09.12.17. Birdlog.

I had a walk along Lordship Lane to the GrowHow works at Ince and started off at the model aircraft flying field by the junction of Lordship/Moorditch and Hare’s Lane this morning. A single Stonechat was on the fence line at the flying field and Reed Bunting and Chaffinch were again in good numbers. Several Curlew dropped on to Lordship Marsh and were feeding alongside the Mute Swan family. There wasn’t much else on the marsh as a couple of shooters were out looking for a festive Pheasant… or two.

The Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distance with 14 birds (including 4 juvenile) and a few Mute’s amongst them.

A couple of Goldcrest were in the hedgerow and a Grey Wagtail fed in the field. Another pair of Stonechat were near the Holpool Gutter and a Peregrine passed overhead and presumably the same was later seen over No.6 tank.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-3 & 11).

Parking up in Marsh Lane I was greeted by a steady shower of rainy sleet and it wasn’t long before the obligatory soaking ensued. My options were to turn back, head home, put my feet up and read a book…or carry on and chill out (literally). I’m not one for staying indoors especially on my weekend off and I duly continued and headed out to the north banks of No.6 tank.

The rain/sleet/snow never really stopped during the first period of my watch. I was beginning to feel an imminent repetitive strain injury with my action of drying cloth to wet lens eye piece scenario. There were dryer periods and during these I managed to make a count of the ducks.

A record flock of 426 Shoveler were very much the main attraction on the water with 56 Common Pochard, two immature Greater Scaup, 36 Pintail, c300 Common Teal, c100 Mallard, 6 Tufted Duck, 23 Common Shelduck and a few Wigeon.

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I wasn’t going to linger for too long in one spot today, it was far to cold for that, so I wandered along the track between No.3 & 6 tanks. There were more Common Teal and Wigeon on the mitigation area but generally it was quiet there.

I continued and I was stopped in my tracks when a flock of Starling were feeding and bathing along the track between No.4 & 6 tank. One of them caught my attention with a very quick flash of a Rosy Starling! I immediately reached for my camera but in that brief moment, the only person I had seen all morning was jogging along the path and flushed everything, including the pale Starling! I did manage to get another brief view and it revealed itself to be a biscuit brown (leucistic) bird with normal coloration to its head and breast with the rest a mixture of pale brown and white’s (pictured above below the cows, lower centre). The bird relocated with a flock of Starling on No.3 tank much later in the day.

I stopped at the corner of No.4 and 6 above Lordship Lane were I saw the Whooper Swan herd in the fields closer to the GrowHow works. A very confiding male Stonechat was nearby with yet another two further out on the tank. A bathing flock of c300 Goldfinch included a couple of Lesser Redpoll (an uncommon bird on the marshes).

Retracing my steps and a slight diversion to watch the salt marshes from the corner of No.4 tank revealed a Great White Egret along with a few Little Egret and a flock of Pink-footed Goose with the Canada’s out on Frodsham Score.

A couple of Chiffchaff and two Cetti’s Warbler were heard from No.3 to No.5 tanks.

I bumped into Guy Groves and his partner and Jacqui and Idris Roberts who all braved the adverse weather conditions today.

Observer: WSM (images 1 & 4-10).

08.12.17. Birdlog.

I just about managed to squeeze in 30 minutes of birding on the north banks of No.6 tank after work, sandwiched between a snow front heading east and backed by a bitterly cold wind b(f)reezing in.

The main aim of my visit was to witness the continuing Starling roost close to the north banks of the sludge tank and its reed beds. The weather conditions were making the watch difficult but the birds eventually came in to roost from the west and settled in the reed beds close to my observation spot.

A skein of c500 Pink-footed Goose were flying in from the south-west and appeared to drop onto the salt marshes. A couple of Marsh Harrier were drifting over the far end of the tank until the clouds rolled back in and the evening light faded.

Observer and images: WSM.

03.12.17. Birdlog.

Out and about this morning with a start along Lordship Lane.  The winter thrush flocks were again feeding in the hedgerows with Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird being dominant along the track. There were also much smaller numbers of Chaffinch and Reed Bunting being noted. A flock of Long-tailed Tit roving the hedges included a couple of Goldcrest while a mixed flock of Goldfinch and Linnet were feeding on the weed seeds along the bank.

A juvenile Mute Swan was in the ditch while the rest of its family were in the flooded field with a large flock of Black-headed and Common Gull. Also present were c70 Black-tailed Godwit which were seen to drop down in a field alongside the M56 motorway and joined a flock of Curlew and Redshank.

The Holpool Gutter was quiet as it has been recently dredged and is now bare of any vegetation or cover. A herd of 18 Mute Swan had a single Greylag Goose attached for company, but generally the fields were devoid of any waders possibly due to a mechanical digger working in the area?  A pair of Stonechat were in the brambles alongside the gutter as well.

