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.

“Hoopoe on the Bend!”

Hoopoe Weaver Bend note book. Bill Morton
Just why Mark and I were at Frodsham Marsh on 26th Sept 1987 is long forgotten, though I expect it was promising weather conditions or a run of Nearctic waders in the country, since then, as now, it takes a lot to get me away from north Wirral. We had parked up near the log and not seen a great deal, despite walking up to and around the I.C.I tank, checking the Weaver Bend and even getting as far as the Bailey Bridge.  Having struck out we started walking back round the IC..I tank, which held a largish gull roost, shimmering in the heat haze.  I thought I could see something with a slightly paler mantle in the middle of them and was thinking Mediterranean Gull, which would have been quite a good find then.

Hoopoe Weaver Bend note book. Bill MortonThe combination of heat haze and distance persuaded me that I’d be better off if I scrambled over the edge of the tank so that I could rest my elbows on my knees and get a steadier view, sat on the inner edge.  Just as stepped over the top, there was a completely  unexpected explosion of black white and pink from the bare ground in front of me and a Hoopoe took off and flapped low across the tank.

Normally when you find a good bird there is a short or sometimes long period of slow realisation as you piece together clues to its identity and you get  a chance to work out how to communicate what is going on. Not so on this occasion.  I knew it was a Hoopoe in the same instant as the photons hit my retina.  I also knew that there was a chance that it might just disappear if I didn’t persuade Mark to turn round and come up the bank.  He was watching the bend.  I am told not a single word that came out of mouth made any sense at all (except a few choice expletives).  Allegedly I was similarly incoherent when a Pallas’s Warbler interrupted my attempt to put yoghurts in the fridge, by flying across the bottom of the garden, when neither the words Pallas’s nor Warbler passed my lips.  I blame the adrenalin.  Fortunately on that warm day at Frodsham I managed to convince Mark of the urgency of the situation and he joined me on the edge of the tank while we watched the Hoopoe cross over the gulls and apparently land on the far edge near the bridge.

So what to do next?  There is a Hoopoe down somewhere on the edge of the I.C.I tank and no other birders nearby.  No mobile phones.  Then I saw in the very far distance a group of birders, heading off towards Frodsham Score.  I left Mark staking it out and set off to tell them. I was quite fit then, but even so by the time I jogged up to them I was hacking my lungs up and really rather sweaty.  As I got closer to the group I started to feel less and less that this was a good idea.  My worst fears came when I finally caught up to them and explained between gasps for breath, that there was a Hoopoe about.  I think their exact words were “That’s nice Deary” as they carried on unpacking their flasks and sandwiches.  On reflection I might have been quite an alarming sight/sound.  Next I headed off into Frodsham where I hoped that I could find a telephone box.  Fortunately I did and was able to make the appropriate phone calls.  When I got back to Mark, I was treated to the surreal view of the Hoopoe flying up the Weaver within a flock of Redshank, before it crossed the River and appeared to fly into Weston and was seen shortly after over the embankment at the Rocksavage works

Written by Jane Turner.

Note book illustration. WSM

Excitedly, I ran up the embankment to see…a Lapwing?

Allan Conlin (2nd from Right) et al, Spurn Observatory 1990 (aged 18).

illustration-of-collarded-pratincole-at-frodsham-marsh-copyExcitedly, I ran up the embankment to see…a Lapwing?

As a Wirral Birder , tales of old from Frodsham Marsh seemed almost mythical to me as a then young boy with a rapidly growing interest in birds and particularly rare ones and how to identify them.

Whilst local patches such as Hilbre Island and the North Wirral shore were great places to learn, they never until very recently delivered on American waders. Frodsham was always the place to head for ‘locally’ if you were to begin your education on American wader identification.

However it is not an American wader that is my most memorable day at Frodsham but a European one and quite a charismatic one it was too.

Whilst at school on 29th April 1987 the local birding grapevine buzzed to life and news soon broke about a local ‘goodie’. After making a number of calls from my parents phone I made arrangements and was collected by an older school friend (one old enough to drive) and off we headed to Frodsham’s No.4 tank. At warp speed we made it from the Wirral to Frodsham in next to no time.

On arrival I excitedly, ran up the embankment to see… a Lapwing and lots of them, no sign of our target bird! A combination of despair and (yes) disbelief developed into a feeling of how could we have travelled 25 miles from Wirral not to see it?! The older ‘wiser’ locals assured me it was still present and that it was sitting out of sight amongst the vegetation (yeah right!).

