26.11.17. Birdlog.

We called in to watch the Starling roost from the west banks of No.6 tank this evening.

There were again plenty of Shoveler, Mallard, Common Pochard being the most numerous and obvious species on show but we didn’t have time to sift through them. A gaggle of c80 Greylag flew over aimlessly wandering the area for somewhere to pitch for the night.

Standing on the banks waiting a Chiffchaff was calling from deep in the reed beds while a Cetti’s Warbler occasionally gave a brief snatch of song on both No.6 & 5 tanks.

Three Marsh Harrier were drifting over the distant banks and both a Kestrel and a Merlin were in the area.

It has become apparent during the last week or so that the Starling flocks are leaving it later and later to enter the area. The first signs of the Starling arrival involves a single bird circling the reed beds before it is joined by a few others. It usually takes an age but eventually the first big flocks begin to emerge which in turn connect with huge clouds of these birds spotted in the distance beyond the Growhow works.

Typically the first flocks waste no time and they immediately enter the reed bed roost making little chirpy calls to draw in other flocks. This evening the presence of the lingering harriers caused several thousand to form some pulsating murmurations before they braved the potential dangers and crashed into the roost. It takes about half an hour before the spectacle is over for another night.

Roost video here: https://vimeo.com/244553210

The evening sun setting behind the local fertiliser plant at Kamira GrowHow plant.

Observers: Mike & Mandy Turton, Sparky & WSM (video and images).

25.11.17. Birdlog.

A bitterly cold morning with periods of sunshine eventually gave way to rain, horizontal hail and a biting arctic blast.

Most of the duck could be found sheltering in the relatively sheltered eastern section of No.6 tank where one of the previous weeks 1st winter Scaup was still residing. A clustered flock of 45 Common Pochard outnumbered the Tufted Duck for a change and the most numerous species was the Shoveler flock numbering 348 birds. The 67 Pintail present could be found in the flooded daisy beds close to the southern edges of the tank with c123 Mallard, 3 Goldeneye and a couple of Fulvous Whistling Duck. Common Teal were in quite low numbers and many of the drakes were performing their nuptial head-tossing display.

Gulls coming into bathe during the mid morning period included a mixture of Herring, Lesser Black & Greater Back backed Gull and 2 adult and a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull. Also present were several hundred Black-headed and c80 Common Gull.

There were 14 Whooper Swan on Lordship Marsh with 23 Black-tail Godwit, Ruff and Curlew. In fields alongside the Holpool Gutter were several Mute’s where skeins of Pink-footed Goose were heading west and one flock was seen dropping onto Frodsham Score.

Stonechat and winter thrushes were common today with several hundred each of Redwing and Fieldfare tagging along with some Starling flocks roaming the fields and hedgerows. The usual Cetti’s Warbler was calling/singing from the willow thickets on No.5 tank.

Birds of prey were very much in evidence with an adult Peregrine flying over, closely followed by the young female which was carrying a Dunlin she had caught (out on the estuary). The young bird flew purposely to one of the many pylons and commenced to pluck and eat her prey high up, and away from the adult bird. The same or another Peregrine was sat up on the Kamira GrowHow plant at Ince. A couple of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also noted. The young male and female Marsh Harrier were often seen talon grappling high over the reeds during the day and they were joined by a couple of other females later in the day. A Merlin was attracted to all the passerine activity towards dusk but didn’t linger for long.

It wasn’t until dusk that all the real action started with the Starling flocks arriving in dribs and drabs and at one time it felt like they wouldn’t come in this evening. We shouldn’t have worried the main flocks reached fever pitch as the light dropped.

There was no swirling dancing masses of flocks making shapes in the evening sky, just wave after wave of hundreds and thousands descending into one given point. The birds simply decided to drop straight into their roost for the night. We never tire of watching them gather at their roost with each bird clinging to their chosen reed stems until their sheer combined weight collapses the reed bed. The birds then filter out through the reeds to roost at the base of the sprung back phragmites. I would estimate that there were c40,000 birds tonight but no two evenings are the same and numbers fluctuate given the weather and the predators present.

A day of many weather contrasts.

Observers: Paul Ralston (images 4-7), WSM (images 1-3 & 8-13), Image 14 by Paul Crawley.

24.11.17. Birdlog.

Sunshine for this mornings walk along No 6 tank, Chiffchaff amongst Long tailed tit flock, Flock of 42 Curlew, c120 Dunlin flew over No 6 but had nowhere to land so carried on back to the river. The two Fulvous Whistling Duck were once again on the water with there 75 Mallard buddies, Ducks included 230 Common Teal, 7 Wigeon, 67 Tufted Duck, c290 Shoveler, 42 Common Pochard and 34 Pintail. Shorebirds were few and far between with c1400 Lapwing by far the most numerous. There appears to be a dead swan at the back of first pools on No.3, it is partly hidden by foliage but with my telescope it does look like a bird, it is in the area I recorded a Mute Swan on my last visit.  There were no scavengers around it.

