C&WOS 2014 Bird Report

CHESHIRE AND WIRRAL BIRD REPORT 2014

BR2014 cover

We’re delighted to say that the annual Bird Report for 2014 is now available (February 2015). This year’s eye-catching colour front cover is a stunning summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe, which graced the Weaver Bend at Frodsham for almost two months.

The 176 pages of text include 77 maps, graphs and tables, and 15 beautiful illustrations from three different artists. As usual, the colour map of the county forms the centre spread of the Bird Report. A total of 18 colour photographs, which best capture some of the highlights of the year, are spread over seven full pages.

The Bird Report is full of interesting articles:

  • Local ‘patchers’ turned Red Rocks into a rarity hot-spot, when Citrine Wagtail, Tawny Pipit and Marsh Warbler were discovered in 2014. Sound recordings are an under-rated aspect of bird identification, in that the resultant sonograms can often provide a clear ‘footprint’ as part of the evidence to substantiate a record – which were provided in two out of these three rarities.
  • Another article recalls the excitement of finding a male Little Bunting on Hilbre; the first record for the island, and also the first ‘boat twitch’ to the island as the tide was in!
  • Back in 1930s, Spotted Crake used to breed at Burton Mere Wetlands (known then as Burton bog), but in 2014 breeding was again witnessed by the sighting of an adult pair and two fluffy black chicks. Hopefully they will become regular breeders on the reserve.
  • Even the smallest of suburban gardens with an established feeding station can bring hours of fascinating birding with the odd surprise. This was true in 2014 when a redpoll bonanza occurred which included Common Redpolls, and more unusually, a Coues’ Arctic Redpoll.
  • Last, but not least, there’s a striking account of 27,000 Common Scoters seen from Hilbre on March 3rd 2014 – one of those great wildlife spectacles that will always remain in the memory of those who saw it.

All the ‘regulars’ are there: ‘Weather and Bird Review of the Year’; the full ‘Systematic List of Birds Recorded in Cheshire and Wirral during 2014’, including ‘Category E Species’; ‘Early and Late Dates for Migrants’; ‘Ringing Report’; ‘BBRC and County Rarities Decisions’; ‘Chairman’s Review’; and finally, advice on the Cheshire and Wirral Gazetteer, and the ‘Submission of Records’, including rarities.

Last, but not least, we have again included a ‘Species Index’ at the back to help you quickly look up your favourite species.

The Bird Report is free to Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society members (ordinary membership costs £12), otherwise it costs £8 + £2 p&p and copies are available from:

David Cogger, 71 Parkgate, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 8HF

Tel: 01565 228503   Email: davidcogger@cawos.org

Ray Scally’s Guest Blog

Ray Scally’s Guest Blog (01.01.16)01.01.16. Pink-footed Goose, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

For the last 4 years at least I have always made sure of getting in a full days birding on the first day of the year regardless of the festivities the night before, for 2016 I had Frodsham written on the calendar for at least 3 weeks prior to today, looking forward to the diverse numbers of species I usually see on the marsh.01.01.16. Pink-footed Goose, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton
The only advantage of the short winter days is the fact that daylight on the 1st usually starts at 8am giving a reasonable lay-in. I arrived on the marsh at 7.45 am and parked up at the Weaver Bend with the plan of doing both Marsh Farm and the Bend first.
01.01.16. Common Buzzard, No.4 tank, frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe first bird of the day was a Buzzard as I parked up, as I made my way on foot to Marsh Farm 2 Fieldfare flew from the trees on No.5 tank, further along I scanned the pipes for Stonechat but to no avail, on approaching the bend on No.2 tank 2 Raven were heard before being seen and a further 25 yards gave me my first target species as a Merlin flew low and into Marsh Farm scattering a number of Starling and finches. The Starling numbers were in the thousands as the birds left their roost and headed in a westerly direction. Marsh Farm and Frodsham Score produced all the expected species including Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Grey Wagtail.01.01.16. Peregrine, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton
I made my way to the bend and had all the usual duck species, 9 Goldeneye, 3 Pochard, 2 Pintail, 13 Little Grebe, 9 Tufted Duck, 3 Teal, 3 Great-crested Grebe, passerine species consisted of a roving tit flock with the usual, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 6 Blue Tit, 2 Great tit, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush.

01.01.16. Ray Scally birding Frodsham Marsh. (2)I scanned the towers on the works and finally located a Peregrine sitting up with recently killed prey.
As the light improved I decided to head for No.6 tank and look for the Green-winged Teal, as I approached the first viewing area I scanned the tank and had a brief look through the several hundred Teal, I then noticed Bill further up the path in a sheltered spot and together we failed to locate the Green-winged Teal, a quick look at the news services informed us a Green-winged Teal was present at Burton Mere so the enthusiasm waned and we checked through the other birds on the tank. Other species present consisted of 24 Shoveler, 21 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 16 Tufted Duck, 8 Pintail and 27 Wigeon.

