16.12.17. Birdlog.

A late morning start and a walk along Moorditch Lane where a small flock of Redwing were left from the snow/sleet of last weekend. It was a bit of a surprise to find No.6 tank 80% covered in ice and the Shoveler were doing their best (c200 spinning birds) to keep the remaining 20% clear for the 300 Common Teal and handfuls of Pintail, Common Shelduck, drake Common Pochard and Mallard.

A Cetti’s Warbler and a Chiffchaff were vocal along the edge of the tank with another Cetti’s further out on No.6. Passerines were restricted by a flock of 200 Goldfinch and 3 Stonechat. The leucistic Starling from last weekend had relocated to No.5. Frank joined me for a while before heading off.

I continued my walk to the south-west corner of No.6 where a herd of 7 Mute’s and 26 Whooper Swan were present in the fields blow Spring Farm on Lordship Marsh. The Whooper’s consisted of 19 adults, 6 juvenile and an immature. An attendant Greylag is presumed the same bird as previous years and probably of Icelandic origin?

A look over Frodsham Score didn’t really produce much apart from hundreds of Canada Goose. At dusk c500 Pink-footed Goose in four skeins headed in and waffled their way onto the salt marshes. A few hundred Curlew also headed out to the marshes at dusk while 13 Black-tailed Godwit and c900 Golden Plover (image 4) were dislodged by an unseen predator.

A Marsh Harrier, pale morph Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk were the only obvious birds of prey noted today.

The main event almost didn’t happen and the Starling gathering looked all over when tens of thousands headed east without much ado. I was about to give up when a few small groups dropped into the roost reed bed below the bank where I was standing. These birds were giving their typical chirpy calls to encourage others passing over to join them. Eventually flocks started to grow and increase into thousands and big numbers that had headed east began to return. A few minor murmurations occurred but they weren’t really worthy of mention. The birds came…and they came…and they came even more.

There was no stopping tonight’s roost and it was a joy to watch c80,000 smother the reed beds and then roll along like a huge moving mass, each flock leap frogging the roost creating a moving carpet of birds. I walked away with the roost still edging further out into the centre of the reed bed with a continuous white noise buzzing in my ears.

Videoof Starling roost: https://www.facebook.com/117180855126736/videos/874647069380107/

N.B. A couple of female Blackcap were at my neighbours’ bird feeders this morning.

Observer and images: WSM.

17.09.17. Birdlog.

An early start for the morning tide which turned out not to be too significant.

A quick look at the phalarope pool as it’s now known at the west end of No.3 tank produced a few Common Teal. Further east and the dwindling scrape pools had a single Green Sandpiper which typically did one when it caught sight of me. The main hightlight was the calls of Pink-footed Goose sounding out overhead as scattered flocks were moving around the estuary and a combined count was in excess of 200 birds.

No.6 tank had more water on it than previous visits due to the deluge of rain we’ve been experiencing over the last week or so. A flock of c250 Black-tailed Godwit had numerous juvenile birds and a lone summer plumaged adult was flapping its wings vigorously for about 5 minutes. There were 10 Ruff, 300 Lapwing and a single Common Snipe to add to the shorebird numbers.

The Lapwing were a bit skittish and a scan across the reed beds revealed a juvenile Hobby perched up on a tree stump preening away. Hobby video here: https://vimeo.com/234228235

The ducks have made a bit of a come back with 158 Shoveler, 3 Pintail, 6 Wigeon, c200 Common Teal. 14 Mallard, 2 Gadwall and just a handful of Common Shelduck.

Observer and images: WSM.

12.09.17. Birdlog.

We were on the Wirral when I got a call from Frank Duff this afternoon regarding a third hand sighting of a phalarope spp that Mike Giverin had chanced upon two birders (who had visited the Frodder’s earlier) at Burton Mere, confused? The upshot of all of this was that Frank went to the marsh to investigate and eventually relocated the ‘phal’ and it turned out to be of the Red-necked variety (and there are a few rednecks down on the marsh ;O). It took a while for me and Sparky to get to the site and… you know you’re late to the party when Phil Oddy is leaving the bird having twitched it from the badlands of east Cheshire. Red-necked Phalarope video here: https://vimeo.com/233547295

We managed to watch this delicate oceanic wanderer spinning on the edge of the c350 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Ruff, 4 Ringed Plover and 8 Dunlin. That wrecking ball juvenile Peregrine smashed through the godwit flock like a ten pin bowling session. There wasn’t a wader left with every one of them scattering in various tight panic flocks. After the melee there was no sign of the phalarope and not a lot of anything else. It had still not returned by 17.00 hrs.