There was clearly only one course of action left in my quest to see this mega tick and that was to get something to eat, leave the site and go to the local ‘chippy’ in Main Street!! My ever hungry teenage stomach had won over and we both left to go for some fish and chips. Looking back and with nearly 30 years hindsight what an incredibly costly and naive move that could have been, there hasn’t been another one  in Cheshire since that bird!

collared Pratincole, Frodsham Marsh. Allan Conlin

Arriving back at the No.4 tank an hour later fully sated and heavily laden with stodge. I scrambled up the embankment. The older ‘wiser’ locals were right. It was still here. Hawking up and down the  tank and a sight which was both graceful and charismatic of all the waders that I had ever seen any where in the world this was my first ever COLLARED PRATINCOLE. WOW !

Taking in all the salient features of the bird I didn’t care that on that balmy Spring evening I was being bitten alive by midges. Nor that I hadn’t done my physics homework or indeed the ‘rollicking’ that was awaiting me (for not doing my homework) when I eventually got home, after all I said I would only be an hour. It was all worth it as Frodsham had once again delivered and left me with memories that are as clear today as they were all those years ago; a Collared Pratincole in my own county – stunning!

My trips to Frodsham have become less frequent over the last 30 or so years as my dedication to my Wirral list is my primary focus. However, even to this day I will still visit at least a couple of times a year to see something rare or scarce that has been located on one of the deposit sludge tanks.

There have been big changes at Frodsham Marsh over the subsequent 29 years but three things remain constant. The area remains an important site for waders, the locals continue to find good birds and most importantly ‘Four Seasons chippy’ is still there too!

Written by Allan Conlin

Extract from Allan’s notebook and an early image from a birding trip to Spurn Bird Observatory which are from left to right: Simon Lloyd, Levi Williams, Bill Aspin, Allan Conlin (the only one apparently birding!) and Paul Freestone.

Illustration by WSM.

More from Allan here:

Kenny Dummigan come on down!

13.09.15. Tony Broome Guest Blog 3

13.09.15. Tony Broome Guest Blog 3

13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (4)

13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (1)I fancied a walk around in the sunshine with a view to taking a few snaps with the first DSLR I’ve owned since my old Nikon 300 in the seventies.

How technology has moved on! I used Kodachrome 25 in those days, a transparency film that two weeks to process in a laboratory somewhere before dropping through the letterbox. Out of 36 transparencies, you were lucky if there was a single good picture.

Fast forward to today and a new Canon with a telephoto lens, a superb motor-drive and instant results… There’s a lot to learn, so I’m still a novice but enjoying the challenge.
13.09.15. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (2)I started off at the old birdlog and walked around the Weaver Bend. The familiar call of Chiffchaff filled the bushes with the odd one singing every now and again.

Next to the old log is a beautiful old apple tree with small red apples clinging to the branches. Lit up in the sunshine it looked so rustic. Two of the Chiffchaffs dropped into it and began to chase each other around, occasionally perching out on the branches. I estimated around 20-25 Chiffchaff throughout the day.

13.09.15.Starlings, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Relatively few hirundines seemed to be left. 150 Swallow, 30+ Sand Martin and maybe 10 House Martin over the tanks. The only sign of viz-mig were 4 Meadow Pipit south in pairs.

13.09.15. Whinchat, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.
The Weaver Bend had 2 Common Sandpiper, a Ruff, 100+ Redshank and a few Black-tailed Godwit. I stood in the sunshine, sheltered from the cool SW breeze… I thought it was meant to be warm!

13.09.15. Stonechat, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.

I wondered back to the old log where Frank and Alyn turned up and we headed for Marsh Farm to see what Frodsham Score had in store. Just before the farm, a fine Whinchat sat up on the top of the bushes and a few Stonechat remained on the pipes, found earlier in the week.

13.09.15. juCommon Buzzard, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)
Raptors were much in evidence. Common Buzzard were all over the tanks with four in a party the largest single count during the day. Difficult to count, there was probably somewhere between 15 and 20 birds. 10 Kestrels, 1 Sparrowhawk, at least one juvenile Peregrine and a single Hobby over No.4 tank made up the rest of the sightings.

13.09.15. juvenile Peregrine, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (3)

One juvenile Peregrine over the Score chased a feral pigeon relentlessly for five minutes or so until finally grounding it and presumably lunching on it.

