15.11.20. Birdlog (WeBS Count).

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I was out today for my section of the BTO WeBS count with Bill covering the area to the south of the marshes. My start was from Ince and I stopped at Kinsey Lane where a Pot-bellied Pig was strolling along the lane in front of me as bold as brass, He was returned to his owner by 2 lady joggers.

I looked over the Frodsham Score salt marsh from an elevated position as the tide crept in and I watched as masses of waders were moving along the edge of the river and putting on a great display. 

A single Little Egret was feeding amongst the pigs as were c60 Eurasian Curlew, c300 Black-headed Gull. Onward to the pools and 5 Mallard, 62 Eurasian Teal, 23 Gadwall, 15 Northern Shoveler, 14 Eurasian Coot, 10 Common Moorhen, a single Little  Egret, 3 Little Grebe and 4 Mute Swan were noted. Later 2 Black-tailed Godwit dropped in to feed at the edge of the pool aswell.

A small flock of 4 Common Snipe exploded from the grass as I made my way towards the Ince Berth and a Common Buzzard which I disturbed as it fed on a freshly killed Rabbit. Winter thrushes were numerous and were joined by a Mistle Thrush as they gorged in the hedgerows. 

The tide came in and covered the entire salt marsh forcing thousands of waders into the air and included Dunlin, Common Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Northern Lapwing were all present and c400 Eurasian Curlew settled on the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter  A single Great Egret and several Little Egret were fishing in the rising  water and the gulls went in to a feeding frenzy with the corvids joining them.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston

I had a malfunction with a grub screw and my tripod and then with my camera’s sd card so there wasn’t much chance to get any proper shots today.

We made a start for our BTO WeBS count along Moorditch Lane where a modest sized flock of 120 Black-headed Gull were working the flooded fields by the motorway. We continued along Moorditch to join up with Lordship Lane and apart from a small group of more gulls it was pretty devoid of birdlife but the sign of a marde spreader on the fields by Hillview Farm was enough for the Whooper Swan herd not to be present (Jacqui & Idris Roberts saw them fly overhead No. 3 tank yesterday afternoon, so they had departed the area for now).

Walking the track between No.6 & No.4 tanks produced a flock of 54 Linnet, 12 Pied Wagtail and 5 Lesser Redpoll forgaing along the elders on the western banks of No.6 tank.

No.3 tank was next and for a change the ‘phalarope pool’ was empty but there was a lot of people walking the tracks of the marsh this Sunday. Further out Eurasian Teal were numbering 231 birds with just a handful of Eurasian Wigeon and 23 Mallard. A flock of c500 Northern Lapwing over No.2 tank.

The wind was fresh but the forecast for swally weather didn’t materilise with bright sunshine helping the counters on the edge of the wild mersey. No.6 tank wasn’t as busy as yesterday with 204 Northern Shoveler, 320 Eurasian Teal, 7 Gadwall, 31 Mallard, 16 Common Shelduck, 7 Northern Pintail, 29 Little Grebe, 14 Common Coot and 3 Common Moorhen. A herd of 5 adult and 2 juvenile Mute Swan added to the days bounty.

Observer: JS & WSM.

14.11.20. Birdlog.

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I began my walk at Ince this morning before moving to Brook Furlong Lane in the afternoon period.

A couple of Little Egret were on the pools at Ince with some decent numbers of wildfowl mostly Eurasian Teal but also Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Little Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen and a pair of Mute Swan. A small male Peregrine was checking out the pools sending the ducks in to panic mode. The lane had good numbers of Redwing, Fieldfares and Common Blackbird being abundant down to the Manchester Ship Canal path.

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A Common Chiffchaff was seen moving about in the reeds next to one of the pools and a Short-eared Owl was hunting near Ince berth. A skein of c80 Pink-footed Goose passed overhead on their way to their feeding grounds.

Looking over the Frodsham Score salt marsh produced sightings of 12 Little Egret scattered about feeding in the tidal channels, and a mass of smaller waders could be seen in the distance moving about at the edge of the River Mersey. There wasn’t much else on the score as the wildfowlers were shooting there this morning.

