A History of No. 6 tank (part two)

A History of No. 6 tank (part two)

Map of No. 6 tank as of November 1994. Bill Morton

Map of No. 6 tank as of Summer/Winter 1994.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (1)

To keep the Manchester Ship Canal navigable to large craft, vast quantities of sludge and silt are dredged up by specialist craft more or less continuously. The dredgings are transported along the canal to a Pumping Station bordering the canal and then pumped through huge pipes into vast sludge deposit grounds. These are the famous “Frodsham Sludge Pools” and they now occupy over half of the flat reclaimed area of pasture and arable land known as Frodsham Marsh.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (9)

Since about 1941, these sludge pools have been well-known as a superb habitat for birds. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 Sludge Pools have each in turn, both during the construction phase and then during the subsequent years of infilling, proved ideal to the requirements of a remarkable variety of migrant, wintering and breeding wetland species.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (10)

(Above image is of No 6 tank soon after the first excavation work commenced and without the retaining embankments in place. This area is buried under 23 years worth of sludge/silt and currently several feet of water. Presently the area is situated below the viewing area on the south bank of No 5 tank.)

During the last three years, a new sludge deposit ground has been referred to by local birders as “Frodsham Marsh New Workings/Frodsham New Tank Excavations/Frodsham Marsh No6 tank Sludge Pools”. Top soil is scraped out of the marsh to create a 15 metre high bank surrounding the whole area to be later filled with sludge. The scrapings create shallow freshwater pools and these soon acquire muddy margins, reed fringes and a healthy supply of invertebrates.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (12)

The whole area rapidly becomes a veritable paradise for birds and birdwatchers. Once sludge starts to be pumped into the tank, the habitat starts to deteriorate. It is expected that pumping into No6 Sludge Pool will commence in 1995. Frodsham Marsh bird recorder Bill Morton has drawn a detailed map showing the “inside” of the new workings as they were in Summer/November 1994 – before any pumping operations started and as most birders will nostalgically remember the site in years to come.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (14)

If you visit the area please remember that you are private land and managed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company and that you must respect any reasonable request from their representatives. Also note that the pools are often shot over by wildfowlers between September and February, usually at dusk. However there are public rights of way across the marsh for bona fide naturalists there should be no real problems of access.

No6 Tank through its deveoplement by Bill Morton (15)

Here are some of the highlights from Frodsham Marsh New Workings in its ‘glory years’ of 1992 – 93 – 94.

1992 – Temminck’s Stint 14th – 17th May.

1993 – at least five different Little Egret between 10th August and 22nd September, adult Spoonbill 12th – 15th July and again 24th – 29th and 6th – 7 th August, peak Garganey count of 16 on 7th September, two Quails calling in late May/early June, juvenile Spotted Crake 31st August to 10th September, three Black-winged Stilts 25th April and again 14th may to 7th June with failed breeding attempt, Temminck’s Stint 8th – 12th May.

1994 – adult Spoonbill 23rd June – 2nd July, eight Ruddy Shelducks 31st August, 13 Garganey in August, Osprey 1st October and 600 Black-tailed Godwit (Unusual high number in the early 1900’s) 9th August.

Ted Abraham.

Ted wrote this article called ‘Frodsham Marsh New Workings 1992 – 94’ for North West Region Bird Report 1994. The glory years he talks about above were in reality still to come, the period after 1994 saw a tremendous increase in activity with some incredible birds and birding.


All images and illustration by WSM except for photo 1,2 & 6 by Tom Edmondson.

To be continued…

Goodbye to the Old and Welcome to the New Year 2014

Goodbye to the Old and Welcome to the New Year 2014

A collection of three images taken at roughly the same time of year (December) and spanning nearly 30 years. How times have changed and 2014 should see more changes to this area.

No 4 tank, cira 1986. Brian Rimmer

The settlement of silt deposit on No. 4 tank has taken many years. First image is of the tank when it was left to settle with the first emergent vegetation taking place c1986 taken by Brian Rimmer.

SE corner of No4 tank 3, Dec'03. Bill Morton

The second image (above) taken 10 years ago this month showing roughly the same area.


The final image shows the same place today but now the tank is covered in Elder scrub and Phragmites reed beds. Last two images by WSM.


Old Tom the Birder (part 1)

Tom Edmondson’s photo’s

Les Baird, Hubert Sinar, Tom Edmondson and Frank R Horrocks

Many years ago there was an old chap who used to visit Frodsham Marsh and would regale tales of his early birding visits to the marsh and many other sites (mainly Pennington Flash) in the North West. Tom was a proper old school bird watcher and he would rise an eyebrow over his spectacles if I ever called him a ‘birder’. One thing Tom had was time to spare and share his love of birds and birdwatching . I’m a sucker for such things especially those pioneers of Cheshire birding in the years following the end of the WWII. Tom was a generous old man and would kindly give me copies of photographs and documentation from the marsh during his pioneering days here.

