23.12.18. Birdlog.

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I took an hour to spare this morning and went to see if the Eurasian White-fronted Goose (Anser (albifrons) albifronsa) were still in the area after my visit yesterday. There were still shooting activity taking place so everything was on high alert with only 2 Mute Swan on their wintering field by the Holpool Gutter. A gaggle of grey geese could be seen in the distance but were spooked and left the field not long after my arrival.

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I checked some photographs I had taken from the 09.12.18 and they showed that White-fronts were present from that date (I don’t know why I didn’t check then sooner? A Marsh Harrier flew in from Ince and on to No.4 tank putting the Lapwing and Golden Plover flocks into panic mode as well as 6 Common Snipe. A Kingfisher added a splash of colour to an otherwise dull and wet day in the gutter

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

Additionally the Herd of 25 Whooper Swan were still in fields by Lordship Lane as seen from the westbound carriageway of the M56.

22.12.18. Birdlog.

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I started my morning walk out at Ince where the usual Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Common Teal, 2 (drake) Tufted Duck, a Little Grebe and 2 Mute Swan on the pools. A large dog Fox crossed the lane in the morning half-light and its white-tipped brush gave it away as it dropped into a ditch before disappearing into the day.

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On to the Manchester Ship Canal path and a good look over Frodsham Score salt marsh where a mass of Lapwing and Golden Plover were being their usual nervous selves.

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The Mute Swan herd had Greylag Goose for company and with them were 4 Eurasian White-fronted Goose (Anser (albifrons) albifronsa) nice little earner for walking this route. The whole herd of geese and swans were spooked by shooting taking place nearby and took to the wing. The swans soon settled back down but the geese left the area in haste.

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On to Lordship Lane which was rather quiet with more shooting taking place. A flock of Curlew were in the stubble fields and with them were c40 Black-tailed Godwit which dropped in to the fields by the blue slurry tank.  A Marsh Harrier was sat in the reeds on No.6 tank.

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I walked back along the canal path with the tide rolling in which dislodged 2 Great White Egret and several Grey Heron which were feeding in the flood water with just a single Little Egret noted. There were flocks of smaller waders (mostly Dunlin) could be seen at the edge of the River Mersey and a young Peregrine put the whole plover flocks up again.

At Ince Berth there were 6 Whooper Swan making their way over to Lordship Marsh and a Little Egret was in front of the Pig Farm.

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Along Kinsey Lane there was c200 Redwing feeding in the field and the bird feeders at the old farm-house. The same feeders attracted House Sparrow, Goldfinch and several Greenfinch and they all went into a charm offensive when a female Sparrowhawk put in an appearance.

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A skein of Pink-footed Goose were noted heading south.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-8).

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I made my way onto the marsh to cover the rising tide out on the Mersey estuary with a stop off at No.6 tank to look through the big flock of Common Teal that settled here on the tide. There were 3 Pintail and 17 Shoveler but the constant gun fire ringing out across the marshes made them very jiggery. The flock was constantly flighty, circling the tank before the best part of 700 birds headed back out to the estuary (for more of the same). A female Marsh Harrier perched up in a tree and later a 1st winter female was hunting the reed beds added some additional distraction. A Chiffchaff was contact calling from deep within the reed bed but couldn’t be seen.

The tall blue chimney at Weston Point hosted a pair of adult Peregrine surveying the festival treats below.

A large group of Raven don’t normally let a dead sheep rot away and a dozen were making short work of one on No.3 tank (scavenging recyclers per excellence).

When I eventually arrived at my tide rendezvous I looked across the ship canal to the wide vista of Frodsham Score beyond and I could see that the wildfowlers were already in situ. Most of the Lapwing and Golden Plover were further out than would normally be the case and periodically rose in great swarms performing spectacular murmuration displays. The vast army of Canada Goose were riding the edge of the river with c500 Wigeon keeping them company and often rising in the air. A young Peregrine was doing its best to dislodge its dinner from a tidal gutter but the local corvids didn’t give it much peace.

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The incoming tide always attracts Grey Heron with a dozen in the reedy areas and with them were 3 Great White Egret.

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After chin wagging with PR we made our separate ways and I made my way back after some pretty impressive flocks of waders on and over the south Mersey marshes to Lordship Lane. The Whooper Swan herd had been displaced by some shooting activity nearer to their usual grazing spot and I managed to get some clear and open views of the herd much closer to the lane. I assume five of the 25 birds present were those PR had seen at Ince Berth? It was good to see 7 juvenile birds with the adults and fore-runners for future winters here?

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Walking back a very obliging juvenile Reed Bunting stayed long enough for me to fire off a few pics off my camera.

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Observer: WSM (videos & images 9-17).

20.12.18. Birdlog.

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I have now finished for Christmas and a trip to the marshes this morning so my first port of call.