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The fields bordering the Holpool Gutter held a flock of c200 Eurasian Curlew and with them a Great Egret stood statuesque in the middle of the field. Also noted was a group of c20 Black-tailed Godwit joining the curlew flock feeding within the stubble. There were also 2 pairs of European Stonechat noted along the gutter line.

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Later in the afternoon a walk along the Manchester Ship Canal path and River Weaver produced more Eurasian Teal on the water with Tufted Duck, Mallard, Common Pochard, Gadwall, Common Shelduck and plenty of Eurasian Coot seen. There was 7 cygnets and 3 adults Mute Swan on the River Weaver in a group and they made their way towards number No.6 tank, but returned a short while later, another pair and a single cygnet were also on the river. A small flock of 6 Pied Avocet were foraging in the silt alongside the Weaver Sluice tidal channel and the Peregrine was sat on top of the blue tower plucking its takeout.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4).

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With laden skies looming up from the south west and the wind getting into gear a visit to No.6 tank and surrounding area was needed. The ducks were quite flighty today and a flock of 243 Northern Shoveler, 357 Eurasian Teal, 21 Common Shelduck, 2 Tufted Duck, 43 Mallard, 29 Little Grebe and 2 adult & 6 juvenile Mute Swan were as usual an impressive sight.

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A small flock of 6 Ruff (the first group of the early winter) and a couple of Western Marsh Harrier were circling over the reed beds.

The small herd of Whooper Swan were again on Lordship Marsh with several hundred Black-headed Gull in the flooded fields.

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A Common Buzzard was sat out on a fence post on No.5 tank ignoring the Common Raven and Carrion Crow giving it some bovver The Peregrine Paul had seen earlier was still sat on her tall blue topped chimney at Weston Point, no doubt considering her dessert. A skein of Pink-footed Goose flock over the chimney on their way out east.

Overall, a nice selection of birds from a day that really didn’t promise much from the gathering gloom.

Observer: WSM (images 5-8).

13.11.20. Birdlog.

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A late afternoon walk through until dusk along the tracks that separate No.5-No.6-No.3 and No.4 tanks and back again.

The ducks were favouring the waters of No.6 tank with a flighty Common Goldeneye not liking any attention, whatsoever. A good turn out of Northern Pintail reaching 41 birds with drakes in their nuptial displays. An armada of 98 Northern Shoveler were gathered to sift microscopic food through their delicate but large bills. Eurasian Teal numbered c430 with the occasional Mallard, Common Shelduck, Gadwall and 4juvenile and 5 adult Mute Swan were with them.

The wintering Common Chiffchaff was again in the elders at the base of the ramp track down to No.3 tank. The same tank harboured 78 Eurasian Teal, 4 Northern Shoveler and a few Mallard on the ‘phalarope pool’.

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Towards dusk the first skeins of Pink-footed Goose were coming in from their daytime feeding grounds to the east and birds were watched whiffling down to settle on Frodsham Score. The same site had hundreds of Northern Lapwing with c200 European Golden Plover.

A male European Stonechat was along the fence line and Common Starling numbers were low and there was no apparent murmurations to boast about.

A fine female Western Marsh Harrier drifted over and quatered the reed beds of No.6 tank, and finally a Cetti’s Warbler sounded the retreat call for the evening.

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Lordship Marsh still had 5 adult and one juvenile Whooper Swan, hopefully their numbers will increase if we get a cold chill in the next few weeks.

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Observers: JS & WSM (images).

12.11.20. Birdlog.

A 21.5 klm walk down to the Frodsham Marsh and back didn’t shake the foundations of the birding estabishment, but it did reacquaint us with the back lanes of the marsh.

A Common Chiffchaff was skulking along Cowhay Lane above Clifton, and a view across to Weston Marsh lagoon revealed c500 Northern Lapwing and c300 Black-headed Gull. A Sparrowhawk made good its ambush technique attacking the passerines here.

A Cetti’s Warbler was along the Weaver Navigation by Clifton Boat club, a new locality for this species.