Frodsham Marsh from Helsby Hill. Tom Edmundson

I will post some more pictures during the course of the next few weeks but in the mean time I have included a photograph he took from Helsby Hill c1960. If you right-click and enlarge the image there are a few unfamiliar things that stick out. Firstly, the horizon shows a rural Runcorn with a lack of urbanisation, the towering power station chimney and I.C.I works at Weston Point stand ahead of the Weaver estuary. Secondly, the only deposit tank is No.1 tank and thirdly, the Merseyside Naturalists Association reserve on Weston Marsh is still intact and finally, there is no M56 motorway!

Top picture are Les Baird, Hubert Sinar, Tom Edmondson and Frank R Horrocks.

Tom died on 27th February 2016 aged 93 years. I intend to give Tom a fitting tribute in due course but If anyone knew him and would like to contribute to a post about him please send me an e-mail via contact at the top of the blog.

A History of No 6 tank (part one)

A History of No 6 tank (part one)

Tonight saw this blog reach 100,000 views so a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to dip in and dip out with the Birds of Frodsham Marsh. To mark the occasion an article on the history of No. 6 tank and hopefully tomorrow some more recent gen from the marsh.

Helsby marsh lagoon 1990 copy

Years ago the fields of Lordship Marsh were barely given a glance as we drove or cycled or walked along Moorditch Lane on our way to the Pumping Station reed beds and/or to access the northern banks of No. 4 tank and Frodsham Score beyond.

New Tank Excavations (No. 6 tank), Frodsham Marsh. May 1990

The early winter period of 1989-1990 gave no hint to what lay ahead or how it would make a significant change in shaping our time birding the marsh. There were rumours surfacing about excavation work by the Manchester Ship Canal Company for a new tank on the ancient farmland of Lordship Marsh bordering Moorditch Lane. But when the bulldozers, diggers and trucks arrived it was a shock!

The development of a sixth silt deposit tank situated on Lordship Marsh was not without its critics but, it went pretty much unnoticed by the less savvy confrontational groups in and around Frodsham. A few of us locals looked ahead with some anticipation having seen No 4 tank flourish a few years earlier.

The following Spring of 1990 was laden with early spring showers and excavation work by bulldozers and diggers went ahead with some fervour. Heavy machines and pumps worked ferociously gouging out hundreds of tons of quality topsoil to form a ring of banks along and around the fields. Large machines grubbed out ancient hedgerows and industrial equipment pumped in and pumped out flooded areas.

Our selfish anticipation of what lay ahead was tinged with some regret as we were fully aware of the bird species this area once supported. The traditional farmland birds like Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting were in a free fall decline here and good numbers of breeding Lapwings frequented the marsh fields in the spring.

I suppose we can all be selective on the benefits of such work and the ‘developed’ use of our countryside, but when its gone, its gone. So, it is with a retrospective back glance tinged with a little regret to witness an area of traditional farmland ripped apart for the development of a new tank. But ultimately the rewards were many with new breeding species for Cheshire and decades of superb birds that still to this day marks the tank a work in progress. 

Garganey, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.

Ron Harrison found the very first rare bird on the new tank in the form of a sparkling drake Garganey.

To be continued…

Eat My Shorts!

1986 Pratincole Twitch, Frodsham Marsh

The Collared Pratincole twitch on Frodsham Marsh. Spring 1986

118 shorts were fashionable in Bolton in 1980’s. Check out Simon Smethurst’s  barnet and Guy Sharrock’s trendy trainers and, what was I doing wearing that coat in those temperatures? On a more somber note is the late Don Henkinson.

Thanks to Julian Hough for the image and embarrassing us all!

Birding Nostalgia…It’s not what it used to be

Birding Nostalgia…It’s not what it used to be.

This section celebrates birds from the past and not so distant past.

If you want to share any archive images of birds (of yesteryear) from Frodsham Marsh. I’ll feature them on the site for you. Please email them to me at mudlark1@live.co.uk.

Tony Lovatt captured these Ruddy Shelduck on No 6 tank in September 2012.

Stuart Maddocks scored well a first for the marsh with this Waxwing below the east banks of No 5 tank on 17th November 2012..

Gary Bellingham has found a couple of good rarities at Frodsham in his time and what better than two county firsts: Lesser Scaup and Terek Sandpiper! Not only that he has been on hand to photograph a few special editions to boot.

Terek Sandpiper, Late April 1999. All images by Gary Bellingham.

Summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe, Manchester Ship Canal. 1997.

Lesser Scaup (drake), No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Gary Bellingham.

