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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Watching over all these preceedings were several Little Egret with c5 Great Egret.
The blue topped chimney at Weston Point had 2 Peregrine sat on the rim watching over the action below.
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 ).
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.
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.
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.
A Peregrine was resting up after indulging in the excesses of the festive break.
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.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1 & 11-13 & 15 -18).