Halloween Edition

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A short ghastly walk from the graveyard at Ince to the Hollowpool Gutter this spooky morning. As soon as I got out of my hearse I could hear skeins of ghostly geese passing overhead leaving their last resting place of the salt marsh and headed out to their daytime feeding crypt fields on the Dreary Dee marshes.

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A few bloodcurdling Redwing and black as the night Blackbirds were joined by several Gravefare feeding on the haunting hawthorn berries, a few extra Gravefare were feeding amongst the tomestones in the adjacent stubble fields.

A mysterious Merlin was seen haunting over Ince Marsh and soon settled on a piece of deadwood watching the mass of startled Starling flocks feeding out near to the River Murky. A large flock of Gruesome Black -cloaked and Lesser Black-cloaked Gull were resting on the daed marshes while a few others were feasting on the living dead zomie sheep left scattered on the salty marsh. A scattered flock of Little Regret were feeding in the tidal channels with many Shellshockduck sitting like spectres about the place.

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Flocks of derring-do Dunlin and Redshock were seen moving up and down the edge of the river of styx with Mallard Lady’s and Gentlemen, Terrible Teal and Gadwail on the Horrible Gutter which has a pump running to keep the water levels down from the flooded fields. 

I made my way back after getting caught in a frightful downpour and watched 4 grimly Grey Wagtail and a dozen Spied-upon Wagtail feeding on insects washed out of the earth by the sudden cloudburst.

Vampire watcher and scary pics: Count Ralston.

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An eerie owl perches out on the spooky sludge tanks in the witching hour…5 years ago! Image by WSM.

30.10.20. Birdlog.

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An early finish and a walk around the River Weaver. There were Redwing and Blackbird busy feeding on the hawthorns hedgerows along Brook Furlong Lane with a couple of Pheasant taking advantage of the abundant crop of berries.

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A Merlin shot passed as I made my way along the lane scattering the winter thrushes. A pair of Common Buzzard and a Common Kestrel were also hunting in the same area.  Onto the river and a flock of several hundred Tufted Duck and Eurasian Teal were put into the air by a boatman checking nets on the river, while 3 quad bikes on the river bank caused further disturbance.

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Smaller numbers of Common Pochard, Gadwall and Mallard were noted. 5 Mute Swan and c50 Eurasian Coot were gathered near the junction of the Weaver Estuary and Manchester Ship Canal longside 3 Great Crested Grebe. A flock of c80 Common Redshank, a single Dunlin and a lone Little Egret were on the river bank.

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Out on the Mersey Estuary were 4 Little Egret, 8 Grey Heron, several Great Cormorant and Eurasian Curlew foraged in the shallows and a group of 7 Mute Swan and a single Whopper Swan were out on the River Mersey, but were seen to settle on the River Weaver later. There were 7 European Stonechat and 3 Cetti’s Warbler were noted during my walk.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

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A Wood Pigeon meets a gruesome end as it didn’t negotiate the heras fence panel. Although it is sad to see the demise of this particular bird the species generally do tend to put themselves at risk with various stationary and/or moving objects.

Observer: WSM (images 5-6).

25.10.20. Birdlog.

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I started my walk at Ince this morning where a flock of c100 Black-tailed Godwit flew over the pig farm after leaving the Mersey Estuary and both Redwing and Blackbird were busy feeding on the hawthorn berry laden bushes. Also managed to see a flock of Chaffinch making their way along the lane with several Reed Bunting along with them. The pools held decent numbers of ducks eg Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, with 4 Little Grebe and c30 Eurasian Coot being noted. A flock of 8 Common Snipe flushed as I neared the Ince berth and a large flock of Canada Goose were feeding in the stubble fields alongside the Holpool Gutter.

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There were 10’s of hundreds of Pink-footed Goose which left the estuary and headed south to their feeding grounds. At least 12 Little and 1 Great Egret were foraging on the salt marsh of Frodsham Score.