After an hour or so we headed for Frodsham Score and Bill located the Great White Egret, as we scanned Frodsham Score a flock of 50 Pink-footed Goose flew in from a north-westerly direction and landed on the score and a female Peregrine sat for some time on one of the fence posts. On several occasions we had the magnificent spectacle of several hundred Lapwing and Golden Plover taking to the air, mainly due to the Peregrine undertaking its rounds. The Whooper Swan flock observed over the preceding weeks were still present along with several Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Little Egret, blogging passerines consisted of 50 Linnet, 200 Goldfinch and the odd Meadow Pipit.
We headed back to Marsh Farm to see if we could locate the Shag which was reported from a few days previous but the sharp cold wind was increasing which made viewing difficult, no new species were recorded and the light started to fade fast.

I left Bill at 3 pm when the rain started to set in and finished with a quick scan of the 185 Black-headed Gull and a drive up and down No.5 tank for the Short-eared Owl but none seen.

A total of 61 species was recorded over the day. I look forward to getting back on the marsh for some field sketching and painting over the coming months!

Written by Ray Scally

Frodsham Marsh map

Also present WSM (map and images)

10.10.15. Birdlog

10.10.15. Birdlog

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (2)

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (3)Thought that I’d give viz-migging a go on a date which should be within the optimum time period of September and October. But standing on the NE corner of No.4 it was obvious it was not going to happen. It was so quiet with no birds that I could honestly say they were not moving.

There were 2 Little Egret out on Frodsham Score, 10 Greenfinch in the Elders, 2 Grey Wagtail mobbing a Sparrowhawk and a flock of about 120 Pink-footed Geese that flew over northwards in a noisy skein that broke up into skein-lets, my first of the autumn. There was one intriguing sighting when a Blue Tit flew past closely followed by a small green bird I didn’t get onto fast enough, but got the impression that it had creamy-yellow stripes on it… I saw where it went but couldn’t relocated it? 10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (8)

As I walked off I stumbled on a lovely, delicate, translucent fungi that reminded me of the ones illustrated in children’s story books a delicate Glistening Parasol.

As I drove away from No.4 tank, the cattle were grazing in the scrape next to the Splashing Pool, the contractors working on No.3 (mitigation area) had left the gates open as they’d entered. They’d also knocked a fence down and the cattle were walking out onto the track (take note farmer).

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (7)

I then tried another look for a Yellow-browed Warbler but failed miserably, the bushes along No.6 tank were largely empty except for a few Chaffinch and tits. Standing at the top of the halfway ramp on No.6, a Cetti’s Warbler began to sing in the phragmites below and it did so for over half an hour, coming as close to me as 5 metres, but frustratingly never showed itself. A Red Admiral flew past as I waited and a Redpoll species went over calling.

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (6)

I moved to Brook Furlong Lane to resume my warbler search. A couple of Jays, an increase in Song Thrush numbers and a Great-spotted Woodpecker…but no warblers.

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (4)

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)On my way back to Lordship Lane I met another birder, Mark, who’d just had an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull on No.6 with the Black-heads and a few Chiffchaff on his walk along No.6 to No.4. I decided to go and have a look and the ‘med’ was still there on the water with about a 100 Black-headed Gull and a single Common Gull. With an assortment of ducks which included 30+ Shoveler, 20+ Wigeon and a couple of Pintail, lots of Teal and Tufted Duck, the water was full of birds but looking into the sun is was never easy to see and I moved on, driving the full length of Lordship Lane as far as the construction site cabins.

10.10.15. Images from Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (5)

Apart from 51 Curlew in a field with 4 Common Buzzard, one of which was doing it’s best to resemble a Rough-leg, and a small flock of Linnet in with one of the large rambling flocks of Goldfinch, I didn’t see much else.

Observer and images: Tony Broome

13.09.15. Tony Broome Guest Blog 3

13.09.15. Tony Broome Guest Blog 3

13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (4)

13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (1)I fancied a walk around in the sunshine with a view to taking a few snaps with the first DSLR I’ve owned since my old Nikon 300 in the seventies.

How technology has moved on! I used Kodachrome 25 in those days, a transparency film that two weeks to process in a laboratory somewhere before dropping through the letterbox. Out of 36 transparencies, you were lucky if there was a single good picture.

Fast forward to today and a new Canon with a telephoto lens, a superb motor-drive and instant results… There’s a lot to learn, so I’m still a novice but enjoying the challenge.
13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (2)I started off at the old birdlog and walked around the Weaver Bend. The familiar call of Chiffchaff filled the bushes with the odd one singing every now and again.

Next to the old log is a beautiful old apple tree with small red apples clinging to the branches. Lit up in the sunshine it looked so rustic. Two of the Chiffchaffs dropped into it and began to chase each other around, occasionally perching out on the branches. I estimated around 20-25 Chiffchaff throughout the day.

