Mersey WeBS Count Images

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“You should see the other guy”.

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Redshank flock sheltering from the tide on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and a couple of Little Stint hiding (top left and bottom right).

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Ravens are ever popular on the marshes cleaning up the dead mutton carcasses.

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Frodsham Score and Ince Marshes produce some excellent Stock Dove, shorebird and wildfowl counts.

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Sods of salt marsh kicked up by an advancing tide and wind and then deposited on the marsh to dissolve and be washed away with the next high tide.

All images from previous BTO counts by regular WeBS counter Shaun Hickey.

08.05.16. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

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Out this morning from Ince Berth along the Manchester Ship Canal and around No.6 tank. The ship canal held Mute Swan, Common Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck. The canal path was alive with Whitethroat, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Sedge and Reed Warbler all competing for territory.  On the small compound by the Holpool Gutter a female Yellow Wagtail sat and a male flew overhead.

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On the mitigation pools on No.3 tank were 4 Avocet several Redshank and Lapwing feeding while a Black-headed Gull sat on a nest. On No.6 its self were a couple of hundred Black-tailed Godwit which were resting and even more feeding in the shallows. A party of Mute Swan contained unfortunatelya  dead bird in the water. A single Avocet  was also noted. Along Lordship Lane there were lots of Reed and Sedge warbler with Reed Bunting in good numbers. A single Grasshopper Warbler was heard while overhead a Peregrine passed by heading towards Frodsham town. Back on the canal path a Fox was seen with a young Rabbit clapped in its jaws. A Cetti’s Warbler  was heard in a secluded reed bed.

Observer: Paul Ralston (all images).

WeBS Count by Don Weedon

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he high tide was another monster one out on the river and again totally flooding the salt marshes and leaving little room for shorebirds to settle.

The counts from No.6 tank included: 11 Mute Swan, 2 Canada Goose, 83 Common Shelduck, 73 Gadwall. 58 Mallard, 6 Common Teal, 77 Tufted Duck, 10 Lapwing, 300 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff, 6 Avocet, 5 Redshank, 60 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 7 Ringed Plover, 3 Grey Heron.

No.3 tank count: 2 Mute Swan, 39 Canada Goose, 4 Greylag Goose, 7 Common Shelduck, 3 Mallard, 1 Common Teal, 4 Gadwall, 14 Lapwing, 5 Avocet and 3 Whimbrel.

Round the Back (Part 2)

10.04.16. Sheep skulls on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (5)

10.04.16. Ferry terminal to Frodsham Score. Bill MortonSometime ago I wrote a blog post (Round the Back Part 1) about a visit I made in my youth to Frodsham Score and Mount Manisty with Halton RSPB members group. At the end of article I mentioned that I would love to make a return visit and last Sunday (10.04.16) my wish came true. 10.04.16. Redshank in the Gowy Gutter. Bill Morton (4)

10.04.16. Redshank in the Gowy Gutter. Bill Morton (2)We arrived (that is Sparky my partner and me) at Stanlow oil refinery in a cold easterly breeze to join a group of 7 other volunteers for the monthly wader and wildfowl count on and off the vast southern Mersey marshes. After the compulsory security check we were ferried by minibus to the terminal and then ferried (literally) across the Manchester Ship Canal to the ‘no man’s land’ that is the salt marsh border edge of the River Mersey. There were high metal security fences, locked gates and derelict buildings which once housed a police station and the works of a time gone by … and not a little unlike what I imagined a cold war Russian Gulag prison camp would look like.

02.05.15. Wheatear, Weaver Bend, Frodsham MarshWe were split into groups and Sparky and myself were joined by Brian Tollitt and our chaperone for the duration Dermot Smith. After negotiating the wader infested shiny River Gowy as it squeezed under the ship canal to broaden out into a proud beast of a gutter complete with dozens of noisy Redshank we edged our way single file along the bramble covered banks to reach a path sandwiched between the canal and the short-cropped damp salt marsh to our left. I know it may sound a bit childish but I had a fizz of excitement deep down in my heart for the realisation that I was walking out to the forbidden land of Frodsham Score. As we walked along I was conscious of keeping Sparky (a non birder) company but taking in the atmosphere all around me which was hugely distracting.

