We both took the opportunity to take a walk during the period of a Spring tide today out on the river.
There was a partial unfrozen patch of water on No.6 and a reduced area for the wildfowl to shelter from the cold wind. The 53 Shoveler have almost all left due to the ‘beast from the east’ freezing up their favourite water, but undaunted those that remained share the spin feeding behaviour with a flock of 83 Common Shelduck. A flock of 37 Common teal were hiding very close up to the bank to shelter from both the wind and the icy cold.
A couple of Common Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier wAS over the reed bed and a Water Rail was seen to drop in to the reeds by the secluded pool.
On to the Manchester Ship Canal path overlooking Frodsham Score salt marsh as the tide made its way in. A large flock of Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and some Knot were put in to panic mode as a Marsh Harrier hunted through their numbers. The best bit was when a Fox caused panic among several hundred Pink-footed Goose and as many more Canada’s.
There were 4 Great Crested Grebe and several Tufted Duck on the ship canal and nearby 28 Mute Swan and 5 Greylag Goose were in their winter field alongside the Holpool Gutter.
A Green Sandpiper was flushed from the gutter near to the Growhow Works and a pair of Bewick’s Swan were in the same field as the Mute family opposite the junction of No’s 6 and 4.
A few Meadow Pipit and a female Stonechat were foraging in the fields along Lordship Lane as were a party of 30 Curlew. The 2 Bewick’s Swan even managed to make their way on to No.6 and found a stretch of open water to relax on.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 4-7).
While Paul was forging his way out to the west I checked out the frozen area on No.6 tank and the recent cold snap had done its worst with just a patch of water available for the ducks to ultilise (counts added above).
The ramp track to No.6 tank has had a set of gates and bollards put in place and a drastic tactic to arrest the continuing fly-tipping that this area is blighted with. The other ramp track to No.4 tank has a similar gate and bollards put in place. We’ll have to see what the local authority have to say on this matter.
Looking over the fields across to Lordship Marsh and the herd of 24 Whooper Swan were still present with a couple of Bewick’s for company (these two were highly mobile and ended up on No.6 later in the day).
There was a massive herd of Canada Goose on No.1 tank and a Bar-headed Goose tried its best to be elusive within their numbers. It later relocated to the Weaver estuary and back again on No.1 at dusk.
The wash wreak on the Weaver estuary is probably (mostly) result of waste in the Manchester Ship Canal finding its way into the estuary. I found a freshly dead Common Shelduck floating in the river.
Taking a hike down to the Weaver Bend there was a two pairs of Goldeneye and Pintail with with a few Common Teal. The highlight was a displaced Woodcock flying over the Shooters’ pools before dropping down into a bramble patch.
I continued along the river to the Weaver estuary where c30 Common Snipe were in the ice-free damp patches. The reward for a flooded boot was a Jack Snipe that popped out of a muddy channel and dropped back down a few feet ahead. The easterly icy wind produced some great little reedy popsicles.
There were plenty of ducks on the river with 12 Goldeneye, 10 Common Pochard, 21 Tufted Duck and c800 Canada Goose (including the Bar-headed mentioned above).
A female Marsh Harrier drifted over from the Mersey estuary and headed east towards the CEGB pools.
A male Stonechat was moving between the plastic tidal wreak on the estuary.
When I eventually got back to my car I received a call from Frank Duff who had just found a (what is presumably the Widnes 1st winter) Glaucous Gull from Marsh Farm. The gull was fast asleep on the gantry wall that separates the ship canal from the River Mersey. While watching the gull a female Merlin shot through and only just avoided hitting a Goldfinch on its route through.
Observer: WSM (images 2-3 & 8-21).