13.09.15.Starlings, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Relatively few hirundines seemed to be left. 150 Swallow, 30+ Sand Martin and maybe 10 House Martin over the tanks. The only sign of viz-mig were 4 Meadow Pipit south in pairs.

13.09.15. Whinchat, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.
The Weaver Bend had 2 Common Sandpiper, a Ruff, 100+ Redshank and a few Black-tailed Godwit. I stood in the sunshine, sheltered from the cool SW breeze… I thought it was meant to be warm!

13.09.15. Stonechat, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.

I wondered back to the old log where Frank and Alyn turned up and we headed for Marsh Farm to see what Frodsham Score had in store. Just before the farm, a fine Whinchat sat up on the top of the bushes and a few Stonechat remained on the pipes, found earlier in the week.

13.09.15. juCommon Buzzard, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)
Raptors were much in evidence. Common Buzzard were all over the tanks with four in a party the largest single count during the day. Difficult to count, there was probably somewhere between 15 and 20 birds. 10 Kestrels, 1 Sparrowhawk, at least one juvenile Peregrine and a single Hobby over No.4 tank made up the rest of the sightings.

13.09.15. juvenile Peregrine, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (3)

One juvenile Peregrine over the Score chased a feral pigeon relentlessly for five minutes or so until finally grounding it and presumably lunching on it.

13.09.15. Ravens, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

The Score held small numbers of waders as high tide approached, although most were hidden from view. 100+ Black-tailed Godwit, 150+ Redshank and 350+ Lapwing were counted very approximately. 9 Wigeon flew west.

13.09.15. Goldfinch, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.
On No.6 a single Common Snipe was sheltering in the secluded pool. 3 Wigeon, 2 Shovelers, 3 Pintail, a Pochard, 150 Tufted Duck and 100 Common Teal fed on the Sea Aster seeds.

I looked for the Black-necked Grebe but it wasn’t on show.

.
Interesting passerines consisted of 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, and 300+ Goldfinches.

13.09.15. Red-legged Partridge, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.

Insects were about in abundance with 10+ Migrant Hawker Dragonfly being the most noteworthy. Butterflies included Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and both Large and Small White.

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It was a pleasant day. Lots to look at and the last of the sunshine before a week of forecasted rain and a lot of pictures to sort through…

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-4 & 7-9 & 14).

13.09.15. Large Red Underwing Moth, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh

13.09.15. Large Red Underwing Moth, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh.Some additional reports included 14 Little Egret and a Great White Egret out on the Mersey marshes. Just before Tony left for home Sparky spotted (and Tony identified) a Large Red Under-wing moth perched up on a metal structure.

A covey of Red-legged Partridge are birds set down by the shooters on to the area east of No.5 tank.

13.09.15. Curlew, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

.We continued our walk onto No.6 tank and the open water was filled with ducks 13.09.15. Black-necked Grebe, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh.(as mentioned above) three Cymru birders relocated the Black-necked Grebe as we walked past them and found it was tucked into the bank and obviously avoided detection for most of the day.

Observers: Alyn Chambers, Frank Duff, Sean O’Hara (images 5-6 & 10-11), 3 Welsh birders, Sparky, WSM (images 12-13 & 15).

06.09.15. Alyn Chambers Guest Blog

06.09.15. Birdlog

05.09.15. Swallow (juvs), No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde

Alyn Chambers Guest Blog

The day turned out to be full of activity although initially it didn’t appear so.

6.09.15. Black-necked Grebe, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Alyn Chambers (1)

The bushes along the south bank of No. 4 tank held the majority of the 24 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap, 6 Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warblers and 1 Reed Warbler seen on the Marsh today. In amongst them was a Garden Warbler, which remained elusive after the initial sighting. 2 Jays, 5 Greenfinch and 2 Grey Wagtails were also seen.

The Black-necked Grebe remained on No. 6 tank and was joined by 26 Shoveler, 6 Wigeon and 3 Pintail and 4 Ruff. A Little Stint flew out towards the Mersey estuary with 3 Ringed Plover and a Marsh Harrier drifted over No. 5 tank.

6.09.15. Red-legged Partridge, Frodsham Marsh. Alyn Chambers (2)

A Red-legged Partridge was on Brook Furlong and the Mersey estuary held an Avocet amongst the Black-tailed Godwits and 20 Great Crested Grebe were present as well.
06.09.15. Fulmar, Weaver Estuary, frodsham Marsh. Alyn Chambers (2)
The Fulmar from earlier floated down the ship canal past Marsh Farm with a Great Black-backed Gull keeping an eye on its attempts to get airborne.

A juvenile Little Gull joined the hirundines on the Weaver Estuary along with another 2 Ruff in the Redshank roost.
A small roosting flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls also featured 4 Ruff to join their ranks on the western end of No.6 tank.