A dead Badger by Frodsham Swing Bridge was a sad but regular spot for their demise.

Walking along Moorditch Lane produced a late Common Darter and some bumblebees enjoyed a last hurrah before the gales set in this weekend. Winter thrushes were still blouting their bellies with berries, and were a little wiser to weather lore than the flying invertebrates on the wing.

No.6 tank had much larger numbers of ducks with the usual suspects being more than evident. The elder bushes at the junction of No.6 and No.3 tanks had another Common Chiffchaff. Our walk continued up to the ‘phalarope pool’ which still had 121 Eurasian Teal, 6 Mallard and 2 Northern Shoveler. Smaller skeins of Pink-footed Goose were moving about locally.

A female Merlin zapped past en route to Frodsham Score and the female Peregrine headed out to Hale head from the blue topped chimney at Weston Point while the male stayed put.

Observers: JS & WSM.

10.11.20. Birdlog.

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An early visit to the marsh this morning and just in time to see the ribbons of 100’s of Pink-footed Goose heading north-east out from the south Mersey marshes yelping loudly as they went.

A look over No.6 tank revealed much smaller numbers of ducks with 3 Common Goldeneye, 57 Northern Shoveler, 16 Common Shelduck, 327 Eurasian Teal and 2 Eurasian Wigeon, 21 Mallard, 14 Northern Pintail and 21 Little Grebe. Further teal and wigeon were out on the secluded scrapes of No.3 tank.

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Walking along the tracks revealed small bunches finches and buntings with a Yellowhammer being the highlight. A couple of Cetti’s Warbler were vocal as well.

My journey along the track between No.3 and No.6 tanks was interrupted by a female Merlin darting past on its way to No.4 tank and dislodging a few passerines en route. The ‘phalarope pool’ had 110 Eurasian Teal, 6 Mallard and 4 Northern Shoveler.

The incoming tide pushed up both c500 Eurasian Wigeon, c400 Common Redshank, c150 Eurasian Curlew, 1 Oystercatcher and c1000 Dunlin. A Great Egret was sat with 6 Grey Heron on Frodsham Score and scattered singletons of Little Egret were moving around. A Cetti’s Warbler was heard and likewise a Common Chiffchaff was contacing from a reed bed below where I was standing.

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Reaching the corner of No.4 and No.6 tanks and looking across to Lordship Marsh produced the 5 adult and single juvenile Whooper Swan which were joined by an incoming Mute Swan later.

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A flock of Common Starling gathered on top of a hawthorn hedge were keeping an eye on a Common Buzzard sat below their position.

Observer and images: WSM.

09.11.20. Birdlog.

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I began my birding walk at the model flying field this morning where 3 differently coloured ponies were helping themselves to some free grazing in the hay field along Hares Lane. The “wink, wink. wink” calls of Pink-footed Goose were passing over with skein after skein joined by several small flocks of Black-tailed Godwit all heading south.

Winter thrushes were numerous as were Western Reed Bunting feeding along the hedgerows of Lordship Marsh. A group of 5 adult and 1 juvenile Whooper Swan were grazing near the junction of No.4 and No.6 tanks and were joined by another adult later as I made my way back.

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The ‘phalarope pool’ held c50 Eurasian Teal, 12 Northern Shoveler and several, Mallard, Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen. l looked out over Frodsham Score salt marsh were several Little and 2 Great Egret were noted and one of the Great Egret moved to the stubble fields alongside the Holpool Gutter. A flock of c150 Eurasian Curlew were scattered about the fields. Further Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Little Grebe were in the gutter with a pair of Mute Swan being seen.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-2).

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While Paul was trudging the byways of Frodders Keith Gallie was shooting off some stills from his SLR (images 3-10).

Duncan Cowley was also out on the marsh and took these pics of a charm of European Goldfinch (image 11).

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The Ruddy Shelduck could be seen again below the eastern side of the Mersey Gateway bridge as seen from Widnes Warth Marsh, and later seen by my passenger from our vehicle below the southbound carrageway. Unusually a Merlin was perched up on a crash barrier and must have found enough passerines to hunt at the exit junction of this bridge and the toll isn’t required.

