06.06.20 Birdlog.

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It’s that time of month when the BTO duty of counting wildfowl and shorebirds on, over or by the Mersey Estuary.

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I settled on the banks of No.6 tank and began my count. The Black-tailed Godwit flock were settled down for their siesta during the first period of my watch. The blustery wind from the north-west made the waders and gulls jittery and once they flew up from their slumber they settled in flocks in the shallow waters. After two or three times of uplifting and resettling the flock remain in an area infront of me.

A scan revealed 4 non-breeding plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit within the 887 strong Black-tailed Godwit flock. There were 4 non-breeding plumaged Red Knot and a small number of Dunlin and 15 Common Ringed Plover. The Pied Avocet flock and breeding pairs totaled 24 birds and with them were 431 Black-headed, 1 Herring, 3 Lesser Black-backed and 6 1st summer Common Gull.

Ducks were absent apart from 7 Eurasian Teal, 24 Mallard and a couple of Tufted Duck. I assume the rest of the ducks have relocated to the Weaver Estuary.

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The ‘phalarope pool’ was pretty devoid of ducks with a Reeve being the only new bird here. The Common Redshank pair were still paranoid about anything that even approached their precious youngsters. A couple of Western Yellow Wagtail flew in and out.

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Walking back and a Stoat curiosyly watched us before slunking away into the pathside vegatation.

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Observers: JS & WSM (images 1-7 & video).

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A short walk along the River Weaver in strong winds today where hundreds of Common Swift put on an ariel display over the river and fields flashing past at waist height while the Pied Avocet pairs were kept busy chasing the Great Black-backed Gull adults away from their young. A mass of Black-headed Gull were resting on the choppy waters. There were 10 Mute Swan which flew down the river leaving 8 more behind.

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A walk around No.6 tank and 2 Western Marsh Harrier were in the air together the males grey tail stood out from a distance.

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An injured Lesser Black-backed Gull caught the attention of a pale phase Common Buzzard which flew down to investigate, after a few attempts the gull managed to get airborne.

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There were Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warbler still vocal along Lordship Lane. A curious group of four Grey Heron were in the model aircrat field, two standing and two laying flat out on the ground.

There were many more Common Swift were hawking above the bank on No.6 and surely would draw in a Hobby if one was in the vicinity.

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A dead Mole lay in the grass which could have been victim of the recent hot weather making the ground hard to penetrate through? Several Marsh Orchids were seen amongst the vegetation on one of the tank.

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Obsever: Paul Ralston (images 8-12). 

04.06.20. Birdlog.

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An after work visit to No.6 tank with the black clouds rolling in from the Atlantic threatening rain (which it did after I made my retreat).

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The flock of Black-tailed Godwit were well scattered around the tank and I guess there were c600 birds present. An obliging Little Ringed Plover was having a dunk in the shallows infront of me, a few nesting Pied Avocet, 29 Common Ringed Plover, 9 (non-breeding plumage) Red Knot, 4 Common Redshank and 31 Northern Lapwing.

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Ducks again were a feature with 5 drake Common Pochard, c80 Tufted Duck, 4 Eurasian Teal, the drake Garganey which spent all its time asleep, Northern Shoveler and Common Shelduck added to the picture.

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There were hundreds of Common Swift hawking low over the water with lesser numbers of Barn Swallow. The Western Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the distant reed beds.

Observer: WSM (1-6).

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An early evening walk around No.6 tank. I parked by the model flying field and a had a look over the banks of 6. There were 7 Pied Avocet were sitting on nests surrounded by feeding Black-tailed Godwit, Common Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plover and 4 Red Knot.

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There were Red Fox tracks crossing the mud not far from the nests which could be a problem for the sitting birds.

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Three Grey Heron stood stock still taking everything in while waiting for an opportunity to strike! Common Swift were numerous flashing past at head height while Common Whitethroat and Cetti’s Warbler were vocal in several places during my walk.

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The Gadwall brood on the ‘phalarope pool’ are a decent size now and were joined by the Canada Goose brood. A Western Yellow Wagtail was noted on the path.

Back on Lordship Lane a Common Buzzard passed overhead and was mobbed by a dozen or more Northern Lapwing.

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Back by the model flying field there were 2 police cars from the rural crime team on patrol around the marsh on the lookout for fly-tippers and off road bikes.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 7-11).

