19.03.17. Birdlog

A walk around No.6 tank this morning starting off from Godscroft Lane where a Chiffchaff was calling by the M56 bridge and a flock of Curlew passed overhead. A mixed flock of waders were on  the mud on No.6 and featured Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Redshank, Curlew and a small amount of Dunlin with 3 Avocet. The ducks were in good numbers with Common Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a few Pintail were all noted .

The mitigation area pools held more Black-tailed Godwit and a single Ruff with more Shoveler and Common Teal on the water there. A flock of Raven were tucking in to the Sunday Spring lamb dinner and holding their own against the Great Black-backed Gulls. A walk along the footpath to view the Whooper Swan herd of which there were 20 grazing with a flock of Black-tailed Godwit feeding alongside them.

On the flooded field were c300 Golden Plover sat with the Lapwing flock and were then joined by more godwits and Curlew.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

We spent the morning walking the trails around and through Delamere Forest with the prospect of dropping in at Yeld Lane by the former Eddisbury Fruit Farm. The Waxwing flock that have been present for some time were close to the road flying in from the poplars trees to the west of the farm. I estimated that there were 45 birds although there have been nearer to 170 birds in the week. Watching the flock through the hedgerow for 30 minutes was good value until a big female Sparrowhawk dropped by and scattered the punkettes.

Understandably most of the birds left the area with a few left to guzzle up the fermenting fruit laying on the orchard floor. Just before we left the “kyow” calls of a Mediterranean Gull drew my attention to a pair overhead and giving me the unique view of flying Waxwing and Med Gull in the same binocular view.

We continued our walk via Linmere Farm where there were 3 Crossbill flying overhead and these or another group could be heard flying over Black Lake an hour later.

Observers: Sparky & WSM (images 5-7).

18.03.17. Birdlog

Despite the weather forecast predicting a series of periodical rain bouts until 3.00 pm. I decided I should try a long yomp along Brook Furlong Lane to Marsh Farm and then circumnavigate my way around to No.4 tank. I would then trek down to Lordship Lane before retracing my steps and then along to No.3. I would finally stop off at No.6 and then walk back to my car along Moorditch Lane. That was my plan but soon after setting off the rain started to fall, so casting a fist skyward to Zeus I carried on (it continued raining until the following day). It’s not always wise to ignore the weather and by the time I had finish my walk and wrung what birds and my cuffs from the day’s watch I was persistently unsatisfied!

Now that I have purged myself from the rain I can sit here and write about my day. The walk along Brook Furlong Lane produced 3 Redwing in the horse paddock which were on their way out and freshly arrived in was a singing Chiffchaff.

The River Weaver had a few Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe and some Tufted Duck while the pipes across No.1 didn’t have the expected Wheatear. In fact Marsh Farm and its flooded pool only managed a solitary Little Grebe.

The Peregrine was perched up on the blue topped chimney and the mudflats out on the estuary appeared to have numerous Curlew and Dunlin scattered about. The Raven hoard were still picking the spoils of Spring from the heavily laden bounty in the fields. A Common Buzzard looked miserable as it perched up on a post with all its feathers dripping off rain droplets.

A look over to Frodsham Score included a few Pink-footed Goose, Little and a Great White Egret were spotted in between the rain prisms pitted on my object (or should that read abject misery) lens. It was difficult to keep my optics free of rain today I had forgotten to bring a lens cloth. The hem of my polo shirt was initially the only dry cloth I could use and by the end of the day even that wasn’t dry enough.

Walking between No.6 & 4 I reached the ramp track and looked out over the blue slurry tank in the fields of Lordship Marsh and the 20 Whooper Swan were emerging from behind the hedgerows. The fly tipping I mentioned last week at the top of the ramp track has increased with a fresh load of hedge/tree vegetation dumped. I really hope these idiots get what’s coming to them.

The walk back via No.3 was rewarding in that a selection of ducks have taken up temporary residence on the mitigation pools. Common Teal are pairing up and several pairs of Gadwall, Shoveler and 7 Pintail were being very attentive to each other.

As I have mentioned earlier the constant rain was making the use of my telescope and binoculars redundant. I had one last attempt at shielding my glasses, bins and scope from the rain and I set up behind the bank on No.6 which acquired some protection with the rain now at my back.

