I started off walking along part of the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Weaver through Frodsham and Ince marshes this morning. There were 12 Mute Swan on the ship canal with another 4 on the river. c1000 Canada Goose were sheltering on the Weaver estuary well away from the shooting which was taking place on the salt marshes. A single Goldeneye was in the company of a small number of Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Common Shelduck, 7 Great Crested Grebe and 5 Little Grebe were all noted.
A flock of c200 Pintail passed overhead heading out to the estuary and a short while later another flock of c80 went the same way. A Common Sandpiper was on the river edge and a pair of Stonechat in the reed bed.
On to the canal path and even more Canada Goose were on the salt marsh near to the canal bank as shooting was taking place out by the edge of the river. The plover flocks were back to their nervous state and bunching together as the guns were blasting away. The Lapwing flock settled back down but the Golden Plover (are even more nervous, if that’s possible) and flew east along the ship canal.
The Mute Swan herd were in the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter with a single Greylag with the remaining solitary Pink-footed Goose. It was good to see my family group of Eurasian White-fronted Goose still here and eventually joined up with the ‘pinky’ for good measure.
Several hundred Pink-footed Goose were still present grazing on Lordship Marsh and the Whooper Swan herd were tucked away behind a hedge near Hillview Farm.
At least 2 Brambling were with a group of Chaffinch at the junction of No.6 and No.4 tanks and another pair of Stonechat were near the model flying field at the end of Moorditch Lane.
Observer: Paul Ralston (image 1-2 & 5).
While Paul was taking the earlier shift I was settled on the banks of No.6 tank when a dog walker (surprisingly head to toe in camo gear) decided he would walk along the top edge of No.6 tank flushing all of c3000 Eurasian Teal. They settled back into form when he disappeared into the distance but never reemerged from the flooded daisy beds. It was interesting to watch their behaviour when feeding in deep cover The entire flock would panic and explode from the vegetation as one. The sound of distant gun fire (a couple of miles away) made them very nervous and whenever a shot blast sounded they would raise their heads in alarm. It’s been an incredible build up in the numbers of Teal to No.6 tank over the last few weeks. The combination of recent cold snaps and wild-fowling activity on both the Mersey and Dee marshes may have contributed to teal using this relative “safe” sanctuary. The image above illustrates the dense numbers of ducks spooked from their feeding area.
A flock of 26 Golden Plover flew over but the flooded No.6 was to deep for their needs. A small group of Wigeon were on No.3 tank with c300 Canada Gosse.
I made my way along the track between No.6 and No.3 tank and watched a male Merlin perched on top of an elder tree but, has I reached for my camera it detected my movement and the opportunity was gone (and so was the falcon). This happened a couple of more times later in the day when another/or the same male was watched hunting up a passerine high above the wind turbines on No.4 tank.
Watching from the south-east corner of No.4 and the distant herd of 24 Whooper Swan could be seen partially hidden behind the hedgerow and hadn’t moved since PR had them earlier. The large gathering of Pink-footed Goose were still in situ.
My walk continued out to Ince marsh fields where the White-fronted and solitary Pink-footed Goose were still there and I crossed paths with Paul Miller & Frank Duff.
Continuing to the my watch point looking across the salt marsh revealed a female Merlin, several Little Egret and a lone Great Egret in the distance.
A Stonechat was busy popping up on the sedges by the side of the ship canal while a Green Sandpiper called overhead.
The ‘Splashing Pool’ looked vacant until the yapping calls of geese from the south reached a crescendo and c2000 Pink-footed Geese flew in (presumably the birds from Lordship Marsh) over my head with the splattering sound of goose shit raining all around me (fortunately there wasn’t a direct hit). What started off as a dull miserable day tickled me pink in the end.
A Peregrine was on the blue topped chimney and a female Marsh Harrier came into roost at dusk.
Observer: WSM (image 4-8 and videos).
Image 3 by Paul Miller.
Eurasian Teal drifting into vegetation to feed on seed heads.