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The Stonechat pair was again on the fence along the track (Alder Lane) to Marsh Farm. When I arrived overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal a tug boat was heading up the cut and flushed 7 Mute Swan and a Great Crested Grebe from the water. Several Curlew were vacating Frodsham Score salt marsh when the tide rolled in, leaving numerous Common Shelduck and Cormorant swimming the waters.

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I continued on to No.6 tank and hundreds of Common Teal, Shoveler and Mallard took to the air when a Marsh Harrier passed over before it settled in the reed bed. The Raven hoard were still feeding on a carcase in the fields of No.3, and the same fields had the best part of 1000 Canada Goose grazing the grass.

The ‘Splashing Pool’ held a few Common Teal, Shoveler and more Mallard.

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A look over the Frodsham Score and a distant raft of Wigeon could be seen out on the River Mersey where 2 Common Buzzard were on their prey patrol at the river’s edge. A mass of plover mostly Lapwing but also Golden Plover spent more time in the air than on the ground.

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Further to the west the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter held 21 Mute Swan, 20 Greylag, while a single Pink-footed Goose over on Rake Lane was with c100 Curlew and even more in the back ground but these were flushed by a Common Buzzard. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew off the bank on No.4 and landed on a tree alongside the gutter.

A walk over to see the winter swan herd resulted in 25 Whooper Swan and 6 more Mute with even more Curlew feeding with them.

Redshank and Fieldfare were on scrape on the marsh this morning leaving Blackbird and Song Thrush to feed on what’s left of the hawthorn berries.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

16.12.18. Birdlog.

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I was out this morning as the sun rose over at the River Weaver at frosham Marsh. There were groups of Curlew flying up river with a single Black-tailed Godwit heading for their feeding grounds on the Mersey estuary. A flock of Tufted Duck were with Common Teal, Mallard, a few Goldeneye and Common Shelduck busy feeding on the water as I passed them by.

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A Common Sandpiper was unseasonal for December, but not unusual sitting on the far bank of the Manchester Ship Canal with a dozen Redshank.

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The female Red-breasted Merganser cut a lone figure and was still present fishing opposite Marsh Farm alongside a Great Crested and Little Grebe on the waters of the ship canal. There was a mixed plover flock which typically rose up in the air behind the farm as a Marsh Harrier passed by.

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A pair of Stonechat were showing well on the fence alongside No.1 tank. I species that seems to take on all weathers.

The Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distant fields by the foot bridge over the M56 with 5 Mute for company. As I was driving home a Little Egret flew over the A556 through the Helsby to Frodsham road.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3 & 5 & 7-8 & ).

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While PR was taking the early morning shift I made it down to the marshes mid morning starting my walk along Moorditch Lane where hundreds of Fieldfare and Redwing with lesser numbers of wintering Blackbird and Song Thrush were taking advantage of the hawthorn berry bounty. A Cetti’s Warbler throw out its song from thick cover by the ramp track to No.5 tank and was my first for a week or two.

A couple of Stonechat were idly perched on the vegetation by one of the wind turbines on No.5 tank when Arthur Harrison passed by.

The seemingly ever-present Peregrine was again perched up on the blue top chimney at Weston Point, while a female Merlin tried twice to dislodge passerines from the weedy fields but on both occasions failed in its attempts.

Looking across the (ever-expanding) waters of No.6 tank there was a pitiful amount of Common Teal left after yesterday’s exuberance with c230 birds present along with 40 Shoveler. I wonder if their big numbers were weather related?

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A huge flock of both Lapwing (c1000) and Golden Plover (c700) exploded from No.3 tank into the air and, a skein of c250 Pink-footed Goose lifted from Frodsham Score when gun shots ringed out from the Ince area. There were good numbers (comparatively) of Curlew feeding in the flooded fields and an additional flock of 100 dropped in. A nice bright male Stonechat was joined by a more drab female by the ‘phalarope pool’ and the ‘Splashing Pool’ had 20 Shoveler present.

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A couple of Marsh Harrier one a female and a 1st winter bird were sparring out over the reed beds of No.4 tank and 2 (known to each other) immature Sparrowhawk were sat close together on a scaffolding pipe.

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The south-east corner of No.4 tank is a good spot to view the fields that border the M56 at Lordship Marsh and Hillview Farm where the 22 Whooper Swan herd was still munching grass. The herd were still difficult to see properly and if the Bewick’s are with them they will have to be seen on a more favourable view.

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Observer: WSM (images 4 & 6 & 9-12).

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Stonechat at Marsh Farm (by Paul Crawley).

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Wren (by Paul Crawley).

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Meadow Pipit (by Paul Crawley).

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Pied Wagtail (by Paul Crawley).

15.12.18. Birdlog.

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I was out and around No.6 and 4 tanks this morning before the change in the weather came along. Several Raven were feeding on a sheep carcass in a ditch on No.3 and a mixed flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover were feeding nearby in the rough grass. The ‘phalarope pool’ on the south-west corner of No.3 tank has extended and was full enough to attract c30 with both Mallard and more Shoveler on the ‘Splashing Pool’.