10.04.16. Badger prints on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (2)

A male Wheatear popped up on the edge of the marsh, we startled a Fox as it  crossed the path ahead and Badger prints pressed into the soft ground were an indication of other wildlife here.

10.04.16. Oystercatchers, astham. Shaun Hickey (3)Shortly after, it or another Fox appeared out on the marsh nonchalantly passing a few Shelduck in a tidal pool and further out two Whooper Swans looked regal against a backdrop of Hale lighthouse and the pale green shimmering heat hazed bridge that crosses the river from Widnes to Runcorn.

10.04.16. Whooper Swans and views on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (10)All around were signs of industry from the huge works of Ineos Chlor to the east, Stanlow disappearing slowly behind and the majestic Liverpool skyline to the north-west. We were walking along the edge of Ince Marsh, ignoring the ammonia wafting in from the pig farm and the smell of burning plastic that hung in the air and for just one moment I was lost in the green wilderness.

Despite these minor distractions we eventually stopped for lunch and Sparky brought out a small bottle of white wine to aid the creative juices which as it happened came in handy with the numerous bleached white sheep skulls illuminating the tide line kerb edge on the marsh hike and my creation (see top photograph).

10.04.16. Golden Plover on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (2)

10.04.16. Tree on Frodsham Score. Bill MortonIt beggars belief how many sheep succumb to the highest tides at night but it’s a frightening place for the uninitiated, never mind sheep that only think the grass is greener on the edge bordering the river. A small covey of partial summer plumaged Golden Plover were hunkered down in a small channel to avoid the freshening cold wind while we scoffed our dinner. We had a little time to kill whilst the farmer tended to herding his flock to areas of safety close to the ship canal before we continued our walk out to the raised banks in the distance. 10.04.16. Cow bones on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (1)

10.04.16. Building on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (1)We left Brian behind to count and photograph the birds which were coming closer in with the tide. There was an amusing sight tinged with a little bizzareness when a scene from a spaghetti western reared its ugly head. A desiccated cow complete with its weathered hide and one horned skull looked up at us from the outside of the wildfowlers retreat bringing a smirk to my face.

 10.04.16. Sheep skulls on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (2)


Perhaps the most testing time of the day was negotiating the gathered sheep on the banks of the revetment wall. We gingerly inched our way giving the sheep a wide berth but this meant having to venture out onto the gelatinous salt marsh mud with the partially submerged arched sheep vertebrae and hideous skulls poking out. It was reminiscent of a scene from the film the Lord of the Rings where Gollom leads Frodo and Sam through the dead marshes. 10.04.16. Small gutters on Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (1)

10.04.16. Barnacle Geese over Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (6)We did eventually find an area of terra firma from where we climbed up the embankment to watch the swelling river. Although it was an impressive mega tide it wasn’t particularly brilliant for bird numbers and most of the good stuff had decamped over on my usual WeBS count pitch looking over No.3 and 6 tanks further to the south-east on Frodsham Marsh proper. 10.04.16. Pink-footed Geese over Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (10)

10.04.16. Ravens over Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (1)The avian highlights of the day involved an impressive flock of 75 Raven disturbed from the edge of the score followed by a roving gaggle of 34 Pink-footed and 6 Barnacle circling the Mersey basin looking for a suitable dry area to settle during the tide. Dermot went off to count some Oystercatchers a little further away and I continued my count while Sparky watched the mini tsunami pour force across the marsh twisting, doubling back and seeping forth into all the channels before eventually the whole of the marsh was covered.

