20.01.18. Birdlog.

Out on my jaunt this morning at first light making Ince once again my first port of call. Firstly, a Common Buzzard was sat on top of a lamp-post at junction 9 of the M53 on my way to the marshes. A couple of Little Egret passed overhead at the roundabout on the service road to the GrowHow Works furtiliser plant which boded well. The morning chorus produced a Mistle Thrush singing in the drizzle with some Great Tit calling in the trees by the pig farm. The farm pool had many ducks including Gadwall, Mallard and a few Common Teal along with several Coot and Little Grebe.

A good count of 21 Little Egret were at the Ince Berth fields which have previously produced a sizeable count in recent years.

On the Manchester Ship Canal with a few more Gadwall joining the Tuffted Duck, Coot, Little and a single Great Crested Grebe there.

The south Mersey salt marshes had a flock of c1000 Golden Plover which were restless with the birds flying west and a similar number of Lapwing settled back down on the marsh after the disturbance subsided.

The usual herd of 22 Mute Swan were back in their usual field alongside the Holpool Gutter and a Oystercatcher was a first for the year and back on its territory along the ship canal bank. A flock of Redshank made themselves known as they made their way along the canal banks.

I didn’t have time to walk around No.6 tank but instead chose to make my way back around No.4 taking in Lordship Lane on the way. There were 28 swans on Lordship Marsh of which two were Bewick’s and Whooper’s tallied 25, plus 8 Mute Swan and the (presumed) ‘Icelandic’ Greylag Goose keeping everyone in order. A flock of c40 Curlew were feeding in the stubble fields and a pair of Stonechat were on the fence near Rake Lane.

Walking back to the pig farm and a Kingfisher flashed across the lane from the ditch and made its way on to one of the pools.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 1-3).

After Paul had put in some hard leg work it was obvious the drizzle rain wasn’t going to ease off, so I delayed my arrival until late morning. It was my WeBs count today due to commitments tomorrow. I set up my scope and looked over No.6 tank where the ducks from yesterday were still present. The birds were again sheltering close to the flooded sea aster beds and included 345 Shoveler with a further 75 birds present on No.3 tank, Common Teal were reduced from yesterday with c300 birds. Mallard reached 67, while 12 Pintail were present with a couple of drakes competing for the attention of a female. There were 29 (drakes) Common Pochard with 6 Tufted Duck and several Common Shelduck.

A good sized flock of c300 Black-tailed Godwit, 1000 Lapwing, 20 Redshank and a solitary Ruff were resting up.

The Canal Pools had 12 Tufted Duck along with 34 Coot, a couple of Little Grebe, a Oystercatcher and a female Sparrowhawk eyeing up the vast Golden Plover flock in the fields nearby.

Frodsham Score was rather quiet but despite this a Great White Egret was with 9 flighty Little Egret. The Lapwing flocks were constantly harassed by a male Peregrine perched on a piece of drift wood out on the edge of the salt marsh.

Shorebirds on the outer edges of the score marsh were distant but produced 10,000 Dunlin, 28 Grey Plover and Lapwing which I estimated at 3000+ birds joining 1000+ Golden Plover which were similarly disturbed by a Sparrowhawk off No.2 tank. 

A lone Stonechat was flicking away on the banks of the Score.

The south-west corner of No.6 tank is the best spot to view the swan herd out on Lordship Marsh and when I arrived there were just 22 Whooper’s left over from Paul’s earlier count, fortunately the two Bewick’s Swan were still present and looking good. A few hundred Curlew were also in the fields by Rake Lane.

A Cetti’s Warbler gave out a snatch of song while numerous Water Rail were quarreling in the reed beds of No.4. A distant flight of 150 Fieldfare could be seen heading off to their roost.

There were 3 female Marsh Harrier sitting out in the willows on No.6 prior to their evening roost and a few thousand Starling pasted over but headed north without stopping. Another Peregrine (a big female) was sat out on the blue topped chimney surveying the Mersey estuary.

Observer: WSM (images 4-10).

19.01.18. Birdlog.

The combination of an early dart from work and a relativity clear evening sky was enough for me to head down to the marsh.

On arrival the brisk cold south-westerly concentrated the duck flocks on No.6 tank to seek shelter on the edge of the sea aster/daisy beds. A quick scan revealed 357 Shoveler, 29 Common Pochard, 12 Pintail, 14 Common Shelduck and c400 Common Teal. The receding water level encouraged a flock of 267 Black-tailed Godwit and c300 Lapwing which were nervously shuffling about. A flock of c200 Curlew flew into roost on the drier areas of the tank and although impressive their numbers are well down on previous winters.