Alyn Chambers

05.09.15. Raven, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

In addition to Alyn’s post other observers sightings included: On the outer marshes of Frodsham Score were 2 Great White Egret and it was good to have them back into the autumnal fold.  There were two Hobby over No.4 tank/Ince fields. Ravens were out and about over the salt marshes.

06.09.15. male Stonechat, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (2)A morning migration watch saw small flocks of Wood Pigeon, Meadow Pipit, Jackdaw, White and Grey Wagtail heading south. No.6 and No.4 tank had hundreds of juvenile Swallow either over the open water or resting up on the wire fences. At dusk a male Stonechat was along the pipes on No.1 tank.

By far the highlight of the day (or rather later in the day) was a sickly Fulmar (AC) along the ship canal by No.4 tank and later relocating to the Weaver Estuary (FD) and was the first Fulmar this century!

06.09.15. Hobby, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (2)

There were hundreds of Swallows and martins which were hawking over the water when panic set in as a Hobby appeared and chased one over the track and back over the water not sure of the outcome as I lost sight of them behind the bushes (PR).

A juvenile Little Gull (FD) was noted by the Weaver Sluice gates and rounded the day off with some classic bird sightings.

Observers: Alyn Chambers (images 2-4:), Allan Conlan, Frank Duff, Paul Ralston (image 5-7), Heather (image 1) & Findlay (Young Birder of the Year Award Winner!) Wilde, Sparky, WSM.

22.08.15. Elliot Montieth’s Guest Blog

22.08.15. Elliot Monteith’s Guest Blog.

The day started off meeting Bill on the bridge at Marsh Lane for my first ever visit to Frodsham Marsh…which was brilliant!”

Frodders Harrier

Ruddy Shelduck_edited-1

We first walked down to No.6 tank were we had a total of 22 Ruff with the female Peregrine perched on the blue-topped chimney, before walking down to the “secluded pool” where we had a Juvenile Marsh Harrier flying over No.5 tank before going onto No.6 and hunting over the reeds then going back over to No.3, and flying off into the distance.

Just before we reached the “secluded pool” we heard then saw a Greenshank flying from the river, over No.3 then dropping out of sight onto the pool, where it had a wash before flying south. There was also a nice number of Ravens about and a Juvenile Peregrine which was soaring over the path.

Frodders_edited-1

On the way back to No.6 I went off to see what Bill calls the “concealed spot”, which is so concealed that we walked past it twice! While there we had 3 Little Stint, 2 Little Ringed Plover, another Greenshank, 300+ Black-headed Gulls flying high over Lordship Marsh “anting”. A Peregrine caused chaos amongst the roosting waders!

There were two birds which I wasn’t expecting to see today and they were Spotted Redshank (quite a rare bird here!), which me and Bill spotted flying across the tank calling away, then relocated with the Lapwings, Ruff and Redshank. A female Ruddy Shelduck was pointed out to us by two birders from the south of the county which we didn’t get their names (sorry but you know who you are), which got me excited as it’s a lifer for me! We also had 2 female type Pintail which Bill spotted.

All in all a brilliant day out and will be returning soon!”

Observer and images 1-3: Elliot Monteith.

A great big thanks to Elliot and his mum (Adele) for sharing their time with me on Frodsham Marsh and it was great to see yet another young convert to birding on Frodsham Marsh. For more of Elliots birding trips and impressive photography visit him here: http://www.birdboy101.co.uk/

Included below some of my own images from a days birding with Elliot and Adele.

22.08.15. Spotted Redshank and Redshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

22.08.15. Spotted Redshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton22.08.15. Greenshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton22.08.15. Sea Aster, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonSea Aster/Michaelmas Daisy flowering in profusion on No.6 tank.

22.08.15. Ruddy Shelduck and Common Shelduck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe female Ruddy Shelduck shares time with a juvenile Common Shelduck.

Other sightings today included a Garganey and a passage of 50 Swift, 23 Sand and 11 House Martin with Swallow noted as well.

Additional observers: Nigel G, Harry Cook, Frank Duff, WSM (and images 5-8)

17.05.15. Wilde About Birds Guest Blog 2

17.05.15. Wilde About Birds Guest Blog 2

The Day Passed So Swiftly

17.05.15. Swift, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde
This morning and well into the afternoon I was out birding at Frodsham Marsh; specifically taking on the monthly WeBS count for the BTO. I started off my count at the Weaver Bend surrounded by reeds and small willows; my ears were filled with the sound of Reed and Sedge Warblers chanting their spectacular songs, perched comfortably on the reed tips getting blustered by the wind, occasionally interrupted by the quick snippet of a Reed Bunting.

