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WDAA Wildlife and conservation
March to July 2013

This is the first official sightings report detailing anything of note for the WADAA area
between the period March to July 2013. Species mentioned here may be classed as
common when considering them on a national scale but are worthy of mention for those
interested in local wildlife and conservation issues. Where available any photographic
images have been supplied with this report.
We don’t need reminding that winter seemed to drag on for ever this year with the late
start to spring resulting in most things happening a few weeks later than usual for
the time of year. Despite the long cold spell lasting well into May, the summer visiting
birds did slowly make their way back into the area and onto our local waters. In fact some
of the winter birds such as Fieldfare and Redwing were still here in large numbers when
others were starting to arrive from warmer climates. Nesting times for most species
were delayed by a week or two and even now at the end of July there are plenty of young
birds being tended at the nest, also fledglings that have just left are now learning to fend
for themselves. The cold weather wasn’t all bad as it did throw up a few new species to add
to the local list, these will be mentioned in this report.  
The first Chiffchaff of the year was seen on the Bottom Flash on 23rd March marking a
start to the spring. 2 swallows were over the yacht club on 10th April which is at least a
week later than normal, closely followed by Sand Martins on 13th April.
The first Common Sandpiper was noticed on the mudflats on 27th April.  A quick walk along
the Rilshaw length in mid March led to the first of the new species being sighted, a Water Rail
which stayed around for at least two weeks giving some good photo opportunities, a few of
these are attached.
rail 3rail 2rail 1
The Bottom Flash has been the home to some Oystercatcher and Shelduck for a number
of years with the possibility of them both nesting in the area. The Oystercatchers were seen
mating earlier in the year on 5th May and are still present which suggests they could
be breeding on the water. A pair of Shelduck usually raise a brood which are generally
found at the far end of Rilshaw Lane section near to the spit. A small number of Reed Warblers
nest in the reedbeds between the marina and the same area. These have raised at least
one brood with the young birds recently moving round in the cover of the now tall reed
stems giving occasional brief glimpses.
During April in the evening,Curlews could be heard calling from the Way’s Green side of the
flash, making their typical warbling sound as they come in to land, probably to roost on the
adjacent farmland. The first week in July resulted in the brief sighting of a pair of Terns moving
over the Marina section whilst driving on the roundabout, probably Arctic Terns judging by their
slim profile and long tail pattern but this is unconfirmed due to the lack of time available for
identification. The other possibility is that they were Common Terns, either of which are personal
first sightings for this area.
kingfisherking 2
Moving further up river to the Upper Weaver sections around Hunting Bridge has provided some
interest The Kingfishers along that stretch continue to breed there and a nest site was found
earlier this year. It is important to note that it is a criminal offence to disturb these birds at
nesting time so caution and vigilance is always advised.
This is a species that appears to be doing well on our waters at present, they can be seen
anywhere from Newbridge down to the Marina, through the Bottom Flash and as mentioned
onto the Upper Weaver. Also they are on New Pool, Tommy’s Hole and Rookery Pool,
there is probably some movement between the stillwaters as they can be seen on the feeder
streams that link through from Petty Pool to Tommy’s Hole. These birds generally give themselves
away by a high pitched ‘piping’ sound and flash of brilliant blue as they disappear along the water.
They tend to sit tucked away under branches of willows that overhang many of our waters but with
persistence it is possible to find more open spots that they favour such as stumps or sticks which
make good feeding stations. I have included some photos taken on the Upper Weaver from such a
king 5king 3king 4
A more controversial nesting species from this stretch of water was the Goosander, which can be
seen as detrimental to fish stocks. This is the only record I know of breeding in the Winsford area
so the damage caused by one family would be minimal and they appear to have dispersed now.
From a personal point of view it was pleasing to see them although I am not sure this feeling will
be shared by all anglers, either way it is a new nesting species which is always a good sign from
a conservation perspective. The resident Grey Wagtails continue to breed here and a brood of
youngsters was recently seen feeding amongst the branches of a fallen tree over the water.
gooseandergoose 2
National Pool situated next to the Weaver near to the Salt Mine attracts typical summer visitors
with Blackcap and Whitethroat nesting in the undergrowth around the pool.A pair of Whitethroat
were busy feeding their young at a nest site in the brambles very close to the towpath along the river.
One visit to this area did throw up a new finding, a group of Sand Martins were very active catching
flies over the water and moving between the pool and the salt piles along Bradford Road. A quick drive
around gave the answer, they had created a nest site in one of the faces of the salt piles, an unusual
but at the same time obvious place due to the lack of sand quarries in Winsford now. This is the first
time for many years that I have known Sand Martins to nest in our area. Hopefully the salt will be
compact enough to resist any movement and sliding which could be devastating to the breeding birds.
Newbridge Pool continues to be a prime location for summer birds with a number returning each year
to breed.The 20th April was a notable date this year when the first Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler,
Blackcap and Whitethroat were all recorded for this location.
Tommy ’s Hole is an under-visited place, certainly by anglers, but can be interesting if you are prepared
to sit quietly for a while. This year we had breeding Mandarin which raised at least two broods and
there are Little Grebe which usually raise a family there. The inlet stream and mud-bank attracts birds
to feed and drink from here, wildfowl move in and although not rare, a pair of Stock Dove were
recently seen taking a drink. Last winter this was the home to a Green Sandpiper which stayed around
for a few weeks.

