New Year’s Eve 2019

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The last day of an eventful year and my last walk around the Weaver Bend.

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The 3 Cattle Egret were moving around the fields close to Marsh Farm looking for their bovine brothers. The big plover flock that have recently been in the area were nowhere to be seen today, probably out on the salt marshes.

The Weaver Estaury had the Tufted Duck flock which were out near the junction of the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Weaver, along with Mallard, Eurasian Teal, Common Shelduck and Common Goldeneye.

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A herd of 23 Mute Swan were on the river with one particular bird showing a lot of aggression to another pair.  A flock of 64 Northern Pintail were at the Weaver Bend alongside more Eurasian Teal and a pair of Gadwall.

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A Peregrine flew past over the I.C.I tank and perched on a pylon near to the M56 motorway. A large skein of Pink-footed Goose were heading out towards the Mersey Estuary.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-6).

The Whooper Swan herd were still alongside Lordship Lane this morning and a large skein of c350 Pink-footed Goose flew over Runcorn Docks heading east.

Observer: WSM (image 1).

30.12.19. Birdlog.

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I started this morning watching the sunrise over the Mersey Estuary at Eastham and then I made my way to Ince. The pools held c70 Eurasian Teal, c20 Mallard, c15 Gadwall, 3 Little Grebe (one of which was catching small fish as I walked on to the marsh and again as I made my way back to my car) a single Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron were foraging in the long grass.

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On to the Manchester Ship Canal path and from it were more Gadwall and Mallard. The dredger was making its way west and discharging its waste water as it went.

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Frodsham Score salt marsh was again quiet despite there being no wildfowlers about. Several Little Egret and a single Great Egret were noted and a skein of c30 Pink-footed Goose flew south. A few Redwing were searching for any berries left on the hawthorns and were targeted unsuccessfully by a Sparrowhawk. A Chiffchaff was noted in the scrub. A pair of Common Buzzard were hanging in the air (Kestrel like) and were buzzed by a Kestrel several times.

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The swan herd are still close to the Lordship Lane with the Bewick’s Swan amongst the Whooper Swan herd. I stopped to chat with Keith when a Marsh Harrier made an appearance and had a tussle with a Common Buzzard.

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The 1st winter Greater Scaup was still with the Tufted Duck flock and Common Sandpiper were still present on the Weaver Estuary.

Walking past the Growhow works and the resident Mistle Thrush was feeding in the ploughed field. A large flock of Eurasian Curlew were feeding in the stubble and several pairs of Stonechat were noted on my walk.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-7).

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A walk around Delamere Forest was eventful for the warm clear blue skies and a Peacock Butterfly flying around at the end of the year…bizarre!

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We started with a blistering sunrise over the dark satanic mills over Frodsham Marsh and we end this blog with a blistering sunset over Frodsham Marsh.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 8-9).

29.12.19. Birdlog.

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I started my walk along Brook Furlong Lane this morning where a long deadpredated  Barn Owl lay outside the pony stable. There were several Raven on the pylons and trees along the lane and then a party of Long-tailed Tit were foraging in the bushes.

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Out on the River Weaver were the usual Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Eurasian Teal. Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Canada Goose and Mute Swan a brief sighting of the Long-tailed Duck as it dived under the water, but I couldn’t relocate it when it surfaced. There were several Great Crested Grebe on the river.

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Closer to Marsh Farm and the 3 Cattle Egret were amongst the cattle on the ship canal road. Hundreds of Northern Lapwing and European Golden Plover fed in the fields occasionally taking to the air when spooked by a predator. The ‘Canal Pools’ held c200 Eurasian Wigeon and c70 Eurasian Coot with 2 pair of Stonechat close by.

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Frodsham Score salt marsh was almost devoid of birdlife with just a few Little Egret and a few geese out by the river, no doubt due to the wildfowlers hiding in the creeks with their decoys failing to attract the geese.

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A flock of c200 Eurasian Curlew were on the stubble alongside the Holpool Gutter with a single Little Egret for company. A Common Sandpiper was again along the ship canal.

On Lordship Marsh the Bewick’s Swan was still in the company of the Mute and Whooper Swan close to the lane.

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Another 3 pair of Stonechat were noted on my walk back to the car.

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Looking over No.6 tank revealed good numbers of Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Northern Pintail all afloat of the water/slude being pumped into the tank by the dredger at the’ Pumping Station.

Back by the motorway bridge a splendid male Common Kestrel wearing a leg iron was sat in a tree while the female hunted close by.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

A Chiffchaff was on the banks by the ‘Splashing Pool’ per Mark (Whipper) Gibson.