A Sparrowhawk flew low over the stubble fields and was followed by a possie of Pied Wagtail which escorted it out of the area. The ‘phalarope pool’ held just a few Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Gadwall. There were several Eurasian Curlew which flew over calling as they went.

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A Cetti’s Warbler was singing at the south end of No.6 tank with another a few hundred yards away along Lordship Lane and the flooded fields at the same location had c500 Canada Goose feeding on the same field as yesterday. A pair of Stock Dove were sat on one of the owl boxes as per usual. A female European Stonechat was in the bushes alongside the perimeter fence at the Grow How fertilizer plant with Rrook, Western Jackdaws and Carrion Crow being plentifull on the nearby stubble fields.

Back at my car and I heard of the recent sighting of a Bittern possible dropping down on No.6, so I made my way to Godscroft Lane where I could look over the bank on No.6but there was no sign of it. A Common Kestrel was hunting over the reed bed and flushed a few Common Snipe and later a Merlin was noted hunting the same area. Another female European Stonechat was sat on the fence near to the model flying field.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

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I started at No.6 tank this morning. There was a good number of ducks,
including 230 Northern Shoveler, 58 Northern Pintail and 2 Common Pochard. Also present were 40 Little Grebe and a Little Egret flew over.

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Whilst walking along the track between tanks 5 & 6 a Bittern briefly appeared above and dropped down towards the reedbed of No.6 tank.

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A look over the Weaver Estuary revealed the single Whooper Swan with 25
Mute Swan, 180 Tufted Duck, 4 Common Pochard, 10 Great Crested Grebe, 3
Little Grebe and 1 Common Goldeneye.

Observer: Alyn Chambers.

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We made our way along the track between No.5 & 6 tanks with the water level really high on No.6 tank the ducks were in their element. The only contribution I can make to what was already seen above was 12 additional Common Pochard on six.

Observers: JS & WSM.

Images 5-7 by Ron Brumby.

24.10.20. Birdlog.

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A grey damp walk around the marsh this morning along the River Weaver where it was certainly the right conditions for Mallard, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Teal, Gadwall, Common Pochard and c12 Common Goldeneye.

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Also present were flocks of Northern Pintal passed overhead on their way to the Mersey Estuary, followed by a few hundred Canada Goose flushed from the far bank of the Weaver Estuary by a pair of Common Buzzard. A flock of c300 Common Redshank and Northern Lapwing were resting at the edge of the river with a flock of c60 Eurasian Coot.

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Onward to No.5 tank with several Common Snipe were seen to drop down into the vegetation, and skeins of Pink-footed Goose were heading south, but were struggling with the wind which was pushing them further to the east. Another decent selection of ducks were on No.6 tank with Mallard, Eurasian Teal and Northern Shoveler joining the Gadwall and more Northern Pintail with a Western Marsh Harrier hunting the reed bed.

Looking over Lordship Marsh was a mass of gulls feeding in the fields alongside the M56 motorway and c600 Canada Goose were in the stubble fields along Lordship Lane. Further along towards the start of my walk a Common Kingfisher brightened up an otherwise dull day as it left its perch next to the P.O.W bridge alongside Moorditch Lane and sped along the ditch out of sight. A few Redwings and Fieldfares were noted during the day.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images).

21.10.20. Birdlog.

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A dash over to the other side of the River Mersey to Widnes Warth Marsh after work on my #carbonneutral cycle resulted in 8 Little & a Great Egret on Widnes Warth Marsh.

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There were many calling Cetti’s Warbler & the Ruddy Shelduck was pushed off the river by the tide from east side of the new Mersey Gateway bridge.

Observer and images: WSM.

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A Short-eared Owl was present on No.5 tak, Frodsham Marsh in the ghostly gloom with the lights of the works at Weston Point in the distance.

Observer and image by Phil Barker.

Also spotted a rare for the marsh was a Marsh Tit as seen and photographed by Duncan Cowley.