One species that seems to be doing well and can be found at a few of our waters is the Lesser Spotted
Woodpecker. Often this is difficult to see unless it makes itself really obvious, especially when the
trees are covered in foliage. It can give itself away by a high pitched calling similar to a Kestrel or Hobby.
Generally a good time to spot them is February to April time before any leaves appear and they are
starting to become territorial when looking for nest sites. This year I have found them on New Pool,
Rookery Pool, River Weaver near to Newbridge and at Hunting Bridge plus a possible record of one at
Tommy’s Hole.
As mentioned in the initial report, Hobby can be found locally and a few sightings have been made
around our waters. Along the National Length of the Weaver where the Sand Martins are resident
and also on the Upper Weaver near to the Top Flash. This is bird which I think is overlooked in the
Winsford area and could possibly be more numerous than expected. Each year they are seen in
different locations and we had one hunting around our housing estate back in May.
Kestrel are found hunting on the open ground opposite the Salt Works, this is a bird in serious decline
nationally and numbers locally have definitely dropped in recent years. Probably the best sighting
for this period was opposite the Salt Works on 10th May, a Red Kite flew over and turned away towards
the Whitegate area, a definite local first and really worthy of mention.

Ravens have been active around Rookery Pool, they usually nest in the tall pine trees in the adjacent
woodland and have a flight path between Rookery Pool and Petty pool. Earlier in the year a group of
about a dozen Wheatear were recorded on out-lying farmland of the town, being present for a few weeks
plus a single Whinchat was also noted.
The arrival of the warmer weather brought the emergence of dragonflies and damselflies, several species
of which have been recorded. Newbridge Pool is a hotspot for dragonflies and recent sightings include
Common, Brown and Migrant Hawkers, whilst on Rookery Pool an Emporer Dragonfly was seen patrolling
down the centre of the Pool. Damselflies records include Common Blue, Azure, Red-Eyed, Blue tailed and
Banded Damoiselle, the latter of which can be numerous on stretches of the Upper Weaver. I will try to
bring more information in next months report on this subject.
Looking to the future, we are in contact with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust who will be providing training for
habitat management for Water Voles, the RSPB who are likely to give some advice on bird conservation
and Glenn Young from the Canal and Rivers Trust who has provided some initial training on invasive plant
management. Glenn has also provided a contact with their ecologist for advice on conservation issues.
Hopefully we can establish some nesting sites for bird life before next spring and continually improve our
waters to attract wildlife. Updates to any developments will be included in these reports.
As always, happy angling, tight lines and good spotting.

Graham Bayliss