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.
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.
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.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-5).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.