03.06.20. Birdlog.

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Despite the sudden change in temperature and wind direction I undeterred paid a visit to the marshes after work. Walking along the track between No.5 & 6 tanks and followed it to the ‘phalarope pool’ on No.3 tank.

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The alarm calls of a pair of Common Redshank drew my attention to their 2 redshankling chicks busy storing up insects from the grass by the pool.

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The drake Garganey was lazily preening in the pool before walking out to settle down with a small group of Mallard while the shanklings were feeding around him. The Gadwall and Tufted Duck pair were almost present.

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Walking back I settled down to watch the shorebirds and ducks on the water of No.6 tank. A flock of c500 Black-tailed Godwit and with them was 8 Common Redshank, 14 Northern Lapwing, 6 Dunlin, 9 Red Knot, 8 Common Ringed Plover and 12 Pied Avocet. The ducks were again in good numbers with 8 drake and a duck Common Pochard, 54 Tufted Duck, 6 Eurasian Teal, 6 Northern Shoveler, 100 Mallard, 14 Gadwall and 78 Common Shelduck.

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Warblers were also present in good numbers with Cetti’s Warbler, Reed, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat.

A Stoat ambled along the track as I walked back.

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Earlier in the day I witnessed a mass eruption of toadlets from their birth pool to the Sankey Canal at Widnes Warth Marsh alongside the Trans Pennine Trail.

Observer and images: WSM.

02.06.20. Birdlog.

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I spent an hour along the River Weaver this evening where the water level is back to its normal height with several hundred Black-headed Gull were on the water with many Common Swift hawking above them. The Great Crested Grebe were noted mid river and the Pied Avocet were on the bank guarding their young.

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A Northern Lapwing was sitting tight on its nest. Reed and Sedge Warbler were vocal and a

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pair of agitated Reed Bunting were along the river path. A Cettis Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and the mixed singer Willow Warbler were noted along Brook Furlong Lane.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

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Pike in the Sankey Canal (image by WSM)

31.05.20. Birdlog.

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An early morning start at Ince before the temperature rose throgh this morning. The lane was alive with birdsong with Wren, Common Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler, Sedge and Reed Warbler were joined by a Song Thrush and Blackbird. The pools were quiet with just a few Mallard, Gadwall, 2 Common Shelduck and a Little Grebe.

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Wren in the sunshine.

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On the Manchester Ship Canal, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Common Shelduck were numerous with plenty of Canada Goose on the water with hundreds more out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh.

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Not a great deal on the ‘Canal Pools’, a single Great Crested Grebe was noted hopefully its partner and young were in the reeds out of sight.

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The Common Redshank pair were feeding at the edge of the ‘phalarope pool’ and being tolerated by the Northern Lapwing for a change. More Sedge and Reed Warbler were vocal along the path with Eurasian Reed Bunting and Common Whitethroat being commonplace  no sign of the leucistic bird unfortunately.

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A pair of Western Yellow Wagtail were on the fence along Lordship Lane and a Common Buzzard was mobbed by the a flock of Rook as it strayed to close to their rookery. Back at the start of the walk a Euraian Sparrowhawk was rising on the thermals and was joined by

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another 2 birds and all three circled together for a short while before drifting off.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-7).

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From mid morning we walked out from Marsh Lane and along Moorditch, Lordship Lane and around No.6 tank.

Our first stop was at the ‘splashing pool’ where a group of 34 Tufted Duck and 6 Gadwall were settled. Just a short hop away is the ‘phalarope pool’ and apart from an anxious Common Redshank, 3 Sunshine Wagtail and c100 Sand Martin over the area it was a little underwhelming. We continued to have a look over No.6 tank but not before we socially distanced ourselves from Jacqui and Idris Roberts. Looking through the shimmering heat haze made taking photographs a pointless task. There were 14 Common Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, c500 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Red Knot, 11 Mute Swan, 146 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Common Pochard and a few odds and sods.

Observers: JS & WSM (image 8).

A Mediterreanean Gull was with the Black-headed Gulls on the Weaver Bend per Roger Wilkinson.

30.05.20. Birdlog.

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An early start from Brook Furlong Lane and along the River Weaver and Manchester Ship Canal and then around No.6 tank this morning. The ‘mixed singer’ Willow Warbler was vocal in its usual area at the south-east corner of No.1 tank and was joined by Wren, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. Both Reed and Sedge Warbler were numerous during the length of my walk with a brood of fledged sedge’ seen along Lordship Lane. Onto the River Weaver and the water level has dropped exposing a sand bank mid river which looks promising for future visits.