19.10.20. Birdlog.

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An afternoon free so a visit to watch over the high tide from the banks of No.4 tank. A big flock of c300 European Golden Plover were flushed by the rising water and settled close to the Manchester Ship Canal bank with hundreds of Northern Lapwing their usual skttish selves, and taking to flight every few minutes. There were thousands of Common Starling moving across the salt marshes and hopefully they might want to roost in the reed beds on 6 again soon.

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A pair of Peregrine kept everything on red alert, but they weren’t seen to hunt with any great intent. Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank and Dunlin were actively moving up and down the Mersey Estuary with many more Curlew, and the Redshank settling near the canal bank. Ducks included Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Common Shelduck were drifting alongside with Canada Goose and several Greylag, while nearby small skeins of Pink-footed Goose moved inland.

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A couple of Great Egret and c20 Little Egret were fishing in the tidal channels with hundreds of gulls in a feeding frenzy. Common Raven and Carrion Crow were patrolling the salt marsh in search of casualties and found a couple of unfortunate sheep dead in the channels.

Walking back passed the pools at Ince and a Green Sandpiper dropped into cover at the pool edge.

A couple of past their best puffballs were noted in the undergrowth.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3). 

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The Spindle bushes were showing a nice cerise colour in the autumn light along the track between No.5 & No.6 tanks.

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Finch flocks feeding on the thistle heads included both Goldfinch and Linnet.

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Below the banks on No.6 tank were a selection of ducks like these Pintail and Mallard.

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The Shoveler were more wary and flew away when spotted.

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A Curlew flew over keeping one eye on Keith as it went…

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…and a Canada Goose kept a low profile in a ditch along Moorditch Lane.

Images 4-14 by Keith Gallie.

18.10.20. Birdlog.

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I started my at Ince for the BTO WeBs count today where the pools held 5 Mallard, 63 Eurasian Teal, 37 Gadwall, 3 Northern Shoveler, 2 Mute Swan, 34 Eurasian Coot, 4 Common Moorhen, 4 Little Grebe, 1 Common Snipe, a Jack Snipe jumped up in front of me and dropped down again after flying about 30 yards. Autumn movements of Redwing were  feasting on the hawthorne berries along the Manchester Ship Canal path and skeins of Pink-footed Goose were moving about on the salt marsh, some heading inland and others making their way on to the Frodsham Score. The maze fields alongside the Holpool Gutter are being harvested today, so not a great deal to see there although 29 Eurasian Curlew were on a nearby stubble field.

A walk along Lordship Lane was uneventful with just European Goldfinch and Linnet being noted. Back at the gutter and an additional 4 Eurasian Coot, 2 Common Moorhen, 6 Eurasian Teal and 4 Gadwall were on the water.

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The tide by now was well on its way in covering the salt marsh flushing flocks of Eurasian Curlew gathering on open ground above the water level, alongside many Northern Lapwing and Common Redshank. A flock of Pied Avocet were drifting with the tide on Frodsham Score with Little Egret being numerous and 6 Great Egret seen feeding close together.

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Standing on the bank of the Hollpool Gutter provided views of a Merlin flashed past below where I was standing in persuit of a charm of European Goldfinch, but turned its attention to a Common Starling flock producing a great display of its flying skills. Earlier, a mass of Common Starling performed a murmuration, shapeshifting several times before spreading out over the Stanlow tank farm.

Back at my start and 2 Cetti’s Warblers were heard with one seen briefly.

Observer: Paul Ralston .

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While Paul was over at the west end of the marsh and after our paths crossed I made my way around No.6 tank and apart from a Western Marsh Harrier over No.6 tank it was well below par for the day.

On No.6 tank were the usual duck species and again not a single Black-tailed Godwit to wish upon a star with.

Observer: WSM.

A report of a Hoopoe along Pool Lane, Elton and the A5117.