13.09.15. Ravens, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

The Score held small numbers of waders as high tide approached, although most were hidden from view. 100+ Black-tailed Godwit, 150+ Redshank and 350+ Lapwing were counted very approximately. 9 Wigeon flew west.

13.09.15. Goldfinch, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.
On No.6 a single Common Snipe was sheltering in the secluded pool. 3 Wigeon, 2 Shovelers, 3 Pintail, a Pochard, 150 Tufted Duck and 100 Common Teal fed on the Sea Aster seeds.

I looked for the Black-necked Grebe but it wasn’t on show.

Interesting passerines consisted of 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, and 300+ Goldfinches.

13.09.15. Red-legged Partridge, Frodsham Marsh. Sean O'Hara.

Insects were about in abundance with 10+ Migrant Hawker Dragonfly being the most noteworthy. Butterflies included Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and both Large and Small White.

It was a pleasant day. Lots to look at and the last of the sunshine before a week of forecasted rain and a lot of pictures to sort through…

Observer: Tony Broome (images 1-4 & 7-9 & 14).

13.09.15. Large Red Underwing Moth, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh

13.09.15. Large Red Underwing Moth, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh.Some additional reports included 14 Little Egret and a Great White Egret out on the Mersey marshes. Just before Tony left for home Sparky spotted (and Tony identified) a Large Red Under-wing moth perched up on a metal structure.

A covey of Red-legged Partridge are birds set down by the shooters on to the area east of No.5 tank.

13.09.15. Curlew, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

.We continued our walk onto No.6 tank and the open water was filled with ducks 13.09.15. Black-necked Grebe, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh.(as mentioned above) three Cymru birders relocated the Black-necked Grebe as we walked past them and found it was tucked into the bank and obviously avoided detection for most of the day.

Observers: Alyn Chambers, Frank Duff, Sean O’Hara (images 5-6 & 10-11), 3 Welsh birders, Sparky, WSM (images 12-13 & 15).

22.08.15. Elliot Montieth’s Guest Blog

22.08.15. Elliot Monteith’s Guest Blog.

The day started off meeting Bill on the bridge at Marsh Lane for my first ever visit to Frodsham Marsh…which was brilliant!”

Frodders Harrier

Ruddy Shelduck_edited-1

We first walked down to No.6 tank were we had a total of 22 Ruff with the female Peregrine perched on the blue-topped chimney, before walking down to the “secluded pool” where we had a Juvenile Marsh Harrier flying over No.5 tank before going onto No.6 and hunting over the reeds then going back over to No.3, and flying off into the distance.

Just before we reached the “secluded pool” we heard then saw a Greenshank flying from the river, over No.3 then dropping out of sight onto the pool, where it had a wash before flying south. There was also a nice number of Ravens about and a Juvenile Peregrine which was soaring over the path.


On the way back to No.6 I went off to see what Bill calls the “concealed spot”, which is so concealed that we walked past it twice! While there we had 3 Little Stint, 2 Little Ringed Plover, another Greenshank, 300+ Black-headed Gulls flying high over Lordship Marsh “anting”. A Peregrine caused chaos amongst the roosting waders!

There were two birds which I wasn’t expecting to see today and they were Spotted Redshank (quite a rare bird here!), which me and Bill spotted flying across the tank calling away, then relocated with the Lapwings, Ruff and Redshank. A female Ruddy Shelduck was pointed out to us by two birders from the south of the county which we didn’t get their names (sorry but you know who you are), which got me excited as it’s a lifer for me! We also had 2 female type Pintail which Bill spotted.

All in all a brilliant day out and will be returning soon!”

Observer and images 1-3: Elliot Monteith.

A great big thanks to Elliot and his mum (Adele) for sharing their time with me on Frodsham Marsh and it was great to see yet another young convert to birding on Frodsham Marsh. For more of Elliots birding trips and impressive photography visit him here:

Included below some of my own images from a days birding with Elliot and Adele.

22.08.15. Spotted Redshank and Redshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

22.08.15. Spotted Redshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton22.08.15. Greenshank, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton22.08.15. Sea Aster, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonSea Aster/Michaelmas Daisy flowering in profusion on No.6 tank.

22.08.15. Ruddy Shelduck and Common Shelduck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe female Ruddy Shelduck shares time with a juvenile Common Shelduck.

Other sightings today included a Garganey and a passage of 50 Swift, 23 Sand and 11 House Martin with Swallow noted as well.

