There was a chilly breeze with beautiful clear blue skies that greeted me on my arrival to the marsh today. I parked up and wandered along Moorditch Lane pausing to watch the mixed Fieldfare and Redwing flock feeding in the flooded horse paddock adjacent to the M56 motorway. The steady sound of rumbling tyres on tarmac didn’t seem to bother the thrushes at all but they did keep their distance from me.
Continuing my walk along the lane I had the intention of making my way along Lordship Marsh to Lower Rake Lane to take in the Whooper Swan herd that Paul Ralston spotted yesterday, but I got waylaid. A big female Peregrine flew from the direction of No.6 tank and while I was fumbling to extract my camera from its bag she staled briefly (as if to mock me) overhead. My fumbling attempts to fix my 300 mm lens to the camera body, was typically too late! She carried on flying into the blazing sun but banked and settled on top of a pylon in the field opposite. I hastily set up my telescope mounted on its tripod and fired off a few frames (via the attachment on my lens/camera/scope aka digiscoping) at the falcon. This was a really big bird and in her talons was a small wader which I presume was a Dunlin? Feathers were literally flying as she plucked her victim for brunch.
As I was saying, my walk got sidetracked so I had a change of plan and popped over the bank of No.6 tank and watched the birds which were settled on/or beside the open water below. Ducks were as you would expect very much in evidence. There were 124 Shoveler, c450 Common Teal (mostly sunning themselves on the northern edges) and only handfuls of Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pintail and Gadwall. The Common Shelduck started to fly in from the estuary on the rising tide at dusk.
Although the Black-tailed Godwit flock have been present for most of the winter I haven’t really given them much attention. I made a conscious effort to check them for colour ringed birds and most were sleeping or feeding in thigh deep water. I did manage to spot one particular bird revealing its colour banding which I’ll let you know its details as and when I get them. One particular bird was showing signs of body moult into breeding plumage on the underparts. At the southern reedy fringes an unfortunate lone individual was feeding sedately away from the main flock, on closer inspection it had a broken droopy wing.
The two Bar-tailed Godwit appeared to have left but they reappeaed from their slumber within the mass of roosting godwits later in the day. I would guess these two birds are spending the winter on the tank (which is unusual for the species away from their coastal habitat in Cheshire and Wirral).
The birding highlight was the volume of Dunlin present today and there was easily c2500 birds present for most of it. A couple of Little Stint were energetically leading the way along the edge of the northern shoreline. The Lapwing flock was comparatively small compared to the c2000 I could see murmurating high over the fields on Ince Marsh. A flock of c1500 Golden Plover dropped in to join the Lapwing on the tank and two or three were beginning to show some black belly feathering. 111 Redshank pulled in at least 6 Ruff which have been frequenting Lordship Marsh flooded fields for most of the winter.
Looking to the west across to the dried up daisy beds and 30 Meadow Pipit flying about attracted a Merlin which fortunately stayed away from the waders for a change. Common Buzzard do make the occasional foray across the water and although they do cause most of the birds (particularly gulls) to rise into the air their presence doesn’t bother the ducks and waders too much concern. The sub-adult Marsh Harrier was hunting the secluded pool area at dusk and a steady stream of Raven cronked their way south after spending most of their time tumble diving over the north banks of six.
My fingers were a colour purple with the cold when I packed up for the day. As I walked back to my car I contemplated on the day and a good 7 hours birding behind me, which was definitely worth the effort. A fine selection of species and some really great views of some really great birds.
Observer and images: WSM.