31.05.18. Birdlog.

An after work jaunt down to the marshes in warm humid and at times a sweaty walk.

A look over No.6 tank was a bit of a surprise with the water level the lowest I’ve seen it for a number of years. There was even an old iron gate visible for the first time since it was submerged by the infill of water at the east edge of the sludge tank. Those duck that were present included: a drake Common Pochard, drake Common Teal, 66 Gadwall, 61 Common Sheduck, 103 Mallard and 6 Little Grebe, 12 Coot and 7 Moorhen.

A Grey Heron polishing off an eel was interesting.

The shorebirds were scattered across an area of receding mud where 661 Black-tailed Godwit, a Ruff, 3 Avocet and 4 Lapwing cold be found. While I was watching over No.3 tank the entire flock of godwits upped sticks and headed out to the Mersey estuary.

It was difficult to find any breeze to cool down and the cauldron of No.3 tank didn’t help. A Ringed Plover was the only wader present but it was worth the look as both Garganey were still hanging out on the ‘shitigation pools’.

Apart from single Kestrel and Common Buzzard there wasn’t much activity on the raptor front for a change.

Observer and images: WSM.

28.05.18. Birdlog.

A Bar-tailed Godwit was within 334 Black-tailed Godwit on No.6 tank this morning, along with 6 Avocet and a female Marsh Harrier.

A pair of Garganey were feeding on the mitigation pools which also held a couple of Ringed Plover.

The pipes on No. 1 tank held a Wheatear and a Painted Lady flew from the track.

Observer: Alyn Chambers (image 1).

After yesterday’s disappointing walk around the perimeter of No.6 tank things got a little better with AC’s earlier Garganey pair still present on the ‘shitigation’ (formerly the mitigation) pools of No.3 tank.

When we looked over No.6 tank it was good to see the c436 strong Black-tailed Godwit flock packed closely in the shallow waters of the pool with a couple of Avocet. There were 4 Shoveler, c100 Mallard, a few Tufted Duck and Gadwall present.

 

Eventually we stopped for our lunch looking over the ‘shitigation pools’ where the pair of Garganey were still dabbling in the ever evaporating waters of that area. Apart from the star ducks there was typically very little to add to the count but a male Marsh Harrier flew through to the east without stopping. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling and a Skylark was ascending from high.

A few butterfly’s were out in the cauldron of hottest day of the year on the marshes, it was hotter than a pseudo scouser in Tallahassee. A Red Admiral made a welcome return, a wasp beetle. Fly is one of the ulidiidae, Ceroxys urticae looks a good match per Peter Brash. A discarded half of a Blackbird egg was on the edge of the track.

House Martin were busy nest-building under the eves of houses along Marsh Lane and several screaming Common Swift were also over High Street in Frodsham centre.

Observers: Sparky & WSM (images 2-8).

The Yardinere (Updated 2020)- CV-19

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I live in a 150 year old terrace house on the banks of the River Mersey in an industrial port area of town. I literally have a backyard which I call my ‘Yardinere’ or ‘Yarden’ with the sunny sides of the walls facing south-east and south. So, you can imagine there isn’t much room for a traditional garden but room for a lot expansion…upwards.

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Blue Tits are an annual yardinere nester.

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The ‘Yarden’ space I have available measures 12 by 13 feet and a surrounding 6 foot wall of which I have created an area for wildlife. There are pots, hanging basket and an L shaped raised bed which has little or no sunlight – this is planted with grasses, a small Bamboo and Dragon Lillie to make a Zen Garden complete with meditating Buddha and sea-shore pebbles but alas no room for the lotus position. I recycle whenever the opportunity arises so a fly tipped metal chimenea now occupies a shady corner partially hidden by a Forest Flame. The oven part of the chimena has piles of wood bricks inserted inside and liberally entwined small red solar lights give a glowing ember effect at dusk.

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Bamboo canes, dried Giant Hogweed and Hogweed stems make a great place for insects and solitary Bees to secrete themselves.

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Presently there are nesting pairs of Great and Blue Tit utilising the nest boxes and the Blue’s have fledged only yesterday. A Bat box positioned above the kitchen window accommodates those nocturnal creatures and in the Spring and Summer evenings they can be seen fluttering in circles over the ‘Yarden’ fixing their compass positions for a period of foraging the local night life.