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A skein of c40 Pink-footed Goose made their way to the Frodsham Score salt marsh where a couple of thousand Canada Goose were resting. A single Great White Egret and a lone Little Egret were feeding in the tidal gullies on the river marsh.

There were 19 Mute Swan feeding on the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter with there Greylags for companions. Further south and c100 Curlew were again in the field adjacent to Rake Lane and the Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distance. Fieldfare and Redwing were in good numbers along Lordship Lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 10).

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A walk up to No.1 tank in the hope of seeing the Cattle Egret was dashed when I met PC who had drawn a blank but he offered me a lift in his car to Ince Marsh fields via Lordship Lane (where we met PR briefly as he was heading home) to check the fields for the egret there. There were plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing to seen feasting on the hawthorn berries but they were skittish and wouldn’t allow close approach.

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The weather was rapidly deteriorating with a raking south-easterly wind whipping across the marshes followed by cold persistent rain. The Whooper Swan herd was finding some shelter below the hedgerows on Lordship Marsh. There with c20 birds present close to the motorway but, with the wind and rain dripping off my optics it would have been impossible to pick anything other than Whooper’s from that distance. I left PC to his own devices and walked along the track between No.6 & 4 to the ‘Splashing Pool’ where the Shoveler flock were still present.

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A small skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over to Lordship Marsh (presumably the birds from earlier?). A Stonechat briefly popped out of the vegetation but wisely found shelter and stayed put.

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A gathering of 25 Raven were riding the wind above No.6 tank and spooked the entire flocks of ducks from the water there. They soon settled and apart from c23 Wigeon, some Common Shelduck and 73 Shoveler the majority were c1300 Common Teal. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t pick out a Greed-winged Teal but the weather conditions had taken a turn for the worst and regrettably with failing light, cold wet hands and the after effects of my man flu…I called it a day.

Observer: WSM (images 2 & 4-6 & 8).

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After I left Bill all alone I made my way to Marsh Farm and got some ok(ish) Fieldfare images, as you know the light was very poor, that’s my excuse. When I got near to the cattle grid a Merlin (one for you Guy Groves) chased a Blackbird and then landed on one of the brick towers on No.2 tank for a bit and I got a couple of images before it flew off. On the way back from the farm it flew across and back onto the brick tower and I got some more photo’s.

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No.1 had a mixed flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing but the Goldie’s were to far away to photograph, there was also a female Stonechat.

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Observer: Paul Crawley (video & images 1 & 3 & 7 & 9 & 11).

13 & 14.12.18. Birdlog.

13.12.18. Birdlog.

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2 Bewick’s Swan (ads) with the Whooper Swan herd on Lordship Marsh. Also of perhaps of interest a Brambling with c80 Chaffinch & 20 Goldfinch by Weaver Lane.

Observer: Dan Haywood.

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14.12.18. Birdlog.

A day off and a couple of hours along the River Weaver and then the Manchester Ship Canal this morning. Redwing and Fieldfare were busy stripping the berries off the hawthorn hedgerows alongside Brook Furlong Lane. A Sparrowhawk shot across the lane snatching a unsuspeting Redwing without the rest of the gorging flock even noticing.

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Onward to the River Weaver and Common Teal joined up with Tufted Duck and Mallard which were in good numbers with a few Common Shelduck being noted. More water birds included 7 Great Crested and 5 Little Grebe were on the river and ship canal. A wintering Common Sandpiper and 2 Redshank were on the bank and 5 Mute Swan close into the bank. A tug boat made its way down the canal flushing a Red-breasted Merganser on its way. There were a couple of Raven and several Carrion Crow with Magpie waiting their turn inline to feast on yet another dead sheep carcase near to Marsh Farm. A mass of Lapwing and several hundred Golden Plover were feeding on the fields of No.2 tank rose in the air when a Common Buzzard passed overhead.

The Cattle Egret has now relocated to No.1 tank and landed on the road leading to one of the wind turbines while a pair of Stonechat which sat on the fence nearby.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

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A quick drive down to the marsh today to try and find the 2 Bewick’s Swan that were reported on 13th, I decided to stay on Lordship Lane and work my way along the track where good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare were seen. There were good numbers of Goldfinch, Curlew and Lapwing. I soon found the Whooper Swan flock, 5 in total with a pair of Mute Swan but no alas Bewick’s!! Much closer to the M56 motorway there was a large flock of Pink-footed Goose but couldn’t get a proper view. Further along I also saw the Mute Swan and Greylag Goose flock and then even further found that Lordship Lane is now blocked off by Peel!! Despite this I had a fantastic hour or so just being in the outdoors.

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Observer: Guy Groves.