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13.02.19 Birdlog.

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Another after work visit to the marshes and a look over No.6 tank. The Eurasian Teal were again in the flooded daisy beds and numbered c750 birds. The Northern Shoveler flocks have increased to 23 birds with 2 Pintail, 18 Common Shelduck and 12 Mallard.

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A female Marsh Harrier was sat on her usual perch but she wasn’t joined by any others this evening. Small groups of Raven were heading south from their day gorging dead sheep on the salt marshes and a couple of them found enough time to harass a Short-eared Owl high overhead. A Sparrowhawk was waiting for the Fieldfare to enter their willow bed roost but it was constantly mithered by a couple of crows.

On my departure at 17.45 featured a Barn Owl hunting the fields along Moorditch Lane.

No photo description available.

 

Observer: WSM (image 1).  All SEO mages by Duncan Cowley.

11.02.19. Birdlog.

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With the evening light good I made it to the marsh after work and managed to fit in an hour and half before the dark settled in.

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The Eurasian Teal flocks are much reduced since the weekend with several hundred still hiding in the flooded daisy beds. A single Pintail, 12 Common Shelduck and 17 Mallard were the only other ducks on the pool.

A Cetti’s Warbler gave a brief blast of song at dusk.

The Marsh Harrier roost included four birds which hung about into the dark. The highlight was a ringtail Hen Harrier which didn’t hang about for.

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The Whooper Swan herd could be seen playing hide and seek in between the hedgerows by Hillview Farm.

A skein of Pink-footed Goose were heading to Frodsham Score for the night while c550 Curlew were an impressive sight as they flew overhead to the Mersey estuary.

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A large disruption of Lapwing rose from high over Frodsham Score.

Observer and images: WSM.

10.02.19. Birdlog.

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We took a hike around No.6 tank with a diversion to watch over Frodsham Score salt marsh on the rising tide.

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The Whooper Swan herd was again concealed behind the hedges that border the fields by Hillview Farm. The flooded fields were literally birdless, so given time it’s hoped the passerines will return once the water level drops.

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The blustery wind made conditions difficult to say the east whilst watching over the score salt marshes. There were thousands in flocks of Dunlin disturbed by the tide with hundreds of Canada and Pink-footed Goose grazing the short turf.

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A mixed gathering of Golden Plover and Lapwing were hunkered down but a passing Peregrine sent everything wheeling around in the air over the score banks, and at one point with a Great Egret.

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The windy conditions were ideal for the c50 Raven hoard taking timeout from their mutton gluttony to ride the updrafts created by the rising air off the Manchester Ship Canal banks.

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A small number of Northern Shoveler were dabbling on the ‘phalarope pool’ on No.3 tank. Also present was a pair of Stonechat.

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A female Marsh Harrier was over No.4 tank and later relocated to sail over the reed beds on No.6 tank.

The flocks of Eurasian Teal were tucked under the southern banks within the flooded daisy beds, at least 1,000 birds were concealed there. A few each of Pintail and Mallard were also having a rough time of it on the choppy waters.

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A recently deceased Lapwing was alongside the track on Moorditch Lane.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 1 & 3 – 15). Image 2 by Paul Ralstron.

09.02.19. Birdlog.

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A couple of hours around No.6 tank this morning started with skeins of Pink-footed Goose struggling in the wind as they flew inland over Helsby. A flock of c1000 Wood Pigeon came in over Helsby Hill and dropped down on to Lordship Marsh.

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Also on No.6 tank were c300 Canada Goose with more on No.3 with Mallard and Northern Shoveler which chose the scrapes to settle. The numerous Raven were out in numbers cleansing up the marsh of carrion and riding in the wind.

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Looking over Lordship Marsh from the ramp track and the distant Whooper Swan herd could be seen near to the farm. There were more Pink-footed Goose looking for somewhere to land but deciding to move on. 60 Curlew were in the stubble field along with 5 Common Snipe, and a male Stonechat was on the fence.

2 Marsh Harrier were flying together over the reed bed on No.6 and a Sparrowhawk was hunting the bank.

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Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-4).