A flock 121 Black-tailed Godwit included some stunning rustic coloured plumaged birds. A roost of 200 Redshank flew up when they got spooked and with them was 78 Golden Plover. There was 9 Avocet feeding between the 230 Common Teal present. The Tufted Duck flock had just a single Common Pochard for company.

A day that had potential but the weather gods were not on my side. I did manage to see some pretty decent birds for my troubles but frustrating when you’ve been looking forward to a days birding at the weekend.

Observer: WSM (images 1-5).

A Common and Green Sandpiper were on the pools at Ince and 40 Mute Swan were along the Holpool Gutter. There was 2 possibly 3 Marsh Harrier over No.4 tank. A pair of Stonechat were also along the Manchester Ship Canal  and on the way back to my car there were 20 Little Egret feeding near Ince Berth before going to roost.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 5-7).

13.03.17. Birdlog

A last hour after work this afternoon from Ince to the Holpool Gutter. The usual suspects were on the pools with the addition of a pair of Greylag Goose and a Green Sandpiper. A Chiffchaff was calling from the hedgerow and a pair of Reed Bunting were claiming their territory nearby.  Out on the salt marshes a pair of Oystercatcher were also making a territorial claim. The 20 Whooper Swan flock have joined forces with the Mute Swan herd and were feeding alongside the gutter. A Marsh Harrier was seen over No.4 tank and a Peregrine was watching over the marsh from its tower at the Growhow Works. Back by Ince Berth the Little Egret group was dropping in to roost but were hidden by the foliage making a count difficult. A small bat spp was hawking over the pools.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-2).
A very brief visit after work and a walk along Moorditch Lane to the mitigation area on No.3 tank featured a few Chiffchaff singing along the way. There were plenty of Common Teal feeding close to the reedy daisy stalks where 20 Common Snipe were hiding out. Tufted Duck and Common Pochard were settled further out in the open water and a Great Crested Grebe was fishing. A gathering of 150 Golden Plover and 4 Ruff were the only waders of note.

A Cetti’s Warbler throw out a snatch of song from deep in the thickets.

The pools on No.3 tank had Common Teal, Shoveler, Pintail and a flock of 22 Golden Plover. Raven were drifting south at dusk with a minimum of 35 birds countered.

Observer: WSM (images 3-4).

11.03.17. Birdlog

The fresh breeze wafting across the marsh from the south-west brought out the songsters today and for the first time this year many birds were in full voice. Walking along the track between No.s 3 & 6 tanks the air was filled with the melodic tunes of Skylark. A Cetti’s Warbler gave a burst of song above No.6 and a Chiffchaff added to the mix.

I made my way to watch the incoming tide on the river but it wasn’t high enough to move much from its shoreline and most of the birds were distant. However several hundred Curlew were along the edge of the salt marsh where Wigeon were riding out the channels.

The Allan Wilson gun turret positioned on the banks of Frodsham Score which survived the might of the German Luftwaffe succumbed to the full force of Storm Doris and was lifted off its base.

The skein of 300 Pink-footed Goose with far away across Ince salt marsh. A small number of Little Egret occasionally popped up out of the gutters and an even briefer view of a Great White Egret was the reward for all my efforts.

I retraced my steps to the main track and headed out to Lordship Lane. A Chiffchaff was singing from the reed bed while a male Stonechat flew up from No.6 and another was on No.3 tank. There was a small passage of Pied Wagtail which had dropped in to feed. Overhead the calls of Siskin could be heard.

A huge pile of fly tipped leylandii cuttings and an old dilapidated shed dumped at the top of the ramp makes you question the sanity of these idiots.

I continued my walk and took the Cheshire countryside restricted byway to look at the Whooper Swan herd present in the fields by the M56 motorway. There were 20 birds including a juvenile. A couple of Mute’s were in the flooded field where 8 Ringed Plover were busy chasing each other and two Ruff were more sedate.

Whooper Swan video here: https://vimeo.com/208026369

Walking back the way I came I bumped into Alyn and we continued our walk back to the mitigation pools. The place was almost full (for a change) with Shoveler, Common Teal and Pintail.

Although the water level is frustratingly high there were still plenty of birds to watch including a party of 10 Avocet. Ruff numbers reached 15 and a flock of 200 Golden Plover were wheeling above attempting to find a suitable spot to pitch down on. A flock of 30 Black-tailed Godwit and some Redshank were the other contenders.

