31.12.20. Birdlog.

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An updated birders map of Frodsham Marsh for 2021 (tomorrow).

A last wring of the wet towel before we start it all over again tomorrow.

No.6 tank was mostly frozen with just a tiny section of water open for the ducks, which consisdered of 230 eurasian Teal, 10 Mallard and 17 Northern Shoveler. A Common Chiffchaff and 3 Lesser Redpoll were on the banks.

A look over No.3 tank produced the European Golden Plover flock from the last few days still warding off the advances of the Black-headed Gull bullies. A herd of c350 Canada and 28 Greylag Goose were displaced from outside the area. A Western Marsh Harrier flew over surveying the fields below and drifted off to Frodsham Score. The ‘phalarope pool’ and ‘the splashing pool’ weere mostly frozen and apart from a small group of Northern Shoveler. A further 2 Common Chiffchaff were contact calling to each other in the thick vegetation.

A look across the salt marshes on the ebbing tide was rewarded with 4 Great and 6 Little Egret, 15 Grey Heron and 100’s of Pink-footed Goose herds. With most of the inland waters virually a closed shop to ducks thetre were hundreds of them out on the tide line with 200 Common Shelduck, c850 Eurasian Wigeon, and smaller numbers of Northern Pintail. The same Western Marsh Harrier was perched up on the score and a female Merlin wasbusy preening on a wooden stump. Shorebirds included 1000’s of Dunlin, 3 Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank with several hundred Eurasian Curlew. A Cetti’s Warbler was calling from the willows and another was scolding by the track.

I continued my hike out to the junction of No.4 & 6 tanks which affords views across Lordship Marsh. The herd of 21 Whooper Swan were on the flooded fields with hundreds of Black-headed & Common Gull were busy seeking food from these fields with 100’s of Eurasian Curlew joining the.

Walking back I met Dermot Smith who tolf me he had seen a drake Garganey on the River Weaver and ironically his first of the year! I rushed over to the river in the dying light of 2020 and when I got to the Weaver the light had expired with the neon lights of the works casting rainbow colours on the water…A new day and year tomorrow!

Observer: WSM (images).

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I started my birding at Brook Furlong Lane this morning where a few winter thrushes were foraging along the track with a group of Long-tailed Tit were following close behind. On the River Weaver were Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and sCommon Shelduck being noted with 6 Mute Swan and numerous Eurasian Coot. A handfull of Common Redshank moved along the river leaving a Common Sandpiper behind, which made its way over to the far bank of the Manchester Ship Canal. Also 3 European Stonechat were feeding alongside several Meadow Pipit at the river edge and a mixed flock of finches and Reed Bunting passed overhead.

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Hundreds of Northern Lapwing with c 300 European Golden Plover were in the fields close to Marsh Farm while several Common Snipe and another European Stonechat were noted on No.5 tank.

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The best part of No.6 was frozen over with a few Mallard and Northern Shoveler keeping a small patch ice free while a large flock of Eurasian Teal with a few more Northern Shoveler stayed close to the edge. Linnet, Chaffinch, European Goldfinch and Reed Bunting were numerus along the bank.

A Common Moorhen submerged its self under water with its bill sticking out like a periscope to avoid detection. Hundreds of Canada Goose were grazing on No.3 and a group of 7 Ruff flew west.

I called in at Kinsey Lane, Ince on my way home where just 2 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron were foraging amongst with the pigs and hundreds of Northern Lapwing and c30 Eurasian Curlew. Out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh were c1500 Pink-footed Goose grazing with numerous Common Shelduck and 2 Great Egret strolled stuff nearby.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images).

30.12.20. Birdlog.

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A couple of visits to the marshes today with an early frosty start at Kinsey Lane pig farm and its inmates were released for the day but their attendant egrets were having a lay-in and apart from a Grey Heron and a lone Little Egret were pig bothering. I turned my attention to the salt marshes where hundreds of Pink-footed Goose herds were dispersed by the incoming tide.

