31.12.17. Birdlog.

A last visit of the year to the marshes and firstly a look over No.6 tank. Ducks were again the most obvious birds present with a fine selection including c300 Shoveler, 63 Common Pochard, 8 Gadwall, c73 Mallard, c350 Common Teal, 23 Pintail and 6 Tufted Duck.

A couple of Marsh Harrier were again quartering the reed beds while a few Common Buzzard sat out their time on the fence lines of No.3 tank.

The Whooper Swan herd was again by Spring Farm on Lordship Marsh with Mute’s.

Frodsham Score was rather quiet with shooting ringing out throughout the marsh today. There were large numbers of Canada Goose out there with a some concealed Pink-footed Goose hiding in the deep channels.

Observer: WSM.

30.12.17. Birdlog.

A walk around No.6 tank this afternoon  started with Fieldfare and Redwing  moving along Moorditch Lane with a Sparrowhawk close by. A single juvenile Mute Swan was in a ditch with the rest of the family feeding by the blue slurry tank.  Also in the same field were several hundred lapwing and c130 Curlew.

A flock of c150 Pink-footed Goose circled Lordship Marsh and then moved on to the estuary followed by 20 Black-tailed Godwit. The Whooper Swan herd was feeding close to Spring Farm. Again there were big numbers of Shoveler and Common Pochard on the waters of six with Mallard, Common Shelduck, Common Teal, Gadwall and Pintail  A mile long line of Lapwing stretched out along the salt marshes by Marsh Farm spooked by one of the Marsh Harrier  hunting in the area.

Observer: Paul Ralston (and images).

27.12.17. Birdlog.

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.

Observer: WSM.

26.12.17. Birdlog.

I was out this morning commencing at No.6 tank where a good mixture ducks included Common Pochard, Shoveler, Common Teal and Gadwall.

A couple of Marsh Harrier were hunting over the reed bed and a further bird was out on the salt marshes which flushed out a Little Egret. A Sparrowhawk glided over the Manchester Ship Canal to join a Common Buzzard hunting there. There were several Raven on patrol. The Mute Swan flock was again alongside the Holpool Gutter and had a Greylag Goose for company.

A 1000 Strong flock of Lapwing and Curlew took to the air as a Peregrine passed by.

A pair of Stonechat were in the reeds and a further 4 pairs were noted on my walk.

The mixed herd of Mute and Whooper Swan was on high alert as a boxing day pheasant shoot was taking place on Lordship Marsh.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

25.12.17. Birdlog.

A brief birding trip to No.6 tank while I could. The first bird spotted was one of the two Scaup present with a flock of 64 Common Pochard. I presume this build up of pochard is attributed to the recent icing up of inland waters. A few Tufted Duck, 12 Wigeon, 64 Pintail, 11 Gadwall, c100 Mallard, 350 Common Teal, c254 Shoveler, 23 Common Shelduck and the two Festive Whistling Duck which were sitting pretty in the south-east corner of the sludge tank.

A couple of Marsh Harrier were quartering the reed beds while a Sparrowhawk weaved its way through the willow thickets.

Observer and images (1-3 & 5): WSM. Image 4 by Paul Ralston.

A new Blackcap (male) visiting my neighbours’ festive fat balls today. That’s 2 female and a male.

24.12.17. Birdlog.

After a seven-day stint in work it was with great relief that I could relax and spend the last light of the day watching the birds on and over No.6 tank. On arrival a biting south-westerly was ripping through the marsh but fortunately it wasn’t too cold. I had a quick scan of the ducks that were sheltering under the southern banks. A gathering of 43 Common Pochard, 23 Tufted Duck were present with the return of the two immature Greater Scaup, now that the open water has thawed out. The Shoveler were again looking impressive with 342 countered and along the edge of the daisy beds were a few Wigeon and 71 Pintail. Common Teal have also made a return in good numbers with 3-400 birds.

The first time for ages the high tide out on the estaury brought in some waders to a recently exposed muddy bay at the edge of the daisy beds. There were 230 Dunlin, a few Black-tailed Godwit and 130 Lapwing…Every little counts!

The Starling flocks began to arrive after sundown with much reduced numbers and flocks. The birds simply didn’t even attempt to gather in nearby fields and instead shot straight into the reed beds without hesitation. The roost attracted a couple of Sparrowhawk but perhaps the highlight of the watch was a record count of 7 (one male, 6 female types) Marsh Harrier in the air together.

The Whooper Swan herd was still in fields by Spring Farm with their usual stable mates the Mute’s.

A Cetti’s Warbler rang out the festival season on No.4 tank.

Observer and images: WSM.

23.12.17. Birdlog.

A female Scaup was on the River Weaver this morning and a couple of Water Pipit were in flooded fields off Lordship Lane.

Observer: DH.

Another after work jaunt down to the marsh with the intention of again watching the Starling spectacular coming home to roost on No.6 tank. When I eventually arrived on the marsh it was cloaked in a dense fog bank with visibility reduced to a hundred metres. The sound of calling Common Teal could be heard but not seen.

