All images by Shaun Hickey.
All images by Shaun Hickey.
Now that we’ve finally reached the shortest day and what is effectively the true celebration of this season. I have collected a few images from the last week or so to illustrate the marsh in just a few of its mid winter moods.
Above the power station at Rocksavage is mirrored in the still waters of the River Weaver.
The second image shows the change in weather systems from a cool clear day to the brief period when the Weaver valley and the marsh are shrouded in morning fog. The image above has a curious disruption through the clouds which could be caused by an aircraft flying through the canopy?
Looking west from the banks of No.5 tank across the mitigation area of No.3 tank fields to the turbines on No.4.
No.3 tank and the mitigation area . Unfortunately much was expected from this site but as yet it has reaped very little for the time and effort afforded to it.
Looking east along the ancient road that is Lordship Lane looking to Frodsham Marsh from Ince Marsh fields. The old Kamira woods lay to the right of the image.
The flooded fields of Lordship Marsh and Frodsham Hill beyond. Whooper Swans occasionally use the fields to graze when there is little disturbance.
No.5 tank looking east to the turbine substation and the old fence line where hopefully we’ll being seeing Short-eared Owls if the weather turns colder.
No.2 tank just south of Marsh Farm an excellent site for Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover.
The steaming plumes of vapour emitting from Fiddlers Ferry Power Station in the distance and the incinerator plant beyond the blue-topped (ex) power station chimney at Weston Point.
A flock of Lapwings in flight and behind the Mersey estuary and the gantry wall that shields the Manchester Ship Canal from Christchurch at Weston Point.
Finally, the omnipresent wind turbines caught in the ebbing sunset over No.6 tank. One of my favourite pictures from the marsh this month is this Tolkienesque image of the dark watch tower of Barad-dûr laying across the (literally) dead marshes.
Images: 1-2 & 11 by WSM and images 3-10 by Tony Broome.
With high pressure over the UK it was forecast to be cold and calm with some sun. They were correct technically. Dawn came with a beautiful sunrise and a pale blue sky and a heavy dew. What a day it would be with weather like that I thought. However, as I got further west along the M56, the greyer the sky became and by the time I got to Frodsham and stopped off for a latte from my favourite venue, it was completely overcast with high cloud, but not a breath of wind. I pulled up at the old log and sipped the coffee out of a Christmas(sy) decorated cup. Nearly that time again! I set off down the lane, disturbing thrushes as I did so and turned sharp left.
There were 6 Fieldfare, 15 Redwing, 10 Blackbird and 3 Song Thrush. Ever onward, I headed out up the Weaver. There were workmen in bright orange suits on the other side and the birds were few and those present were jumpy. A pair of Stonechat sat and watched me pass by, ignoring me for the most and dropping down to catch insects every now and again. The ground was carpeted in Buttonweed Cortula coronopifolia in flower, an introduced species from South Africa. The yellow flowers brightened up what was becoming quite a gloomy day.
A Green Sandpiper called overhead as it came off Frodsham Score, followed shortly after by a Common Sandpiper which came out in front of me and flew off across the river. Two Grey Wagtail also fed by the water, not far from a small group of waders, 30 Redshank and 11 Black-tailed Godwit. 16 Curlew were roosting on the grass with their heads down, whilst around 200 Dunlin and a single Grey Plover fed on the mud as the tide receded. 7 Grey Heron sat about lazily waiting for the tide to drop lower still.
I watched a Cormorant wrestling with an eel for quite a while, before the bird dived and came up with a lump in its neck, obviously having won the contest. The water was flat calm, flatter than I can remember and every bird stood out as they drifted past. I scanned in the hope of something unusual, but it wasn’t to be. 12 Great-Crested Grebe in total, 6 on the river and 6 on the Mersey estuary. One bird was in full summer plumage and a pair were displaying to each other, head-shaking in their rituals.
Another Common Sandpiper, the second one of the day flew towards me and pitched in under the bank. I tried sneaking up on it but couldn’t find it, but was treated to nice views of a female Kingfisher which hovered and sat about in front of me for some time. An old barge, the ‘Loach’ appeared and chugged past me with an almost perfect reflection in the water. Other than that, 48 Tufted Duck and 32 Coot on the Weaver, along with 20 Goldeneye further towards the Weaver Bend were the only real counts of any description. 27 Pink-footed Goose flew a long way to the west of me and dropped onto the salt marsh. Numbers of Lapwing at my end of the Score were low, with about 250 feeding on the grass.
Time for lunch. Another pair of Stonechat sat around in Redwall reed bed along with a small flock of Meadow Pipit. A black thrush with white on its head dived past me and I managed to locate it in a dense Hawthorn. It turned out to be a partially leucistic male Blackbird. I drove around to No.6 and put up a flock of 61 Common Snipe which was a great count considering that they are usually in ones or twos and there were 3 at the west end of No.3 and 2 more in the ‘Secluded Pool’, making 66 for the day. No.6 held a single Little Egret, 2 Dunlin, 2 Ruff and 1 Little Stint.
