30.01.19. Birdlog.

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There was a couple of inches of snow at Frodsham Marsh today and it seemed to bring a lot of finch flocks into the south-west corner of No 5 tank. Approx 65 Linnet, c10 Reed Bunting, c30 Goldfinch, 2 Stonechat and numerous Blue and Great Tit. It was quiet a spectacle in the snow. Also in No.5 tank a flock of 39 Skylark dropped in and a count of 13 Common Snipe.

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On the track around Redwall reed bed I flushed out two Woodcock, my first ones down there for a few years.

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There also seemed to be a lot of Bullfinch around with c10 counted along Brook Furlong Lane.

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Observer and images: Paul Miller.

Construction Work

I have been reliably informed about something that make effect some breeding raptors on No.6 tank. Contractors have begun work today with earth diggers in the construction of a sand washing plant at the junction of No.3/No.4 & No.6 tanks (adjacent to the ‘Splashing Pool’). WSM.

27.01.19. Birdlog.

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I started my walk at Ince this morning where 4 Little Egret, c40 Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard and a few Northern Shoveler were on the bigger of the pools. A Tawny Owl an unusual visitor to the marshes was seen to fly from its perch and take refuge in an ivy clad tree where it stayed hidden from view, but was scolded by a posse of small birds and 2 Magpies.

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Several skeins of Pink-footed Goose were heading inland to their grazing grounds, while on the marsh a few thousand Canada Goose were more sedentary.

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A flock of c300 Stock Dove were feeding at the edge of the salt marsh and suddenly took to the air when a Sparrowhawk cruised by. The plover flocks took to the air in alarm as well but with hundreds of Starling (everything’s a bit jittery out there today).

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Onward to the path between No.4 and No.6 tanks and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen in the distance over the reed bed followed by a Marsh Harrier.

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Looking over Lordship Marsh from the ramp track and another turbine and another dead swan was found. (I saw this dead swan last weekend, but it hadn’t be predated on then per WSM).

The Mute Swan herd was seen alongside the Holpool Gutter and a flock of c60 Curlew were feeding close by.

Arriving back to my car and a Grey Wagtail was feeding on the path ahead of me.

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Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

26.01.19. Birdlog.

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I took a walk along the River Weaver at Frodsham Marsh this morning, it was good to see the Raven hoard doing a great job clearing up a sheep carcase near Marsh Farm.

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There were 4 Mute Swan still lingering on the Manchester Ship Canal and they flew west to join the herd alongside the Holpool Gutter.

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A pair of Stonechat were eking out food from along the fence on No.1 tank.

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Further along the ship canal were 10 Great Crested Grebe with only 2 Little Grebe being seen. Tufted Duck were numerous as were Eurasian Teal and Mallard.

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A couple of groups of Goldeneye made their way out to the estuary as did a skein of Pink-footed Goose.

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Another Mute Swan lay dead on the river bank this one had a green darvic ring, but not sure what the caused its death, however it’s not the first on this stretch of River Weaver close to the turbine. Thanks to Ryan Mottram for information on CDY4 – ringed as a male cygnet on 30.09.2013 on River Dee, Chester.

Another pair of Stonechat were on the river bank and a group of 8 Redshank flew off alarm calling as they went causing a Common Sandpiper to join them.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 3-6).

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A herd of Whooper Swan gathering close to Hillview Farm.

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I tried a change of tack with a view from the railway line at Helsby to view the Whooper Swan herd on Lordship Marsh and it served me well with 27 (7 juveniles) counted.

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Several skeins of Pink-footed Goose were about the marshes today (later c500 were on Frodsham Score) and several alighted in the grassy fields by the M56. The birds were close enough for me to pick out one with a white rim around the base of the upper mandible.

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A nice male Merlin flew over Moorditch Lane and sat up in a tree by the field edge before resuming its pursuit of prey.

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It started off cold and dry at first with rain drifting in later in the day. The ducks on No.6 tank included a flock of c1000 hiding Eurasian Teal with 23 Northern Shoveler, 6 Pintail and a few Mallard. The female Marsh Harrier was sat in her usual tree with lines of geese stretching across the horizon behind her. Nearby was a pair of Stonechat on No.5 tank.

A walk out to the Manchester Ship Canal to connect with Paul’s sighting of Bewick’s Swans from yesterday drew a blank, but there was plenty of compensation with other distractions on offer. There were 3 Great Egret and a small cluster of Little Egret about the salt marsh.

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As mentioned earlier the Pink-footed Goose herds were large in number but very distant. A large gathering of c600 Wigeon kept their distance on the river’s edge, while Dunlin murmurations were barely visible in the misty rain conditions out on the River Mersey.

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The tide brought shorebirds close to the edge of the advancing tide and what birds could be seen when the rain arrived included; c100 Grey Plover, several Knot and huge numbers of Lapwing numbering several thousand with c500 Golden Plover with them.

A Peregrine was again sat on top of the blue chimney at Weston Point while a young Marsh Harrier glided effortlessly over the marshes.