10.04.16. The Royal Iris sails to Eastham Locks past Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (5)

10.04.16. The Royal Iris sails to Eastham Locks past Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (1)The blue skies and brisk weather all highlighted what a wonderful area on the banks of the River Mersey we share with all those birds and wildlife. When Dermot got back to us to us he said he’d had a brief view of a Seal but it didn’t reappear. As the tide resided we gathered for the walk back and to join up with Brian at the shooters hut. Just then the ship canal cruise boat Royal Iris sailed by heading to Eastham Lock from Salford Quays.

10.04.16. Views from Frodsham Score. Bill Morton (2)

There were more Wheatears encountered with a White Wagtail a first for the summer. A couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper were also new in.

10.04.16. High tide Oystercatchers at Eastham. Shaun Hickey (1)As we approached the River Gowy gutter small flocks of Redshank were waiting the tide out on the banks with a gathering of brick-red Black-tailed Godwit bunched closely. Another Fox was spotted before we met the other counters who had emerged from the west of the marshes. As we gathered at the wire fences and disused building to gain access to the ferry terminus, it was time for me to reflect on a brilliant day spent out on the banks of the south Mersey marshes and the 8 mile walk didn’t even register on the legs. A final crossing of the ship canal by the ferry man brought us back to the mainland and after a combined count up of the sightings we ended a really great day out on the edge of the river.

10.04.16. Black-tailed Godwits, Gowy Gutter. Bill Morton (2)

If you are interested in getting involved and feel you can contribute some of your time to a worthwhile project with future counts on the River Mersey check this facebook page out for more information: Mersey Estuary WeBS

Written by WSM (images 1-4 & 6-7 & 9-22 & 24).

Images 5 & 8 & 23 by Shaun Hickey.

Thanks to Dermot Smith and Brian Tollitt for their time and company on the day. A big thanks to Shaun Hickey a fellow Mersey marshophile for kick starting part 1.

14.06.15. WeBS Count

14.06.15. WeBS Count

14.06.15. feamle Marsh Harrier, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde

It was a cold and murky morning for the WeBS, but the birds didn’t disappoint.
We headed to No.6 tank and the mitigation area on No.3 tank via Lordship Lane where hundreds of Swifts were feeding mixed in with good numbers of House Martin and a handful of Swallow.  There was a fine jet of water spraying out of the grass and covering the road on the approach to the fork in the road just before No.6 which was a bit odd. We couldn’t quite work out where it was coming from, but it was coming out with quite some force (car windows up job).
14.06.15. singing Skylark, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde
All along Lordship Lane we could hear Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting.  Small flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet were flitting from tree to tree and Magpies were looking on rather snooterly.
14.06.15. Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde (1)
A female Marsh Harrier was perched in a tree in the far distance across No.4 tank, but it gave a great opportunity to zoom in with the scope and study her properly.  There was also a flyby on No.4 tank from a male and female Cuckoo (is this quite late or not). A Dunnock in the gloom took a bit of ID-ing and I’d be too embarrassed to mention some of the IDs we came up with before a glimmer of sunlight revealed him! A Kestrel was seen heading back towards Frodsham Hill carrying prey, and then shortly after heading back out to the score to hunt again. We saw this repeated several times throughout the morning.
14.06.15.  Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh
The Splashing Pool held Tufties, Coot families and a Little Grebe, and 2 Jays flew across the pool and landed in one of the shrubs.
No.3 tank was very quiet with just a few Shelduck, Canada Geese and Coot, but it also held 5 Dunlin, 8 Black-tailed Godwit and a very busy Meadow Pipit.
No.6 tank held the treasures of the day. There were a flock of over 100 Black-tailed Godwit happily feeding until the male Marsh Harrier did the slowest, closest flyby we’ve ever seen. I think we could have reached out and touched him – way too close for the big lens anyway. Well, all hell broke loose as everything took to the sky. The Godwits scattered and it was then that we could see a stranger flying with them. They resettled in 2 groups, with one bird dropping back down in between them; a stunning Ruff in full summer plumage.
14.06.15.  female Gadwall and ducklings, Frodsham Marsh
Highlight of the day. He was splendid. The photos are just record shots as he was way out across the tank in the gloom, but absolutely stunning through the scope. I’m afraid everyone walking past was made to look at him.  4 Avocet were feeding on the far side of No.6 tank and wildfowl included 2 Pochard, 4 Teal and 3 Wigeon. 3 Ringed Plover were feeding in the middle of No.6 and a Little Grebe was on the main body of water.
Not a bad morning at all.
Elsewhere across the marsh: 1 female Marsh Harrier
 Observers: Heather (images 1-3), Nigel & Findlay Wilde.
14.06.15.  Bar-tailed Godwit, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh
Also note on the mitigation of No.3 tank was a Bar-tailed Godwit with 20 Black-tailed Godwit and the black ruffed Ruff.
14.06.15.  male Ruff, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh
The 2 Black Swan were on the Weaver estuary with 38 Mute Swan, 8 Great Crested Grebe and a drake Pochard with the Tufted Duck. One Avocet and a Little Ringed Plover were on the Weaver Bend. In the area were also a singing Willow Warbler, 3 Greenfinch and a Mistle Thrush.
Observer: Alyn Chambers (images 4-7).

