A whopping 9.7 m tide out on the Mersey estuary was eagerly anticipated over the last week.I was joined by Alyn on the north banks of No. 6 tank watching and waiting for the birds to come in…that was the plan but somebody should have told the birds.
It was a surprise to find that all of the Wigeon and Pintail and a good proportion of the Common Teal had vacated the sludge tank? Those that decided to stay included: 268 Shoveler, 26 Gadwall, 12 Common Shelduck, 4 Common Pochard, 67 Tufted Duck, 200 Common Teal and 12 Mallard. A juvenile Great Crested Grebe joined a few Dabchick.
There were quite a few Black-headed and Common Gull resting up with 7 Herring, 3 Great Black & 30 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 adult Yellow-legged Gull (a local rarity).
Big tides usually mean big numbers of shorebirds but I mentioned earlier these things don’t always go to plan. There was already a flock of c230 Black-tailed Godwit in situ and it wasn’t long before 3 Bar-tailed Godwit dropped in to join them. A flock of 100 Lapwing and 45 Ruff were enough for 40 Grey Plover, 16 Curlew, 2 Knot, c70 Dunlin and 7 Snipe to join in the fun.
A further c100 Black-tailed Godwit were in a field by the River Weaver and a single Pink-footed Goose flew over towards the Mersey estuary.
Raptors were in short supply no doubt sampling the bountiful selection out on the salt marshes. A juvenile Marsh Harrier was quartering the reed beds on the tank dislodging a feeding flock of 250 Goldfinch. A Kestrel flew over the unconcerned waders.
A Wheatear was on the pipes of No. 1 tank.
Observers: Alyn Chambers (image 1), WSM (images 2-5).
An early afternoon walk from my start at Ince marshes and then along the Manchester Ship Canal and around No.4 tank. The pools near the pig farm at Ince had a single Little Egret along with several Gadwall, Common Teal and Little Grebe. Out alongside the ship canal path there was a flock of Long-tailed Tit which also held a few Great and Blue tit with a couple of Goldcrest along for good measure.
Looking across to Frodsham Score and Ince salt marshes and a large flock of mixed gulls sat out the incoming tide and were made up of Great Black-backed, Herring and Common Gull. Both the Lapwing and Starling flocks rose into the air with the Starling flocking to form a tight bait ball but I didn’t notice any raptors? There were more Little Egret feeding out on the marsh with 1 or 2 Great White Egret noted. A dozen Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew fed in the field next to the Holpool Gutter.
While walking along Lordship Lane a flock of 30 Ruff were feeding in a flooded corn field until flushed out by a Common Buzzard.
The Mersey ferry the ‘Royal Iris’ sailed west along the ship canal making its way back to the Pierhead, Liverpool and flushed a Green Sandpiper from the banks.
Video of the Royal Iris sails through Wigg Island, Runcorn: Royal Iris
Observer: Paul Ralston (and images).
A large flock of 522 Black-tailed Godwit were on the flooded No.6 tank sludge with 650 Lapwing and 67 Ruff.
Ducks included: 5 Pintail, 28 Gadwall, 16 Common Shelduck, 197 Shoveler, 340 Common Teal, 64 Tufted Duck, 4 Common Pochard and 19 Wigeon.
Other notable birds were Peregrine and 2 Water Rail.
Observer: Joe from Chester.
The evening light was rather poor with a brisk wind backed by a threatening rain belt heading in from the sea. I made my visit to No.6 tank very brief but Whipper had got there a little earlier. Despite the conditions there were plenty of ducks to keep our interest level hovering above…wanting to leave early.
The Wigeon flock were mostly hidden in the flooded sea daisy/aster beds. If you wait long enough they will eventually flushed themselves from cover and settle on the open water before they waddle back into the vegetation to feed. I estimated that there was 320 birds with 30 Pintail, 101 Gadwall, 40 Mallard, 240 Common Teal and 20 Common Shelduck. An incredible flock of 310 Shoveler were spinning in tight groups across the water and they were joined by c500 Canada Goose flighting in for their evening roost.
