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.