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A big female Peregrine was sat close to the geese causing them further anxiety. A couple Great Egret were strutting their stuff through the tall marsh grass and small flocks of Dunlin were shifting their feeding and high tide roosts site. It started to rain heavy so a tactical retreat postponed our visit to Frodsham until later in the afternoon.

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The afternoon forecast looked okay so we parked up and began our walk along Moorditch Lane, and yes it started to rain and apart from a couple of interludes it increased from sleet, to drizzle, to regular type rain throughout the rest of our walk. Walking along Lordship Lane at the junction with Moorditch Lane produced a flock of 10 Chaffinch, c60 Linnet and a Lesser Redpoll loosely associating with a European Goldfinch in ditch side vegetation.

The Whooper Swan herd of 22 birds were again by the turbines on Lordship Marsh with a flock of c200 Eurasian Curlew.

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Walking back at dusk in the rain and another fat moon peeked over the skyline at Beechwood, Runcorn. Ducks on No.6 tank included c500 Eurasian Teal, 20 Northern Pintail, 41 Mallard and c200 Northern Shoveler occuping the areas which had’nt froze overnight.

Observers: JS & WSM (images).

29.12.20. Birdlog.

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We made our way along Moorditch Lane where a Cetti’s Warbler was scolding something deep into cover and several Linnet were about the telegraph wires.

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A look across No.6 tank and the usual species of duck were scattered widely with the wind less of a feature today and temperatures increasing after a dismal start to the day. The pools on No.3 tank had Eursaian Teal and Eurasian Wigeon with both Northern Shoveler and Mallard busy feeding. A large gathering of Northern Lapwing included c400 European Golden Plover and their attendant Black-headed Gull flock harrying the plovers of their tasty worms.

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After passing pleasantries with Mr & Mrs Roberts and informed the winter swans were back on their usual field on Lordship Marsh we carried on to the corner of No.4 & No.6 tanks. A herd of 22 Whooper Swan were just where Jacqui & Idris said they were and walking along the track I managed a few shots.

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2 Ruff join the Curlew flock over Lordship Marsh.
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Also present were literally hundreds of Eurasian Curlew and a flock that flew over my head had 2 Ruff with them. The big flock of gulls were again on the slurry fields with both Northern Lapwing and Common Starling.

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A skein of 34 Pink-footed Goose flew over to the score and another skein headed off to the Dee marshes for the night.

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Observers: JS & WSM (images 2-8).

I spent the last hour of light at Ince this evening where two Western Cattle Egret and 4 Little Egret were amongst the pigs with c200 Northern Lapwing and several Eurasian Curlew. There were skeins of Pink-footed Goose dropping on to the Frodsham Score salt marsh where Common Shelduck in good numbers which dotted the marsh.

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A partial leucistic winged Raven was noted.

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Earlier my walk along the Gowy Meadows was uneventful apart from a jelly like mould substance near one of the pools possibly known as ‘star jelly’ or ‘snow mould’?

Observer: Paul Ralston (1 & 9-10).

28.12.20. Birdlog.

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After overnight snow we ventured down to the marshes for a walk and by the time we got there most of it have melted. A quick look over No.6 tank revealed a cluster of ducks including several Common Redshank, 17 Northern Pintail, c120 Northern Shoveler, 2 drake Tufted Duck, c50 Mallard and c250 Eurasian Teal. A couple of quarrelling Water Rail were in the reeds below the embankment.

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Further along the track and a dead cow was on No.5 tank which has been laying dead for over a week at this spot. Its bloated stomach is growing by the day (batten down the hatches, because when this baby blows they’ll be a shower of shite all over Cheshire). The local Common Raven and Great Black-backed Gull are taking a keen interest in its tender neither regions, currently a Robin has taken ownership of the corpse and sits on the extended flanks bringing comical festive tidings to the proceedings.

A look over No.3 tank revealed where most of the ducks have relocated with the Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler are loitering and a single Black-tailed Godwit. The female Western Marsh Harrier flew high over No.3 tank and settled in trees on No.6 tank. A small skein of Pink-footed Goose headed over from the east to spend time on Frodsham Score.