17.05.15. Swift, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde
Swifts hurled themselves through the air dancing over the river, providing magical views, in fact a feast for the eyes, as they dived and darted above my head. There were hundreds of them and they kept up a great performance for me as I moved alongside the river, where Oystercatchers hunkered themselves down into the banks of the river avoiding the wind which seemed to be affecting everyone. Two Black-tailed Godwits zig-zagged the available mud, probing their long elongated bills deep into a layer of invertebrates, whilst a Wheatear flitted from rock to rock.

16.05.15. No.3 tank, frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonCanada Geese and Shelduck bobbed and bounced upon the surface of the water, pushed forward out of sight by the current. Tufted Duck and Gadwall located themselves on the far corner of the bend, escorting themselves one by one to the estuary leaving the river pretty empty, yet still I was obsessed by the sheer quantity of nature every where I looked.
After a fantastic experience down by the ‘bend’ I moved off to my next stop, No.6 tank, and of course the new feature to the marsh, the “Mitigation area”, which so far this year has proven to provide a perfect habitat for wildfowl and wading birds. Avocets sat tight on their nests, whilst Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers busied themselves weaving with some pace across the mud and soil. A small flock of 33 Black-tailed Godwits entered the mitigation area, acting like a magnet to me and fellow birders, showing off their brick-red flame like summer plumage which glistened in the weak afternoon sun despite the cold wind.

17.05.15. Black-tailed Godwit, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde
Startled by the arrival of the Godwits, a Lapwing patrolled it’s nearby nest, slightly agitated by the feeding waders. The suspicion of an attack soon got too much, and it took to the sky and harassed the Godwits forcing them to take to the air and fly out towards the estuary.

27.04.13. Common Shelduck in flight over No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde.No.6 tank water was starting to evaporate because of very little rain fall, however it still managed to hold an impressive 90 Shelduck, which stood littered throughout the expanse of mud. Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Skylarks and Chiffchaff blended their songs together as my trip came to an end.
As usual, a fantastic birding day out, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Frodsham Marsh with all the changes taking place.

07.05.15. Little Ringed Plover, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

Findlay’s daily log included: On the Weaver Bend; 7 Canada Geese, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Cormorant, 12 Coot, 20 Shelduck, 2 Gadwall , 3 Mallard, 200 Swift, 5 Tufted Duck, 50 Swallows, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Oystercatcher, 16 Black-headed Gull, 5 Mute Swan, 1 Moorhen, 1 Lesser Black-blacked Gull, 2 Herring Gull, 3 Blackbird, 1 Wheatear, 2 Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 3 Reed Bunting, 4 Starling, the Peregrine on the blue-topped chimney, 2 Whitethroat and 3 Wren.

No. 3 tank (mitigation area): 33 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Avocet, 2 Shoveler, 1 Ringed Plover, 3 Dunlin, 1 Little Ringer Plover. 7 Coot, 1 Oystercatcher, 3 Mallard, 4 Canada Geese, 6 Lapwing, 5 Black-headed Gull and a Wheatear on post behind the tank.

No.6 Tank: 90 Shelduck, 6 Canada Geese, 17 Tufted Duck, 8 Mallard, 1 Mute Swan, 3 Gadwall , 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Black-headed gull, 4 Lapwing and a Marsh Harrier (male).

Observers: Findlay and Heather Wilde (and images 1 – 2, 4 – 5). More about Findlay here: http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/

Additionally, a Hobby flew over.

Observer: Alyn Chambers.

A mega thanks to Findlay and Heather for taking time out from their busy lives to cover the WeBS count today. I was otherwise engaged in weekend working and to Alyn for enjoying his hobby…literally (WSM)!

Images 3 & 6 WSM

Emily Traynor Guest Blog

Emily Traynor Guest Blog

I am an ecology graduate and live in North Cheshire and I want to make the natural world part of my future employment and this is my guest blog for FMBB.

Emily Traynor

I don’t think I can really pin point the moment of when my love affair with the Natural World began, maybe it has just slowly evolved over time, with the help of my family and close relatives of course it’s always been there.

No matter where I was, whether that be having a lunch break half way up a mountain or marooned on a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, the world of birds were never far away. The lure of a passing Kestrel hovering beside a motorway, a Jackdaw cheekily trying to steal my lunch or the raucous cries of a Herring Gull being dominant at the seaside and a wakeup call for everyone were all the sights and sounds of my childhood.

Tessie

My favourite place growing up was being taken across to Hilbre Island with my Uncle Alan and his dog Tessie; I spent many hours wandering around the island and enjoying the solitude and quietness of the place with only a Springer Spaniel as a companion.

I suppose my interest in Ornithology has come a bit late in life compared to most bird watchers; while I had been taken on bird watching excursions as a youngster I suppose I didn’t really have the patience to really learn anything from it, while I certainly enjoyed being outdoors after about 5 minutes in a bird hide my mind started to wander only for it to snap back to reality if something ‘interesting’ appeared. But doesn’t that affect us all at some stage?