Observer: Joe Chester (image 1).

A Marsh Harrier was about at dusk with a Sparrowhawk harassing the mesmerising Starling murmurations on No.6 tank.

Observer: Shaun Hickey.

19.11.17. Birdlog.

I was out at first light this morning starting my walk at Ince. There were 2 Little Egret on the pools and another was being hounded by a flock of corvids which was forced to take cover. The pools harboured a few Mallard, Gadwall and Common Teal were also present.

Onward to the Manchester Ship Canal path and the bushes were full of winter Redwing and Fieldfare with a flock of Long-tailed Tit passing beneath them in the hedgerow.

A shoal of small fish were rising on the ship canal and several Little Grebe and a couple of Great Crested were attracted by their presence.

A single Great White Egret and several Little Egret were out on the salt marshes and c200 Pink-footed Goose dropped on to the marsh but didn’t linger and soon moved on. A short time later three Whooper Swan passed heading towards Lordship Marsh.

Several thousand Starling flew through from their roost making their way west along the canal. Those that settled to feed out on the salt marsh attracted the attention of a Merlin which targeted the smaller looser flocks.

The mitigation pool had a mixed flock of Wigeon and Common Teal with a lone Mute Swan for company. A little further away on No.6 tank a further two adult and two juvenile Whooper’s were on the water with 150 Common Teal, 60 Mallard, 270 Shoveler, 40 Pintail, 44 Common Pochard, 42 Tufted Duck, 20 Gadwall and 2 imm Scaup.

I walked along the footpath near the blue slurry tank to have a look at the Whooper Swan flock which contained 7 adults and 5 juvenile birds.

A Barn Owl was inadvertently flushed from the hedgerow then flew off with a posse of tits and buntings in hot pursuit. The fields bordering this hedge had 12 Whooper Swan (7 adults & 5 juveniles) which were grazing close to the M56 motorway.

Walking back along Lordship Lane I noted a mixed flock of Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting feeding in the stubble with Pied Wagtail which likewise were in good numbers. In the trees by the Growhow Works were more winter thrushes, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk.

Observers: Paul Ralston (& Mike Turton).

In the period from 3.00 pm a few other birds were worth writing in the note-book including: 12 Goldeneye flushed from the water beneath the east side of No.6 tank. The immature male Marsh Harrier drifted onto the tank quartering the reed bed. The Marsh was joined by a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier which drew the attention of a passing female Peregrine (she almost dwarfed the ringtail in her bulk). A Sparrowhawk and 2 Kestrel added to the BoP’s for the evening.

A flock of 80 Curlew flew from the south heading for the Mersey estuary for the night and small parties of Common Snip were dropping in to roost on No.6 tank.

Skeins of Pink-footed Goose were flying high in the distance above the Stanlow Oil Refinery and probably numbered 4-500 hundred birds in total. An adult White-fronted Goose was a nice addition for the WeBS counters out on the Ince and Score marshes.

A couple of Cetti’s Warbler were calling/singing from No.5-6 tanks and the Chiffchaff was again nearby.

After an invite to ‘The Birds of Frodsham Marsh’ facebook followers the evening saw 18 people ready for the Starling bonanza.

As the sun dropped below the horizon the Starling flocks began to emerge from the distance with flocks joining up and circling the area. Like previous evenings they lacked the murmurations that people who had come wanted to see. The birds don’t always perform on cue and instead of producing spectacular shows they instead shoot straight into their reed bed roost (which in itself is just as showy) before leap frogging each offer to move out to the centre of the tank. Perhaps the lack of raptor attacks would have contributed to the avian firework show?

The same or another Barn Owl was in the horse paddock off Moorditch Lane.

Observers: Paul Ralston (images 1-5), Mike Turton, Arthur Harrison, WeBS counters, Shaun & Courtney Hickey, Heather, Harley & Findlay (it’s been a long time since I added your names to a post) Wilde, Sparky & WSM (image 6) and facebook followers.

18.11.17. Birdlog.

I arrived early, but not too early and met AC on Moorditch Lane who had already seen a Scaup and 12 (5 juveniles) Whooper Swan at dawn We went our separate ways, me to do my WeBS count on No.6 tank and Alyn to ‘find himself’ over at Marsh Farm.