When we get large numbers of ducks and geese on No.6 it is usually when the water is table is much higher, but this vastly reduces the variety and numbers of shorebirds. There was 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Golden Plover, 11 Redshank, 83 Ruff and the leucistic Lapwing (first spotted on 30.09.17).
A Marsh Harrier was watched flying over the reed beds.
Observers: Mark (Whipper) Gibson, WSM (and images).
A dry start ended up with continuous rain but this time I had multiple dry clothes to keep the old optics dry.
I met up with Alyn and we headed along Brook Furlong Lane to walk along the edge of the River Weaver. There was little passerine activity along the track with just a couple each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest to keep the interest level flickering. The Weaver estuary had a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over while a Common Sandpiper, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit and c200 Redshank with a few Tufted Duck, 1 Great Crested and a few Little Grebes for company. A watch over the Weaver Sluices beyond to the Mersey estuary produced 4 Little Egret, a few Curlew, 2000 Canada’s with a single Barnacle Goose and the Bar-headed Goose again after a long absence.
The rain had started by the time we arrived at Marsh Farm which unsurprisingly was quiet with only a flock of 60 Goldfinch moving about but we met up with Paul and then Mike en route to No.6 tank.
Alyn had already had a look over the sludge tank earlier and countered an impressive 110 Ruff! There were 550 Black-tailed Godwit, 20 Common Snipe and 1 Golden Plover so not a bad return for a flooded wader unfriendly tank.
Wigeon numbers have risen remarkably with 306 birds present feeding on the flooded daisy bed seed heads. The Pintail was a common bird to see over the Mersey marshes throughout the 1970’s, but today numbers have dropped almost off the chart. It was really good to see this species back in low but healthy looking counts today. The Shoveler continues to push its numbers higher each autumn and the 304 birds present on the water may increase in the next week for my WeBS count here? Common Teal had already reached 500 birds and we expect their numbers to rocket over next month and today a juvenile Garganey was them and is just the sole representative this autumn. There were several cluster groups of nuptial pairs of Gadwall displaying they didn’t leave it long for this summers end. Towards early evening big herds of Canada Goose were whiffling in and when I left there was over 1,000 present. Alyn had 2 Little Egret earlier with an Egyptian Goose here so it was obvious these were birds from Hale Marsh where that bird has been lingering during the summer.
Other birds seen include Little Egret and juvenile Peregrine over No.3 tank plus 6 Swallow heading south.
A Stoat was running along the sodden lane on No.5 tank.
Observers: Alyn Chambers, Mike Turton, Paul Ralston, WSM (and image).
The water level on No.6 tank prevents any tsuitable drier/damp ground for small waders to settle and thus for the time being we don’t expect any Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint to remain here until the level drops. Birds spotted today both from a morning and an afternoon visit include: 8 Little Grebe, 4 Grey Heron, 7 Moorhen, Black-headed Gull 280. 47 Ruff, 420 Lapwing, 4 Golden Plover, 480 Black-tailed Godwit, 32 Gadwall, 25 Mallard (with another 31 on the Splashing Pool), 9 Pintail, 27 Common Shelduck, 278 Shoveler, 480 Common Teal, 47 Tufted Duck and 32 Wigeon.
A Swallow was noted heading through and a couple of Cetti’s Warbler were vocal in both the am and pm period.
At dusk I took a stroll along Brook Furlong Lane and apart from a couple of Goldcrest it was rather quiet, that was until two birds starting calling from the Hawthorn hedgerow by the horse paddock field. I was keen when a Yellow-browed Warbler swee-oo call was coming from the trees adjacent to the path, but it was difficult to pick up the bird. I eventually managed to get a decent view of it but was presented with a Chiffchaff! Almost immediately another was giving the same call and after locating that bird it too was a Chiffchaff. There have been birds giving similar calls throughout the Mersey Valley over the last month and obviously there is much to discuss over their origin?
