A bitterly cold morning with periods of sunshine eventually gave way to rain, horizontal hail and a biting arctic blast.
Most of the duck could be found sheltering in the relatively sheltered eastern section of No.6 tank where one of the previous weeks 1st winter Scaup was still residing. A clustered flock of 45 Common Pochard outnumbered the Tufted Duck for a change and the most numerous species was the Shoveler flock numbering 348 birds. The 67 Pintail present could be found in the flooded daisy beds close to the southern edges of the tank with c123 Mallard, 3 Goldeneye and a couple of Fulvous Whistling Duck. Common Teal were in quite low numbers and many of the drakes were performing their nuptial head-tossing display.
Gulls coming into bathe during the mid morning period included a mixture of Herring, Lesser Black & Greater Back backed Gull and 2 adult and a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull. Also present were several hundred Black-headed and c80 Common Gull.
There were 14 Whooper Swan on Lordship Marsh with 23 Black-tail Godwit, Ruff and Curlew. In fields alongside the Holpool Gutter were several Mute’s where skeins of Pink-footed Goose were heading west and one flock was seen dropping onto Frodsham Score.
A Stonechat and winter thrushes were common today with several hundred each of Redwing and Fieldfare tagging along with some Starling flocks roaming the fields and hedgerows. The usual Cetti’s Warbler was calling/singing from the willow thickets on No.5 tank.
Birds of prey were very much in evidence with an adult Peregrine flying over, closely followed by the young female which was carrying a Dunlin she had caught (out on the estuary). The young bird flew purposely to one of the many pylons and commenced to pluck and eat her prey high up, and away from the adult bird. The same or another Peregrine was sat up on the Kamira GrowHow plant at Ince. A couple of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also noted. The young male and female Marsh Harrier were often seen talon grappling high over the reeds during the day and they were joined by a couple of other females later in the day. A Merlin was attracted to all the passerine activity towards dusk but didn’t linger for long.
It wasn’t until dusk that all the real action started with the Starling flocks arriving in dribs and drabs and at one time it felt like they wouldn’t come in this evening. We shouldn’t have worried the main flocks reached fever pitch as the light dropped.
There was no swirling dancing masses of flocks making shapes in the evening sky, just wave after wave of hundreds and thousands descending into one given point. The birds simply decided to drop straight into their roost for the night. We never tire of watching them gather at their roost with each bird clinging to their chosen reed stems until their sheer combined weight collapses the reed bed. The birds then filter out through the reeds to roost at the base of the sprung back phragmites. I would estimate that there were c40,000 birds tonight but no two evenings are the same and numbers fluctuate given the weather and the predators present.
A day of many weather contrasts.
Observers: Paul Ralston (images 4-7), WSM (images 1-3 & 8-13), Image 14 by Paul Crawley.