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The south-facing aspect of the ‘yarden’

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I have recycled a discarded piece of office furniture in the form of a tree trough which I sowed with a selection of native wildflower seeds, Cow Parsley, Willowherb, Teasel, Sow Thistle and presently, the Allium that I buried last year are flowering attracting Bees and Hoverflies.

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Our native Bees are in sharp decline due to the over use of neonicotinoid insecticides so every bit of pesticide free space we can provide helps these much threatened species. The Cotoneaster that spreads across the top of the wall is handy for keeping out unwelcome cats but it does attract bees and the constant humming sound is a tonic.

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Flowers attract a variety of wildlife to visit the yardinere. One of my favourite plants for its attractive form and for encouraging other types of insects is the Lavender and they obviously add a fragrance to the space. A trailing Winter Jasmine adds a splash of colour in the duller days of late Autumn and Winter. A large potted Honeysuckle is brilliant for attracting Moth species in those sultry warm Summer evenings. The moths in turn provide food for the local bats and are loved much love by Cuckoo Spit aka Froghopper nymphs which have caused us some concern but a solution of water spraying helps to levitate the problem.

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As I already mentioned space is of the optimum and the washing line post has been used by nesting Wasps, Dunnock, Robin and Wren and secreted inside its dense cover many species of moths use it to roost up during the day.

An erratic granite boulder (it took two of us to lift it in place) was found in a field in Daresbury close to the birthplace of Lewis Carrol and was placed close to a looking glass which was added to the wall.

A slight bit of creative pruning has given me a space to insert a garden Green Man ornament which looks wistfully over the ‘yarden’ and may give any intruders a fright.

Many years ago I planted a Cotoneaster which is quite mature now and in the winter retains enough berries to entice the local Blackbirds, wintering Blackcaps and once a small flock of Waxwing to nip off its berries.

One of my few garden centre purchases was an Easter Island figure head and provides some light relief.

The winding twisted trunk and small branches hold a selection of brightly painted bean cans which have been filled with a variety of fibre material. There are a couple of catering cans which are fitted with a specially cut wooden plug drilled with numerous holes so that Solitary Bees can access the interior to live their lives away from predators. Another way of adding colour to a dull space is to paint food cans with bright colours and fill with hollow Bamboo canes and straw to create a hiding place for Woodlice.

One of their main predators is the Woodlouse Spider that resides close by hiding behind a piece of mounted slate artwork. I am respectful of these little critters which can give a nip. I have also collected and fitted dried out Hog Weed stalks which are cut into lengths placed in between the cans – be careful collecting these because when they are fresh they have a burning agent. It’s best to collect them from the countryside in the Winter when they have dried out thoroughly.

Both Blue and Great Tits nested at the same time just yards away from each other.

The Great Tit young (2) fledged on 05.06.18.

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All in all even limited space in any corner of any garden can be an inspiration…or yard can attract some brilliant birds, bugs and bats.

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I’ve installed a small bookshelf on one of the walls where I can place animal skulls, aka ‘backyard skulls’ inspired from the song by Frightened Rabbit.

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The Yardinere Birdlist.

A list of some of the birds I have seen or heard from my humble home over the years is impressive but remember it’s about location and keeping an eye and an ear open whenever you pop outside to tidy up your space: Whooper Swan, Bewick’s Swan, Pink Flamingo ;0), Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed Goose, Common Shelduck, Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Grey Partridge, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Little and Great White Egret, Kestrel, Peregrine, Merlin, Hobby, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard (nesting within sight of yarden), Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, Grey and Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Green and Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Woodcock, Common Snipe, Ruff, Pomarine Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Iceland and Glaucous Gull, Little Gull, Kittiwake, Common and Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Cuckoo, Little and Tawny Owl, Long-and Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, the commoner hirundines, Yellow and Grey Wagtail, Waxwing, Dunnock (nested), Nightingale, Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Redwing, Fieldfare, commer thrushes, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap (summer and winter), Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff (summer and winter), Goldcrest, Wren (nested), Spotted Flycatcher, Coal, Blue (nested), Great (nested) and long-tailed tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling (nested), House Sparrow (nested), Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer.

…and finally we have an evil Vietnamese gnome living at the bottom of our ‘yarden’.

WSM and images. 

27.05.18. Birdlog.

I was out this morning with a start at the west side of the marshes at Brook Furlong Lane and from there along the River Weaver and back around to No.6 tank.

Brook Furlong produced a few Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a Bullfinch all of which made their presence known vocally.