Nice to bump into Jacqui & Idris (King & Queen of the jigsaw) and to meet Tim (of @WilderThingsUK)

Observers: JS & WSM (images).

27.12.20. Birdlog.

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An early start from Lower Rake Lane, Helsby and to the stubble fields behind the GrowHow works. The herd of 24 Whooper Swan were sheltering from the icy cold breeze after Storm Bella coming overnight. A small skein of Pink-footed Goose were disturbed from the fields by Hillview Farm by the sound of gun shot. A group of 6 Little Egret were in the same field as the big Black-headed Gull flock feeding in the silage covered muddy patches off Lordship Lane.

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Continuing my hike to the area by Ince marsh fields west of No.4 tank which held 5 Mute and a family group of mum, dad and junior Whooper Swan.

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A broken winged Pink-footed Goose was hiding in the rough grass by the Holpool Gutter and when it saw me coming it flapped into the ditch and swam away. Despite several attempts to rescue the poor stricken thing I lost out of view. Just one of the consequences of existing on the Mersey marshes away from their summer homelands.

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A couple of young Merlin were sparring in fight over the Manchester Ship Canal and were lost over the marsh. Paul turned up and we both enjoyed views of a female Western Marsh Harrier flew in and quartered the edge of the river until a Peregrine took umbridge and did its best to shoo the harrier away. A couple of adult Peregrine were perched on posts far off in the distance.

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Another Merlin (male) was sat on the edge of the canal bank keeping an eye on the several hundred Northern Lapwing hunkered down in the marsh grass. Further out on the marsh were hundreds of Canada and Pink-footed Goose and a bloodied Canada was the result of shooting out there. There were also 6 Barnacle Goose doing their best to hide within the goose herds.

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Watching over all these preceedings were several Little Egret with c5 Great Egret.

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The blue topped chimney at Weston Point had 2 Peregrine sat on the rim watching over the action below.

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The ‘splashing pool’ had 10 Northern Shoveler, 6 Gadwall and 14 Eurasian Teal, while further out on the hidden pools were c300 Eurasian Teal, 23 Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Mallard. A couple of European Stonechat were on the fence line with a flock of Common Starling rising and falling from the fields adjacent to it.

The ducks on No.6 tank were finding shelter from the cold wind with c150 Northern Shoveler, 1 drake Tufted Duck, 12 Northern Pintail, c400 Eurasian Teal and 19 Little Grebe were seen.

Observer: WSM (images 2-7 & 9-10 & 14 ).

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Some additional sightings from today to add to the above. It’s the first time in a while that I have drawn a blank with the Western Cattle Egrets flock on Kinseys Lane, Ince with just 2 Little Egret and several Eurasian Curlew taking advantage of the pigs grubbing up the field.

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A small flock of Redwing and Blackbird were present in the hedgerows and a Sparrowhawk and Common Kestrel were keeping the thrushes and finch flocks on red alert.

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A Common Sandpiper was moving along the Manchester Ship Canal while 3 Little Egret joined the mixed group of Mute and (3) Whooper Swan alongside the gutter.

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A Peregrine was resting up after indulging in the excesses of the festive break.

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The pools at Ince held c100 Eurasian Teal, 4 Northern Shoveler, numerous Mallard and several Gadwall, 2 Mute Swan were grazing in the field with 5 Grey Heron standing like sentinels alongside a fence.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 11-13 & 15 -18).

26.12.20. Birdlog.

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A stroll along Moorditch Lane around No.6 tank and back via Lordship Marsh was the order of play. The big female Peregrine was sat on top of the blue topped chimney at Weston Point and a few Common Raven were gorging on an inflated cow that had fallen dead some time ago and is bloating by the day. A small skein of Pink-footed Goose flew over heading to Frodsham Score and at the junction of No.5/6/3 tanks a Common Chiffchaff was contact calling. The gunshot damaged legged female Western Marsh Harrier from previous years flew over and quartered the reed beds on No.6 tank.

Looking out over Lordship Marsh and wind turbine contractors and some shooters were in the fields so the Whooper Swan herd had relocated to fields behind the GrowHow works and safely out of the cold wind blowing.