Lapwings and Golden Plovers over Frodsham Score.

Best if you turn the sound off on the videos there’s a lot of noise from the motorway traffic.

Observers: WSM (images 1-2 & 7-20 & videos) & David from Chester.

25.01.19. Birdlog.

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An early dart from work and a walk around No.6 and No.4 tanks during the high tide period.

No.6 held a decent amount of Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Northern Shoveler with a Common Buzzard perched in a dead tree within the tank watching the ducks in the shallow water just a couple of feet below its perch. There was a couple of Marsh Harrier hunting over the reed bed which flushed 4 Common Snipe.

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A few more Mallard and Northern Shoveler were on a scrape on No.3 tank with 4 Grey Heron and a Little Egret flying by. Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and Lapwing and Golden Plover rose en masse into the air in their hundreds. Several Raven searched the salt marshes for any signs of weakness in the dithering tide weary livestock.

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A few hundred Dunlin joined the plover flocks as the tide filled the gutters and out popped 5 Great Egret which then competed with several Grey Heron for what was brought in my the river.

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The highlight of the day was the three Bewick’s Swan that chose the ship canal with a raft of c70 Tufted Duck. The swans relocated to the salt marsh as two shooters made their way along the canal bank towards Ince salt marsh. A couple of Whooper Swan could be seen in the distance riding the tide.

The fields alongside the Holpool Gutter attracted 27 Mute Swan with a flock of c100 Eurasian Curlew. A female Merlin was perched on one of the flat-topped hedgerow and made its way out to the salt marsh, another Merlin (possibly a male) was seen over No.4 tank.

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A few hundred Starling were heading to their roost by the dredger birth and the same or another two Marsh Harrier dropped into the reed bed and where joined by a third bird a short while later. A skein of Pink-footed Goose passed overhead on their way to the Frodsham Score.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

23.01.19. Birdlog.

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I had a day off and a couple of hours to spare this morning and a walk around No.6 tank. A few hundred Eurasian Teal on the water with a smaller amount of Mallard and Northern Shoveler.

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A Marsh Harrier was sat in the reed bed and 7 Whooper Swan flew over to join the herd on Lordship Marsh. Several skeins of Pink-footed Goose also passed over to graze alongside the Whoopers.

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Finch flocks were again out in force and feeding on the flower seed heads with several Reed Bunting which tagged along for the fun of it. Later on in the day a look over the estuary during high tide from the boat museum at Ellesmere Port produced a Marsh Harrier hunting along the tide line.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-5).

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Having booked a day off work for the 9.5 m I intended to prowl the sunny side banks of the south Mersey marshes with binoculars in hand for showtime to begin a couple of hours before the rise.

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I parked up in Frodsham and walked the icy tracks (heel spinning as I went) to view the Eurasian Teal on No.6 tank, and despite an overnight freeze there wasn’t that many here to set the pulse racing. A few Northern Shoveler and Common Shelduck dished up a poor fayre. The female Marsh Harrier was sitting up in a tree within the reed bed.

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Walking from my view-point on No.6 tank the first of several Little Egret today flew over No.5 tank. Meanwhile a Sparrowhawk was idling in a sheltered area away from the icy breeze and soaked up the warmth of the winter sun. A Peregrine could be seen distantly on the blue topped chimney with the morning fog settling in the Weaver valley below.

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A huge flock of Northern Lapwing were settled in the grassy fields of No.3 tank with several hundred Golden Plover. The highlight was a female Merlin totally unconcerned by my presence and proceeded to preen and tail fan whilst bathing in the frosty sunlight. I filled my boots with views and left the Merlin to continue her siesta.

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I made my way out to the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and views across Frodsham Score, the first birds to make themselves known was a large skein of 521 Pink-footed Goose flying in over the No.4 tank turbines to settle on the edge of the river. The ship canal had 53 Coot and 81 Tufted Duck with a few Great Crested Grebe by Marsh Farm.

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The distant tide had barely advance enough across the salt marshes, so I had enough time to settle down and watch the wildlife spectacle unfold over the course of a few glorious hours. If the earlier female Merlin wasn’t enough a young male Merlin flew in and sat up on a log to preen and clean up before dinner (this bird was seen later sharing a fence line with a couple of Common Buzzard). A young female Marsh Harrier was working the salt marsh from Ince all the way down to me.

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The first swathes of Dunlin were moving over Manisty Bay and my first flocks of Oystercatcher of the year flew in from the west. The sounds of a returning Ringed Plover from the marsh heralded another first of the year. The moving shorebirds featured Grey Plover, Bar & Black-tailed Godwit having shifted off the mudflats and struggling to find dry ground. It is always a special pleasure to watch waders snaking high over the Mersey estuary and then alternate between white and dark as they ‘fosbury flop’ low across the course grass of the marshes. A Fox was flushed from the grass and slowly made its way attempting to add dignity from all the avian food which it couldn’t pin down. The pinkies were still lingering on the tide edge and a lone Barnacle Goose was sat hunkered down on the marsh while 4 Whooper Swan were grazing from a tidal channel.