A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reed beds but that was about the limit of raptor activity.

The evening Starling roost didn’t materialised and following previous years the flocks winter roost have been mostly restricted to the end of last year.

As the evening light diminished the yelping calls of Pink-footed Goose could be heard and then three skeins of c200 birds were watched as they flew over from the south to settle on the salt marshes.

Observer and images: WSM.

14.01.18. Birdlog

A flock of c1000 Golden Plover over high tide period this morning near Marsh Farm. A Marsh Harrier was over No.6 tank where the usual duck species were present. A few Redshank and small group’s of Black-tailed Godwit all high heading to the south-east in six different groups and in groups of 6-10 birds. A big charm of Goldfinch were on No.3 tank and pretty awesome to watch.

Observer: Gary Worthington.

Image by Paul Ralston.

13.01.18. Birdlog.

Out this morning from Ince where 9 Little Egret were feeding together in a sheep field with another 5 dotted about the general area.  There were Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard and 4 Mute Swan on the pools with 6 Grey Heron and a Little Egret feeding in a flooded area. On the Manchester Ship Canal was a flock of c40 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebe and a single Great Crested Grebe noted.

A flock of nervous Lapwing took to the air as wildfowlers were walking out on the salt marshes in pursuit of their quarry. The fields adjacent to the Holpool Gutter held a herd of 14 Mute Swan and 8 Greylag Goose and another 9 Mute’s were on the canal. A flock of Pink-footed Goose passed overhead but were not fooled by the ‘fowlers’ decoys and were later seen dropping down on Lordship Marsh. Several flocks of Golden Plover in their hundreds were circling high looking for somewhere to land before making their way in the direction of Marsh Farm.

Along Lordship lane a Kingfisher was in the ditch by the model flying club and a Green Sandpiper was by the junction of tanks 6 and 4. Another Green Sandpiper was flushed by a Sparrowhawk a few hundred yards further along the ditch. The Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distance by Spring Farm with more Pink-footed Goose landing closer to the M56 motorway.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

After making an off piste visit to Marbury Country Park to see their Hawfinch flock and a head on car crash with another vehicle (no one injured persons but the car is another matter). I eventually made my way to the marshes for some TLB (tender loving birding).

On arrival some of the duck flock on No.6 tank were sheltering from the icy south-easterly wind beneath the south banks. The Common Pochard flock contained mostly drakes which numbered 39 birds. It was surprising there were no Tufted Duck but Wigeon have increased reaching 21 with 7 Pintail, c60 Mallard, c450 Common Teal, a few Gadwall, 2 Fulvous Whistling Duck and 325 Shoveler.

The water level is significantly reduced to expose a good section of mud on the margins of the ‘gone over’ sea aster beds. There were several hundred Lapwing with Redshank, 20 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Ruff. Every wader rose into the air when a patrolling Peregrine forced them to create a wader murmuration over the tank. A few gulls mostly Black-headed with Lesser Black-backed and an adult Yellow-legged Gull came in to bathe.

I walked up to the south-west corner of No.6 to look across Lordship Marsh where the 23 (6 immature) strong herd of Whooper Swan were hanging out with a solitary adult Bewick’s Swan. A Water Pipit flew overhead calling and landed in the flooded field below. A big skein of several hundred Pink-footed Goose were flushed from the fields alongside the motorway and headed back en masse to Frodsham Score (presumably Paul’s geese from earlier).

A scan over the banks of No.4 looking north towards Frodsham Score produced a gutter hopping Great White Egret and a minimum of 6 Little Egret. The Canada Goose herd were in big flocks close to the ship canal and thousands of Dunlin could be seen feeding on the estuary mudflats.

A large gathering of c1000 Lapwing were sheltering on the salt marsh while numerous Great Black-backed Gull were competing with c50 Raven on carrion left over from the previous weeks very high tides.

I didn’t linger to see the Starling roosts but birds were heading north-east in scattered flocks and my watch ended with a female Marsh Harrier carrying dried reeds at dusk.

Observer: WSM (images 4-14).

07.01.18. Birdlog.

An early morning visit by Keith Gallie produced this stunning image of a Redwing warming its toes on freshly layed dung. He also noted 3 Great White Egret,  a flock of 40 Golden Plover and 2 pairs of Stonechat.

We managed the last hour of light to have a watch over No.6 tank and the overnight frost freezing a good section of the water.