Additional observers: Nigel G, Harry Cook, Frank Duff, WSM (and images 5-8)

Round the Back (Part 1)

Round the Back

Frodsham Marsh aerial view from aeroplane approaching Liverpool airport, Sept'03 by Bill Morton

Flying with Teal by Heather WildeFrodsham Score salt marsh is an area of something quite rare and at risk from many factors not least the tides that rise and fall twice daily. The Irish Sea enters the River Mersey at New Brighton/Bootle a distance of approximately 16 miles (as the crow flies) to Frodsham Score.

Eroded score marsh by Shaun Hickey

The salt marsh is always in a state of flux with its river edges eroded by the tides, frost, water, wind and rain and often huge clumps fall into the river. These clumps are soon broken down by wave wear and are carried as silt with the tides out into the river, creating sandbars or washing ashore elsewhere to rebuild river edges. There is an organic life to the Mersey marshes being created and eroded, being recreated – a cycle that is timeless. The only issues that could effectively cause this cycle to end would be the intervention by man, proposals like a tidal barrier would cause a shift in the hydrodynamics and thus change the replenishments of tidal water that is important to the bird and wildlife that use the river.

Frodsham Score by Shaun HickeySince the rise of the development of the shoreline a hundred and fifty years ago we have had limited access to the river on its southern banks and this exclusion zone stretched from Moore near Warrington right up to New Brighton, Wirral. I remember watching from Runcorn Docks the tantalising mudflats that lay beyond and seeing hundreds of wintering Pintail on an area of land behind the gantry wall called ‘No Mansland’: an area of salt marsh that had been created by the shifting silt as mentioned earlier.

Common Teal, Stuart Maddocks

Some great birds were seen from my distant position perched like a cabin boy in a crow’s nest, clinging by one arm to an old barge berthed in Runcorn Docks overlooking the Mersey mudflats. I was craving to get my feet on the Mersey marshes and see the birds up close. My opportunity eventually came one very bright, sunny and extremely cold, frosty morning in 1978. The North Cheshire RSPB group had organised a field trip to Mount Manisty, an area managed by the Merseyside Naturalist Association and the group are still going strong today. I remember well my bitterly cold hands grasping a pair of Prinxlux 10 x 50 binoculars and impatiently waiting to view through the only telescope own by one of the field officers (probably Don Weedon) to view the huge numbers of handsome Pintail, Common Teal and Wigeon.

Paul Scoullar Wildlife - Photo4me

A Short-eared Owl glided by with eyes like a cat looking right through me, checking back in mid-flight to drop like a stone in the tall dried grass bordering the salt marsh for a vole and then carrying it away, throwing back a glare at me like a surly youth.

The only relief from the biting easterly wind was a broad warm water pipe that we took turns to sit on just to warm our ice-cold butts.

ravens by Shaun Hickey

Reminiscing apart, that was my only experience of the birding on Frodsham Score in my teens and I’ve never been back since. One day I hope to repeat it. Today the only people allowed to go ’round the back’ and view the marshes on the southern banks are Chris the farmer, Wildfowlers and the BTO WeBS counters.

04.01.15. Wildfowlers and Whooper Swans, frodsham Score. Tony Broome.

If you fancy taking the boat across the Manchester Ship Canal, from the jetty at Marsh Farm or Stanlow, you can either become Chris’s farming assistant, a wildfowler or a voluntary counter for the BTO: I know which one I prefer.

The views of Frodsham Score on Frodsham Marsh are limited to an area of 2 km west of the Canal Pools where the score banks falls away to join the flat open vista of the Mersey marshes. It is here that I’ve spent some of my favourite watches and sometimes shared them with a few birders like Tony and Frank.

godwits by Shaun Hickey

Shaun Hickey inspired this article after he sent me his fine selection of photographs taken during the monthly WeBS counts at Frodsham Score. There have been some great birds seen on these counts like Broad-billed Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Great White Egret and last year two Guillemots. It is truly a wild place edged in by a lot of industry and at threat by many things…not least the tide.

WSM: image 1.

Heather Wilde image 2.

Shaun Hickey images 3-4, 7 & 9.

Stuart Maddocks image 5.

Paul Scoullar image 6.

Tony Broome image 8.