Alyn Chambers counted the ducks, but I didn’t spend a long time there before moving on to No.3, having finished lunch with included a piece of New York deli pie, a food tick for me and well worth it. The day got even gloomier and it began to get dark by 3 o’clock.
The so-called “mitigation” area of No.3 is a jok!. With zero management in place, it is choked by nettles, docks and thistles. Consequently, apart from 60+ Teal, there was nothing else. So much for the promises made by Peel Energy and the people involved with the ongoing work here.
I headed back down No.6 where a Cetti’s Warbler appeared briefly before noisily moving away. An immature Marsh Harrier came off No.4 and disappeared over into the vast bed of phragmites. 10 more Fieldfare went north and another 20 dropped into the silver birch on No.6 to roost. The Starling began to arrive, totaling around 1000, pursued by an adult Marsh Harrier which deftly caught one without really trying and a Sparrowhawk which only panicked the flock and it failed miserably. A single Kestrel didn’t even bother but hovered for small mammals instead.
So not to bad-a-day really. Not much good for photography, but at least a few interesting things. I drank what was left of my coffee saddled up my vehicle and headed back east along the M56 into the darkness!
Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-14 & 16-20)
The high tide on the estuary was a little higher than yesterday and brought in a better selection of waders to No.6 tank today they included: 1 Grey Plover, 2 Golden Plover and 5 Ruff with Lapwing. 1 Bar-tailed Godwit with 200 Black-tailed Godwit. Also 1 Little Stint and 1 Avocet. 30 Pink-footed Goose flew west and a Cetti’s Warbler was calling from the reeds. A pair of Merlin were on No.3 tank.
Observer: Alyn Chambers (image 15).
A few more of Tony’s images from today on the marsh.
Out this morning from Ince along the Manchester Ship Canal path heading east and around No.6 tank. A flock of Long-tailed Tit had a couple of Goldcrest with them as they made their way along the hedgerow.
The new pools at Ince Marsh fields were quiet with only a single Grey Heron and a few Moorhen occupying them. Reed Bunting were gathering in good numbers as was the Robin with several territorial disputes going on between established birds and migrants. Flocks of Redwing were passing through heading west followed in hot pursuit by a Sparrowhawk hoping to pick off a tired bird.
Out on the Frodsham Score salt marsh were 5 Little Egret scattered about and a large flock of Common Teal and Wigeon which exploded into the air when 5 wildfowlers made their way out on to the marsh. A Great Crested Grebe was amongst the Coot and Tufted Duck on the ship canal. Meanwhile, the Raven gathered alongside Great Black-backed Gull numbers feeding on the ever-present free mutton liberally scattered about the area. Waiting for thirds were the omnipresent Common Buzzard.
Three Stonechat were along the path by the northern ramp onto No.6 and a male Kestrel sat on a fence post nearby. A Great Spotted Woodpecker left a stand of dead trees near the Growhow works compound and alongside No.4 a Grey Wagtail with a flock of alba wags near the Holpool Gutter. The fields alongside the gutter held a few hundred Lapwing with several Golden Plover with them.
Observer: Paul Ralston (images1-3).
A big thanks to Chris Done who took these aerial shots looking down over Frodsham Marsh yesterday from a flight out of New York JFK. Chris was a young Elton birder who could be found birding the marsh in his younger days. He scored many fine finds including a singing Nightingale along Lordship Lane a few years back.
Image 4 by WSM and images 5-7 by Chris Done.
I have been looking a long time for images of Frodsham Marsh shortly after the Manchester Ship Canal was completed and today I have been successful. The first image shows the Weaver estuary (inner top left) with its marshland edges and the cultivated fields stretching inland to the village of Frodsham. At the far right hand side is the Weaver Bend with the small island visible and Weston Marsh which today is under a disused sludge tank.
The second photograph shows the flooded No.1 sludge tank occupying the river marshland area.The container walls are excavated soil taken from the interior of the sludge bed and are no higher than a couple of metres. It is only speculation what this tank situated a stone’s throw from the River Mersey would have attracted all those years ago. There were no ornithologists/bird watchers in the area to catalogue the huge flocks of waders, not to mention the numerous Nearctic shorebirds that surely must have appeared each autumn. I’ll have to get me one of those time travelling machines when they get invented.
On both images it is interesting to note the lack of development in Runcorn and across the Liverpool skyline.
A few images of the wildlife-filled drainage channel bordering Moorditch Lane. Moorditch Lane track is one of the oldest thoroughfares on the marsh dating back to the Doomsday book. The lane was used in days of old to access the marshes at both Frodsham and Helsby. In more recent times (pre 1993) it was the main access route to the sludge pumping station.
Images by WSM.