28.12.19. Birdlog.

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A walk out to the Weaver Estuary along Brook Furlong Lane was pretty uneventful apart from a few Redwing and Fieldfare were barely hanging in after their berry fest here.

A few Mute Swan were again on the Weaver Bend, a gaggle of 28 Greylag Goose and a ‘white’ form circled the area before heading back out to the River Mersey.

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A look across the waters of the Weaver Estuary was rewarding producing a winter female Long-tailed Duck, which makes a tidy duo after the summer male in May this year.

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The flock of Tufted Duck were reduced from c250 to c200 today and in their midst was a very interesting juvenile Greater Scaup. Another bird in the flock was certainly a female hybid Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck. The Common Pochard flock have increased to 28 birds, c130 Eurasian Teal and a ring of 10 Common Goldeneye included many fine drakes. There were 12 Great Crested Grebe, 14 Eurasian Coot and 212 Common Redshank. A flock of 54 Eurasian Curlew and 6 Black-tailed Godwit flew west.

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The detritus on the brackish marsh at the Weaver Estuary, and especially the Manchester Ship Canal is nothing short of pitiful. Apart from a mass of plastic (ironically including a plastic dolphin), a hypodermic syringe and general waste which has found its way into the canal over many years, it must speak volumes for the way we treat the ‘great’ Manchester Ship Canal and its route.

A large raft of Common Shelduck were rising the tide on the river and a few Little Egret were commuting between sites.

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The 3 Cattle Egret were tantilising the cows on the bottom road below Marsh Farm and would have been out of sight of any casual observers looking for them. The Northern Lapwing and European Golden Plover flocks were less flighty today and settled down on No.2 tank.

I bumped into Jacqui and Idris Roberts on my way back and they mentioned that they had seen the Bewick’s Swan with the Whooper herd on Lordship Marsh.

Observer and images: WSM.

27.12.19. Birdlog.

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I watched the sunrise at Eastham where 2 fishermen were catching Cod on the rising tide

I started at Brook Furlong Lane this morning where Redwing, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, European Goldfinch and a flock of Long-tailed Tit made their way along the lane. Out on the Weaver Estuary were 6 Common Goldeneye which joined the large flock of Tufted Duck, Common Pochard, Eurasian Teal and Mallard. A flock of c30 Common Redshank were resting with a Northern Lapwing flock at the edge of the river, and 11 Mute Swan were amongst a flock of Canada Goose.

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Hundreds of plovers were in the field close to Marsh Farm and the 3 Cattle Egret were amongst the cattle. A pair of Stonechat were near the pipeline on No.1 tank and the numbers of Raven were numerous all along my walk.

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An injured Great Black-backed Gull had a broken wing and it is assumed it had hit a wind turbine and after it recomposed itself, it walked several hundred yards to join the Raven flock feeding on a dead cow, overlooked by a pair of Common Buzzard sat in a tree.

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The Whooper Swan herd were again near Lordship Lane with 10 Mute’s and the now popular adult Bewick’s Swan and 8 Mute Swan.

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A pair of Kestrel were perched alongside each other along Moorditch Lane. .

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-9).

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Another day and another visit made down to the marshes. A look over No.6 tank produced c10 Common Pochard, 2 Common Goldeneye, 320 Eurasian Teal, 12 Northern Pintail and 48 Northern Shoveler. There were 3 Western Marsh Harrier perched up and numerous Common Buzzard were also sitting tight.

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The Whooper Swan herd on Lordship Marsh still harboured the adult Bewick’s Swan. Tradionally this species does occasionally drop in with the Whopper Swan flocks on the marshes over the years, but they generally don’t linger for long…get it while it’s here! A couple of Western Cattle Egret were in the distant fields but didn’t come any closer and later in the morning shifted from here to Marsh Farm.

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A further extension to my watch included Frodsham Score where a Great Egret was with the many Little Egret present. A barrel chested female Peregrine was out by the shoreline, and 100’s of Common Shelduck were feeding in the same area.

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The 100’s of European Golden Plover and Northern Lapwing flocks on No.3 tank and were constantly agitated rising up into the air on many occasions. In the same field by Marsh Farm were the 3 relocated Cattle Egret feeding under the hooves of the cattle and sheep.

Passerines were few and far between with small flocks of both Redwing and Fieldfare, and I countered 10 European Stonechat throughout my walk.

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I managed a trip out to the sticks in Northwich for the Aston Flash Eastern Stonechat, It’s final identity will only be resolved with a slop bucket and a white laboratory jacket. A good find by local patcher David Bedford and a new species for the county. A little bit jealous it was there and not at Frodsham though.