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With Storm Erik having past through what better place to watch the marshes then the lofty heights of Helsby Hill. I set the telescope up by the trig point on the hill and watched the tide rolling in on the Mersey estuary below and in the far distance. The hill is a great place to watch from and with the sunlight behind me I could see a wide vista with a hazy Beeston Castle along the Sandstone Trail, Connah’s Quay and the Dee Marshes, the Clwyd Hills, the Gowy Meadows, Chester, Liverpool, Manchester and St Helens just a few of the places visable.

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The River Mersey, Lordship Marsh a herd of Whooper Swan close to the M56.

Looking down onto Lordship Marsh and the herd of 27 Whooper Swan were again in the fields by the M56. It was a little disturbing to see two dead swans laying beneath the pylons by the farm (I wonder if these are the two Whooper’s from this herd?).

Looking across to No.6 tank and a wide span produced the Eurasian Teal flocks which I’ll put on hold until later.

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As I have mentioned the tide was filling the basin of the Mersey estuary and lots of birds were on the move with a Great Egret (pictured above) feeding on the salt marsh. There were thousands of Canada Goose with hundreds of Pink-footed Goose out on Frodsham Score, plus Eurasian Wigeon and Common Shelduck standing out even from the distance I was at. Thousands of Lapwing and Golden Plover were on the salt marsh close to the Manchester Ship Canal.

The Peregrine could even be picked out sat on the lip of the blue topped chimney above the Weaver estuary at Weston Point.

A contact alling Chiffchaff by the trig point on the hill was my que to depart and try the marsh below for the teal flocks.

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I arrived on the banks overlooking No.6 tank soon after leaving Helsby Hill and was greeted by c1500 (probably more) Eurasian Teal feeding in the dense flooded daisy beds close to the banks of my view-point. A small number of 8 Pintail, 1 Tufted Duck, 6 Northern Shoveler and 14 Mallard were very much outnumbered. A couple of Marsh Harrier were quartering the reed beds with a Sparrowhawk spooking the teal.

A selection of images I took from the trig point on Helsby Hill.

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Frodsham Marsh in all its glory.

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The west end of No.6 tank where the current exploration for sand extraction and the ensuing eradication of its reed beds.

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The east end of No.6 tank and its flooded basin. This area was completely dried out for the best part of the last summer and early autumn.

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A view of the River Mersey, the darkside, No.4 tank, Lordship Marsh and the M56.

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A ship sails along the unseen Manchester Ship Canal sandwiched between No.5 tank and Frodsham Score. Frodsham Score salt marsh and the Holpool Gutter runs out to the river.

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The GrowHow works (there spelling) and Helsby Marshes.

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No.6 tank is probably the most likely place to find a local rarity on the marshes.

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The Weaver Bend a dramatic twist in the River Weaver as it approaches the Weaver estuary.

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Hale lighthouse on the ‘darkside’ of the River Mersey.

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The blue topped chimney at Weston Point is the best safe place to spot a Peregrine.

 

 

 

Observer: WSM (image 1 & 4-26 plus videos).

08.02.19. Birdlog.

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An early dart from work and a walk around No.6 and No.4 tanks. Eurasian Teal were again in good numbers on No.6 with a few Mallard and Northern Shoveler mixed in with them. There were 2 Marsh Harrier were over the reed bed on No.6 but might move on if Peel holdings destroy any more of the reed bed.

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A large mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Starling were all on No.3 with numerous ravenous Raven hoards on the prowl for naturally occurring still-born lambs.  A small flock of 6 Tufted Duck and a male Northern Shoveler were on the ‘Splashing Pool’ and a pair of Redshank were on the nearby scrape.

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A Great Crested Grebe was sat on the waters of the Manchester Ship Canal alongside a few more Tufted Duck. A lone wildfowler made his way out towards the River Mersey flushing more Lapwing and Golden Plover, but not much else was on the salt marshes this afternoon.

The Mute Swan herd had 5 Greylag Goose for company and a Common Buzzard was hanging in the wind alongside its much smaller cousin the Kestrel making a much better job of hovering. A flash out of the blue revealed a Kingfisher which sped along the ditch at the edge of No.4 tank.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

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I was driving to Chester along the westbound lane of the M56 after 3.30 pm and a quick glance to my right secured the large Whooper Swan herd which was close to Hillview Farm. A couple of egret spp (white blurs) were by the blue slurry tank, a positive identification will have to go unidentified.