19.04.15. Birdlog

19.04.15. Birdlog (WeBS Count)
19.04.15. Golden Plovers, Curlew et al, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde
It was total gridlock on the marsh this morning. A group from RSPB Southport were doing the circuit (and had spotted 3 Wheatear which we never saw), as well as numerous ramblers, dog walkers and birders.  The banks were alive with birdsong; Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and a Reed Warbler all competing with each other and a Skylark climbing high trilling above them all.
23.04.15. male Marsh Harrier, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather WildeThe mitigation tank held 2 stunning male Shoveler, Coots, Mallards, Teal, Shelduck, Oystercatchers and a Whimbrel (which later flew on to No.6 Tank).
The male Marsh Harrier was quartering No.6 tank and then flew off towards the Weaver Bend straight over our heads! 6 Buzzard were riding the thermals high over the chimneys on the Helsby side, as small flocks of birds started to fly in escaping the high tide.
19.04.15. Golden Plovers, No.6 tank, frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
No.6 tank held the main even though today with 74 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Ringed Plover, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 8 Golden Plover, 9 Dunlin, 67 Teal, 35 Tufted Duck, 5 Redshank, 2 Greylag Geese, 1 Snipe and a nesting Grey Heron pair. Also present were Mute Swans, Shelduck, Cormorants, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Canada Geese and Mallards.
A flock of about 50 Curlew circled the tank but didn’t settle. There was also a Yellow Wagtail feeding on the mud at the waters edge on the tank.  About 50 Swallows, 2 House Martins and 2 Sand Martins were feeding over the water.
Observers: Findlay and Heather Wilde (images 1-2).
19.04.15. Oystercatcher pair, Pumping Station, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
Some additional and some overlapping sightings involved:
A very cold day but a few bits and pieces. Heather got some nice pictures including the male Marsh Harrier over No.6 tank. I saw the f/imm bird over No.4 onto 6.
Frodsham Score had 30+ Raven and 4 Buzzard. The Whimbrel on No.6 tank flew over me towards there whilst I was on No.3 tank. 23 Oystercatcher on the Score plus a pair at the Pumping Station.
11 Sand Martin and 2 Swallow on a fence opposite the Pumping Station. 10+ Swallow south over No.6 tank.
1 Common Snipe at the Canal Pools. Also a male Wigeon on the Score.
Out of the 74 (Heather’s count) Black-tailed Godwit on No.6 tank, two were colour-ringed. I couldn’t make out one of them, but the other was pale green over black above knee left leg, blue over red above knee right leg.
Observer: Tony Broome (images 3-4)

24.01.15. Birdlog (WeBS Count)

24.01.15. Birdlog 

24.01.15. Marsh Harrier, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Heather/Findlay Wilde.

Setting the scene on the incoming tide was a pair of Great White Egret tiptoeing their way along the tide line with Little Egret in a supporting role. A female Merlin was again poised and set for the enviable passerine glut.