A link to the RSPB and the Mersey Barrage:

More of Paul’s superb images here: here:

Review of the Year 2014

Review of the Year 2014

07.05.13. Yellow Wagtail. Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley

16.02.13. Great White Egret, Frodsham Score. Bill MortonJanuary: started where 2013 left off with a wintering Chiffchaff and a number of Stonechats scattered at several places. A Merlin joined the ever-present Marsh Harrier and out on the river salt marsh were a couple of locally rare Bar-tailed Godwits. 10,000 Dunlin flashed across the mudflats and the first Ringed Plover (early arrival) of the year arrived plus 100 Knot looked impressive. Two Great White Egrets muscled in with the Little Egrets on Frodsham Score. Two Bewick’s Swans, 19 Whooper Swans teamed up with a flock of wintering Pink-footed Geese.

01.02.14. Red-breasted Goose with Common Shelducks, Frodsham Score. Bill Morton

February: More Bar-tailed Godwits added to the thousand plus Black-tails on the river. Highlight if a little AWOL was a Red-breasted Goose riding the tide in with the ubiquitous Canada’s. The Whoopers continued to winter along on the marsh with Pink-feet and a Marsh Harrier. Following in the wing beats of that raptor was a Hen Harrier and Merlin. Great White and Little Egret continued their trend by staying put, with the occasional bouts over at Hale Marsh. A ‘sinensis’ Cormorant heralded the start of spring. The undisputed highlight of the month was only for the eyes of Mike Buckley and Ian Coote, when not one but two winter plumaged Guillemots swam off Frodsham Score on the WeBS count. Other birds of note this month were an Avocet, Woodcock, Mediterranean Gull, Kingfisher and Cetti’s Warbler.

01.03.14. Twite, Frodsham Score, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

March: Birds from the winter period included the Whooper Swans with Pink-feet and Barnacle Geese on Frodsham Score and a contingent of Whoopers in fields by the M56. The Hen and Marsh Harrier were easily available, as was the Merlin and tower top sitting Peregrine. Likewise, both Great White and Little Egrets on Ince and Frodsham Score marshes. A Short-eared Owl passed through as did a French ringed Black-tailed Godwit. A Mediterranean Gull and 9 Avocets arrived from warmer climes. Finally, with the first arrival of Spring migrants the month ended on a high note when a flock of Twite settled by the Manchester Ship Canal at the score and performed well enough for a short video (featured on the blog).

05.04.14. Ring Ouzel (female), Frodsham Score. Bill MortonApril: A major rarity in my teens the Great White Egret’s range expansion has beennothing short of incredible but, still a surprise to see them readily available on Frodsham Score, then prospecting on No.6 tank this month, It is only a matter of time before we get them breeding in Cheshire, and with Frodsham’s reputation of breeding firsts for the county it won’t come as a surprise if it’s here?  Migrants were coming thick and fast and with the usual seasonal arrivals we managed a beautiful female Ring Ouzel by the pier at Marsh Farm. A female Redstart shared the marsh with some lingering winter waifs like Whooper Swans, Goldeneye and Pink-footed Geese. A Cetti’s Warbler gave it’s self away by the explosive song at a private site. A flock of 47 Raven were never short of a ready meal out on the salt marsh. A Short-eared Owl passed through heading north-east. A Pair of Marsh Harriers set up territory and more Avocets arrived with a similar idea in mind.

27.05.14. Lesser Scaup, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Allan Conlin

May: The main migration month saw a Blue-headed Wagtail to an area by the Holpool Gutter. The Avocets raised young but unfortunately none of them got to the flying stage. However, Black-headed Gulls at the Shooters’ Pools raised chicks. A Whooper Swan started a lengthy stay and sharing the same stretch of the Weaver estuary with a splendid summer Red-necked Grebe. The grebes protracted stay drew in a steady procession of admirers. The months highlight was discovered by Sean O’Hara one evening when a drake Lesser Scaup was with the Tufties on No.6 tank. The month ended with a Hobby.

09.06.14. Red-necked Grebe, River Weaver at Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

June: Both the Lesser Scaup and Red-necked continued their summer vacation here and even drawing in a few Wirral birders from their back waters. A Whooper Swan in mid summer isn’t usually expected in the middle of the year. Although not the first time the species has summered here, it was nice to get views of it and the RNG in the scope together. The Marsh Harrier activity was subdued but a female Common Scoter on No.6 tank was good compensation, even sharing the camera view finder together. Frank Duff was responsible for adding a new butterfly to the marsh list when he spotted a Ringlet on the banks of the I.C.I tank. Once a Cheshire rarity it is extending its range out from the south of the county.