A 2nd winter Mediterreanean Gull coming to one of the tossers of bread at Spike Island was a first for me seeing the species there. The Norwegian colour ring Black-headed Gull was still Present.

Observer: Simon Hutchingson (image 12 from archive).

07.11.20. Birdlog.

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Sunrise over the Wild Mersey.

My walk commenced along Brook Furlong Lane this morning and my progress was watched by several Common Raven in the trees, or even perched on the pylons above my head. The wintering thrushes fed on the abundant berry crop but they did not lingering long out in the open. 

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A couple of European Stonechat were along the river bank with an eye cocked to the sky on a Common Kestrel that was hovering closeby. Similarly, another eye watched a Common Buzzard that was perched on a piece of driftwood digesting the inards of a Brown Rat, and the remains lay nearby.

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Brown Rat partially eaten by a Common Buzzard.

There were 15 Mute Swan, c200 Tufted Duck, c60 Common Shelduck, numerous Eurasian Teal, Mallard, smaller numbers of Common Pochard and Gadwall on the River Weaver. A herd of c300 Canada Goose and c70 Eurasian Coot were also on the river and Manchester Ship Canal junction.

Looking over the Mersey Estuary and 8 Great Crested Grebe, several Great Cormorant, Grey Heron and a single Little Egret were foraging in the tidal channel while a small flock of 8 Pied Avocet flew past.

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A Peregrine was sat on the blue topped chimney at Weston Point checking out its ‘eat out to dine out’ saltmarsh menu below. A flock of c500 Northern Lapwing took to the air with a couple of European Golden Plover joining them, and they all settled back on the marsh after a few minutes.

The Canal Pools held a flock of c30 Eurasian Wigeon, several Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and the Mute Swan pair were joined by their juvenile young.

On No.6 tank the usual ducks were on the water and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard loud and proud.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 3-4).

I saw a Swallow and 2 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies this morning (the former) flying over Weston Road, Weston before heading out towards the Weaver Estuary (WSM). Paul saw another Swallow a Burton Marsh as well.

Image 2 by WSM.

06.11.20. Birdlog.

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I began my walk at Ince this morning with skeins of Pink-footed Goose passing overhead as I made my way along the lane towards the Ince berth. Thrushes were abundant with Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird and a few Mistle Thrush foraging in the hedgerows alongside a few tits like Great, Blue and Long-tailed.

A flock of Chaffinch held several Western Reed Bunting and Common Greenfinch with them, while on the weed seeds numerous European Goldfinch and Linnet fed. The pools had the usual Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot in decent numbers, but were easily spooked as I made my way past them, a couple of Little Grebe and 2 Mute Swan were made of sterner stuff and stayed put.

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Out on Frodsham Score salt marsh were 12 Little Egret and 2 Great Egret being noted while on the canal path a pair of European Stonechat were on the bank.

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The Canal Pools were quiet with just a few Eurasian Teal and the Mute Swan pair, minus their 2 juveniles from the summer.

Three maintenance boats moved along the Manchester Ship Canal flushing a pair of Green Sandpiper from the canal bank. The ‘phalarope pool’ held c30 Eurasian Teal, a pair of Northern Shoveler and several Gadwall, while just 5 drake Mallard were on the ‘splashing pool’.

Walking back to my car and a couple of Western Cattle Egret (presumably the birds WSM had yesterday) were feeding amongst the pigs and were joined by a Great Egret which eventually moved in to the next field.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images1-6).

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I made an early start walking along Brook Furlong Lane to the River Weaver in the morning mist. A full on burst of Cetti’s Warbler as I walked past it gave me tinnitus for a few minutes after. A further less vocal and presumably younger bird was sub-singing from Redwall reed bed shortly after. The lane was full of Redwing, Blackbird and Song Thrush taking advanage of the hawthorn berry bounty. A Common Bullfinch and Common Greenfinch could be heard calling deep into cover.