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Later in the day and back at Frodsham Marsh, I rounded the day off with a Little Egret wading through the aqua course on the hovercraft site.

Observer: WSM (images 11-18).

A Kingfisher was seen by Creg Caird.

26.12.19. Birdlog.

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A skein of c400 Pink-footed Goose flying south over the M56 as I made my way to the marsh this morning.

No.6 tank had decent numbers of ducks which included Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Common Pochard and a few Northern Pintail were mostly feeding near the far bank. A flock of Canada Goose left the water and made their way out to the Mersey Estuary. The Raven flock were making the most of the beef bonanza on No.3 tank alongside murder of crows.

The mitigation pools had Mallard, Eurasian Teal and Eurasian Wigeon which were all flushed by a low flying Common Buzzard. A Marsh Harrier flew over No.3 tank and then dropped in to the reeds on No.6.

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Several Little Egret were out on the salt marsh with a single Great Egret and hundreds of Canada Goose. Looking over the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter had c150 Eurasian Curlew and a handful of Black-tailed Godwit were noted and a flock of c40 Stock Dove dropping down to feed with them. A couple of Little Egret were in the field at the junction of Rake Lane, while the3 Mute Swan, 19 Whooper Swan herd were alongside Lordship Lane for their third day and the single adult Bewick’s Swan. There were four more egrets which were to far away to determine their idenity, but almost certain tobe the 3 Cattle and a soliatry Little?

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

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I walked along Brook Furlong Lane in steady rain which barely stopped during a long walk out to the Weaver Estuary. There were 10 Mute Swan and a Great Crested Grebe on the Weaver Bend, but the lure of the estuary and its ducks forced me on.

A raft of 20 Eurasian Coot, 248 Tufted Duck included 10 Common Pochard, 6 Common Goldeneye, 630 Eurasian Teal and the juvenile Greater Scaup that had previously been on No.6 tank, but with all the shooting activity in the area, it is assumed the ducks were finding relative sanctuary along this stretch of the Weaver Estuary. A couple of Stonechat were knocking about.

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Marsh Farm looked dreary in the drizzle and the huge numbers of Northern Lapwing, European Golden Plover and Eurasian Curlew with Eurasian Wigeon and Teal made for a fine spectacle as they flew up from the wet meadows and murmurated across the grey laden sky. A few Fieldfare were perched up by the farm buildings.

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Observer: WSM (images 4-6 & 8-9).

Christmas Day Birdlog 2019.

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I made an early start at dawn before my presence was requested into the battery of sprouts and festive merriment, and It was certainly a ‘White Christmas’ for me today down on the marsh.

I walked along Moorditch Lane where the few lingering Fieldfare and Redwing were finding the hawthorn berries hard to come by. A quick look over No6 tank had 12, Eurasian Coot, 10 Common Pochard, 7 Tufted Duck, a female/1st winter Common Goldeneye, 70 Northern Shoveler, 12 Northern Pintail, 21 Mallard and c369 Eurasian Teal.

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A dead bloated cow on No.5 tank provided a feast for the corvids that were lined up for their the bovine buffet. A Marsh Harrier was watching the sunrise from over Frodsham village.

A mass of birds were on No.3 tank and included 100’s of Eurasian Wigeon finding some salvation here, 100’s of Eurasian Teal, c500 Northern Lapwing, c450 European Golden Plover and 8 Pink-footed Goose. The three Cattle Egret were still annoying the sheep on No.2 tank.

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A watch on the incoming tide over Frodsham Score revealed 3 Great Egret, 17 Little Egret, a mass of 1000’s of wheeling Dunlin, 340 Grey Plover and Common Redshank flocks. Watching and waiing to see what was flushed by the tide were several Common Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier and a patient female Merlin. Herds of Canada Goose were again on the salt marsh with much reduced numbers of Pink-footed Goose.

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I continued my festive walk making my way over to the junction of No.6 and No.4 tank looking over Lordship Marsh. The Whooper Swan herd of 19 birds were still present and a look through their numbers revealed 4 Mute’s and a diamond adult Bewick’s Swan. It is always a delight to see this declining species here on the marsh and to have one in the same scope view with two Cattle Egret was made much more interesting. The Cattle Egret pair were from the three birds seen earlier, which had relocated here. A Water Pipit flew up from the flooded field between the Hover Force site and the ramp track and another Little Egret was with a Grey Heron wading through the pool at the former site. A Great Spotted Wooepecker was calling from the willows on No.4 tank and a Chiffchaff with several Cetti’s Warbler were contact calling.

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All in all a really great xmas morning bird walk and all of it to myself.

Merry Christmas.

Observer and images: WSM.