A small number of c120 Eurasian Teal, 97 Northern Shoveler, 12 Northern Pintail with 14 Mallard and 9 Little Grebe.

Observer: WSM.

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The 3 Western Cattle Egret, 2 Little Egret, a single Grey Heron and several Eurasian Curlew were foraging amongst the pigs at Kinsey Lane, Ince which were watched over by a Common Buzzard.

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Out on Frodsham Score salt marsh were 3 Great Egret feeding with the Canada Goose and Pink-footed Goose flocks. The fields alongside the Holpool Gutter held 4 Mute Swan, c50 Eurasian Curlew and the leg damaged Western Marsh Harrier seen earlier passed overhead again. Five more Little Egret and a mass of Black-headed Gull were feeding in the field at the junction of Lordship Lane and Lower Rake Lane. A walk along the lane to look for the Whooper Swan herd drew a blank.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images1-4).

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A Goldfiinch charm.

Image 5 by Duncan Cowley.

24.12.20. Birdlog.

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A morning walk out to the River Weaver to see whst the ducks were up to. A nice little group of 8 Common Goldeneye lead by a handsome drake. The Eurasian Teal were out by the jetty with c150 present with 171 Tufted Duck, 17 Mallard, 6 Gadwall and 41 Common Pochard. A flock of c200 Common Redshank and a single Little Egret represented the shorebirds and a couple of European Stonechat working along the bank.

A Cetti’s Warbler was calling by Redwall reed bed and a small number of Redwing and Fieldfare were left over from the glut we had a few weeks ago. The pair of resident Mistle Thrush were again on the pony paddock. A distant sein of Pink-footed Goose were heading to Frodsham Score.

I returned home and then made a second visit at dusk to walk the lane to the ‘phalarope pool’ on No.3 tank. The sounds of piping Eurasian Teal could be heard hiding in the scrapes and out of view. A few ducks were on the ‘splashing pool’ but not alot of anything else. We walked back and took a view over No.6 tank where a single Little Egret, c150 Tufted Duck, 137 Northern Shoveler, c200 Eurasian Teal and some Northern Pintail could be seen on the water. A couple of Western Marsh Harrier came into the tank for the night.

Observer: WSM.

An early finish from work and a walk from Ince to the Holpool Gutter.

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There were 9 Little Egret, a single Grey Heron and a single Western Cattle Egret foraging amongst the pigs at Kinsey Lane pig farm where Eurasian Curlew tried to join in the grub fest but was chased away by the heron. A flock of 150 less itimidated Eurasian Curlew were in a field alongside the approach road to GrowHow fertilizer plant and were joined by another Little Egret.The pools at the nature reserve held two more Little Egret, a pair of Mute Swan and a mixed flock of Eurasian Teal and Mallard.

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Looking over to Frodsham Score salt marsh from Ince berth and hundreds of Canada Goose and c300 Pink-footed Goose dropped in feeding on the short marsh grass. A dozen Great Black-backed Gull were feasting on a sheep carcase while the corvids were waiting their turn nearby. A couple of Great Egret and several Little Egret were dotted about the marsh.

Walking alongside the Holpool Gutter and an additional c50 Eurasian Curlew were feeding in the stubble field with 2 Mute Swan were social distancing and keeping a couple of hundred yards apart in the same area.

A look over Lordship Marsh drew a blank with no sign of the wswan herd to be seen, but they could of been hidden behind the GrowHow plant and out of sight. A mass of Black-headed Gull and a few Common Gull were feeding in the field at the junction of Lordship Lane and Rake Lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

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25.12.20. Birdlog. The sun sinks in the western sky illuminating the Mersey Estuary in golden smokey browns. Merry Christmas to all my followers and readers of this blog.

22.12.20. Birdlog.

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A late morning walk out to the ‘phalarope pool’ and en route a chance encounter with first Arthur Harrison who had seen European Stonechat and a Western Marsh Harrier. Later we bumped into Jacqui & Idris Roberts who hadn’t seen much, but were willing if the occasion arose.

