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.