As the sun began to set the fog lifted producing some pretty eerie scenes, I rattled off a few (hundred) images to my camera card. The clearing fog was the prompt for a Peregrine to fly through on a mission to the salt marshes, soon after it was lost to view, a few thousand waders flew up from the estuary… I assumed the falcon had made its presence known. A couple of Marsh Harrier were flying high but didn’t linger for too long.

Soon after the first Starling began to arrive the looser flocks gathering over No.3 tank got bigger and bigger before relocating to a few scattered bushes on the top of No.6 tank. The flocks again grew into tens of thousands and again there wasn’t much in the way of murmurations. The birds pitched down into the reed beds and began the ritual of leap frogging to move through the reeds creating a wave.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor, nature and water

Starling video here: https://vimeo.com/248959613

Observers: DH, WSM (video and images)

22.12.17. Birdlog.

Not a great deal to report after walking around No.6 and 4 tanks today with 2 Little Egret out on the salt marshes and 18 Mute Swan by the Holpool Gutter. The wintering herd of Whooper Swan (23) were with 9 Mute’s on Lordship Marsh and their ever faithful Greylag Goose was there for company. A Marsh Harrier was seen to drop in to the reed bed on No.6 with a prey item and a Sparrowhawk was waiting for the Starlings to arrive.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 5-6 & 10).

With mid winters day already behind us I took advantage of the lengthening ;O) daylight hours to cram in 30 minutes of Starling gazing after work. On arrival a small crowd had gathered, we stood on the northern banks of No.6 tank to look across and see the hordes of Sturnus vulgaris emerging from the gathering gloom brought on by the fog that crept through the marshes this evening.

I am beginning to stop estimating the volume of these birds that are coming in and I’m now just appreciating the spectacle that occurs here each night. Having said that there are literally tens upon tens of thousands of these passerines swarming in from all directions. The birds are attracted together like charged particles forming a huge shield wall forming over the ‘Pumping Station’ before streaming out to be swallowed en masse into the reed beds on No.6 tank.

A black blizzard is what I would call them and a totally memorable sight it is to see come and watch it while you can.

A couple of Marsh Harrier were hunting the reed bed but didn’t appear to show much interest in the Starling roost?

Observers: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 5-6 & 10), Judith, Bob, Steven and Megan Holland, Alison Parry et al and WSM (images 2-4 & 7-9).

16.12.17. Birdlog.

A late morning start and a walk along Moorditch Lane where a small flock of Redwing were left from the snow/sleet of last weekend. It was a bit of a surprise to find No.6 tank 80% covered in ice and the Shoveler were doing their best (c200 spinning birds) to keep the remaining 20% clear for the 300 Common Teal and handfuls of Pintail, Common Shelduck, drake Common Pochard and Mallard.

A Cetti’s Warbler and a Chiffchaff were vocal along the edge of the tank with another Cetti’s further out on No.6. Passerines were restricted by a flock of 200 Goldfinch and 3 Stonechat. The leucistic Starling from last weekend had relocated to No.5. Frank joined me for a while before heading off.

I continued my walk to the south-west corner of No.6 where a herd of 7 Mute’s and 26 Whooper Swan were present in the fields blow Spring Farm on Lordship Marsh. The Whooper’s consisted of 19 adults, 6 juvenile and an immature. An attendant Greylag is presumed the same bird as previous years and probably of Icelandic origin?

A look over Frodsham Score didn’t really produce much apart from hundreds of Canada Goose. At dusk c500 Pink-footed Goose in four skeins headed in and waffled their way onto the salt marshes. A few hundred Curlew also headed out to the marshes at dusk while 13 Black-tailed Godwit and c900 Golden Plover (image 4) were dislodged by an unseen predator.

A Marsh Harrier, pale morph Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk were the only obvious birds of prey noted today.

The main event almost didn’t happen and the Starling gathering looked all over when tens of thousands headed east without much ado. I was about to give up when a few small groups dropped into the roost reed bed below the bank where I was standing. These birds were giving their typical chirpy calls to encourage others passing over to join them. Eventually flocks started to grow and increase into thousands and big numbers that had headed east began to return. A few minor murmurations occurred but they weren’t really worthy of mention. The birds came…and they came…and they came even more.

There was no stopping tonight’s roost and it was a joy to watch c80,000 smother the reed beds and then roll along like a huge moving mass, each flock leap frogging the roost creating a moving carpet of birds. I walked away with the roost still edging further out into the centre of the reed bed with a continuous white noise buzzing in my ears.

Videoof Starling roost: https://www.facebook.com/117180855126736/videos/874647069380107/

N.B. A couple of female Blackcap were at my neighbours’ bird feeders this morning.

Observer and images: WSM.

11.12.17. Birdlog.

I took a walk along the top road (as I call it) from 14.30 – 15.15 hrs. A Common Buzzed flushed out numerous Common Snipe which were very vocal with a count of 26 in three separately flying groups and in the air together. A mixed flock of Shoveler, Pintail, Common Teal on No.6 tank and it was awesome to watch how they sat in the (almost) frozen water keeping it from totally freezing over by constantly spinning in the water. A big flock of mixed finches over the reed beds. A mixed flock of Golden Plover, Curlew and Lapwing on No.5 turbine field.

Observer: Gary Worthington.

Image from achieve: WSM.