3000 Golden Plover, 8000 Lapwing, 200 Grey Plover, 100 Knot, 10000 Dunlin, 50 Oystercatcher and typically for this time of year 3 scarce Bar-tailed Godwit for the marsh.

Observer: Frank Duff.

(WeBS Count)

24.01.15. GBB Gull and Raven feeding off sheep carcass, Frodsham Marsh. Heather/Findlay Wilde.

24.01.15. Male and female Shoveler, Frodsham Marsh. Heather/Findlay Wilde.

A really refreshing afternoon at the marsh. We parked up at the same time as Frank who was heading off to the score for high tide. No.6 tank stayed surprisingly quiet considering it was a big high tide. Maybe the large amount of shooters were putting the birds off. Anyway, the numbers for the count were: 100 Dunlin, 1 Curlew, 300 Grey Plover, 300 Golden Plover, 10 Redshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Lapwing, 6 Common Gull, 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 8 Black-headed Gull, 7 Herring Gull, 7 Shoveler, 3 Cormorant, 3 Tufted Duck, 30 Common Teal, 40 Mallard, 4 Wigeon, 2 Common Shelduck, 3 Grey Heron and a solitary Moorhen .

24.01.15. Male Stonechat, Frodsham Marsh. Heather/Findlay Wilde.

Other birds spotted throughout the day included a Marsh Harrier hunting for most of the afternoon across the No.6 tank reeds. A very pale phase Common Buzzard spent over an hour sitting in the grass on No.5 tank, a Sparrowhawk did a flyby and a Kestrel was hunting over the new wetland area on No.3 tank. A large flock of Linnet flew by and settled in a tree alongside us for a while. A flock of at least 50 Pied Wagtail were feeding on the mud at the edge of the water on No.6 tank. Redwing and Fieldfare were plentiful and the Starlings were starting to group as were packed up for the day.

24.01.15. Female Stonechat, Frodsham Marsh. Heather/Findlay Wilde.
A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were feasting on the sheep carcass along with several Ravens. On the way out we stopped to watch a pair of Stonechat sitting up high in the reeds at the edge of No.5 tank.

Thanks to: Nigel, Heather (and images), Findlay and Harley Wilde aka the Wilde Bunch for covering the WeBS count for me.

24.08.14. Birdlog

24.08.14. Birdlog

24.08.14. Sand Martin, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

A ‘trektellen’ count between 07.19 – 09.20hrs at Marsh Farm was without any obvious movement. Lots of hirundines and Swifts fed over the fields. 700 Swallows, 100 House Martin, 400 Sand Martins and 100 Swifts.

24.08.14. Sand Martin, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Yellow Wagtails totalled ten birds, there was a single Grey Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtails and a pristine juvenile White Wagtail that sat on the fence next to me but flew before any photos could be taken. Meadow Pipits were more obvious than of late with 10 birds feeding around and about, a feeding flock of 600 Starlings flew west and a female House Sparrow sat on top of the hay stack.

24.08.14. Robin, Marsh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.
A count on the high track between No.6 and No.4 tanks between 10.00-15.00 hrs produced a south-westerly movement of Common Buzzard which totalled 16 plus one flock of 8 which I took to be local birds. A lone Greenshank overflew calling several times, there were six Kestrels around at any one time and a big juvenile Peregrine skimmed my position and looked at me as it went past!

24.08.14. No.4 & 6 tanks, , Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

Passerines included two juvenile Whitethroats and a juvenile Reed Warbler, which, along with 7 Chiffchaffs, a Wren, a Chaffinch, a Blackcap and a Great Tit, all fed in one Elderberry bush.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

The high water brought in 3 Little Stint to No.6 tank (Frank Duff).