26.11.18. Birdlog.

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We took a long walk out to Frodsham Score salt marsh via Moorditch Lane, No. 5 & 6, 3& 2 tanks before walking around No.4 to reach the Manchester Ship Canal.

A few Jackdaw were out and about in the fields and several Fieldfare were chacking away from the berry-bearing Hawthorn hedgerows.

A pair of Stonechat were lingering by the ramp track to No.5 tank where a usually marked Common Buzzard stood out like a sore thumb with a white nape and two-toned black and brown patterned plumage, unless…

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No.6 tank had a couple of Pintail, 12 Shoveler and much reduced numbers of Common Teal. Several hundred Lapwing masked out a few of the much missed Black-tailed Godwit in their throng. A small group of Common Snipe attempted to conceal themselves close by the vegetated margins of the shallow pool. A female and 1 cy Marsh Harrier were harrying Meadow Pipits from the tall lank grass on the tank.

A short walk away and the yelping of Pink-footed Goose soon revealed a huge numbers in excess of 800 birds (possibly 1,000?) across both No.2 & No.3 tanks.

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We were slightly late for the start of the incoming tide but a mega ‘Mersey Snake’ flock of c20,000 Dunlin twisted and stretched out across the sky above the Mersey marshes. When we eventually arrived they had found their roosting sites and it wasn’t until the tide began to ebb did they perform again. It was immediately evident that there was food to be had with a gathering of c20 Grey Heron in the rough grass has the tide filled in the tidal gutters and forced their quarry to emerged from the murky depths.

There were c12 Little Egret and one of three Great White Egret was in a violent struggle with a heron and stole its prey of a very large fish.

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There were several hundred Wigeon and a similar amount of Common Shelduck but generally the variety of shorebirds were in limited supply (apart from Dunlin). A small skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over.

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The fields alongside the Holpool Gutter had c500 Golden Plover but apart from a few Mute’s the Whooper’s must have relocated back by the M56 fields?

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Observers: Sparky & WSM (images and twitter videos).

24.11.18. Birdlog.

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I started my morning walk along the Weaver with a fine sunrise glowing over the river where 4 Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Common Teal, Mallard, Common Shelduck, Goldeneye , 2 Great Crested Grebe and 3 Little Grebe were all present on the water. Another Mute Swan was dead on the bank possibly the result of a predator (Fox)?

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The Lapwing flock were in good numbers with several Redshank and 8 Black-tailed Godwit at the edge of the river. The first of 10 Stonechat seen during this mornings walk and were in the reeds alongside the river. A Kestrel hunted the bank and 2 Common Buzzard flew across the river.

A peep over the Frodsham Score salt marsh from the junction of the Weaver Sluice Gates and Manchester Ship Canal produced more Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank feeding on the close by exposed mudflat.

Walking along to No.6 tank and a large flock of Chaffinch were mobile along Moorditch Lane with many Goldfinch and Linnet in the area.  A Marsh Harrier drifted over the fields towards the motorway then made its way back over No.6 putting the Lapwing flocks up in to the air. No.6 tank held more Common Teal which were joined by Shoveler, Mallard, Common Shelduck and a single Pintail.

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A couple of Whooper Swan dropped in but only settled for a few minutes before leaving and heading to the Weaver estuary. A skein of c80 Pink-footed Goose were high up in the sky and were heading north.

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Onwards to the Manchester Ship Canal path and a look over Frodsham Score where 4 Great White and several Little Egret were feeding in the tidal channels as the tide came in. A large flock of Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gull were resting on the salt marsh and the Raven hoard were on scavenger patrol with several feasting on recently dead mutton.

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The fields alongside the Holpool Gutter had c2000 Lapwing, c500 Golden Plover, 15 Whooper Swan, 20 Mute Swan and a mixed flock of Greylag and 25 Pink-footed Goose.  The Whooper’s are the same birds that have spent the last few weeks by the M56.

Walking back along Lordship Lane and Curlew were again feeding in the fields adjacent Rake Lane.

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There was still some Yarrow flowering on the wayside ditch and brightening up a dull morning along Lordship Lane. Both Redwing and Fieldfare were numerous the way back to my car.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

23.11.18. Birdlog & NN #61

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Earlier in the day (and after the discovery of an invasive Chinese Mitten Crab to the River Mersey yesterday)…

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…I was back along the Sankey Canal at Widnes Warth Marsh and during the course of that period I came across an Elver in a water culvert. It’s not that often I come across these young Eels so to find one in the muddy culvert below the broken bridge on the Trans Pennine Trail was a bonus. Soon after a young Common Toadlet appeared from the same culvert and performed well for the camera. What was probably the last male Common Hawker Dragonfly of the year whizzed past. A singing Cetti’s Warbler, fly by Little Egret and Kingfisher and a pale morph Common Buzzard all added to a decent time. I initiated the rescue of an injured Mute Swan that had a fishing hook stuck in its webbed foot and I felt a proper guardian of the countryside.

