep on No.5 attracted the attention of 35 Raven to the carcass and numerous other corvids were hanging on the wind over the banks of Frodsham Score.11-02-17-raven-no-3-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton

Observer: WSM (images 1-8 and videos).


I spotted the Marsh Harrier which was again in the reeds near the ‘secluded pool’. A flock of c200 Pink-footed Goose were grazing in the fields near the blue slurry tank and 22 Whooper Swan were also nearby with a couple of Little Egret alongside ditch.


Observer: Paul Ralston (images 9-10).

05.02.17. Birdlog

05-02-17-yellowhammers-alvanley-paul-ralstonA Short-eared Owl was out along the Gowy Meadows this morning. A flock of c20 Yellowhammer were also at New Pale Lane by the water works at Alvanley.


Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

Frodsham Marsh Birdlog

A late afternoon 10 km walk from Moorditch Lane out to the Growhow Works and back via No.4 tank to view No.6 at sundown.

The walk from Moorditch and along Lordship Lane was fairly uneventful but a couple who were walking ahead may have flushed whatever was lurking in the flooded fields alongside the lanes. It wasn’t until we reached the ramp of No.4 that a flock of 58 Curlew left their feeding area and decamped in fields where the motor sports activity had been busy earlier. The churning up of the flooded fields must have exposed food for these birds?

The fields close to the works had a herd of Whooper Swan yesterday but they were not to been seen there today. We walked along the track to the Holpool Gutter and a small group of Mute’s were busy bathing there. A scan of the Ince Marsh fields revealed where the Whooper Swan herd had relocated and 18 birds were gathered at the far end of the fields. It pays to persevere at this game.

The distance from the works alongside No.4 and back between 3 & 6 tanks remained bird free apart from a steady stream of 5000 Starling heading to Runcorn Bridge. On arrival at my favourite viewing area above No.6 the sound of Golden Plover filled the air all around and the setting sun was splashing colours across the cloudy sky. It was at this moment a Peregrine chose to strike at the roosting wader flocks down on the tank below. It was similar numbers to yesterday but this time in technicolor the whirling masses of c3500 mixed Lapwing, Goldies and Dunlin were even more spectacular. The Dunlin in particular appeared like a pulsating ball of energy alternating in size, shape and colour and like an old friend once said “stroboscopic in their alternating flight”. The Peregrine left empty clawed and the mayhem soon settled down and apart from the peewits calling in the gloom it was a long walk with a reward at the end (at least for me).

Observers: Sparky, WSM.