After a while of scanning across No.6 tank I managed to find both Scaup which have now both been present for 6 days. The Goldeneye immatures had increased to 4 birds but generally duck numbers were quite low compared to earlier in the week. There were 246 Shoveler, 63 Pintail, 36 Common Pochard, 31 Tufted Duck, 67 Mallard, 12 Gadwall, 123 Common Teal, 7 Wigeon and two Fulvous Whistling Duck which flew around the open water a few times before exiting stage right.

A small flock of 43 Dunlin flew in and out during the height of the tide.

A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reed bed for most of the afternoon into the evening while a Merlin put in a couple of appearances, mostly in pursuit of its lunch and supper.

A Little Egret flew through and headed out to the estuary while several skeins of Pink-footed Goose totalling c500 headed from the south-west and pitched down on Ince Marshes (presumably they are overspills from the Dee Marshes?).

A couple of Cetti’s Warber were calling from the willow thickets and a Chiffchaff was towed along by a roving band of Long-tailed Tits.

A Buff-tailed Bumlebee flying past me was a bit of a surprise. The clouds produced some interesting formations with Herringbone, Mare’s tails and the above rib cage effect.

I put out an invite to my Twitter followers to join me on the banks of No.6 tank for the Starling dusk roost. It was a nail-biting end of day spectacle but eventually from nowhere c30,000 birds streamed in from various locations and wheeled around in front of a dozen or so admirers. Although there wasn’t any bendy shaped murmurations on offer, there were plenty of oo’s and awe’s to keep everyone entertained. The majority of the roost relocated and pitched down for the night in the reeds in the centre of the bed and I presume our presence may have contributed to that?

During the course of the evening numerous flights of Common Snipe were moving about with a combined total of 109 with 40 Black-tailed Godwit, c100 Curlew and another Little Egret.

A great evening to share one of our local nature events…for free!

Observers: Alyn Chambers, Shaun Hickey, Paul Ralston (images 2 & 6 & 8-9), Mike & Mandy Turton, WSM (images 1 & 3-5 & 7 & 10) and twitter friends.

17.11.17. Birdlog.

I squeezed in 20 minutes of birding (after work) and during the only blast of sunlight we have had all day illuminated the marsh. Soon after the early evening gloom closed the day away and we trudged to the bright lights of Christmas shopping. 

It was immediately obvious as we walked along the track on No.5 tank that the swirling mass of black in the distance was several Starling murmurations. Flocks of them were streaming in from several directions and the appearance of a young male Marsh Harrier and later a Merlin sent them into an impressive series of pulsating clouds of predator evading birds. This spectacle doesn’t occur every evening and mostly the birds enter the reed beds without too much ado, but when the weather conditions are right they linger in large flocks long enough to create impressive performances.

The flocks streamed through with several thousand gathering into a down pipe and drop en masse into their chosen reed bed roost for the night.

Today I would say there were 50,000 birds and I’ll be here at dusk tomorrow evening if you want to catch up and (perhaps) enjoy it for yourself?

Close by a Cetti’s Warbler was singing away while a Chiffchaff was calling alongside the path we were watching from.

Observers: Sparky & WSM (all images).

13.11.17. Birdlog.

A very early start with the sun lighting up the sky from the east and all of the pot holes along Moorditch Lane frozen.

I had to be careful with popping my head above the banks overlooking No.6 tank even in the dark. The sound of honking Canada Goose filled the air accompanied by whistles from the Wigeon mingling close by. Eventually the dawn chorus erupted and the best part of the geese splashed and flapped their way off the open water and headed out across the reed beds to the salt marshes on the edge of the Mersey estuary. With the dawn light came another flight of c500 departing Wigeon in loose flocks following the Canada’s.

After a period of calm the rest of the ducks settled and I managed to get a thorough scan of those present. It wasn’t really a surprise to count 978 Wigeon remaining, there were more on the eastern side of the tank but to shift by position would have meant disturbing the birds below where I was watching from. Other ducks included: 2 Goldeneye, 64 Pintail, 23 Common Pochard, 2 1st winter (female?) Scaup, 43 Tufted Duck, a few Gadwall, 120 Mallard and 587 Common Teal including the Green-winged Teal that’s been knocking around for a week or so.

The young male and young female Marsh Harrier were quartering the reed beds but soon lifted into the sky and headed into a south-westerly direction (Dee marshes?). The Peregrine was sat on the lip of the blue-topped chimney overlooking Weston Point.

The flooded fields off Lordship Lane were frozen so there wasn’t much in the way of passerines. A flock of c300 Redwing and Fieldfare were notable. One small flock were perched uncomfortably close to a perched Common Buzzard.

There were 3 Whooper Swan in fields close to the M56 motorway.

Three Cetti’s Warbler were widely scattered ranging from No.4 to No.5 tank.

Observer and images: WSM.