Thick-legged Flower Beetle, Frodsham Marsh. Emily Traynor.So it has only been within the last few years that it’s something I have become more and more drawn to. I am beginning a process of gaining further knowledge through experience. I am eager to learn about many aspects of nature especially as I’m a trainee Biological Recorder with Wirral Wildlife, mainly recording plant species but with an interest in anything and everything!

Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)

One of the toughest things I’ve found as a beginner in Bird Watching is identifying species by their calls. The fact that there are so many calls (36 noted from one species the Great Tit) is astonishing and attributed to the one species is quite overwhelming to learn at times! Then there’s the Starling! Don’t get me started on that on!

So when I recently expressed an interest in improving my ornithological skills my uncle Bill decided to take me under his wing (no pun intended) and show me the ropes.

As I had been there many times growing up (I mainly remember seeing dead pheasants on the road) I asked whether I could accompany him on one of his many birding trips to Frodsham Marsh in Cheshire, he quickly agreed!

10.05.14. Sedge Warbler, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonMy favourite experience so far especially as the amount of times I’ve been down the marsh and wondered what that bird species was calling or singing and who made them. One song was difficult to get my head around so my uncle patiently guided me through the difference between Sedge and Reed Warbler and added the Grasshopper Warbler for good measure. All three are relatively small brown jobs and each is as different on closer inspection.

The Grasshopper warbler is unmistakable as they have an almost electrical buzz to their call, my Uncle said it seems amazing that a creature can make such a noise as it doesn’t seem a natural sound.

Sedge and Reed Warbler although different can be hard to distinguish between if there is a few birds calling within the same space. The one for me at least is the Reed Warbler which can be identified by the slight ‘gurra gurra gur gur’ within their call, they also have a slow relaxed tack call. Sedge warblers on the other hand seem almost desperate to be heard, they can’t sing fast enough. They also have almost Grasshopper like electrical trill within their call.

07.05.14. Common Hares, Frodsham Marsh. Emily Traynor

My adventures of the last few months visiting the marsh have included seeing Meadow Pipit, Skylark and then watching Marsh Harrier and Avocet for the first time, I had previously seen Lapwings while volunteering in Shropshire but not this close! I’ve also had the good fortune to observe other wildlife which would be hard to see elsewhere like a paired up couple of Common Hare.

I recently had the opportunity to observe a relatively rare occurrence at the marsh which is a Red-necked Grebe, in handsome summer plumage no less! They are an Amber listed species according to the RSPB and usually are only found in the South and East of the Country in Winter…so goodness knows what it’s doing here?

One arriving at the usual spot on Sunday afternoon I was quite surprised to see 5 cars parked up, I’ve never seen the marsh this busy. On walking down to the River Weaver I passed a birder who must have been in such a hurry he failed to hear the trill of a Sedge Warbler and see the not so subtle tremble of the Reed stalk as the bird moved up to the seed head, The bird went quiet and the stalk stopped moving, I quickly lost sight of the bird. oh well..

I took a slow walk along the River Weaver to the bend in the river where the bird was sitting on the water’s surface oblivious to its fan base that had slowly passed through over the last few days as word was passed on of its presence.

Red-necked Grebe by Paul Crawley

On reaching my destination I found a small party of birders. I was quickly told where the bird could be sighted and was offered the chance to look in someone’s spotting scope to get a better view, a quick glance and the bird went under the water. The most exciting thing the bird did was to catch a fish but only that lasted less than a minute before it was back to diving out of sight only to reappear a few metres away. I was quite surprised that as individuals slowly trickled away till there was only four of us left I realised that I had spent nearly 2 hours observing this bird! Time to move on I thought, a short distance away was the shooters pool which is where the Avocet and Lapwing families resided.

Avocet, Frodsham Marsh. Emily Traynor

I managed to get some photos of one of the Avocets when it was disturbed by a Black Headed Gull, flying back and forth over the Weaver vocalizing its displeasure at having a predator so close by. The Lapwing family by comparison were quite relaxed and let their chick wander although not too far.

Suddenly my phone started to ring..argh! It was my lift back home calling to see where I was! I can’t wait for my next visit to Frodsham Marsh, till next time!

Emily Traynor

http://tigerlilyblue.wordpress.com/ My photography and nature blog.

Additional images by Paul Crawley and WSM.

Tony Broome Guest Blog 2

Tony Broome Guest Blog 2

It’s not every day you get a second bite of the cherry and after Tony’s recent Frodsham Marsh Guest Blog 1 it was with an air of expectation that his third visit in a week came up with the goods.

Friday 29th May 2014

A week can make all the difference and with three days completely free of household choirs, I headed for Frodsham Marsh to try my luck again.

