01.12.16. Birdlog

23.02.14. Whooper Swanss, Lordship Marsh, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton8 Whooper Swan were back in the flooded fields adjacent to the blue slurry tank on Lordship Marsh.

Observer: Shaun Hickey.

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29-11-16-common-sandpiper-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-bill-morton-5Elsewhere there are wintering Common Sandpipers to be found on the Weaver estuary where there are 1-2 birds present.

Other birds are across the river at Pickerings Pasture scrape, Within Way, Spike Island and Ditton Brook. (images WSM).

A Black Redstart was found yesterday on the Gateway construction site road on Wigg Island.

The Viking Falcon

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-64I was out and about around Runcorn old town this morning and called in at Mersey Road to check on the Peregrine present on the bridge. After an absence of nearly 4 weeks the female Peregrine is back on her favourite perch. She sits boldly on the headdress of Britannia set into one of the heraldic shields that adorn the railway bridge. In actual fact the shield lays above the Widnes side of the river so now she’s known to me as the Viking Falcon.

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A brief history of time.

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In the year AD 915 the area south of the River Mersey was under the Kingdom of Mercia and was overseen by a Princess named Ethelfleda. She was the daughter of the Saxon King Alfred the Great. If you’re of a curtain generation then you may remember being taught this at school – Alfred was the king who burnt the cakes. Being the daughter of the king, Ethel was given charge to control the land of Mercia in this area up to, and including, the south shore of the River Mersey (the river derives its name from a Saxon word meaning ‘boundary’). The land to the north was controlled by the Danes (or Vikings if you like).

In more recent times the towns folk of Runcorn and Widnes got together and celebrated the naming of the railway bridge to their favourite daughter Ethelfleda.

19-11-16-peregrine-adult-ethelfleda-railway-bridge-runcorn-narrows-from-mersey-road-runcorn-bill-morton-11There is a point to this…when you travel across Runcorn Bridge from a southerly direction you can see adjacent to the road bridge a sandstone constructed railway bridge (Ethelfleda)  – both of these cross the River Mersey at the narrowest part of the Upper Mersey estuary.

04.07.16. Peregrine, Ethelfleda Railway Bridge. Bill Morton (1)

A car passengers view of where the Peregrine usually sits up on the railway bridge.

20.06.16. Peregrine, Runcorn Bridge. Bill Morton (2)

There are four heraldic shields depicting, two of Britannia seated and holding shields, one of a bird (which looks like a Black Stork but is probably a Cormorant) and one heraldic shield. Just below both of the Britannia shields is a metal via ferrata type ladder. Some days (normally during the winter months) you get a really good view of a fine adult Peregrine Falcon just perched up on the ladder. If there are lots of feral pigeons on the bridge then it’s unlikely the falcon will not be present.

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Ethelfleda Railway Bridge where the Peregrine rests up (viewed from Mersey Road, Runcorn).

Where to see the Peregrine.

The falcon can be seen from the comfort of your car along Mersey Road at either Runcorn old town or West Bank, Widnes. If it is there then it’s a lot safer viewing than craning your neck whilst attempting to drive over the bridge and looking for her.

Alternatively if you fancy combining raptor watching with some Starling murmurations then get here at 3.00 pm on a winters evening. There is a good chance to see Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk or even a Merlin? The gulls move west to their roost site on the Mersey estuary at dusk and the chances of seeing large gulls like Iceland and Glaucous are real possibilities.

Video of the Peregrine here: https://vimeo.com/192287393

19-11-16-nordic-jackdaw-runcorn-heath-park-lake-runcorn-bill-morton-2On the same Scandinavian theme nearby the Nordic Jackdaw can still be seen at the park lake off Park Road, Runcorn for its fourth year.

WSM.

Nature Notes #56 (Odds & Sods)

31-10-16-3-year-old-male-black-headed-gull-colour-ringed-j2lc-spike-island-bill-morton-23A small collection of sightings from and about the River Mersey local to Frodsham Marsh.

31-10-16-3-year-old-male-black-headed-gull-colour-ringed-j2lc-spike-island-bill-morton-19Firstly, a colour ringed Black-headed Gull spotted at the canal zone at Spike Island, Westbank, Widnes. A group of birds brought to bread by passersby included a Black-headed Gull wearing a white ring on its right leg and the usual metal ring on its left leg. The letters and numbers displayed on the ring were J2LC on a white band. After sending off details to the BTO we received details of its history. First ringed on 14.05.12 Vaterland, Akershus, Oslo, Norway. After numerous summer revisits to Norway it was eventually spotted in the autumn in the UK at Spike Island in September 2015. So perhaps encouraging to see that it may have started a wintering regime here in the northwest?

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The second sighting involved a dead Conger Eel found on the banks of the river adjacent to Ditton Brook at Pickerings Pasture. The creature was a real river monster measuring roughly 2 metres and an estimate weight of 9 kg.