17.10.20. Birdlog.

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I stopped off at Helsby on my way to the marsh this morning and firstly looking over Lordship Marsh where a large flock of Canada Goose were feeding in the flood water with hundreds of Black-headed Gull and Northern Lapwing.

A flock of Redwing and c300 Fieldfare flew south as I walked along Moorditch Lane giving a feel of colder months ahead. There was also c20 Common Moorhen and a single Eurasian Coot in the recently dredged ditch. Shooting was taking place on Lordship Marsh and the hundreds of Canada Goose that were feedingin the fields there took to the sky and moved out to the Mersey Estuary where they were then targeted by the wildfowlers.

Flocks of European Goldfinch, Linnet and Western Reed Bunting were feeding in the stubble watched over by a Common Kestrel which unsuccessfully tried to snatch one.

The first of several European Stonechat was seen on No.4 tank with another 2 pairs along the Manchester Ship Canal path, a single male was on the Weaver Estuary bank.

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A Water Rail was heard  squealing in the reed bed along the path on the Holpool Gutter. Also spotted were 6 Gadwall and several Mallard. Skeins of Pink-footed Goose were leaving Frodsham Score salt marsh and heading south with some returning a short while later.

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A single Whooper Swan sat out on the marsh until it was flushed by the wildfowlers. There were 5 more swans seen flying along the edge of the river, but too far out to id.

Little Egret were numerous and a flock of c40 European Golden Plover were spooked by a Common Buzzard.

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I made my way down to the Weaver junction where Meadow Pipit were in good numbers along the canal path and a group of c30 Common Raven were gathered on the far bank.

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As the tide came in a flock of c100 Eurasian Curlew moved along the river and settled at the river edge alongside c20 Great Cormorant, numerous Northern Lapwing and 12 Pied Avocet.

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On the Weaver bank were c300 Common Redshank, 2 Common Sandpiper and more lapwing noted, while on the river 3 adults and 3 juvenile Mute Swan and a mixed flock of Tufted Duck, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Eurasian Coot and Common Shelduck were present on the river.

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Three Cetti’s Warbler were heard during my walk with one by the canal path, alongside No.4, and then 2 along Brook Furlong Lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-7).

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While Paul was doin’ is thang, I was positioned at the edge of the advancing tide looking across Frodsham Score. The brighter early sunshine soon gave way to dull grey and drizzle which felt cold and affected the vision and views across the salt marshes. The incoming tide slowly shifted the position of the distant Pink-footed Goose who were weary of the shooters out on the edge of the river. Typically for birds that have newly arrived from their breeding grounds further north, they were unsettled and moved position several times during the tide.

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A Whooper Swan was out alone on the salt marsh.

Again there were a couple of thousand of Canada Goose filling the open water. Ducks were rather absent with a handful of Common Shelduck, 200 Eurasian Wigeon and Eurasian Teal.

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A scattered group of 27 Little and 4 Great Egret made short work of several small silver fish flushed out of the tidal gutters. Shorebirds were the main feature of my interest with a ‘close in’ group of 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 100’s of Eurasian Curlew, 300 European Golden Plover, tens of thousand Dunlin (in their mesmerising ‘Mersey Snake’ flights) over the estuary, several Eurasian Oystercatcher, two groups of 20 & 18 Pied Avocet, Grey Plover and hundreds of Common Redshank.

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A constant stream of Eurasian Skylark passing over head with the odd Redpoll spp noted. A Western Marsh Harrier carrying prey caused a small ripple of panic with the hundreds of Northern Lapwing but it soon moved on.

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A look over the ‘phalarope pool’ was devoid of birdlife apart from a curious Little Grebe, while nearby the ‘splashing pool’ had 12 Gadwall. A group of 320 Eurasian Teal were hiding on the scrapes in the middle of No.3 tank. A couple of chattering Fieldfare stopped briefly before moving on.