This was partly due to a Lesser Scaup and a Red-necked Grebe being found last weekend after I bleated on about the marsh being dead… Anyway, I arrived on Friday morning and drove up to No.6 tank where the Lesser Scaup was sitting on the bank with Mallards and Tufted Ducks. A huge rarity a few years ago, it is now annual and not even a BBRC rarity any more.

lesser scaup 2 copy

I took some notes and looked for all the salient points which hopefully it possessed. It seemed to have them and I also noted that its tail was milky brown coloured, the inner tertials were brown marbled and the back was browner toned than the black of the head, breast and under tail coverts. I would have thought that these pointed towards a first summer bird, but ageing ducks is fraught with problems.

A young boy and his mum arrived from Liverpool, the eagerness in his face obvious. Where was it? I let them look through my scope and he wrote it into his book. He’d only started birding recently and was notching the ticks up fast, around 125 species so far including last week’s Little Bittern and now this duck. Tellingly, he’d not seen Greater Scaup or Eurasian Bittern. I asked him which field guide he used. He didn’t. He used his smart phone. A sign of the times!

31.05.14. Red-necked Grebe, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

I moved on, wandering along the Weaver Causeway down from the old birdlog position at the southern corner of No.1 tank and out to the river. On the other side of the water, asleep most of the time, was a splendid Red-necked Grebe in full summer plumage. When it did become active it was a show stopper, a very rare bird in Cheshire these days and in summer plumage even more so. Many hardened twitchers came to see it as a plumage tick in the UK. I carried on along the bank when a commotion alerted me to a raptor above and I looked up to see an Avocet in flight dive bombing a male Marsh Harrier which vacated the area rather rapidly.

31.05.14. Avocet and Shelduck, Shooters' pools, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Twenty years ago I would only have only witness an event like this in Norfolk. Now, both species were regular breeders this far north!

The two pairs of Avocets had five young between them. I stood and watched them for a long time before turning my attention to other things.

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31.05.14. Umbellapha, River Weaver, frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton
One of my favourite plant families are umbellifers, the tall flat or globe-topped flowers with green or purple stems. I always kept a look out for them as the flowers on some are a magnet for insects. Along the River Weaver through Frodsham Marsh there were four in flower, Cow Parsley, Hogweed, Wild Angelica and Hemlock Water Dropwort. The last two really were attractive even on a dull day like today and I left the path and walked down the bank to the waters’ edge, studying the umbels of aromatic flower heads over the next couple of hours. The plants were alive with crawling in insects, I snapped away and would identify them at leisure later.

I strolled on to the old ICI tank for a brief look at the Weaver Bend but with water levels maintained at a high level, it wasn’t anywhere as good as in the ‘old days’. I headed back to my car by the old birdlog position, pausing en route to look again at the Avocets and the grebe, before I departed the marsh for home. I stopped again to see if I could see the Grasshopper Warbler singing along Brook Furlong Lane. Alas, I never did see the ‘Gropper’, the bird was hidden in dense cover.

A really good day, making up for the lack of migrants on my flying visit last weekend. I decided I would give the marsh another go and come back again tomorrow.

Saturday 31st May 2014

31.05.14. MS Southern Marsh Orchid, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

Saturday morning and the car headed west once more, sunshine in the forecast and lots of scarce northward-bound migrants in the country. I called in at Costa Coffee in Frodsham and got take-out lattes for Bill, Frank and myself. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the old log, they’d been crushed by something falling over in my boot and all I was left with was a boot full of coffee and a few dregs…Ce la vie.

I wanted to have a wander around No.4 tank by the Manchester Ship Canal but got waylaid by Bill, Frank and Arthur and the Red-necked Grebe which was fishing mid river. Quite a lot of birders arrived in dribs and drabs, Paying homage first to the grebe before going for the Lesser Scaup.

I headed off for No.4 tank and as I arrived the sun came out and lit up a lovely blue sky. Butterflies and damselflies came out almost at once and despite a lack of anything bird-wise, it was a pleasant amble down as far as the Hoopool Gutter.

31.05.14. MS Mersey on the MSC, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

I sat on the banks of the ship canal and basked in the warm sun. The dredger ‘W.D. Mersey’ sailed quietly passed, did a three-point turn on the canal and began pumping dredgings from the ship, through its pipes connected to the pumping station and through to No.6 tank. I walked back, photographing some insects and an obliging Blackcap, back across No.4 tank to the car. I called in for the Scaup again and met Bill and shared my coffee and a biscuit with him (he never brings anything to the party!).

Common Buzzard, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.A Common Buzzard hovered beyond the tank over Lordship Marsh before flying off and then returning shortly after with a small rodent in its beak. I thought it was hardly worth all that hovering!

All of a sudden a distant “tew tew” made Bill call “Greenshank”! A summer plumaged bird dropped onto the tank, calling frequently before tucking its head in its back and falling to sleep, presumably having just arrived from a long flight. I wondered where it had just come from or where it was heading?