Colin Davis writes a blog called occasionally Birding St Helens. He took this image of the juvenile Red-backed Shrike which was present at Marsh Farm in early September 2010 and puts the bird in context to its surrounding. Check Colin’s site out at  http://birdingsthelens.blogspot.com/

Paul Crawley is as local as you can get with a house in an enviable location within striking distance of the marsh. Paul is new to nature photography but caused a stir with his image of the ‘Whatwit’ aired for the first time on this blog in the summer.

Black-tailed Godwits including the white-headed bird (upper centre), summer 2012. Image by Paul Crawley.

Drake Mandarin, No 6 tank (and rarer than Hens teeth), only the second record for the marsh. Spring 2012. Image by Paul Crawley.

Great White Egret (one of three seen this year!), No 6 tank. Summer 2012. Image by Paul Crawley.

Gary Worthington is local to Frodsham Marsh and hails from Weston Point. He was one of a young band of keen Frodsham Marsh birders present in the early 1980’s. Most of these lads went onto a career in birding/environmental and they included: Peter Brash, Paul Derbyshire, Chris Done, Martin Garner, Martin Gilbert, John Gunnery, Ian Igglesden, Barry Starmer, Roy Taylor and Alex Weir et al.

White-winged Black Tern (juvenile), Weaver Bend & Estuary, August 1981. Image by Gary Worthington.

Paul Hackett is a local lad who hails from Stockport and was one of the first digi-scopers in the UK. During his exploration of this new photographic technique, he plugged away capturing some of Frodsham Marshes unusual visitors.

03.03.02. American Wigeon (drake), No 6 tank. Image by Paul Hackett.

Lesser Yellowlegs, No 5 tank, 2001. Image by Paul Hackett.

Hooded Crow at Marsh Farm 1996. Image by Paul Hackett.

Steve Young has for many years captured some of the North Wests top rarities and quite a few commoner birds on film so it is no surprise that he’s taken a few snaps of Frodshams finest wading birds. Below are just a few of them.

Stilt Sandpiper, No 4 tank, April 1984. Image by Steve Young.

This American wader was a tick for a lot of British twitchers back in 1984. Although several have been seen since this long stayers sojourn, none can match its enigmatic place in UK ticking.

Collared Pratincole, No 4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Image by Steve Young.

Baird’s Sandpiper, I.C.I tank, September 1981.

Pectoral Sandpiper, I.C.I tank, September 1981. Image by Steve Young.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, No 5 tank, April 1999. Image by Steve Young (this Broad-billed Sandpiper is featured in ‘Tales from the River Bank’ on this blog).

Red-backed Shrike (juvenile), I.C.I tank, August 1994.

Woodchat Shrike, no 4 tank, September 1996. Image by S Rowlands.

Iain Leach is a Nottingham wildlife photographer who has had a few of Frodsham’s unusual birds published including this Red-necked Phalarope from the Weaver Bend and this breeding flock of Spoonbills on No 6 tank..

Red-necked Phalarope, Weaver Bend, July 1996. Image by Iain Leach.

Spoonbills (attempted nesting colony), No 6 tank. Summer 1996. Image Iain Leach.

Featured below are three species from Tony Murphy.

Red-necked Phalarope (female), 1976. Image by Tony Murphy.

Wilson’s Phalarope, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh.September 1981.

Pectoral Sandpiper (ringed by MRG), I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh.September 1981.

All images by Tony Murphy.

Tony Broome was the Cheshire Bird county recorder for a number of years. He has spent more time than he could care to remember birding Frodsham Marsh. Tony has recently rekindled his interest in Frodsham by ticking off the Great White Egret on the Score.

.Stilt Sandiper, No 4 tank, April 1984. Image by Tony Broome.


20.05.12. Birdlog (There she blows!)

Black Swan with 20 Mute Swans on No 6 tank were the highlight .

A sludge pipe burst on No 4 tank this afternoon and sent this blackened Balrog spectre plume 30 ft into the air. I was at work today, but Paul Crawley sent this image and it looks awesome!

One of the side effects of the burst sludge pipe was this …

This event recalls a tale which I remember from the mid eighties…In the days when you needed a pocket full of two pences to use in a phone box. I telephoned former Frodsham  birder Mike Whiteside to tell him about a rare bird at the marsh. After walking miles through Frodsham looking for a telephone box that actually worked. I made the call to Mike’s office and was greeted by his secretary. The message I asked her to pass on to him was, “There’s a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the I.C.I tank.The message he eventually received was, “There is a burst standpipe at I.C.I. I guess he figured it out, eventually. I have included a photograph of that bird taken and (if memory serves me right) found by Pete Antrobus.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. 1984. Image by Pete Antrobus.