We briefly met Luke and he mentioned that there was an adult Gannet out on the River Weaver. When we had traipsed around the eastern sides of both No.5 and No.1 tanks I eventually met Frank who was watching the bird on the far banks of the Weaver estuary  and for all the world dead! Except, it was just asleep and woke long enough to raise its head and flap its wings before going back to sleep again. Gannet video here: https://vimeo.com/233542599

The estuary also had a mixed flock of 200 hirundines with an additional attachment of 8 Common Swift.

Observers: Luke Oszanlov-Harris, Frank Duff, WSM (and video) & Sparky.

31.07.17. Birdlog

A selection of sightings from the marsh today included: 28 Little Grebe, 36 Common Teal, 40 Mallard, 17 Common Shelduck, 12 Lapwing, 2 Common Sandpiper, 21 Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Common Gull and 110 Black-headed Gull.

Observer: Joe from Chester.

Video of Common Sandpipers here: https://vimeo.com/227779617

Image and video by WSM.

24.04.17. Birdlog

After some chores were attended to at home I eventually made my way down to the marsh this evening in glorious sunshine. When I arrived I met Arthur who stoically stood on the banks using the Elder trees as cover from the chilling northerly wind.

The cold northerly was really responsible for the holdup with the godwits heading north. All over the country northbound shorebirds have been gathering and waiting for this weather to change into a favourable direction. And so it was that the Black-tailed Godwit flocks gathered tightly below the northern banks of No.6 tank. Each one attempting to gain some kind of shelter from the piercing wind. Generally it was a real struggle for them to keep their footing and many birds were blown sideways. The leggy godwits were adopting a John Wayne stance to combat the buffering breeze. Legs spread wide and wings bunched and tucked away almost like a gun slinger. Hidden amid the c1500 Black-tail gems were 6 colour ringed birds and 7 Bar-tailed Godwit including two ultra rare summer plumaged birds…a big grin spread across my chops.

Other highlights were 6 winter Knot, 125 Redshank, 30 Avocet, 12 Ruff, with a selection of dandy plumed males and 3 Dunlin. A Curlew Sandpiper was reported earlier by one of the bird information services?

A Marsh Harrier hung in the wind like a kite over the southern banks while hirundines cut through the blow with all the ease that only they can master.

Ducks again included c120 Tufted Duck with 150 Common Shelduck and numerous Common Teal.

A fine birding experience and all I have to do now is thaw out my extremities for Wednesday evenings Free ‘Frodsham Festival of Walks’ Birdwatch which begins starts 6.30 pm on Brook Furlong Lane/Marsh Lane, Frodsham. All are welcome.

Earlier the Peregrine was perched up on the heraldic shields on Ethelfleda railway bridge across the Narrows at Runcorn Bridge.

Observers: Arthur Harrison, WSM (images 1-9).

A Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk was seen and two colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit were spotted by Joe Chester (image 10).

Several Whinchat were with a dozen Wheatear along the fields on Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Graham Manson (image 11).

Gowy Meadows revisited.

Had a walk over to the Gowy Meadows after work this evening and bumped into Paul Lee. Weboth shared multiple Wheatear and at one point there were 5 Whinchat in a line on a fence (you wait all Winter for a chat and five come at once).

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 12).

Swallow video by WSM here: https://vimeo.com/216622652

02.01.17. Birdlog

02-01-17-grey-heron-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonI  started my walk out at Ince this morning and the drake Pintail was again on the new pools there with both Mallard and Common Teal. A small flock of Fieldfare were searching the bushes for the remaining berries.


02-01-17-goldfinch-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonAlong the canal path a large flock of mixed finches included Linnet, Goldfinch and Chaffinch with several Reed Bunting were active in the area. They all got spooked when a Sparrowhawk cruised by. On the Manchester Ship Canal were a few ducks including Common Teal. Tufted Duck, Mallard with Coot, Little and Great Crested Grebe gathered. A herd of 18 Mute Swan with 5 Greylag Goose were on the field alongside the Holpool Gutter. A ship was making its way out of the ship canal and flushed 2 Common Sandpiper from the far bank with 3 Redshank . I saw a Peregrine which was in hot pursuit of a wader that managed to seek the safety of the bank of No.4 while the falcon throw on its anchors and aborted the mission. I finished 2016 with a Chiffchaff and started 2017 with a Chiffchaff that popped up of top of some bushes on the banks of No.6.