So, a very enjoyable couple of days with some good company, birds and insects…I will come again!

Tony Broome

Images by Tony Broome, Allan Conlin and WSM

18.05.14. Birdlog (Tony Broome Guest Blog 1)

18.05.14. Birdlog (Tony Broome Guest Blog 1)

My first look at Spring

18.05.14. Sedge Warbler, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
After a full week of work in the days and three nights on call, I awoke this morning with a decision to make… To go or not to go, that was the question. The choice was either to do all those tasks at home that had been waiting or to drive the 26 miles to Frodsham Marsh for my first visit of the Spring. Time is precious. But it was May 18th, there was a south-easterly blowing and the sky was a perfect Azure Blue…I arrived later than I would have liked and parked at the base of the entrance road to No.6 tank at around nine o’clock. The song of Whitethroats filled the air. I sipped the strong latte that I’d just picked up from the Texaco station near Fluin Lane in Frodsham. It smelt good.

The distant tirade of Skylarks complimented the Whitethroats and a wave of birding optimism enveloped me. The ditches were lined with Cadmium Lemon Oilseed rape and Titanium White Cow Parsley, against a backdrop of the fresh new Bright Green cereal crops.

I decided to walk around No.6 and set off with a spring in my step. I’d do a day list. At the top of the dirt road I walked around the first gate and peered westwards over the sludge tank and the little water that remained. Tufted Ducks, Mallards and a Gadwall… but not much else. I continued walking, the hurried ramblings of Sedge Warblers now competing with the Whitethroats for attention. One male sat in the open on a post and I snapped a few shots. I liked warblers…. they never failed to make my step falter, no matter how common they were. Then a car pulled up. It was my fellow birder Frank Duff who brought me up to speed with what was about.

18.05.14. Hawthorn hedge along Lordship Lane, , Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeNow until that moment I’d still been fairly up-beat even if the paucity of ducks had been a bit of a surprise. The Frodsham regular soon made me realise that there wasn’t much about and the afternoon’s tide was the best hope of anything of note appearing. Never mind, I’d carry on walking and watched the car disappear into the distance. I soon caught Frank up however, at the slope halfway along the tank. We looked at the near patch of water… Nothing! I looked into the distance, No.6 tank seeming to stretch away into the distance a lot further than I remembered. The next useful pool was another 500 metres further on. It was at that point that optimism drained through my boots and I thought of everything I should be doing at home…. and I jumped into Frank’s car, abandoning not only my walk but my day list attempt. The further pool held a Little-ringed Plover, a pair of Gadwall and a single Black-tailed Godwit. We turned around and I picked up my car and followed Frank to Marsh Farm.

The track was dusty and it seemed to take an age to reach the farm. It was nice to see Wheatears fly along the barbed-wire fences, the flashes of their white rumps bright in the sunshine. It was hot by now, around 22c. Gazing out over the Score, we both half-heartedly tried to wish a rarity to appear. How about a Montagu’s Harrier….or a Spoonbill…..the list was long. Even Frank’s exclamation that there was the male Marsh Harrier approaching only lifted spirits whilst we watched it. What a beautiful elegant bird, floating on outstretched wings as it quartered the pool and reeds a few meters away. Okay, I admit, I was as impressed as I always was when I saw one.
I ate my stale turkey sandwiches that were the last on the shelf in the Texaco shop and munched on cheese and onion crisps.

18.05.14. View looking toward the Shooters pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

It was nice in the sunshine but birds were few. Frank decided to leave for home and I followed, stopping briefly at the old log to scope the ‘Shooters pools’ in the distance and found a single Avocet. Another good bird. But, the list of tasks at home nagged at me and I headed back down the M56 towards Wilmslow….. a day initially full of optimism cut short. But why?
It wasn’t east coast quality but what I’d had was good. Male Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Little-ringed and scores of Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers…. Everyone has pressures of some description and sometimes it’s difficult to justify just doing nothing. Was that the reason? Maybe the fact that other sites nearby had seen rarities but none ever seemed to find their way to Frodsham Marsh, such as Ring-necked Duck, Spoonbill, and White-winged Black Terns, all of which were close by over the last couple of days. Was that it? Were my expectations any different to anyone else’s? I didn’t think so. Frank had left at the same time as me, all hope having been left on the track at Marsh Farm. But birders are always optimists. Nothing one minute then euphoria the next. Birding’s like that. It always has been. It always will be.

I think that from my point of view, my lack of enthusiasm today was a combination of things. The work that lay in wait to ambush me as I arrived home but also the fact that I’d just come back from birding abroad and was used to watching wader sites full of birds. The contrast with Frodsham was absolute and it felt like a waste of time. It wasn’t of course. Birding is never a waste of time. It just feels like it sometimes.

Tony Broome.