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A look over No.6 tank and a variety of ducks included: 164 Northern Shoveler, 83 Mallard, 24 Northern Pintail, 7 Common Shelduck, 231 Eurasian Teal, 19 Little Grebe and a single Tufted Duck. The rest of the teal were on No.3 tank with more Northern Shoveler and Mallard present.

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Walking out to the corner of No.4 tank looking across Lordship Marsh and the 37 Whooper (super) Swan herd were hiding behind a hedge. An impressive gathering in two flocks of both Common & Black-headed Gull which reached c1000 birds. A couple of Common Chiffchaff were skulking in the willows on No.4 tank.

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Walking back along Moorditch Lane and a fine male Merlin was sat on top of a pylon surveying the fields below. Its attention focused on a stubble field below and like a freight train it scorched through the air and snatched a Redwing feeding unaware there. A fine example of predator knowing its trade.

Observers: JS & WSM (images & video).

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Elsewhere a Common Kingfisher was doing its thang and a Jelly Ear Fungi (Auricularia auricula-judae) was keeping its ear to the ground.

Common Kingfisher at Spike Island.

I dedicate this post to Wirral birder John Jones with whom I shared many birding trips throughout the UK. My favourite being the Saito, Hermaness Black-browed Albatross with his son Steve and Mac birder Kevin Hughes in the early 1980’s. RIP John.

20.12.20. Birdlog.

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I started my walk at Brook Furlong Lane this morning where the winter thrushes seem to have moved on their merry way, just a handfull of Redwing and Blackbird feeding on the leftover berries along the lane.

On the River Weaver there were good numbers of Tufted Duck were on the far side of the water alongside the wooden jetty with Mallard, Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler, Common Shelduck and 2 female Common Goldeneye were also noted.

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A herd of c300 Canada Goose were sheltering from the wildfowlers out on Frodsham Score salt marsh and were joined by 11 Mute Swan. A small flock of Common Redshank were gathered at the edge of the river as was a Common Sandpiper.

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On to No.6 tank and the ducks took to the air with the sound of gunshots ringing out by the hovercraft field most of the birds carried on out to the estuary, but a few turned back only to flushed again. The 7 Mute Swan stayed put ignored the gunshots.

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I called into Kinsey Lane, Ince on my way home where the clay shoot was taking place and 4 Western Cattle Egret and several Little Egret were undisturbed by the constant gunfire but were flushed by a low flying Common Buzzard with a damaged wing.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images).

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My first Snowdrops of late winter bllomed at Pickerings Pasture this lunch time while a Little Egret flew by per WSM.

19.12.20. Birdlog.

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I began my walk along Lower Rake Lane early this morning. The Whooper Swan herd of 37 was still grazing alongside the footpath in the grassy fields south of Hillview Farm. The hedgerows had Linnet, European Goldfinch and Chaffinch flocks.

A pair of Mute Swan were on the Holpool Gutter with several Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen and a single Little Grebe were noted. A Peregrine was seen circling over the GrowHow fertilizer plant  and settled on one of the stacks to survey the marsh beyond.

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A Merlin flew swiftly over the bank of No.4 and followed the path by the gutter flushing several Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail as it went. A Western Marsh Harrier hunted the reed bed then made its way out to the Frodsham Score salt marsh to scare and flushed a mass of Northern Lapwing flocks. A skein of c50 Pink-footed Goose made their way south leaving c700 Canada Goose on the salt marsh with a single Great and several Little Egret feeding in the tidal channels.

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The ‘splashing pool’ held Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Tufted Duck, but not in any great numbers. Walking back along Lordship Lane and a pair of Mute Swan were grazing amongst the sheep and the Whooper Swan herd took flight and circled around Lordship Marsh before settling in the same field they had just left only to rise again and fly west.

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Back at my car the Whooper Swan herd could be seen in the distance having settled in the fields behind the fertilizer plant at Ince marsh fields. I stopped off at Kinsey Lane, Ince where 4 Western Cattle Egret and 7 Little Egret were foraging amongst the pigs alongside the lane.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.