It was good to see a herd of Whooper Swan bathing in a stretch of unfrozen water with the setting sun giving an amber glow to the swans. The big flock of Shoveler that were here yesterday had depleted overnight but there were c300 present with Common Teal and Common Shelduck. The two Fulvous Whistling Duck were tucked into the south-east corner of the sludge tank.

A big flock of both Lapwing and Golden Plover were flying around Marsh Farm while the usual dispersal of Curlew could be seen heading out to the river for the evening.

A big skein of Pink-footed Goose were watched heading into the marshes from the salt marshes but after several circuits they decided to head north. A smaller group of six flew overhead and likewise headed north.

A Sparrowhawk was preparing for the Starling arrival at dusk while a Peregrine was sat on top of the blue chimney over at Weston Point.

Observer: Gary Worthington, Sparky & WSM (all images except #1).

06.01.18. Birdlog.

Stepping out this morning to a new start to the year and naturally a start from Ince village. The first set of pools I encounter on my walk held some Mallard with Gadwall and Common Teal for company. A pair of Mute Swan were checking out a potential nest site close by.

There were 14 Little Egret feeding in a field next to the Ince berth with another three nearby. A 200 strong flock of Stock Dove flew over the Manchester Ship Canal and out to the salt marshes where even more Little Egret were seen. A couple of Song Thrush were in full song in the trees near to the berth and a party of Long-tailed Tit with a few Great’s along the hedgerow.

A skein of Pink-footed Goose were high up heading south then turned around and dropped on to Ince salt marsh, a further two skeins were also seen during my walk. A couple of Great Crested Grebe and a single Little were on the ship canal alongside more Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard and 19 Tufted Duck. 18 Mute Swan were alongside  the Holpool Gutter with another five on the canal.

A charm of Goldfinch were feeding on the weedy seed heads on No.3 tank  and a flock  of Lapwing were on the mitigation pools with several Raven observed.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-3 & 5 & 7).

I didn’t get down to the marshes until mid morning but it was a clear crisp cold day that greeted me ahead of a visit until dusk.

The variety of ducks on No.6 tank looked a little sparse but a count of the Shoveler on the open water revealed a surprisingly large flock of 398 birds (a few more were on the ‘Splashing Pool’) This total exceeded the BTO internationally important threshold for the species and it’s the second time this winter that Shoveler have reached the 400+ target. A flock of c230 Common Teal with a few Gadwall, 2 Fulvous Whistling Duck, 70 Mallard and the odd Common Shelduck were seen. The Common Pochard have vacated the area with just 15 seen today but with an overnight frost predicted I’ll wager they will be back to the high winter counts.

I walked out to watch the 23 Whooper Swan herd grazing close to Spring Farm on Helsby/Lordship Marsh. The swans were again present and were soon joined by 3 skeins of Pink-footed Goose forced off the salt marshes by shooters. Some of the flock settled to feed close to their Icelandic friends but the majority rose and returned to the north.

On retracing my steps I continued to my original watch point overlooking Frodsham Score. Scanning the distant gulls flocks revealed mostly Great Black-backed and Herring Gull. A couple of Great White Egret were forced out of the tidal gutters by the rising tide and were more viewable on the green swathe of the marshes. The usual herds of Canada Goose included a c200 more Pinkies with them.

The incoming tide out on the river have been high throughout the week and it was good to witness some of the salt marshes getting a good soaking. The advancing water forced a myriad of pulsating Dunlin flocks making shapes over the River Mersey. Other wader flocks included Grey and Golden Plover with Lapwing and Curlew for good measure.

A male Marsh Harrier was hunting the outer marshes but raptor activity was surprisingly limited today. The pale morph Common Buzzard was again by the Pumping Station while the luecistic Starling was also again with the Starling flocks that feed with the cows and sheep on No.3 tank.

A Chiffchaff was watched on the banks of the tank but soon disappeared into the vast reed beds.

At dusk there were flights of several hundred Curlew leaving their inland feeding fields to roost on the estuary with 6 Common Snipe flushed from No.6 tank. The nightly exodus of Raven included 27 heading inland at dusk.

No.6 sludge tank saw 3 female type Marsh Harrier coming into roost while the gathering Starling roost was reduced to c10,000 in two separate roosts sites on No.5 & 6 tanks. A Sparrowhawk was seen stealthily hunting the late roost arrivals.

Observer: WSM (images 1 & 4 & 6 & 8-11).

N.B. The Nordic Jackdaw is still present on playing fields off Park Road, Runcorn this week. Also Ring-necked Parakeets present at Runcorn Town Hall, Windmill Hill and Malpas Road, Runcorn.