Observer: WSM.

Regarding the ongoing testing and the eradication of reed beds on the west end of No.6 tank, I have received this email response from the RSPB North today.

I have been informed by Peel that these works are part of the operational working of Cell 6 (No.6 tank), and that the potential removal of materials is to aid the working life of the cell in line with the planning conditions related to the wind farm. It is part of a wider package of measures which Peel will be exploring to ensure that they conform to their permissions around the continuing use of Cell 6.

As the works are in accordance with the permitted development rights for their dredging operations and they don’t need to seek planning permission.

RSPB North.

06.02.19. Birdlog.

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I managed to squeeze in an hour and half worth of birding after work today and with some decent light to play with.

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The Eurasian Teal flock (1150 birds) were back after the thaw of ice in recent days, with most secreted in the flooded daisy beds and occasionally flushing themselves out onto open water.

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A couple of Marsh Harrier were perched in a tree at the other end of the tank and were joined by a Raven shortly after. These harriers were also joined by a third/fourth bird at their roost site.

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Forty Raven were watched heading back to their natal home in North Wales. The only other bird of note was a Barn Owl hunting the reed beds at dusk.

Observer: video and images: WSM.

03.02.19. Birdlog.

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I started my walk this morning at the River Weaver where hundreds of Pink-footed Goose could be seen leaving the Mersey estuary heading to their inland grazing sites, and a small number of Golden Plover dropped down near to Marsh Farm soon after.

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24 Mute Swan were on the river and Manchester Ship Canal and then made their way to the fields alongside the Holpool Gutter. Several Common Snipe were looking for areas of unfrozen ground at the river’s edge to feed, and more were encountered throughout my walk.

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Most of the ducks that would have been utilising No.6 tank were also on the river with Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Common Shelduck and Common Pochard. A pair of Stonechat were on the bank.

Onward and forward to No.6 which was completely frozen over, there was just a pair of Mallard and a mixed flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls doing their best ‘dancing on ice’ routine. A female Marsh Harrier was sat in its usual place in the reed bed and the Raven hordes were feasting on still-born lambing casualties with a couple of Great Black-backed Gull and Common Buzzard doing the job of cleaning up somebody else’s work.

The Wildfowlers were again out on the salt marshes so not much to be seen there. 29 Mute Swan 6 Greylag Goose and a white domestic goose were alongside the Holpool Gutter with a Great Egret for companionship. A wintering Chiffchaff was seen flitting through the vegetation and disappeared in to a bramble patch on the bank.

There were c200 Curlew feeding in a field adjacent Rake Lane, and were spooked by a Common Buzzard patrolling the area, but soon settled down.

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Further flocks of Pink-footed Goose could be seen dropping down onto Lordship Marsh and a walk along the public footpath gave better views along with another Great Egret.  I inadvertently flushed a Barn Owl from its daytime roost which flew a couple of hundred yards and then took cover in a hawthorn bush.

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A Brown Rat was on the track close by and would have set the owl up for a decent meal.  I estimated that there was c1000 Pink-footed Goose grazing with more joining them while I watched. Two Mute Swan were nearby but no sign of the Whooper Swan herd.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-6).

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No.2 tank had 100 Golden Plover and similar numbers of Lapwing, the reedbed field near to Marsh Farm and No.2 had Fieldfare and Starling feeding.

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Nearby, No.1 had about a dozen Linnet with a few Chaffinch and Alder Lane/Brook Furlong Lane had Reed Bunting (male ringed, see image below) and Stonechat. No.5 had about 100 Curlew feeding which I watched with Arthur and we both commented on it being our first sightings since the turbines went up of them feeding here.

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Observers: Paul Crawley (images) & Arthur Harrison.

A walk from Marsh Lane to the Holpool Gutter and back was more for stretching the legs, and despite 100’s of Pink-footed Goose, 208 Pintail, a solitary Little Egret and 3 pairs of Stonechat, the day belong to Mr Ralston’s top sightings. We did manage to see the Great Egret with a Grey Heron where he said it would be (our paths crossed earlier), but we did see the 29 Whooper Swan herd hiding by Hillview Farm. All of the pinkies PR had seen earlier had vacated the fields on Lordship Marsh.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 7-0).