02-01-017-stonechat-no-4-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-8A couple of Little Stint were with a small flock of 50 Dunlin  and a larger flock of Black-tailed Godwit which were close in to the bank. A Great Crested Grebe was seen to catch a small silver fish while a Grey Heron was searching for eels in the shallow water. There were several Stonechat during the course of my walk and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in bushes on the south end of 6.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-4 & 8 & 10).


On arrival at Moorditch Lane close to the bridge the crosses the M56 motorway the Fieldfare and Redwing were still feeding in the horse paddock field. Along the track that separates No.5 and No.6 tanks, it opens out on your left hand side revealing the open vista of the working sludge tank of six. Today the majority of the mud and open water was frozen and there were no calidris waders present from Paul’s earlier visit. A gathering of 3-400 Common Teal, 77 Shoveler, 45 Common Shelduck, 3 drake Wigeon, 15 Common Pochard, 23 Tufted Duck and 7 Pintail were a decent mixture of ducks.


02-01-17-chiffchaff-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonI didn’t linger long and continued to No.4 where I met PR and we carried on to the eastern edge of the tank to watch the incoming tide. Overlooking Frodsham Score salt marshes the only birds viewable were the usual Canada Goose with a couple of white domestic birds in tow. The Great White Egret soon appeared from Ince marshes and was joined by half a dozen Little’s. The GWE flew out and settled on the score giving some good views on a beautiful sunny day with a slight breeze only increasing with the arrival of the tide. Shorebirds were moving in the distance with Dunlin, Grey Plover and Curlew staying on the rivers edge.


A Green Sandpiper flew out of the Holpool Gutter below the bank where we stood and 4 Stonechat were giving good views from the same area. Paul had seen another 6 birds at various points of his walk and I managed an additional pair later in the day on No.5. So, given the 6 birds seen at the eastern end of the marsh we have 18 birds this winter!


02-01-17-common-snipe-frodsham-marsh-paul-ralstonAn adult Peregrine flew into the salt marsh and landed on a washed up tree and soon after took flight and headed purposely to the Growhow Works where it connected with another adult and they both engaged in a ritual aerial display. This was a great spectacle to watch and was made even better when a third bird came into view and all three were in the air together. Shortly after Paul said his farewell I continued watching the big gulls roosting the tide out while a Merlin shot overhead.

I returned to No.6 but there wasn’t much in the way of shorebirds, even the godwits uprooted and headed out to the river. There was plenty of squealing Water Rails in the reed bed below the bank and a couple of Common Snipe flew over head.

Video from the viewing area of No.6 tank: https://vimeo.com/197938629


02-01-17-clouds-over-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-4Observer: WSM (video & images 5-7 & 11-12).


31.12.16. Birdlog

dsc_1331Stepping out this morning from Ince on the last visit of the year.  The pig farm fields held a large flock of Curlew and the new pools had an addition to the usual Mallard and Common Teal with a drake Pintail with them for company.


Out on the salt marsh there were 2 Great White Egret side by side with several Little Egret. The Wildfowlers were out by the River Mersey on the edge of the score marshes and their labrador was seen to retrieve a goose from a tidal gutter and later a Wigeon was seen to drop like a stone in to the river after being shot.  Onward with my walk up to No.6 tank and a mass of waders left the tank and made their way out to the estuary (looks like I mis-timed my visit again). A selection of ducks and smaller numbers of waders were present including a couple of Little Stint. Walking back along the Manchester Ship Canal path and a flock of Linnet and Chaffinch were moving through and a Goldcrest was with a mixed tit flock.


At Ince Berth a Chiffchaff was seen looking for insects on the wall. On the lane back to were I had left my car there was a number of Reed Bunting and a species which up to 4 years ago was a regular sight in the hedgerow here but has not been seen by me since…Yellowhammer was a nice finish to my walk and to the year.

Observer: Paul Ralston (image 1).

dsc_1393I took the last opportunity of 2016 to do a spot of birding on the marshes. Starting off from the advantage point above No.6 tank. The flock of waders that had settled below me all took off and disappeared over the horizon. I was beginning to have the same thoughts that Paul had earlier (was it the aftershave?). It wasn’t long before they all return and settled down to have some frenzied feeding. The Lapwings were quite skittish and kept their distance while Dunlin didn’t appear to be too bothered and commenced feeding below the bank from where I was standing. The Little Stints that had been seen earlier increased by one and all three were present until dusk. Other birds of note here included 340 Dunlin, 132 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff, 78 Common Shelduck, 675 Common Teal, 111 Shoveler, 8 Pintail, 1 Common Pochard and  34 Tufted Duck.

