04.02.17. Birdlog (Part 2)

04-02-17-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3There 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.

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dsc_2935Continuing 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.

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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.

04-02-17-black-tailed-godwit-flock-noAlthough 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).

04-02-17-dunlin-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-204-02-17-lapwing-no-6-tank-frodsham-bill-mortonThe 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.

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04-02-17-raven-in-blue-sky-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1My 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.

04.02.17. Birdlog (Part 1)

04-02-17-whooper-swans-holpool-gutter-ince-marsh-fields-paul-ralston04-02-17-whooper-swans-rake-lane-helsby-marsh-paul-ralston-1Another day another walk and again around No.4 tank. I starting from Ince from early afternoon. The Mute Swan pair are still present on the new pool at Ince and accompanying them was a Mallard and Common Teal with 3 Grey Heron nearby. There were Great Tit calling along the hedgerow and good numbers of both Blackbird and Song Thrush feeding on the ground. A pair of Common Buzzard was displaying in their roller coaster display flight. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and a huge mass of Lapwing and Starling tacking to the air as a Peregrine rose high up on a thermal but made no attempt to pursue them. The Lapwings were numbering c2-3000 birds with c1000 Golden Plover joining them. Out on Frodsham Score and the Ince salt marsh were 5 Little Egret were amongst the Canada Goose and Common Shelduck flocks.

04-02-17-merlin-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston04-02-17-little-egrets-lordship-marsh-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonA Merlin sat on a piece of driftwood and was keeping an eye on the Starling flocks while Common Buzzard and Raven were on avian patrol. At the junction of No’s 4 and 6 tanks a pair of Little Egret were at the far edge of flooded fields with a flock of Curlew feeding close by. At the junction of Lower Rake Lane and Lordship Lane the  Whooper Swan herd of 11 birds were grazing with another nine mixed in with the Mute’s and Greylag Goose alongside the Holpool Gutter.

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Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

03.02.17. Birdlog

03-02-17-waders-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralston-2An early finish from work and a stroll around No.6 tank this afternoon. As I crossed the M56 bridge along Brook Furlong Lane on to the marsh there was a Little Grebe and 2 Moorhen were in the ditch along Moorditch Lane. Nearby a party of Fieldfare were worming in the horse paddock field.

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On the waters of the sludge tank were good numbers of duck species including several hundred Common Teal, Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Shelduck, Mallard and then a few Mute Swan sheltering from the cold wind below the steep tank sides. The Black-tailed Godwit were feeding knee-deep in the water in the centre of the tank and closer to the north bank. The Dunlin were huddled on the edge of the mud and were soon joined by a steady stream of birds leaving the salt marshes out on the estuary as the tide came in. The Golden Plover lead the way and with them came Redshank and Curlew. A Common Buzzard flew low over the roosting birds scattering them willy-nilly but they soon settled down again and resumed their slumber.

03-02-17-waders-frodsham-score-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonA look over Frodsham Score from the banks of No.4 produced several Little Egret. There were many Raven along with even more Common Buzzard still enjoying the bountiful supply of dead lamb and mutton chops. A huge mass of shorebirds could be seen snaking along the river edge and a flock of mixed black backed gulls were resting on the salt marsh.

The Whooper Swan herd has now moved much closer to the Growhow plant and were seen in the distance from the junction of tanks 4 and 6. A flock of c50 Pied Wagtail fed on the mud at the south end of six. More Curlew were feeding alongside Lordship Lane and its marsh while Raven flocks could be watched passing overhead on their way to roost.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

01.02.17. Birdlog

28.11.14. Lapwings and Golden Plover, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)There was an opportunity after work with a weather window giving me enough time to do a bit of birding on the marsh. When I arrived on site the sun was sliding downwards and the clouds were rolling in giving brief periods of sunlight before the Moon and Venus took centre stage.

A few Fieldfare were in the hawthorn bushes alongside Moorditch Lane on arrival and looked like they were readying for the night ahead. The Starlings were moving through in small flocks and headed east.

On No.6 tank a gathering of c900 Lapwing were busy jostling for the best and safest positions within their roost group. Associated with the plovers came a couple of hundred Golden Plover, c1000 Dunlin and a single Little Stint. The Black-tailed Godwit flock were keeping out in the middle of the tank but with the failing light and southerly wind (producing back views only) it was nigh on impossible to pick out the Bar-tailed (even if it was there?). A small flock of 30 Redshank and a solitary Common Snipe were attached loosely to the roost. Everything appeared calm and serene with the waders (for a change) and the comforting peeps, squeaks and krrr calls coming from the roost was enough for me to pack away my bins. The settled quietness of the diminishing light was suddenly snuffed out when a Merlin flew in overhead and ignited a wader bomb, birds were hurling themselves in panic flocks. A good section of the godwits exited stage right to the comparative safety of the estuary (godwits never seem to have the bottle to stand their ground). The Dunlin used a more tactical approach and kept a low-key position and literally kept low in to the ground. I don’t know the outcome of all this drama because I never saw the Merlin again, but it was an impressive spectacle.

In the last of the evening embers a sub-adult Marsh Harrier flew in and dropped into the reed bed while above an unkindness of Raven wearily headed to the Welsh woods for the night.

Observer and image: WSM.