19.07.14. Common Scoter, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

July: The summering Red-necked Grebe was a welcome after work diversion and provided ample opportunity to get photographs in a variety of lighting and action positions. A drake Common Scoter on the River Weaver was part of an inland invasion by the species across the north and midlands this month. The first Green Sandpiper of the summer was seen and a couple of passing Common Terns added to the picture. Marsh Harrier and Little Eret were to be expected but a Mediterranean Gull and ‘sinensis’ Cormorant are not always birds of high summer. The highlight was a low light with just the one Ermine Moth seen!

13.08.14. Ruddy Shelduck, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh

August: Return wader migration usually starts in July but this year it was left to August to kick-start the action. Turnstone, Sanderling, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper all making the grade. 1200 Black-tailed Godwits are good-by anyone’s money. The first Golden Plover still in splendid summer dress and then Ruff arrived to joined the throngs mid month. More Mediterranean Gulls, a Hobby, Marsh Harrier were about. Five juvenile Goosander dropped in on No.6 tank very briefly before heading back out to the Mersey estuary. The highlight was a pair of Ruddy Shelduck initially out on the rivers mudflats and then coming in on the high tide to No.6 tank.

11.09.14. Stoat, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

September: More shorebirds were on the agenda with Curlew Sandpiper and a Norwegian colour-ringed Little Stint. ( Greenshank were notable for the length of their stay) and another Bar-tailed Godwit was seen. Kingfisher started to appear from their breeding territories. Another Ruddy Shelduck appeared mid month and a Spotted Flycatcher performed well along Moorditch Lane. A Stoat was very photogenic for Paul Ralston by Ince Marsh. After several years of waiting my bogey bird, the Red Kite finally flapped its way across my vision and out to Burton Marsh (where else) and earlier in the month an Osprey made a belated appearance..

29.10.14. Ring-necked Parakeet, Frodsham Marsh, Tony Broome

October: More waders moved through with Curlew Sandpipers, Avocet,  Knot, Turnstone, Green Sandpiper, Little Stint and Greenshank all being seen. Marsh Harrier are a regular feature these days and can be seen during any month of the year, this month proved to be popular with them being seen daily. A Great White and Little Egrets were notable out on the salt marshes. A female Scaup was seen by one birder on the Weaver Bend and a Jack Snipe was seen on a path along the ship canal tow path by one lucky observer. A Cetti’s Warbler was active this month along with passerines moving through and late autumn is always a good period to add Coal Tit, Treecreeper and Redpoll spp to your marsh list. A dark-bellied Brent Goose was found in the Canada flock out on Frodsham Score. Stonechats traditionally arrive in October to spend the winter in the Weaver valley here and Whooper Swans also arrived but from a northerly direction. The highlight for many would have been a potential first for the marsh when a Ring-necked Parakeet appeared for a week but a fancy red bling ring on its leg put paid to that!

20.11.14. Barn Owl, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston

November:  Six Black-necked Grebes on the Weaver Bend by a WeBS counter was surprisingly the first of the year. More Whooper Swans arrived for the duration to the Mersey marshes along with Pink-footed Geese. A Hen Harrier joined up with the resident Marsh on the marsh. A Barn Owl(s) started a lengthy stay being noted from several locations. A Green Sandpiper or two were out by the Holpool Gutter, where a Merlin put the frieghtners on the passerines along the hedgerows there. Wintering Chiffchaffs could be found at several places. Vismiging conjured up a Rock/Water Pipit, Brambling and Tree Sparrows during the early morning listens. The highlights apart from a fly through Snow Bunting didn’t involve birds but instead several critters that we associate with warm summer days namely,  Noctule Bat, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies, Common Darter and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies all of which were out and about late in the month.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

December: A young Marsh Harrier was present for most of the month with another bird probably a female paying the odd appearance. They were joined by Merlin, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel illustrating the amount of prey available for these raptors on the marsh. Also present and adding to the picture were upwards of three Barn Owls and it makes the effort of visiting the marsh all the better particularly during the Starling murmurations over the sludge tanks. Passerines were well represented with 4-5 Chiffchaff, 9 Stonechats, a Rock/Water Pipit and Kingfisher. Frodsham Score on a high tide never fails to impress, with the likes of two Great White Egret, 18 Little Egret, 34 Pink-footed Geese, 20 Whooper Swans and 5 Bewick’s Swans making this a place worthy of a visit in 2015! Two Green Sandpipers nearby on the Manchester Ship Canal and a rare wintering Common Sandpiper was made even rarer by it being an albino. 1000 Golden Plover were on the mitigation area of No.3 tank at the months end. A Cetti’s Warbler at three different locations goes to show the range expansion of this species is unstoppable. The highlight of the month was found by Tony Broome when he spotted a Cattle Egret on the Canal Pools, hot on the heels of the first record for the marsh a couple of years back.