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A pair of Great Crested Grebe was on the river and one of them was giving a youngster a piggyback ride while the other was fishing successfully. Several Pied Avocet had young on the far bank and the parents were kept busy chasing crows and gulls away from them.

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On the Weaver Estaury were 28 Mute Swan noted alongside many Canada Goose and Common Shelduck with a brood of 10 young shelduckings crossing the river with their parents. There were a pair of Eurasian Oystercatcher on the Manchester Ship Canal between Marsh Farm and the dredger berth and I noted Tufted Duck and Gadwall being on the water and a family of Pied Wagtail were on the bank.

The ‘phalarope pool’ held a Canada Goose family with Mallard, Common Shelduck and again Gadwall being present. The Common Redshank pair were contact calling to their young ones hiding in the grass and were buzzed every now and again by a Northern Lapwing. Linnet and European Goldfinch were feeding along Lordship Lane with more Reed and Sedge Warbler seen and heard, as were several Reed Buntings. Looking over No.6 tank and the 22 Red Knot were in amongst several hundred Black-tailed Godwit and several Pied Avocet.

Walking back and close to my car a Eurasian Cuckoo was calling and was seen to fly over Brook Furlong Lane towards Redwall reedbed. If you plan to walk along the Weaver Causeway footpath take some insect repellant as clouds of midges rise from the vegetation as you brush pass.

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Close to home a check on a local Peregrine site and one of the 2 nests had left and the nest site and was sitting close by being watched over by a male.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 2-4).

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The Weaver Bend with its drought effect island.

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While PR was on his long tramp we waked in from Frodsham Bridge and at the sluice gates a Kingfisher darted out from a cuvert into the river narrowly missing colliding with a speed boat.

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As Paul had mentioned earlier the River Weaver is at its lowest for a considerable time. The lack of run off from the hills and surrounding lane and the recent low tides have produced a area worthy of attention a few weeks back if it had been this low.

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I managed a count of 57 Pied Avocet and that included several downy young and theere could have been more on the raised Weston Marsh tank but that was not viewable from my elevation. A couple of Great Black-backed Gull and flyover corvids got the Common Shelduck up from Weston and Marsh and the Weaver Bend and I estimated that we have c450 birds, the sky was full of them. Mostly 1st summer Black-headed Gull were all along the river and numbered into their hundreds.

A walk past the birdlog half way along Brook Furlong Lane produced the second ‘mixed singer’ Willow-Chiffchaff.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 1 & 4-24).

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The riddle of the leucistic passerine which was initially thought to be a Reed is infact a partial leucistic Common Whitethroat…unless you think otherwise?

Images 25-26 by Jon Gilbody.

29.05.20. Birdlog.

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A walk out and around No.6 tank with a prolonged stop at the ‘phalarope pool’ on No.3 tank where we sat off enjoying a sandwich and a brew. There wasn’t much to see although the Northern Lapwing young are begining to look like their parents. After about 30 minutes a duck emerged from the bank below where we were watching from and revealed itself to be a fine drake Garganey. The bird gave some fantastic views busily feeding and not so busily sleeping between more feeding. It was a great couple of hours spent watching this bird before we dragged ourselves away leaving it still there.

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Drake Garganey in finer plumage.

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Closer profile.

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I left JS to drive home while I set up on the banks of No.6 tank to watch the shorebirds below.

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I was then joined by PR and we both watched the 854 Black-tailed Godwit well scattered across the area and the Red Knot (no red ones) numbered 22 birds today. A small group of Dunlin, 6 Common Ringed Plover and 14 Pied Avocet with some nesting out of the fragile mud. A Western Marsh Harrier quartered the reed beds before moving to the north.

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Ducks were again back in good umbers with 3 drake Common Pochard, 87 Tufted Duck, 130 Mallard, 16 Gadwall, 14 Common Shelduck, 14 Northern Shoveler and 9 Eurasian Teal.

Garganey video on twitter.

Observers: JS & WSM (images 1-6).

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No sign of the Garganey on the ‘phalarope pool’ after I lefy WSM there was just Mallard, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot. The Canada Goose had 6 goslings at the edge  of the pool and the Common Redshank pair were being harassed by the Northern Lapwing.

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A Western Yellow Wagtail dropped in to feed on insects in the shallow mud and a Dunnock wearing a metal ring was nearby.

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One of the cows belonging to Marsh Farm had an abscess the size of a football on its face.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 7-9).