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04-11-16-conger-eel-dead-ditton-brook-pickerings-pasture-widnesThe video here: https://vimeo.com/190320080

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Fungi are always a popular feature and can be ‘sods’ to identified. I managed a few recent finds starting with this Earthstar which came in this mini form at Blakemere, Delamere Forest.

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A mould fungus measured 8 cm tall and 20 cm long and was at the base of a picnic bench in the forest.

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19-1016-cedar-of-lebanon-bill-morton-2Emerging Fly Agaric’s are few on the ground this autumn but a cluster of 80 were beneath a Cedar of Lebanon in the cemetery off Greenway Road, Runcorn.

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06-1016-coral-fungus-hale-park-bill-morton-9A bunch of Coral fungus were gathered on a wood chip pile at Hale.

common-stinkhorn-egg-daresbury-firs-david-stewartThe sleepy eye of an emerging Common Stinkhorn egg at Daresbury Firs was one of several found along the path leading up the hill path to the top of the firs.

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The 31st October saw a huge irruption of Harlequin Ladybirds locally with thousands about. They included hundreds huddled together and secreting themselves into car door and house door sills, post boxes and gate posts etc etc.

 

08.10.16. Birdlog (Part 1)

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08-10-16-pink-footed-geese-over-overton-hill-frodsham-tony-broome-1Up early and out down the M56 motorway towards Frodsham and the Marsh triangle… that area of sky above the patch that birds seemingly vanish into as they cross from Hale Head. I’d had a look earlier in the week from the old log and saw birds so high that only chance views through a scope had given their presence away. So today, I decided to try a different tack and headed for Frodsham’s Overton Hill, arriving about 08.20 hrs. I phoned Dave Craven over the river at Hale and he’d had several thousand Redwing already plus a Hawfinch going north and lots of finches. Interestingly he did say that the birds were high today, even over Hale. It was virtually calm with only the lightest of south-east breezes, and complete herring-bone grey-white cloud cover, making birds easy to pick up, or so I thought.

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The hill provided a great vantage point with views across the Mersey estuary towards Hale and Pickerings Pasture, and east into the Weaver Valley towards the rising sun. Birds could be picked up by accident through binoculars or through a scope coming towards us, but most were picked up on call as they flew overhead.

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The first birds that came into view were Wood Pigeon, heading south in small parties, perhaps 50 to 100 ft above the hill. The Overton Hill is just over 430 ft above sea level, so they were passing over up to 600 ft. Finches, pipits and wagtails went through, also in small parties, and usually at a similar height of the Wood Pigeon although many were even higher by perhaps another 50 ft, so around the 650 ft mark. The most surprising flock was that of about 50 Redwing which we only picked up by chance as they flew above some other birds. They were just visible through 10x binoculars, mere specks up towards the cloud base, at least 500 ft higher again, putting them at well over a thousand ft up. Amazing! No wonder you can’t see many viz-mig migrants over the marsh, they are just too high!

What was nice was a movement of Pink-footed Goose, all in from the west and all eventually turning north, as though they’d come in from Iceland and hit the coast too far south for the Lancashire mosses, so turned around and headed off up there, around 940 birds in five flocks. The first flock flew at us at eye level before turning around, giving some great views. In the photos it’s possible to see many juveniles.

The tally between 08.20 hrs and 10.05 hrs was: 10 Pied Wagtail, 41 Meadow Pipit, 123 Wood Pigeon, 3 Stock Dove, 76 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 38 finch sp, 13 Chaffinch, 8 Skylark, 1 Reed Bunting and 3 Song Thrush. Not massive numbers but I think it could be very good in the right weather conditions.

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A selection of images from Overton Hill looking down to the marshes.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

15.09.16. Birdlog & Gowy Meadows Notes

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Another brief evening visit to the marsh just to see what’s been coming or going. My destination was the north banks of No.6 or the south banks of No.5 tank depending how you look at it.

A flock of 10 Avocet were leftover from the flock that had arrived yesterday and they were joined by 15 Ruff and 7 Dunlin.

Ducks are a big feature on Frodsham Marsh at the moment and some species are always the bread and butter birds  (Tufted Duck and Common Teal). While others are passing through or beginning to spend the winter (Shoveler and Wigeon). All in all it’s worth spending some time working your way through the flocks you never know you might find the juvenile Garganey which which I again picked out from the hundreds of teal.

A juvenile Marsh Harrier flew from No.5 tank and then disappeared over the mitigation which in turn had 21 Common Teal to show for all the money that’s been  spent on it!

15-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-7

15-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-1215-09-16-leucistic-carrion-crow-pickerings-pasture-halebank-cheshire-bill-morton-1Earlier I came across this partial leucistic Carrion Crow in a stubble field. I’ve often come across crows with various degrees of leucism but this one was one of the better marked birds,

Observer and images: WSM.