The River Weaver was typically busy with ducks and 149 Tufted Duck included a few young birds sporting fashionable scaup-like white blazes around their bill base. Eurasian Teal were rather tame keeping companey with the Common Shelduck. The only other duck available to see this morning was a group of 14 Common Pochard but the mild weather isn’t forcing other ducks or species out to the open waters just yet. A flock of 26 Eurasian Coot, 15 Mute Swan and a wintering Common Sandpiper made up the rest.

A look across the Mersey Estuary from the Weaver Sluices produced a small variety of species but a flock of 132 Gadwall was notable with just a single Little Egret and 6 Grey Heron. There were hundreds of Common Shelduck and Eurasian Curlew to make the effort worth while. The edge of the river also noted 4 male and a female European Stonechat.

Marsh Farm was pretty dead with just a solitary Grey Wagtail and a charm of European Goldfinch seen. A large flock of c2000 Northern Lapwing and c250 European Golden Plover erupted from the Weston Marsh lagoon when 3 Common Buzzard circled over their head, one of the buzzard was the white morph that usually resides at Weston Village.

I eventually made my way round to No.6 tank where another 106 Tufted Duck, 7 Common Pochard, 174 Northern Shoveler, 237 Eurasian Teal and 24 Little Grebe added to the counts from earlier in the day.

The ‘phalarope pool’ lacked the birds that Paul had seen earlier with the exception of a male European Stonechat and a couple of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies out in the warmer and sunnier side of the track.

Walking back along Lordship Lane and Moorditch and I spotted an adult Peregrine flew over with a purpose.

Observer: WSM (image 7-10).

05.11.20. Birdlog.

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A long walk out to the western end of the marshes resulted in some good finds.

I started my walk along Moorditch Lane where a male European Stonechat was perched on the dried grass stalks alongside the track. A couple of Cetti’s Warbler was sub-singing by the horse paddock and numerous Song Thrush and Blackbird were flighty from the bushes and undergrowth.

Looking across the waters of No.6 tank produced a flock of 176 Northern Shoveler, 11 Common Pochard (2 females present), 140 Eurasian Teal (the drakes were wowing the ducks), 63 Tufted Duck, 16 Common Shelduck, 31 Mallard, 19 Northern Pintail with several drakes in nuptial display, 1 Great Cormorant, Water Rail calling and 29 Little Grebe. A distant skein of c100 Pink-footed Goose were high over Helsby and a herd of 16 Whooper Swan ditched down by the dirt track on Godscroft Lane, but were not there later in the day.

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No.5 tank had a Common Buzzard, 3 Western Reed Bunting, Common Kestrel, a very tame Mistle Thrush feeding on hawthorn berries.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was pecking away at something in a wood pile and shortly after it flew to a fence post in an attempt to hide from me . A charm of c50 European Goldfinch and a Lesser Redpoll feeding and bathing in a rain puddle on the track.

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Looking across No.3 tank saw c120 Eurasian Teal and 20 Wigeon hiding in the flooded scrapes there. A lone injured Pink-footed Goose was hiding in the tall grass and less shy were 2 Western Cattle Egret bullying the bullocks by the phalarope pool. That small pool had a 1st winter Little Grebe diving in several inches of water (quite comical to watch), 26 Eurasian Teal and 2 Coot. There was 4 European Stonechat and a Common Chiffchaff along the fenceline. Also present were two additional Cetti’s Warbler with more along No.4 tank and Lordship Lane.

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A look across Frodsham Score on the rising tide brought out 4 Great and 7 Little Egret, A group of Great Black-backed Gull were roosting on the saltmarsh with additional adults squaring up to a group of beefy Raven gouging on a recently dead sheep.

Looking out to the blue topped chimney at Weston Point and the Peregrine was sat out.

Heading back and a pair of adult Whooper Swan were with their juvenile bird on the flooded fields by the M56 motorway. Out in the distance and the barn roof at Hillview Farm had 10 Collared Dove all lined up (a species that is infrequent to the interior of the marsh).

I’ll try the river tomorrow.

Observer and images: WSM.