A Marsh Harrier was over Redwall reed bed much to the consternation of the local corvids and Lapwing. A couple of dozen Common Swift were speeding over the river and passing close over my head as I disturbed insects from the long grass ahead of me. A pair of Avocet were alarm calling on the other side of the river while 3 Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper were at the waters edge. The river had Tufted Duck, Common Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall and a pair of Common Teal which were with the non-breeding Canada Goose and (16) Mute Swan herd.

Plenty of Raven and Common Buzzard were patrolling the perimeter of the salt marsh and a flock of c100 Black-headed Gull were flying up river.

A family of recently fledged Pied Wagtail were near the ‘Pumping Station’ and the usual Mute Swan pair were still guarding their nest but were sound asleep.

A Little Ringed Plover was on the ‘phalarope scrape’ near the ‘Splashing Pool’ and a Marsh Harrier was seen flying over No.4 and 6 tanks.

Along the edge of Lordship Lane there were many singing Sedge and Reed warbler singing and a pair of agitated Reed Bunting were perched nearby. A Brown Hare was seen to make its way through a crop field in the area.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

There were c300 Black-tailed Godwit flying over No.1 tank. A Meadow Pipit with a bill full of food was on the wires.

A male Marsh Harrier hunted over the shooters’ pools and Avocet were calling over Weston Marsh and 3 Common Swift over the Weaver Bend. A Cetti’s Warbler was along the lane as were Blackcap and Chaffinch. Blackcap are all over the marshes as are Whitethroat.

The ‘shitigation’ area on No.3 tank had 50 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Ringed Plover until the female Marsh Harrier spooked them flying over on its way west. A Yellow Wagtail was also heard whilst I stood in a newly created pool of my own perspiration (you’ll probably get more chance of attracting waders to your own puddle than the above pools. eds).

Butterflies had the usual feel about them with Peacock, Orange tip, Red Admiral, Small and Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell.

Observer: Paul Crawley (images 5-7 &12).

We did a walk around No.6 tank in sultry weather conditions where a brooding thunder belt sounded off to the south. There wasn’t really much to add to the other sightings but an invasion of Ermine Moth caterpillars feeding on three Spindle bushes along Lordship Lane showed their advance from total defoliant to about to defoliage.

No.6 tank didn’t have any Black-tailed Godwits on our afternoon walk but a lone Oystercatcher spent some time preening on the baked mud of the receding shallow waters.

It was funny to see some of the 87 Common Shelduck lazing out with a few resting sheep on the edge of the pool. A few Tufted duck, 32 Gadwall and 107 Mallard were the only other species noted.

Observers: Sparky & WSM (images 8-11).

26.05.18. Birdlog.

There was quite a bit of activity across the river at Hale shore but alas the (not so) high tide on the Mersey estuary failed to produce the required over spill of shorebirds to No.6 sludge tank.

A flock of 761 scattered Black-tailed Godwit were good value nevertheless with some birds providing close photographic opportunities. A lonesome Redshank and a couple of Lapwing were the best of the rest.

The mitigation pools on No.3 tank continue to be a damp squib and all those experienced brains that went into its creation should be spinning in their graves. The only birds of any note being a single Black-tailed Godwit and a Little Ringed Plover.

A male Marsh Harrier was quartering along the banks of the Canal Pools before heading back to the west.

Observer: WSM (images).

23.05.18. Birdlog.

A walk along the River Weaver after work this evening started with 14 Mute Swan on the water there alongside the usual Canada Goose, Common Shelduck, Mallard, Tufted Duck and a few Gadwall. The Sand Martin colony is coming on fine were birds digging in to the soft Manchester Ship Canal bank.

The evening temperature has dropped and the Common Swift were doing accordingly with displays occurring overhead.

A Ringed Plover and a photogenic  Dunlin for company joined up with a Bar-tailed Godwit  further along the river bank.

The male Marsh Harrier was over Marsh Farm and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard near the old birdlog.

Observer and mages: Paul Ralston.

22.05.18. Birdlog.

A look over No.3 & No.6 tanks this evening saw c1000 Black-tailed Godwit sitting out the tide. There were 3 Avocet on No.6 but generally the only other species with anything like numbers were the c100 Common Shelduck. It’s got the feel like the summer doldrums are here.

Also a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit I saw here on 05.05.18 was ringed in Hernan Cortés, Extremadure, SW Spain 15.02.17 and also seen in Ireland in 2017. It is possible this bird could be Limosa limosa which is the dominant form in this area bur probably likely ‘islandica’ given the date and the location of my sighting.