Most of the 230 Common Teal were feeding in the daisy stalk and reeds where the water had flooded further into the tank. Shoveler numbered 90 while Pintail were scattered everywhere today but in small numbers. The Tufted Duck flock reached 50 birds while Common Pochard mustered 10. We were walking back when all of the teal rose from the water and through the swirling melee emerged a fine adult Peregrine. The falcon’s target was not any ducks but the large numbers of Wood Pigeon feeding in the shrike stubble fields by Hares Lane. We couldn’t see if the raptor was successful but it caused quite a commotion.

A small flock of Redwing were along the hedgerow by Brook Furlong Lane and the Marsh Harrier put in an appearance.

Observers: Alyn Chambers, Frank Duff, Matt Gillet (images 8 & 10 & 12), WSM (images 1-7 & 9 & 11).

10.03.17. Birdlog

Out this afternoon starting at Ince where the pools held the regular pair of Mute Swan with both Mallard and Common Teal also present. A small flock of Chaffinch had a couple of Reed Bunting and a party of Long-tail Tit for company as they made their way along the hedgerows. The Manchester Ship Canal had a large number of Tufted Duck and Gadwall on the water with a single Great Crested Grebe in its summer plumage. There were 38 Mute Swan in the field alongside the Holpool Gutter and a pair of Marsh Harrier which were pair bonding high up above the turbines over No.4 tank.

Several Little and a Great White Egret were out on the Frodsham Score. The Raven and Black back-gulls were looking well fed alongside the dead sheep left to rot on the salt marsh. The mitigation pools were busy for once with Shoveler, Common Teal, Mallard and Pintail. There was also a dozen Golden Plover one was in summer plumage and these were then joined by a pair of Avocet and a single Black-tail Godwit. The water levels on No.6 are still high with no waders seen but plenty of ducks feeding in the daisy beds. Those that were present which were made up of Shoveler, Common Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Common Shelduck and Common Pochard.

The flooded field along Lordship Lane and the junctions of 4 and 6 tanks had 4 more Mute Swan and a pair of Ringed Plover. A pair of Stock Dove was prospecting one of the owl boxes there. Raptors included Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were all seen on or over the banks of 4. A pair of released Red-legged Partridge vacated the lane to fly over the bank. Back by Ince Berth and a flock of 22 Little Egret were seen going to roost in the same trees as last year.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

09.03.17. Birdlog

A fine sunny day and the lure of the marsh after work was too more to refuse. I trundled down to the marsh with my old pot hole defying car front coil spring replaced.

Walking along Moorditch lane I met another birder who told me he had just seen a couple of Stonechat and a male Blackcap along the track on No.5 tank. As he departed a Cetti’s Warbler started to sing from the thickets alongside the ramp track. No a bad start to the evening watch. Continuing along the lane I set up my scope looking north over No.6 tank where the low sun was much easier to observe the birds. A large raft of Black-headed Gull were bathing on the water before they left for the estuary. A flock of 250 Dunlin were joined by 6 Avocet, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Ruff, 34 Golden Plover and a small number of Redshank.

A couple of Marsh Harrier were quartering the reed beds and later one was perched half way up a reed stem on the edge of the northern banks where a gathering of Common Shelduck and Mallard were curious by its presence. The Raven numbers were filtering south from the direction of Frodsham Score and one stopped off to give one of the harriers a bit of grief.

Ducks were engaged in pair bonding or nuptial displays and apart from the commoner species there was also still Pintail, 300 Common Teal and 8 Common Pochard.

A group of 500 Starlings past through while a Merlin shot over the daisy beds disrupting the roosting waders.

The herd of Whooper Swan were again beyond the blue slurry tank fields close to Hillview Farm.

Observer: WSM (and images).

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.

manchester-great-grey-shrike_edited-1
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.

c6p1smqwuaajsnj
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.

c6p1sjrxqaay7r0
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).

06.03.17. Birdlog

There has been some development regarding the Otter today. A few birders gained access to the model aircraft field where the Great Grey Shrike was showing today. The birders walked along the edge of the main ditch that crosses Lordship Marsh. A couple of dogs which were pets of the model aircraft flyers/Hovercraft members found an Otter on the bank and the persons present said the animal was in poor health with shallow breathing. Another Otter presumably a mother or an attendant juvenile was swimming in the ditch alongside and was reluctant to leave the sickly animal. After sometime the RSPA were contacted but the outcome from that conversation is presently unknown per Patrick Earith.