Gowy Meadows

An evening walk along the Gowy Meadows and the highlights were a Red-breasted Merganser and Kingfisher. A ‘white’ Starling was seen in a flock near the air products site along the Shropshire Union Canal  earlier in the day.

Observer: Paul Ralston.

Glossy on the Gowy

27.04.16. Glossy Ibis, Gowy Meadows. Paul Ralston (4)

27.04.16. Glossy Ibis, Gowy Meadows. Paul Ralston (2)27.04.16. Stonechat fledgling, Gowy Meadows. Paul Ralston (2) - CopyA short after work walk along the Gowy Meadows this evening was rewarding with a Wheatear, Whinchat and Stonechat being a pleasant reminder that Spring was here. A family of Stonechat I came across had a brood with a recently fledged youngster sitting on a fence. Despite the cold weather birds were getting on with rising broods.

I also watched a Fox was digging as fast as it could in the ground and soon after left in a hurry with a Rabbit clutched in its jaws. On the way back to my car a Glossy Ibis was seen in the company of 2 Little Egret and all three birds landed in a wet part of the meadows and then soon after they flew together heading over Stanlow to Ince Marsh.

27.04.16. Whinchat, Gowy Meadows. Paul Ralston (2) - Copy

Park in the lay-by next to the church in Thornton-le-moors, opposite is a gate leading to the meadows. Another access point is along the A5117 where it crosses over the River Gowy.

Observer and images: Paul Ralston.

15.03.16. Birdlog

15.03.16. Short-eared Owl, No.4 tank, frodsham Marsh, Paul Ralston (2)

The last hour and half of light turned out to be really productive on my short walk from Ince Berth to the Holpool Gutter.

15.03.16. Great White Egret, Ince marsh fields, Paul Ralston (2)

15.03.16. Little Egret roost, Ince Berth, Ince marsh fields, Paul Ralston (2)A Great White Egret was in a field alongside the Manchester Ship Canal path and 19 Mute Swan, 2 Greylag and 2 Canada Goose were alongside the gutter. On the gutter itself were several Tufted Duck and 4 Common Teal which lifted when a Common Buzzard checked them out.There were a couple of Short-eared Owl hunting the gutter and over No.4 tank, while the other was along the canal bank. Back at the start of my walk and a Kingfisher was seen in the fading light going to roost in the ditch by the berth. The newly established Little Egret roost site saw 15 birds joining other birds already there.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 1-3).

15.03.16. Iceland Gull and gulls, Runcorn bridge. Bill Morton (2)

A little further afield and to the east of Runcorn bridge at Mersey Road, Runcorn the evening gull fly by saw several thousand birds bottled-necked at the narrows and within their throng was an adult and a 3rd winter Iceland Gull.

15.03.16. Starlings, Runcorn bridge. Bill Morton (10)

15.03.16. Gulls, Runcorn. Bill Morton (5)

There have been upwards of six Iceland Gulls (noted usually from Hale and Marsh Farm) from their evening departure at the nearby Arpley tip. If you want to see birds from either Mersey Road or Wigg Island, Runcorn you should be there from 17.00 hrs. The gulls congregate on the sand banks west of the new bridge workings and at 17.30 hrs the big gulls start to fly over from Fiddlers Ferry. You can even watch from the comfort of your warm car.

Additionally, the Starling pre-roost on Runcorn Bridge featured a few thousand birds but without any raptor activity there they didn’t put on any murmurations worthy of note. Interestingly, the flocks soon filtered from the bridge in the half-light and streamed out to (presumably) their huge Northwich roost sites to the east?

Observer: WSM (images 4-6)

The 4 Queens ;O)

The 4 Queens ;O)

25.05.15. Star of the line and the star of the shoreline, New Brighton. Bill Morton

Star of the Cruise line and Star of the Shoreline.

25.05.15. Herring Gulls and the 3 Queens from New Brighton. Bill Morton

Not strictly Frodsham Marsh but as the local corvids fly just a wing beat away. On Bank Holiday Monday me and Sparky spent a full day at New Brighton to watch the gathering of Cunard;s finest boats out on the mouth of the River Mersey. We decided the best option for us would be the shoreline at New Brighton and then walk down to Seacombe ferry terminal. I didn’t want to waste an opportunity of capturing this unique moment and at the same time try and get some local wildlife in the act as well. A selection of images from the day with a few more to follow later…

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Oystercatchers gather on the foreshore while a tug showers one of the big three which manoeuvres into position for their spectacle on the river.

25.05.15. Queen Mary and Common Tern, Seacombe Ferry Terminal. Bill Morton

A Common Tern dives for a fish beside the ferry terminal at Seacombe with the Queen Elizabeth at the cruise terminal in Liverpool in the distance.

25.05.15. Herring Gulls and the 4 Queens from New Brighton. Bill Morton

Typical scouse humour is always on hand and someone put this cardboard cutout of the `fourth` Queen in their bedroom window overlooking the ships.

All images WSM