The flooded turf field by the motorway bridge had a big flock of Black-headed Gull, 25 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Ruff.
Nature Notes #60
A Stoat was watched running along the track above No.6 tank.
Numerous dragonflies and butterflies were on the wing in the bright sunshine including: Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Large and Small White’s.
A few Fly Agaric were fruiting locally with some splendid examples to be seen.
Orange Bolette fungi.
Observers: Joe from Chester (images 1-4) & WSM (images 5-13).
A blog post covering two evenings. The first visit concentrated on the passerines along Brook Furlong Lane with the previous days report of a Yellow-browed Warbler a memory for just a couple of observers. I walked the length of the lane keen to pick up the Long-tailed Tit flock and it didn’t take me long to find them leap frogging each other through the hawthorn hedgerow. The usual contact calling ensued with both Great and Blue Tit dragged along with a couple of Goldcrest for good measure. A Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bullfinch were present with 6 Chiffchaff in the Sycamore and Ash trees by the ramp track to Alder Lane.
It always seems the highest tides are during the afternoons so work commitments govern the cream of the crop recently. This evenings tide wasn’t particularly high and I wasn’t expecting to see much on No.6 tank. The water level here is increasing so the wide areas of mud and dry ground have disappeared for the time being. I settled on the north banks looking slightly into the evening light at a group of 243 Shoveler, 167 Common Teal, 16 Pintail, 30 Wigeon, 109 Tufted Duck, a drake Common Pochard, 12 Common Shelduck (juveniles). 10 Gadwall and 24 Mallard. It was interesting to see the Wigeon back and the flooded daisy beds always attract them to settle here feeding of the seed heads along with the Teal.
A roost of 235 Black-tailed Godwit were mostly hunched together at the south side but a raptor flew over their heads and everything on the sludge tank rose into the air. This was a great opportunity to count both the ducks and the waders. I would have struggled to see what was hiding in the daisy beds until this happened but a flock of 43 Ruff emerged and after the commotion had settled they started to feed out in the open. Along with a single juvenile Golden Plover, 400 Lapwing, 6 Redshank and a variety of gulls.
A quiet evening but nice to get some good numbers of both duck and Ruff tonight.
Observer: WSM (and image)
I met Paul Kurs on the motorway bridge that crosses the M56 on Brook Furlong Land just off Marsh Lane accessed from Main Street in Frodsham at 7.30 am. It was a partially cloudy morning with the wind veering south with just a hint of south-east in it.
We both set off along the lane heading north towards the River Weaver. There were a few skeins of Canada’s and Pink-footed Goose doing their usual vacating the marsh and heading to an unknown location inland.
Shortly after we had started our attention was drawn to a large flock of mostly Long-tailed Tit by their distinctive ‘thrup’ calls. The flock contained a few Blue and Great Tit along with 2 Goldcrest, this type of passerine combo is usual around early autumn. A few Chiffchaff were periodically contact calling from our left and right side and showing themselves now and again. A smaller warbler flew across the path ahead of us and disappeared into a large Elder. We immediately suspected that it could be a Yellow-browed Warbler but needed a second view to confirm our initial suspicion. The bird fortunately emerged to give a full on view before vanishing into a bramble patch. I left Paul and walked ahead but he was lagging behind and managed a third view as it had a swipe at a Chiffchaff, showing its distinctive white wing bar during the skirmish. After that the warbler flew up the bank of No.5 tank and disappeared from view.
We continued our walk onwards to the River Weaver where Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Stonechat were the only other highlights.
A walk further along the lane to Marsh Farm resulted in seeing c150 Goldfinch along with a c30 Meadow Pipit and some more Stonechat.
On our return along Brook Furlong we saw the tit flock again but there was no sign of the YbW.
We managed 60 species for our visit which was a great count in just a few hours of birding and obviously the small piece of Siberia stole the show!
Written by Shaun Hickey.