Please note that this is my own personal blog and therefore the views and opinions expressed, although in no way intended to be controversial, are not necessarily those shared by my employers Abbotsbury Tourism Ltd. and Ilchester Estates . All photos are © Steve Groves unless otherwise credited.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

At Last A (Snow) Flurry Of Activity

There was a rather quiet end to the week but an excellent start!
I fed today and yesterday and had a round of the hides and withy-bed but found little of note. The best birds on Friday were a Marsh Harrier and a Merlin… both over while I was baiting the decoy pipes first thing. The nets are under repair at the moment so we are not actually operating the decoy as yet but by baiting it now we hope to start catching some duck for ringing fairly soon.

I was away in London on Wednesday and Thursday… staying with my brother Rob enabling me to see his play that he has co-written and is directing. It is called ‘The Unrest Cure’. A  P.G. Woodhouse inspired comedy set in Chickerell it is showing at The Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead until the 26 November… plug, plug! I did manage to get in a little birding at Rob’s local golf club in Finchley where the highlight for a country bumpkin like me, were several Ring-necked Parakeets. This species is actually on my Swannery list but as any in west Dorset are more likely direct escapes rather than naturalised this may be a bit stringy!
Another naturalised species on The Swannery list is Mandarin Duck and although initially my first few records were probably escapes, recent birds are perhaps far more likely to be birds from the now burgeoning North Dorset population.  I have come across many recently during swan rescue work and on estate land north of Dorchester so the two present on Monday may well have been legitimate.

Male Mandarin Duck on the Decoy Pond
 (it just happens to be standing in front of some anti-erosion mesh)

Female Mandarin Duck by the tank traps. At no point did I see the 'pair' together.
After saying in my last blog that there had as yet been no Redwings, Fieldfares or Bramblings I was informed that ringers Steve and Luke had seen a Brambling in the finch flock on the swan nest site last weekend. Also several Fieldfares were around this week with one flock of seven coming in off the beach. Other passerine highlights included a few Bearded Tits… heard but not seen as was last week’s still lingering Bullfinch.
A hint of wader passage around the full moon was probably not a coincidence… with a couple of Golden Plover, a Black-tailed Godwit and ten Dunlin joining the Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank already present.
There were still good numbers of dabbling duck but diving duck were still low in number, though the single Scaup and ‘Ferruchard’ were still present off and on and a few Brent Geese flew through. Last weeks Red-breasted Goose has been tracked down on the Exe where it is accompanying Canada Geese and it is in some quarters now being reported as of ‘unknown origin’.
Red Fox and Teal...

Red Fox and more Teal...

Red Fox and yet more Teal and Pintail...
And then there were none...
We're always telling school groups how the decoy used to be operated by a man using a red dog to lure the ducks in relying on there instinct to follow potential land predators knowing they can easily make their getaway when required!

I’m leaving the best to last however as there were three potential Swannery ticks in the offing for me this week. The first was a Common Crane that after being seen briefly at Radipole on Sunday was relocated on The Fleet at Langton Herring on Monday. Checking the Dorset Bird Clubs Sightings first thing Tuesday I also learned of a Snow Bunting on Abbotsbury Beach, also on the Monday, which was seen to fly into my recording area. I was rather gutted as I had been working in the area up to ten minutes before the sighting! Luckily I managed to pop over to the beach in my coffee break on Tuesday and there it was still present feeding on the path at the back of the beach and within my patch… rounding my patch list up to 260! I really should have got this species before but there have only been two Abbotsbury records during my tenure and it is unclear whether either was actually seen on the patch. With the bunting safely under my belt I could now turn my attention to the crane… but despite keeping an eye out all morning it didn’t appear. Late morning I heard that it was still well settled at Langton Hive so in my lunch hour I popped over to at least get it on my Fleet list. I arrived just in time to see it sailing off west and terrified I was going to miss it at The Swannery I hurried back but to no avail as it settled at Rodden Hive instead… within the Parish of Abbotsbury (despite several major rarities there being published as being at Langton Herring!) but still a couple of miles short of The Swannery. And as I write that is still where it is, so I’m still hoping that over the next few days I may pick it up on my patch. There has only been one previous Abbotsbury record and again before my tenure and I’m not sure whether it was within the patch. The third potential tick stalled just short of Abbotsbury at Langton Herring…literally as it was picked up exhausted… a Pallid Swift! Now wouldn’t that have been a good record for The Swannery?!
Snow Bunting Abbotsbury Beach

And another shot.

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