To all the photographers and birders who have taken the time and trouble to forward their Frodsham Marsh images and sightings we thank you.

Happy New Year and Good birding to all our readers for 2015.


More to be found here tomorrow and here as well… and like the page.

Credits for photographes in this post go to:

1. Paul Crawley;

2-5 & 7. WSM.

6. Allan Conlin.

8 & 11 & 13. Tony Broome.

9. Paul Brewster.

10 &12. Paul Ralston.

Cattle Egret #2 for Frodsham Marsh

Cattle Egret #2 for Frodsham Marsh by Tony Broome

13.12.14. Track on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

An early start and out of bed for 6.30 am, made the toast, sandwiches and coffee for another days birding Frodsham Marsh. I was hoping to be on site for 8am … wrong! My car was full of work stuff from a busy week and had to be emptied, that was once I’d got into the car! I couldn’t open the doors, the temperature being -4c and the car door frames were completely frozen shut! The pitfalls of working in all weathers and terrain. A little perseverance and eventually I was heading west. The roads were like glass and even the M56 hadn’t been gritted, my wheels sliding on a couple of occasions.
I stopped off at Costa Coffee in Frodsham (other coffee outlets are available…eds) and got my usual take-out latte fix with orange syrup (well, it is Christmas!). It was unusually busy…but I realised it was me that was late…being after 9 am. I drove over the motorway bridge at Marsh Lane, turned left and headed for No.6 tank to do the walk that I’ve decided suits me at the moment. The open water on the tank was virtually empty with ice covering most of it, a small number of Common Teal and Lapwings were huddled at the far side in what little water was open. It had warmed up, being a balmy -2c.

13.12.14. track to No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeI began to walk along the track towards No’s 3 and 4 tanks. A small group of five Ruff flew in from the west and disappeared over to the far side. I finally approached the western end of No.3 when I suddenly realised, I needed Wellington’s. The boots were warmer but a pair of wellies would have suited a bash of bog trotting looking for Jack Snipe. Muttering, I turned and went back to the car, making the decision to drive around to No.4 tank and off the marsh for a comfort and coffee break in Church Street. The day seemed to be rushing past me and I hadn’t done anything yet. Returning back to the marsh I meet Arthur Harrison by chance and after exchanging pleasantries and enquiring about the other Frodsham regulars, I wondered where there were? No sign of Frank, who, it turned out, had slipped on the ice and injured his thigh and elbow quite badly. Also, no sign of Bill either?

13.12.14. No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
The tracks were virtually undrivable, the pot holes full of deep water, but I was just glad to had arrived at last to the corner of No.4/3 and 6 tanks. I walked out to my favourite view-point, the north-east corner of the tank overlooking Frodsham Score. I put my rucksack down and got the toast and coffee out before scanning the Score. It was a fabulous spot, offering virtually a 360 degree view. The swans and geese were a long way to the west and the tide was out.

There were thousands of Lapwings and Golden Plovers which periodically erupted into a blizzard of birds as unseen raptors ambushed them out amongst the creeks. I stood and took it all in, munching on the toast and marmalade, savouring the peace and isolation. There was always something to see and my intention was to wander around any flooded marshy patches and to wait for the Starling roost.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
The wind was from the west but felt very cold, even as the temperature went into the positive side of zero degrees. I pulled by snook higher to cover my nose, tightened the drawstring on my gloves and put my hood up. It was going to be a long, very cold afternoon. I idly counted the cattle on No.3 and casually scanned towards Marsh Farm through my binoculars and immediately noticed a small white shape in the distance flying towards me. A gull? No, too white. Oh, an egret, probably a Little, but it looked ‘odd’. Somehow the wings looked shorter and it had a stiffer wing beat. Maybe not. I watched it come towards me. Alarm bells started to ring, especially as it suddenly veered towards the cattle and dropped in amongst them. Little’s didn’t do that! I swiveled the scope towards it and peered expectantly at the bird and couldn’t believe my eyes, it was indeed a Cattle Egret! I watched, feeling a sense of mild euphoria. I’d missed the first one for Frodsham Marsh last year and it was great to actually find my own instead. Logic told me that it was probably the Burton Marsh bird wandering further afield. I took off my gloves and got my camera out.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