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I evetually made it back to No.6 tank where a flock of c670 Eurasian Teal, 178 Northern Shoveler, 39 Northern Pintail 142 Tufted Duck, 7 Common Pochard, 31 Mallard, 12 Gadwall and 21 Little Grebe were on the water. A big surpise today was not a single Black-tailed Godwit?

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A Brimstone moth caterpillar.

Observer: WSM (images 8-14).

13.10.20. Birdlog.

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A walk overside Lordship Marsh after work to see what was knocking about on the flooded fields.

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A herd of c1000 Canada Goose were foraging on the stubble with a large flock of Northern Lapwing and Common Starling also taking advantage of the flood water which brought bugs, grubs and worms to the surface.

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A mixed flock of Northern Shoveler, Wigeon, Mallard and several Northern Pintail were noted. A flock of Redwing were seen looking for a place to roost for the night and Common Raven were heading over Helsby Hill to their roost site.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

The previous day 12.10.20 a female Ruddy Shelduck still lingers on the mudflats by the ‘future flower’ sculpture along the Trans Pennine Trail off Widnes Warth Marsh per WSM (video).

11.10.20. Birdlog.

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I started my birding walk at Brook Furlong Lane this morning where a Cetti’s Warbler was proudly proclaiming loud and clear along the lane. Over head a Whooper Swan was seen above the River Weaver calling as it went, but ignoring the 9 Mute Swan and its single compatriot Whooper Swan below it on the river.

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The seven Mute Swan left the river and settled on the Mersey Estuary where 12 Pied Avocet were resting on a sand bank with several Eurasian Curlew and Great Cormorant alongside them. Hundreds of Pink-footed Goose were leaving the salt marshes and heading inland to their feeding grounds.

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A female European Stonechat posed for my camera on the river bank and a male was seen near to Marsh Farm. There were hundreds of Canada Goose which had spent the night on No.6 tank and then moved out to the Mersey Estuary as I made my way around the tank, the geese encouraged many ducks to follow them.

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The water levels are far to high for the waders, leaving just a flock of Northern Lapwing with a single Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff with them. Another Cetti’s was heard along Lordship Lane where many Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit were foraging in the wet fields. I called in at Ince on my way home and the water had drained from the flooded fields with just 3 Little Egret and 4 Grey Heron being present. A flock of c30 Meadow Pipit were sitting on the phone line and were flushed by a Sparrowhawk.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

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While Paul was out this morning we took a drive over to Tatton Park and a mooch around to see what was about. Starting from the Knutsford entrance we walked along the shore of Tatton Mere where a raft of Tufted Duck were with Common Pochard and a drake Northern Pintail.

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After finding a fallen tree to sit on, it was time for some lunch and whilst tucking in to a sandwich a skein of c80 Pink-footed Goose flew over heading east.

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A hornet shadow is reflected through the brightly cooured beech leaf.

Once the geese passed over my attention was drawn to a Common Hornet which was flying above a small beech brance supporting a mixture of yellow, golden and green leaves. This solitary hornet was soon joined by another, then another until I counted 12 of these large orange coloured super wasps. It was obvious the hornets were attracted to the beech leaves and what they were feeding on, or gathering I couldn’t see, but they hung around the low branches until I left the area.

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A further walk and the first of 3 Green Woodpecker were seen and one particular bird flew from a tree it had been perched in to an area of grassy ant mounds and began to look for food. I managed to get some handheld images through my binocular with my mobile phone and all my images today were done with that process.

Walking back and the sounds of bellowing Red Deer during their autumn rut were loud and resonating across the park, and so intent with their rut they were totally unconcerned by the park walkers standing nearby.

After heading off home we called in at No.6 tank on Frodsham Marsh where the high level of water after the recent periods of prolonged rain had made the tank almost impossible for shorebirds. However, ducks were very much at the birdy forefront and Eurasian Teal numbered c500 with 120 Northern Shoveler, 42 Northern Pintail, 41 Tufted Duck and smaller numbers of Mallard.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 5-8).