A WeBs counter was watching the tide out on the salt marshes and a few Little Egret were dotted about the area. The Raven hoard were abundant and they found the dead sheep left on the marshes much to their liking and appetite. A much quieter morning for raptor sightings with just Common Buzzard and Kestrel noted. No.6 tank held good numbers of Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard, Common Teal, Tufted Duck and Gadwall.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 3-4).

Also noted today were the semi-resident Scaup and 2 Fulvous Whistling Duck both on No.6 tank. While the flooded fields on Lordship Marsh still hold 15 Whooper Swan and Little Egret.

A Cetti’s Warbler was calling from the south banks of No.4 (FD) and another from No.5 tank (WSM).

Observers: Frank Duff, Jacqui and Idris Roberts and Arthur Harrison.

The evening sun dropped nicely behind the clouds behind the GrowHow works, and soon after the first dusk flight of Starling began to arrive. A gathering of birders were stood on the south-west corner of No.5 tank but on this occasion the birds didn’t perform to their previous roost. I guess this was probably attributed to us standing above the normal roost spot?

Anyway, they gathered in huge flocks of thousands and like the past few weeks their numbers haven’t disappointed those making the effort to watch the spectacle (please note if you intend to watch this Starling roost nothing is guaranteed with their appearance or numbers, such is nature’s way).

The birds relocated and settled in the reed bed behind the belt of willow trees close to the north banks (at the western section) of No.6 tank. I would estimate that again 40-50,000 birds were present and on this occasion they even did a few murmurations.

The only birds of prey present at dusk included 2 immature Marsh Harrier and a Sparrowhawk.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, Jacqui and Idris Roberts, and a few other friends, Sparky and WSM (images 1-2 & 5-9).

I saw a leucistic/albino Lapwing in flight with a flock of ‘normal’ birds in fields beside the M56 (west of junction 10) at Stretton today. If anyone is covering that area keep your eyes peeled (WSM).

02.12.17. Birdlog.

Duck watching is always worth the effort and often scrutinising the flocks can occasionally turn up a few surprises.

About three weeks ago I came across two immature Scaup on No.6 tank from one of my counting sessions. These seaducks aren’t renowned for their site loyalty and they generally move on without lingering on the marses too long. The two that I found are still here and look well settled on the edge of the Common Pochard (39) and Tufted Duck (23) rafts.

The Shoveler flock are still retaining their big numbers with an impressive 358 birds and with 24 Pintail, 200 Common Teal, c100 Mallard, 21 Common Shelduck, 7 Gadwall and a couple of Fulvous Whistling Duck all make up for the lack of drier ground for the shorebirds we had during the late summer period.

A skein of 80 Pink-footed Goose flew in from the east at dusk.

Those shorebirds that were available were over on Ince marsh fields where a couple of thousand Lapwing were spooked from their rest by a marauding Peregrine. A flight of 78 Golden Plover flew off the salt marshes and circled the area before heading back out. A flock of 36 Redshank, 50 Curlew and 12 Common Snipe were also noted.

Birds of prey featured the pair of young Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, 2 Merlin and 2 more Peregrine (male and female) perched up on top of the blue chimney at Weston Point.

Passerines included a roving band of Long-tailed Tit with Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and nearby on No.5 tank was a Stonechat.

The Starling roost was again remarkable, but not so remarkable was their dropping immediately into the night roost within the reed beds. There were no significant murmurations with birds moving from their main roost to relocate in the dark to another roost deeper into the bed.

Observer: WSM (and images).

01.12.17. Birdlog.

A quick Santa dash after work to the marsh to catch the Starling roost before it was too late. On arrival we met Dave Knott and his wife who had a similar idea and we all enjoyed the now familiar spectacle of the big reed bed roost on No.6 tank.

The lowering sun cast stunning cerise and mauve colours on spaghetti western type clouds as it dropped below the horizon. Shortly after the sun had set the first flocks started to arrive from (mostly) a south-westerly direction, these immediately dropped into their roost in the reeds below the banks where we were standing.

During the course of our watch the birds that had already settled in the reeds began to leave their roost and began leapfrogging each other in groups of hundreds and thousands. This movement created an interesting undulating wave of birds moving east through the reeds. The initial roost was close to the edge of the main water body on the tank and the leapfrogging groups soon ran out of reeds and were then faced with open water. The flocks were now streaming out of reeds and circled above the water but because of the trees it was difficult to view what or where they were heading?

Within 10 minutes the whole flock returned in a twisting mass over the east end of No.5 tank and it was there that they made an impressive murmuration before they returned to settle back into the reeds. The evening light had faded to virtually nothing and it was difficult to see where the flocks had relocated but their chattering from the reed beds sounded quite close by.

Video of part of the Starling roost here: https://vimeo.com/245494719

A couple of Marsh Harrier were quartering the distant reeds.

Observers: Mr & Mrs David Knott, Sparky & WSM (and image).