Observer and image: WSM.

20.05.18. Birdlog.

Out this morning with a start along Brook Furlong Lane where the usual summer sounds of Chiffchaff and Blackcap were filling the hedgerows. The melodic tunes were soon shattered by a broadsword swipe from a Cetti’s Warbler.

A leveret was watched slinking its way along the lane and disappeared into the vegetation and nearby a Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly zipped past and then alighted on some hawthorn blossom.

On to the river where the colour ringed and flagged Ring Plover was still about but I still couldn’t manage to get a clear shot of the number combination. There were 2 Common Sandpiper and 3 Avocet also there.  A female Marsh Harrier flew over the river and was escorted on its way by a posse of Common Shelduck.

The Canal Pools had a Carp which was thrashing about in the water while a Coot sat tight on its nest. One of the Mute Swan pair was still sat on its bulky nest. In the a pair of Barnacle Goose were on No.3 tank while above Skylark sang in the sunshine.

Later saw me on Lordship Lane and Reed Warbler out sung the normally vocal Sedge Warbler The Common Whitethroat were active along the lane while a Lesser Whitethroat was seen then heard.

There were c300 Black-tailed Godwit on the shallow waters of No.6 tank and later on No.3 tank where a Bar-tailed Godwit attempted to conceal itself. The usual duck species were also present on No.6.  A fast-moving Stoat evaded capture with my camera as it slid out of sight.

I thought the midday sun was playing tricks when a Zebra loomed into view.

Observers: Paul Ralston (images 1-6), Paul Crawley, Sean O’Hara.

19.05.18. Birdlog.

We’re not use to this balmy hot Summer weather and the birds are keeping a low profile preferring to rest rather than move about. I did my WeBS count a day earlier and the high tide period didn’t really add much to birds that were already present. 361 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Lapwing and 3 Avocet were the grand wader totals. Ducks couldn’t really muster much better with 161 Common Shelduck, 46 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 3 Common Teal, 13 Gadwall and 14 Tufted Duck.

The mitigation area on No.3 had 3 more Avocet, 4 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Ringed Plover.

Due to the fine weather it was to be expected to see plenty of butterflies on the wing with still a good year for Orange tip. Also Green-veined and Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Brimstone and a female Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly

The Weaver Bend was also quiet with the usual ducks present and a fish jumping out of the water and enjoying briefly the warm sunshine.

A pair of Marsh Harrier were about the area and the ever-present ringed Kestrel so still hanging out on the telegraph wires alongside Moorditch Lane.

Observers: Paul Crawley (images 3-4), WSM (images 1-2 & 5).

18.05.18. Birdlog.

An early finish from work and a walk along the River Weaver and No.6 tank.

The Common Swift flock were screaming after each other over the houses along Marsh Lane. The walk along Brook Furlong Lane was quiet with just the odd Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing. Walking alongside the ditches by the river and the song of Reed Warbler serenaded the Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard and 7 Mute Swan who were near.

A  couple of nature admiring kayakers (ignorance is bliss) flushed most of the birds from the bank bank, including a Bar-tailed Godwit.

A colour flagged and ringed Ringed Plover was possibly from the SCAN ringing scheme in North Wales (top image and one from 2017 lower image) and, possibly the same bird as seen on 22.04.17? A Little Ringed Plover was also observed. A Common Sandpiper flew over the Manchester Ship Canal and a dozen Curlew were present on the salt marsh.

Sand Martin were checking out the banks along both sides of the ship canal and a pair of Oystercatcher were on berth used by the wildfowlers boat.

The Canal Pools held just a few Coot and Tufted Duck while above Skylark were singing. The Mute Swan was sitting tight on its nest while its partner was taking time out on one of the other pools.

A distant Marsh Harrier was seen over No.3 being harassed by a group of Lapwing. The mitigation area had c100 Black-tailed Godwit had 2 Avocet and a Ringed Plover. Also No.6 had a similar number of Black-tailed Godwit had a Ruff with them. There were more Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Gadwall with a small numbers of Shoveler being noted.

Walking back by the M56 bridge a Kestrel perched on the telegraph wires dropped on to its prey and it was also seen to be wearing a ring. The Starling flock were busy feeding their noisy young and 4 Common Buzzard were riding the thermals.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

A Peregrine was over the fields off Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Gary Murrey.