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.

Guido’s Guest Blog (06.01.14 Birdlog)

The Silent Menace 

Peregrine. 1 (189)The marsh can be good to excellent in Spring, at times positively dull in Summer, a disappointment these days in the Autumn, but birding Winters on the marsh always have drama.

Upto a thousand Lapwing were on No. 3 tank along with a smaller number of Golden Plover. A couple of hundred metres away from them sat on the grass a female Peregrine staring in their direction. At first a few Lapwing flew over her to investigate, then a few more and eventually word of the silent menace spread and the whole flock took to the air. One or two brazen individuals attempted a half-hearted dive bomb but nothing could stirred the Peregrine who perhaps was trying to pass herself of as a vegetarian. Eventually most of the flock settled down with some flying off to the East.

11.02.13. Merlin and Skylark, frodsham marsh

Nearby a Merlin chased and missed a Starling over No. 5 tank, then settled on a post and got drenched by the now torrential rain. I saw it later pestering a Kestrel.

Both Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were noted and a total of 6 Raven were countered in various locations.

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100 Curlew feeding in a flooded field by Rake Lane and a pair of Little Grebe were in Holpool gutter.

Two Stonechat on the dung heap at Marsh Farm as well as 5 Meadow Pipit. Also 5 Pied Wagtail, a small flock of Linnet and 3 Redwings by the horse paddock. 30 Fieldfare were in a field south of Straight Length Lane.

At the height of the tide as the light was fading and rain was lashing down, I couldn’t even risk opening my car window as several thousand Dunlin started to stream onto No. 6 tank from the river with Knot, Golden Plover, Curlew and more Lapwings.

This shows the continuing importance of the marsh as a roost for wintering waders. Lets hope it stays that way. Nonetheless a good fun day.

Buon anno and Ciao

Guido D’Isidoro.

PS: My son says that he can tell when I have been to Frodsham Marsh when he sees mud on the roof of the car.

Images: Stuart Maddocks. 

27.05.13. Mike Buckley’s Guest Blog

Bank Holiday Monday

Shaun picked me up around 6.15 am and after doing some watering at his allotments, we headed off to Frodsham Marsh. We decided on a different approach this morning and went up towards the Weaver Bend and Marsh Farm. Wren, Rook, Carrion Crow and Chaffinches were the first birds seen there. A Chiifchaff (pictured) sang from an overhead wire, much easier to id that way (thank you).

Sedge Warblers seemed to be all over the place and the mechanical churrs and clicks and whistles had an almost hypnotic effect as you walked along. Great birds all the same and this one came into view very obligingly for a nice photo.

Upon arrival at the Weaver Bend, we could see Canada Geese with goslings, a solitary Oystercatcher, around 20 or so Shelduck and a few Tufties. Overhead a pair of Buzzards put on a great display for us and showed some very agile moves.

It was very quiet on the way to Marsh Farm, but right at the corner before the cattle grid we came across a large flock of Linnets, these two (pictured) hung around on the wires just long enough for Shaun to get a quick snap.

A bonus Lesser Whitethroat was spotted before darting back into cover and a Meadow Pipit ascended up singing its beautiful song. A couple of Skylarks could be heard in the distance and upon arrival at the M.S.C. (Manchester Ship Canal) where the shooting club cross over in their little boat, a family of inbred geese eyed us warily before swimming out onto the canal.

A Great Black Backed Gull made its way up the canal and lots of Swallows and Swifts were hunting right on the far bend. A Meadow Pipit was feeding around the cattle trough, before flying off into the long grass.

The wind was getting quite blustery now so we decided to head up towards No 6 tank and see what we could spot up there.

Well, it was the quietest I think I have ever seen it, a couple of Mute Swans, some Tufted Duck and the odd Mallard were out on the water. A Kestrel hovered in the wind in the distance and did so effortlessly, a joy to watch. A lovely Goldfinch flew onto a nearby post and gave us a tinkling song before flying off like a bolt of lightning, blown on the strengthening winds.

A Chaffinch was pinking noisily and the reason soon became apparent as it wanted us to move on quickly as it obviously had a nest nearby as it had a beak full of insects!!

A couple of Ringed Plovers were on No 6 tank and then we got a brief glimpse of a Hobby, before it flew quickly out of sight, our 1st of the year 🙂 A Little Grebe and some Tufties were on the pool before No 4 reedbed and we managed to get a shot of the male Marsh Harrier as he hunted above the reeds.

