A Great Grey Day – Frodsham Marsh

Frodsham Marsh is by far and least the Holy Grail of Cheshire birding. With one of the highest lists of any site in the county and an incredible 261 species recorded. The likes of Lesser Scaup, Whiskered & Gull-billed Tern, Collared Pratincole, Wilson’s Phalarope along with Stilt & Sharp-tailed Sandpiper to name just a few. It is no wonder why it was the birding ground for a young Cheshire birder by the name of Martin Garner. Taking into account the epic site that Frodsham Marsh is, it’s strange knowing that I’ve only ever made four visits to the site and something which I do feel a little ashamed about.

Whilst out on a mini tour of North Wales with my birding buddies, Luke Anderson & Tom Wright, we got a call from mum saying that she’d received a notification from ‘BirdGuides’ saying that a Great Grey Shrike had been reported at Frodsham Marsh!? For those who are unaware, any shrike species in Cheshire is very much a MEGA! In the last few years there’s only been two records of Great Grey Shrike in Cheshire. The first being at Moore LNR near Warrington in 2007 and the 2nd being at Frodsham Marsh in 2016, where funnily enough a Red-necked Grebe was also present, which I missed both due to illness.

Great Grey Shrike – Little Woolden Moss, Greater Manchester (My 1st encounter with this species)

Having already added Great Grey Shrike to my British Life List last November, an extremely showy 1st winter bird present on the Cheshire – Greater Manchester border at Little Woolden Moss. So with me still needing an overdue visit to Frodder’s not forgetting that I needed this as a Cheshire tick and with Tommy & Lukey needing the Shrike as a life tick! it was all set in stone for a meet up at the marsh the following day at precisely 10:00 am.

Arriving at our rendezvous there was no sign of Tom so we decided to give him a bell to only find out that he’d somehow managed to end up at the completely opposite end of the marsh, despite being given not only the post code for the rendezvous point but also a screen shot of where and when to be. As little Tommy was now on a fresh set of instructions Mr Anderson & I advanced towards the site. The weather in the area in question was what can only be described as the most dull & depressing rain imaginable that not just dampened our mood but washed away all hope of making a successful connection with the bird.

The bird was at best a scoped one, but didn’t stop us from attempting a handful of record shots in the rain

After a good 20 mins later the pair of us came to the viewing point with local birders Frank Duff, Ian Igglesdale & David Haigh who kindly pointed us in the right direction and sure enough it was an instant Cheshire tick for me and a Life tick for Luke, but where was little old Tommy? Well he really did deserve to see the bird after all of this as he was now at the other wrong end of the marsh, but after a frustrating period of guiding him round the marsh he eventually found his way to us and finally saw the Shrike. Shame he wasn’t around  earlier otherwise he wouldn’t of just seen the shrike much closer, but we would have had the honour and privilege to view an OTTER which was sat right out on the bank only a couple of metres away from the road from which we walked along to get back to the station.

Think I’ll have to pass on digi-scoping the next twitch I go on

We would have loved to have spent more time with the bird and explored more of Frodsham Marsh but sadly due to the weather we unable to do so and we had to call it a day. Grant it’ll probably hold title for worse twitch of 2017, but the action was quite over yet as on the train back down to Chester I was casually peering out of the window just seeing what was about. I had the standard Buzzards, Crows, Wood Pigeons etc. But something which I wasn’t expecting to come across was a Green Woodpecker flying not just in close proximity but parallel to the train that resulted in Luke getting his second lifer of the day and me scoring a train tick! 

ggs-frodsham_edited-1Here it is folks, my best shot of the Great Grey Shrike taken with a combo of Canon 70D & Canon 5.6 400mm

Thank you for taking time to read my post but let’s not forget to praise the finder of this magnificent bird John Donagh. You can read all about his priceless discovery with more (and better) images here on the *Frodsham Marsh Bird Blog*

 Thanks for reading,

Elliot Monteith (and images).