I met Alyn Chambers and his brother during the course of this watch and they added 15 Common Pochard on the River Weaver, a Merlin and 3 lots of Stonechat numbering 6 in all.

There was an interesting event that Alyn witnessed today when a Herring Gull was struck by one of the rotor blades on a wind turbines positioned on No.4 tank. The gull was seen to fall to the ground and it was presumed this bird was killed by the blade.


I decided to make a trip to the south-east corner of No.4 tank to look across the fields. It didn’t take me long to find 15 Whooper Swan feeding in the flooded fields alongside the motorway. I saw these swans yesterday whilst driving west along the carriageway and Alyn also mentioned seeing them earlier in the week, so it looks like they are back again.


I walked out to the banks of 4 and looked out across the salt marshes and saw a single Great White and 5 Little Egret but not a lot of anything else.


I spent the rest of the day up until dusk watching the gathering of 1000 Lapwing and 900 Golden Plover to their roosting places on No.6. A male Sparrowhawk made a half-hearted attempt to ambush the roost. The plovers had a clear view from all sides and were up and over before the raptor could make any attempt to catch one. The highlight of the evening was the arrival of an immature female and a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier performing acrobatic manoeuvres over the reed beds.

…and the birds to end the year go to the two adult Peregrines watching the end of the day on top of the blue topped chimney.

Video of No.6 tank here: https://vimeo.com/197942678

Observer: WSM (video & images 1-3 & 5-6).

22.10.16. Birdlog


22-10-16-raven-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3Out this morning from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal path heading east and around No.6 tank.  A flock of Long-tailed Tit had a couple of Goldcrest with them as they made their way along the hedgerow.

The new pools at Ince Marsh fields were quiet with only a single Grey Heron and a few Moorhen occupying them. Reed Bunting were gathering in good numbers as was the Robin with several territorial disputes going on between established birds and migrants. Flocks of Redwing were passing through heading west followed in hot pursuit by a Sparrowhawk hoping to pick off a tired bird.

22-10-16-reed-bunting-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-2Out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh were 5 Little Egret scattered about and a large flock of Common Teal and Wigeon which exploded into the air when 5 wildfowlers made their way out on to the marsh. A Great Crested Grebe was amongst the Coot and Tufted Duck on the ship canal. Meanwhile, the Raven gathered alongside Great Black-backed Gull numbers feeding on the ever-present free mutton liberally scattered about the area. Waiting for thirds were the omnipresent Common Buzzard.


Three Stonechat were along the path by the northern ramp onto No.6 and a male Kestrel sat on a fence post nearby. A Great Spotted Woodpecker left a stand of dead trees near the Growhow works compound and alongside No.4 a Grey Wagtail with a flock of alba wags near the Holpool Gutter. The fields alongside the gutter held a few hundred Lapwing with several Golden Plover with them.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images1-3).


22-10-16-view-from-plane-looking-down-on-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-322-10-16-view-from-plane-looking-down-on-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-5A big thanks to Chris Done who took these aerial shots looking down over Frodsham Marsh yesterday from a flight out of New York JFK. Chris was a young Elton birder who could be found birding the marsh in his younger days. He scored many fine finds including a singing Nightingale along Lordship Lane a few years back.

Image 4 by WSM and images 5-7 by Chris Done.

The Marshes c1900

the-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-c1900-2I have been looking a long time for images of Frodsham Marsh shortly after the Manchester Ship Canal was completed and today I have been successful. The first image shows the Weaver estuary (inner top left) with its marshland edges and the cultivated fields stretching inland to the village of Frodsham. At the far right hand side is the Weaver Bend with the small island visible and Weston Marsh which today is under a disused sludge tank.






The second photograph shows the flooded No.1 sludge tank occupying the river marshland area.The container walls are excavated soil taken from the interior of the sludge bed and are no higher than a couple of metres.   It is only speculation what this tank situated a stone’s throw from the River Mersey would have attracted all those years ago. There were no ornithologists/bird watchers in the area to catalogue the huge flocks of waders, not to mention the numerous Nearctic shorebirds that surely must have appeared each autumn. I’ll have to get me one of those time travelling machines when they get invented.

On both images it is interesting to note the lack of development in Runcorn and across the Liverpool skyline.