The egret was on the edge of the herd and still a long way off so my first efforts were very record shot-ish. I began to make phone calls to the locals. Bill didn’t answer so I sent him a text. Frank didn’t answer either. Arthur did…and I believe he, immediately left his lunch on the table, Marie Celeste – like and headed back to the marsh. Frank called me, nursing his sore limbs from his fall earlier. However, the painkillers had began to work and a Cattle Egret on his local patch was too much of a temptation for him to stay house-bound and he too hobbled into his car and drove down. No reply from Bill again as I called. Where was he? Eventually, I got a strange text back asking me if I was on the marsh today? None of my attempts had reached him and he was about as far east as you can go, along the River Weaver. I text him back. ‘Cattle Egret on No3’….to which I got an even stranger reply back…’Seriously?’ ….but was then on his way in no particular hurry as always.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeAfter all this messaging I’d almost forgot about the Cattle Egret and when I tried to relocate it, it wasn’t there anymore! I scanned in desperation. Had it flown off? The others were heading my way as I searched. It suddenly walked out of the grass and into the open. Phew! It was still here. I crept closer and hid on the back side of a small mound by the ‘Splashing Pool’ and managed to get some better photographs. It hardly ever stopped moving and I missed the best shots when my battery ran out and I had to change it, cursing as I dropped it into the grass. My hands were freezing.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal Pools, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome

The egret had an interesting way of feeding. It would deliberately goad the cattle, walking up to them and standing in front of their noses, which seemed to irritate them and they chased it. Then it would stand nearby, neck extended and waving from side to side while keeping its head perfectly still, whilst it fluffed up its crown feathers. It was bizarre to watch and I can’t say I’ve noticed it before. It would then run around the rear of the cattle and pick up prey items. It also fed out in the open away from the cattle, following a strip of disturbed earth through some sheep. Bill and I watched it as it caught and gulped down a vole, probably a Short-tailed Field Vole, a nice fulsome meal.

13.12.14. Cattle Egret, Canal pools, frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeTypically, the Cattle Egret, a small white egret with a pronounced jowl. The bill was orangey-yellow, the cere pale yellow-green and the eye pale yellow with a dark iris. The short, stocky legs and feet greyish possibly with a pinkish tone in places. Overall it was all white with just a hint of a peach or apricot wash around the crown, jowls and breast.

As Bill and I watched it, it moved into the canal pool area and we lost sight of it around 3.15 pm. We didn’t see it fly but I guess with the cattle being out on No.3, it will stay around. Unfortunately Paul Ralston turned up just after it moved out of sight, but the bird looked settled and I guess during the course of its stay those who want to add it to their Frodsham Marsh list will catch up with it. I returned to my car and topped the coffee flask up with boiling water from my mobile primus stove and then returned to the watch where we stood in the falling temperatures, eating chocolate bars in eager anticipation of the forthcoming Starling murmuration that would be treating us to a show.

13.12.14. Starlings, No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome
Dusk fell as we waited and as the Starlings began to arrive, we were treated to a spectacular sunset. They swirled around in various flocks, one numbering thousands, which enveloped the cattle on No.3 like some dark cloak as they landed for one last feed before bedding down. Interestingly, the birds roosted in several different areas, making me wonder if they changed their roost nightly in an attempt to outwit the waiting raptors. All in all, a very enjoyable day on the marsh.

13.12.14. Starlings over No.3 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Brome (3)
Tony Broome (and images).

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.


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 My photography and nature blog.

Additional images by Paul Crawley and WSM.

Old Tom the Birder (part 2)

Old Tom the Birder (part 2)

Tom Edmondson

A photograph of Tom taken in 1953.

Tom's letter

Attached is a letter Tom sent me a few years ago and was something he would often do. One of the old school ornithologists who corresponded through letters and photographs illustrating his marsh visits. His letter (pictured) mentions an encounter with Martin Gilbert on Frodsham Marsh and Martin would spend many hours walking with Tom helping him spot birds and pointing them out for this elder birders ailing eyesight.

I could drone on all day long about Tom but I think these links below give an opportunity for Tom himself to tell his own story and the work he committed to his passion for birds and the areas he liked best.

Ornithology and Conservation in the Leigh District 1938-1956

A brilliant historical article about Leigh birding by Tom sums up his pioneering days.