After work I made a visit in the gloom for a brief walk along the track by No.6 tank. A roost gathering of c500 Lapwing in the shallow waters of the sludge tank. The whole flocks were jittery and rose into the air leaving  c120 Black-tailed Godwit and 14 startled Ruff.

A bird perched up on one of the fence posts soon revealed itself to be the first Short-eared Owl of the late autumn early winter period on No.5 tank. The yelping of 10 Pink-footed Goose overhead were drawn down by c400 others of their kind grazing on No.3 tank.

Again not a bad little tally of birds in such a short period of time.

Observers: Sparky, WSM (Illustration, images and videos).

18.11.18. Birdlog.

I spent the last hour of daylight around No.6 tank this evening. The usual Common Teal, Shoveler and Mallard were on the water with c20 Common Snipe and 6 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Kestrel were hunting the reed bed and a mixed flock of finches were made up of Linnet, Goldfinch and Chaffinch were foraging on the bank.

No.3 tank had c50 Pink-footed Goose grazing with the Canada Goose herd and several Curlew passed overhead.

The Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distant fields alongside the M56.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

17.11.18. Birdlog.

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Out this morning with a walk around No.4 and No.6 tanks. A large flock of skittish Lapwing spent more time in the air than on the ground with 4 tailing Black-tailed Godwit and c50 Common Snipe amongst them.

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Over on No.3 tank was c250 Pink-footed Goose grazing on the fields they took to the air but settled soon after and landed closer to Marsh Farm. On the Canal Pools were 5 Mute Swan, 3 Little Grebe and many Canada Goose resting on the water with c 2000 more on the Frodsham Score salt marsh.  A distant group of swans close to the Ince Berth were possibly the Whooper Swan herd from the marsh interior but were to far away to ID.

The fields alongside the Holpool Gutter held c2500 Lapwing, c 500 Golden Plover, 8 Mute Swan, 6 Greylag, 2 Pink-footed Goose, several Curlew and c100 Curlew in the field adjacent Rake Lane.

Walking along Lordship Lane a large flock of Linnet with Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit were feeding in the fields and hedgerows. a mixed flock of Redwing, Fieldfares Blackbird and Song Thrush were stripping berries off the hawthorn hedgerow near the blue slurry tank and the whooper group could be seen grazing in the distance.

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More winter thrushes were on the bank of No.6 where a late Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly was enjoying the sunshine. It all ended with 3 Stonechat were also noted along Lordship Lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4 & 6).

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Mid morning and I took the opportunity to check the fields from the foot bridge that crosses the M56 at the bottom of Smithy Lane in Helsby. The Whooper herd were not to be seen bit it was good to check this area out for a further expedition.

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A look over No.6 tank revealed a solitary drake Pintail, 24 Shoveler, c300 Common Teal and several Gadwall. A ‘bib’ flock of 250 Common Snipe flew over and settled down on the sludge tank, I can only presume these are birds dislodged from the shooters’ fields to the east of No.5 tank because there was a lot of blasting with guns coming from that direction.

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No.3 tank tank had several Wigeon and a few Pink-footed Goose with the ubiquitous Canada Goose.

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Walking along the Manchester Ship Canal and a Green Sandpiper was dozing asleep on the far bank while out on Frodsham Score the flocks of plovers PR had earlier were still present. A couple of Great White Egret were gutter dancing while out on the tidal channels on the Mersey estuary were a couple more joining several Grey Heron fishing the incoming tide. A few Little Egret were about but generally their numbers were low. The huge Canada Goose herds had a couple of feral Barnacle Goose hiding in their midst. A female Marsh Harrier drifted in from the east and quartered the salt marshes and the same bird was seen to go to roost at dusk on No.6 tank.

A couple of Cetti’s Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were all on No.4 tank.

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Observer: WSM (images 5 & 7-13).

15.11.18. Birdlog.

Another quick dash down to the marsh and the sun was dipping its toes into the western horizon as I arrived. There are always birds to see nevertheless and flocks of Lapwing were ranging in from the Mersey estuary. Apart from a couple of Common Snipe I wasn’t able to find any Ruff this evening but c20 Shoveler and several hundred Common Teal were gathering closely to roost together. A small skein of Pink-footed Goose circled the area before heading off to the sunset. Over the distant reed bed a female Marsh Harrier was quartering the area before dropping into her roost.

Walking back and an obliging Barn Owl was perched up on a fence post along Moorditch Lane and remained there until the only light available was from the traffic on the M56.

Observer and images: WSM.

There were 2 Marsh Harrier earlier in the day as seen by Guy Groves & Lou.