A very early start and I arrived in the dark to view the Starling exist from their overnight roost. I could hear the Starling roost before I saw it in the reed bed below and close to the north banks, sheltering from the bitterly cold north-westerly.
As the dawn light began to light up the eastern sky birds began to fly about rolling along as they perched on the reed tops. All of a sudden the roost exploded out of the reed bed and a Sparrowhawk was purposely harrying the roost to force birds into flight. This activity spooked the birds and they swarmed out and headed low to the west. It was a bit underwhelming but tens of thousands of other birds were watched heading in from direction of Frodsham and Helsby Hills. There was a flock that stretched from Helsby Hill to the area beyond the River Gowy and I assume these are birds that are roosting elsewhere in Cheshire?
I wandered over to the south-west corner of No.6 tank and looked out to Spring Farm where again the 23 Whooper Swan herd was still present and obviously viewable for westbound travellers on the M56. A skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over heading north and looked to pitch down on the salt marshes, but there was a lot of gun fire out there this morning and they will move on. A few Curlew were on the flooded fields of Lordship Marsh with a couple of Ruff noted.
There were plenty of ducks again present on No.6 tank with c350 Shoveler but they were difficult to count properly due to their tight mass of spin feeding action on the open water. Common Teal were much reduced with c100 birds. There were 50 Common Pochard, 4 Tufted Duck, 101 Mallard and 32 Common Shelduck, but the Scaup must have joined the other Tufties to the estuary?
A Marsh Harrier was hunting over No.3 tank flushing out further flocks of Common Teal and Shoveler. A Peregrine was perched up on the blue topped chimney above the Weaver estuary.
Observer: WSM (images 1-4).
I walked down to Marsh Farm where a Raven was picking the bones of a deceased sheep but with a full stomach it struggled to gain height and clear the fence. A large flock of Lapwing were high up over the river and were joined by a smaller flock of Golden Plover when a Marsh Harrier drifted by. A single Stonechat was on the fence by the farm and there were numerous Redwing were with the feeding Starling.
Walking back along Brook Furlong Lane a mixed flock of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting were joined by a Great Spotted Woodpecker which seemed to be following them. On No.6 the 2 Fulvous Whistling Duck were away from the main body of other birds and were tucked at the north end feeding on their own. A male Sparrowhawk was in hot pursuit of a Song Thrush through the willow thickets.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 5-7).
This evening I made my second visit to No.6 and on arrival the first of four Marsh Harrier flew into to roost in the reed beds for the night.
The Starling roost was very similar to this morning except the majority flew in low and headed straight to the east without stopping. I can only assume that the scare they experienced by a Sparrowhawk entering their roost bed would have had a substantial effect on their decision. The Starling roost normally dissipate at the turn of the year, so I wasn’t completely disappointed. On heading back to Moorditch Lane the familiar sound of chattering birds drew my attention to a ditch on No.5 tank where a few thousand Starling were roosting. At least some compensation for my effort.