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.

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).