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Marsh Harrier at Whixall Moss

3rd January 2020

At last I’ve got Marsh Harrier on my Salop list!! Two county ticks in a week including the Yellow-browed Warbler a few days ago at Shifinal.

Yesterday morning, Ed Wilson had the first site record of a Great White Egret at Trench Pool! I was so gripped off that it was on my patch when I visit Salop. I was more gripped off as I was only across the road at Middle Pool with Salop birders twitching the pair of Red-crested Pochard that I had the day before but there was no sign of them. It was only my forth for the county and if you can count them, the others were all single males. The first was in ’89, I think. I twitched it at Martin Pool and found a pair of Scaup there as well. This was followed by an individual found by Alan Heath at Whitemere with the returning stunning male Smew in the early 90’s. A few years later I made a visit to Chetwyd where I peered over the tall wall right at the north end and there in front of me were 2 redhead Smew with a male Red-crested Pochard! Where have all the Smew gone? Not just in Salop but the whole of Britian? Back at Middle Pool we did get the Yellow-legged Gull and the Pink-footed Goose came in with the large flock of Greylag Geese. I made the short journey down to Hortonwood where there were 4 Yellow-legged Gull.

By the comparing images, you can make out that there are two different Yellow-legged Gulls visiting both Trench and Middle Pool. The adult from a few days ago and this near adult.

Two of the Yellow-legged Gull at each end of the pic at Hortonwood. altogether there were 3 adult and a 4th winter on the roofs.

So this morning I was up with the sun but there was only the Yellow-legged Gull on Trench Pool and no sign of the egret. For first time, I thought I would try out Allscott Sewage Works for any phylloscs. Driving past Shawbirch I spotted the Greylag flock flying east. I guess towards Middle Pool and with them was the Pink-footed Goose. One of the reasons I’ve never tried the sewage works is because of the access and parking. I did find a pull in and walked into a field, bordering the the perimeter fence, and stumbled upon a public footpath. Ideal! I had only walked for a few minutes and the first birds I come across is 30+Skylark and 2 Chiffchaff fly catching in the sun. However, after walking the circuit of the sewage works along the footpath, I saw nothin else of note.

The Pink-footed Goose that I had flying east over Shawbirch yesterday morning towards Middle pool where I took this pic the day before on the pool itself.

My first visit to Allscott Sewage Works produced 2 Chiffchaff. I’ll be making more returning here more times in the future.

When I lived in Salop, despite a pair just breeding down the road from my house near to Wall Farm in the 80’s, Marsh Harrier was pretty hard to see in the county with maybe one record a year. However, in the last ten plus years they are now seen both on spring and autumn passage with an occasional bird in the winter. So when Rob Dowley had an individual coming into roost at Whixall Moss yesterday late afternoon, I had to go for it. I arrived at the latter sight just after one, walked from out of the trees, on the main path from the car park, into the open of the moss to see a Peregrine dogfighting with the Marsh Harrier! I observed them for a good five minutes playing in the air together before the Marsh Harrier drifted off towards Furbers where I lost it. It was some thirty minutes later while almost stroking a very tame Carrion Crow, that I picked the harrier up in the far SE corner followed by a Merlin perched up in the distance. With good views of the harrier, I was debating if to go home and do Prisorlee Lake as John Reeves had a new 2nd winter Caspian Gull in the roost there yesterday. My mind was made up when I crossed paths with the main man of the moss, Stephen Barlow. I stayed with him til dusk as he told me that we might see the ring-tailed Hen Harrier that he saw on and off up to two weeks ago. That was only because it was his first visit since then. Also, Short-eared Owl could be on the cards. No sign of the ring-tail but we did see a single Stonechat and coming into roost, 2 Merlin and the Marsh Harrier. We also counted over 3000 Starling coming into roost nearby but this was nothin to the 100,000 that were roosting there since November onwards until last week.

In the evening, John Martin was at Prisorlee Lake roost and got a new adult Caspian Gull, adult Mediterranean Gull and the 2nd winter hybrid thing.

This 1st year male Marsh Harrier was on display over Whixall Moss for a good five minutes dog fighting with a female Peregrine. Not bad for my first Salop Marsh Harrier.

This crazy tame Carrion Crow was in the center of the moss and allowed me to approach it as close as a meter away! I started talking to it, as you do, and it seemed to be listening. Stephen Barlow told that it’s been around for awhile and very often walks infront of him when he comes across the crow.

Whixall Moss looking ESE where there has been of interest, 2 Great Grey Shrike together, Rough-legged Buzzard and Red-necked Phalarope in the past. In the Birch woods, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrest and only a few year back, Arctic Redpoll have been trapped and ringed. It was in the early 90’s when I had some 100 Mearly Redpoll at the moss, during the invasion year into the UK, and I’m sure I had a Arctic Redpoll with them. They were just so mobile and also feeding above looking into the bad light. There were also a lot of Arctic Redpoll in the Midlands at the time including three spending a lot of time on the Salop side of the Wyre Forest which was ideal!

Only the second site record for me at Trench Pool, a male Teal.

We discovered that the finder of the Yellow-browed Warbler last Sunday, also had a Siberian Chiffchaff on the same day. with only one accepeted Salop record trapped at Whixall Moss, I was back again on the 2nd, searching through the tit flocks at Shifinal Sewage works. This time there were a lot more birders also present but all we could find were the 2 Chiffchaff and a very mobile Yellow-browed Warbler.


Author: Kris Webb 10

I love to throw sticks at trees! I also can’t get enough of music! I also blog about my observations on Scilly and wherever I go around the world and what’s sometimes on my mind. I’ve visited over 30 countries and some more times than once. I’ve worked and volunteered in Nepal, USA, Peru, Gambia, Costa Rica, 3x Australia, and refugee camps in Palestine The profile image is one I took while in Palestine of a brave Israeli holding high the Palestinian flag in front of the Israeli Offensive Forces during protests in Belin

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