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).