On the walk back to the van, we added a couple of Reed Buntings to the list

Amazingly, we spotted two Marsh Harriers over Boostings Wood, this is the first I’ve heard of them being in this area and all the more exciting due to the fact I only live about 10 minutes away 🙂 we tried to get further views by cutting through the Wood, but could not relocate. Blackcap, Goldcrest and Song Thrush were heard and a Common Sandpiper was spotted on the far bank of the M.S.C.

We got this shot of a huge tanker was being pulled towards Eastham Locks by a small tug boat, before calling it a morning and heading home, just in time as the rain started about 12.15.

Observers: Mike Buckley, Shaun Hickey (Photos).

Not a bad day’s tally for Mike and Shaun considering my evening visit was a washout with 3 Ringed Plover and low flying Swifts over thr track being the highlight. WSM

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For more of Mike’s birding adventures check him out at

14.04.13. Birdlog (Findlay Wilde Guest Blog 1)

14.04.13. Birdlog

(Guest blogger Findlay Wilde aged 11 years) http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/

14.04.13. Findlay Wilde birding Frodsham Marsh

Hi my name is Findlay Wilde and I have been interested in birds for at least five years now, so today I am going to be telling you all about my experiences at Frodsham Marsh.

Ever since my first visit to Frodsham Marsh, I knew it was going to be a special place as the first two birds I saw there were Stonechats. Since that first visit I have been lucky enough to see a huge variety of birdlife; from waders to raptors and even a Hooded Crow!

Everything about the marshes is so enticing, it is always offering me, and probably everyone else that visits, so much wildlife to see and listen to.

14.04.13. Marsh Harrier, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Findlay Wilde

Today’s visit was fantastic. The first bird to greet us over Lordship Marsh was a stunning male Marsh Harrier. He was hunting along the bank of No 6 Tank. But the best thing today was that the female Marsh Harrier was hunting just a bit further along above No 4 Tank.  We saw lots of Kestrels hunting all round No 6 Tank today, but surprisingly, we didn’t see a single Buzzard.

As we carried on along Lordship Marsh we spotted 20 Shelduck, 50 Curlew and 3 Skylark (although there is now one less Skylark as you will find out later). It was also great to see 5 or 6 Swallows dipping and falling over Lordship Marsh. And all along the edge of No 6 Tank we were treated to the sound of several Chiffchaff.

14.04.13. Male Marsh Harrier, Frodsham Marsh. Findlay Wilde

As we got closer to the pumping pool near No 6 Tank, the male Marsh Harrier appeared again, but this time back in his usual spot over No 4 Tank. He put on such a great show and then all of a sudden swooped down and hopefully caught something tasty as we didn’t see him again until we were leaving.

There were about 28 Tufted Duck in the pumping pool, much more than I have seen there recently. More than one Swallow was flying round the pool and again I could hear lots of Chiffchaffs.

14.04.13.Willow Warbler, frodsham Marsh. findlay Wilde

We walked past the pool and towards the Score, stopping every now and again to check for the Marsh Harriers. When the Ship Canal was just below us, we spotted a beautiful little bird in the bushes which I am 96% sure is a Willow Warbler – have a look at the picture and see what you think. I have gone for Willow Warbler because it was not chiffchaffing and it did not have the dark legs of a Chiffchaff. I am sure Bill will correct me if it’s wrong!

Next stop was between No5 and No6 Tank. Considering it was high tide, there was nothing much to report from No6 Tank other than about 30 stunning Shelducks and a group of about 100 Teal and Gadwall.

14.04.14. Great Black-backed Gull pair, frodsham Marsh. Findlay Wilde.

In the distance, across No5 Tank a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were snuggled up together, maybe sheltering from the strong winds.

We decided to go along Lordship Marsh one more time before home, and that’s when the Skylark count reduced by 1! As we were sitting watching, the Skylark flew upwards higher and higher from the field and from no-where a raptor shot in (I think it was a Merlin) and took the Skylark in mid-air.

A very dramatic end to another exciting adventure on Frodsham Marsh. The wind and rain must have kept people away, as there weren’t many people about to talk to; something else I really enjoy at Frodsham Marsh, all the helpful birders.

Findlay Wilde.

Assisting Findlay with his sightings and after he went home for his much needed dinner were Frank and Bill who only managed to see 5 Wheatear and 5 Swallow, 4 Sand Martin, 1 House Martin and 14 Fieldfare on or over the pipes on No 1 tank and riding the strong winds over No 6 tank.

Male and female Marsh Harrier over No 6 tank.

100 Curlew in fields along Lordship Lane.

Observers: Frank Duff, WSM.

Additionally the 2 Brent Goose from yesterday reappeared today on the Mersey WeBS count on Frodsham Score.