Making my way to the marsh after work and I walked along Moorditch Lane with a misty eye gazing wistfully down on the culvert where the Otter was present yesterday.

I bumped into Paul and Greg by the ramp to No.5 tank and we had a birdy chat for a while. After saying au revoir Greg left and Paul and myself watched over No.6. The water filled sludge tank lacked the vast expanse of snoozey mud that was so attractive to the big Dunlin flocks over the few weeks. Today a small cluster of Dunlin were squeezed into the edge of the only exposed mud and the dried out daisy beds. A few Ruff and Redshank were keeping the Dunlin company. While out on the water there was a handful of Common Pochard and Tufted Duck were noted. The big flock of Common Teal were very much reduced in number.

After Paul departed I headed back to my car but not before pausing to watch a female Merlin sat on a post on No.5 tank. At one stage it bolted from its perch and flew low to the ground. It had obviously something in its line of sight but I couldn’t take my eyes off the falcon to see what it was chasing. It veered at the last moment before hitting an earthen bank and then attempted to claw something out of a hole in the bank. A nearby Carrion Crow took umbrage to the presence of the Merlin and harried it away from the quarry.

The walk along Moorditch Lane would have been uneventful except for an obliging Kingfisher that flew a few feet ahead of me as I walk beside it in the ditch.

Observers: Greg Baker, Paul Ralston, WSM (image).

05.03.17. Birdlog

05-03-17-otter-female-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-ron-brumby-1

05-03-17-otter-female-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-john-gilbody-2As I was a passenger with Sparky driving her car west along the M56 this morning. I spotted the herd of Whooper Swan which were again present close to the blue slurry tank on the marsh.

That would have been the highlight for my birding day if it wasn’t for Ian Igglesden texting me a message around midday. He had just been shown…an Otter! It had been present alive in a culvert in a ditch beside Moorditch Lane. I eventually made it to the marsh and arrived and met Shaun O’Hara, we had a brief chat before he headed off to see the shrike. I was looking forlornly at the vacated culvert standing in a steady drizzle without binoculars and occasionally glancing up to see a distant group of birders enjoying the Great Grey Shrike. I had resigned myself to the big dip! Just as desperation gripped I received a mobile call from Iggy. Shaun had telephoned him and asked if he would rely a message to me stating that the Otter was refound and that I should look up the lane were Shaun was standing waving his hands! This was my second unexpected tick of the weekend and to boot the shrike was hovering over the field like a drone aka a drone shrike.

05-03-17-otter-female-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-10

05-03-17-otter-female-moorditch-lane-frodsham-marsh-john-gilbody-3The Otter was asleep on the top of the bank but every so often it would lift its head to peer around. It was obvious that it had a problem opening its eyes but otherwise appeared healthy. The animal eventually stood up and gamboled away out of sight into a ditch between the fields. Apparently a Manchester birder had first spotted the Otter swimming in the ditch adjacent to the ramp track to No.5 tank but it some settled on the banks close to the culvert. It would often enter the culvert and occasionally fall asleep on the reedy covered bank below its watching admirers.

Observer: WSM.

Otter video 1 below by Ian Igglesden here:

 

Otter video 2 by WSM here: https://vimeo.com/207007427

11-02-17-bar-tailed-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-6

A watch over No.6 tank produced c200 Black-tailed Godwit which flew in and landed and I was delighted to pick out 3 Bar-tailed Godwit amongst them. This was my second Frodsham Marsh tick of the day! They were present during 11.30 – 12.30. Two flew back out to the estuary with 150 of the Blackwit’s before I left but one flew and landed much closer with the remainder of the flock. There were 2 Avocet, c30 Dunlin, c30 Redshank and a pair of Pintail.

A Chiffchaff was calling a lot from the bank and then showed in the bushes. No song was heard.

Observer: John Spottiswood.

Additionally there were 780 Golden Plover over No.3 tank per Mark (Whipper) Gibson.

Davis Wilson’s Great Grey Shrike video here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/532171363504043/#

The Great Grey Shrike was again present on the field beside Hares Lane and drew in many birders from far and wide and it was good to see people enjoying this very showy bird.

Dave Craven’s Great Grey Shrike video here:

 

Images: 1 by Ron Brumby; 2 & 4 by John Gilbody; 3 & 5 & Otter 2 video by WSM.