As the tide slowly seeped in, the gulls began to swoop in scouring the grassy tussocks for voles that may have been hiding there. Likewise the c20 Grey Heron were joined by 6 Great Egret and c12 Little Egret at various spots on the ever diminishing salt marsh.

All in all a great time spent watching large flocks of Dunlin moving over the Mersey marshes with ducks riding the tide edge and geese, herons and egrets cashing in on the plentiful supply of food for them on this great river.

There were numerous small passerines flushed by the tide and were mostly Meadow Pipit, but a few Eurasian Skylark flew over with Pied Wagatil and c300 Stock Dove right at the very distant rivers edge.

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Walking back the day was slightly tinged by a lone Wigeon with a wounded wing sat on the frozen waters of the flooded fields of No.3 tank

Observers: JS & WSM (images 1 & 6-15 & videos).

I dedicate this post to Martin S Garner who died way to young on 29 January 2016. We shared visits to watch the tide on Frodsham Score many times, so I guess he’ll have enjoyed today’s watch.

20.01.19. Birdlog.

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I started my walk at Ince this morning where 2 Water Rail were squealing in a reed bed by the side of the path. A cluster of ducks included 20 Gadwall, 7 Mallard, 4 Coot and 8 Wigeon, with a Grey Heron stalking about the pools. A noisy skein of 50 Pink-footed Goose flew over heading south.

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Walking along the Manchester Ship Canal path and a raft of 63 Coot which had been pushed off the salt marshes by a shooting party there. The shooters dumped their haul of dead birds on the canal bank and went back to their persuit. The constant gunfire kept a large flock of c2000 Lapwing in the air and were joined by c1000 Golden Plover which couldn’t settle and left the area.

A Marsh Harrier was hunting over No.4 tank while a male Sparrowhawk was sat in a bush watching the world go by.

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On the path between No.4 and No.6 tank was a c300 strong mixed finch flock containing, Linnet, Goldfinch and Chaffinch with Great and Blue Tit following in their wake. A female Sparrowhawk was keeping a keen eye on all of this proceedings.

Several skeins of Pink-footed Goose circled Lordship Marsh, but most carried on south without alighting. A loose flock of c200 Curlew were feeding in the fields.

The 24 Mute Swan herd were again alongside the Holpool Gutter with 40 more Curlew.

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A  Kestrel sat on a post flew off its perch leaving a Wood Mouse to fall to the ground and on closer inspection it had consumed most of the head and brain.

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A Peregrine was perched up on a tower at the GrowHow Works and surveyed the marsh below and beyond.

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A few signs of Spring included the first leaf uncurling from its twigs along the lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images).

Video of a skein of Pinkies heading over Frodsham by David Stewart.

19.01.19. Birdlog.

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My time on the marsh this morning was concerned with my monthly WeBS count on No.6, No.3 tanks and Lordship Marsh.

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I started with counting the Eurasian Teal (1,300) which were again hiding and feeding on seeds in the thick vegetation of the Michaelmas Daisy beds. During the course of my watch it was interesting to see the behaviour of these ducks to five different raptor species. Typically the Common Kestrel feeds only on rodents and small birds so its presence was tolerated by the ducks. On the other hand a very optimistic female Sparrowhawk made a few attempts at flushing the teal but without any success. A maurading male Peregrine took a couple of stoops but failed.

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A female Merlin perched on a dead tree close by the teal flock and they didn’t even raise their heads. One raptor was more stealth like and while the teal were busy feeding in cover a Common Buzzard dropped from a brick drainage tower and walked through the daisy beds and managed to grab a teal, the rest of the feeding birds were totally oblivious.

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Other ducks were very much in reduced numbers and included: 26 Northern Shoveler, 16 Northern Pintail, 12 Mallard and 4 Common Shelduck.

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A female type Marsh Harrier that was hunting over the expanse of the reed beds on No.6 tank was missing flight feathers to its left wing. A second younger bird with complete undamaged wings appeared later in the afternoon.

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A look over No.3 tank was rewarded with a count of 485 Eurasian Wigeon feeding on the short turf, frequently spooking each other and flying back to the relative safety of one of the shallow pools. Thousands of Lapwing and much smaller numbers of Golden Plover were a constant sight when they rose into the air.

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Common Buzzard were again competing with several Raven over an old decomposed sheep. A few Northern Shoveler were present in the ‘Splashing Pool’ with Mallard.

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My walk continued to the corner of No.4 & No.6 tanks for its elevated position on the ramp track. Looking south over the fields and the herd of 26 Whooper Swan were again by Hillview Farm with 283 Pink-footed Goose grazing alongside the blue slurry tank. A dead swan spp was below one of the turbines which may or may not indicate its demise.

The entire skein of Pinkies were seen to head out to the Mersey marshes at dusk flying over No.6 tank.

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Observer: WSM (images and video).