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, 18 March 2012

'‘Aix’ & Pains'

This week's three Barnacle Geese of unknown but perhaps genuinely wild origin?
When are 'wildfowl' not really wild at all but 'escapefowl' or 'feralfowl'? A difficult one to call if the bird in question is fully winged, unringed and in fine fettle. The week and its' problem waterfowl started with three Barnacle Geese dropping in almost a week to the day that the last lingering bird departed. The same three birds had been seen further down The Fleet the day before and are rather skittish and staying out in the meadow rather than joining their feral Canada Geese cousins in the grounds. Are they tardy arctic breeders or are they part of the growing naturalised ('feral') British population? Then on Tuesday two drake Mandarin Ducks arrived. There was a time when any Mandarin arriving here at The Swannery would be assumed to be an escape but now with a healthy naturalised population in Dorset these two wary birds were perhaps more likely to be 'feral'? Then today the biggest headache of the lot a stunning drake Wood Duck arrived. Now Wood Ducks are very closely related to Mandarins being with them the only two species placed in the genus Aix and like them they are very common in captivity. For this reason, despite some intriguing records, they are not included on the British list as the powers that be believe the escape likelihood out ways the chance of a natural occurrence. However they are also one of the commonest wild ducks in North America and Canadian breeders can winter as far south as the Caribbean so as with many American ducks crossing 'the pond' may not be a problem for them. An (American?) Blue-winged Teal turned up in Cornwall a couple of days ago... are any birders suggesting that's an escape? Now the 'Woody' in question is not exactly wary (although maybe a little more so than the Mallards it's associating with) but are all wild Wood Ducks in America wary? A Ring-necked Duck a few years back here came in for wheat and that wasn't deemed an escape, indeed there are many wild ducks at The Swannery that aren't wary (and don't even get me started on the three Red-breasted Geese records)!
Three shots of today's fully winged/unringed Wood Duck... what a stunner!
Untarnished wildfowl have also been hitting the birding headlines here this week though...
Four Garganey (two drakes, two ducks) arrived on the same day as the Mandarins and graced the meadow pool for a few hours, but like the latter, they'd departed by the following day. Also the two drake Scaup are still lingering.
A rather distant shot of the four Garganey with (Eurasian) Teal.
One male far right, one male fourth from left, the two females centre back.
Otherwise it has been a fairly quiet week and apart from a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs there has as yet been no 'proper' summer migrant passerines. I do however expect my first Wheatear, Sand Martin and Swallow any day now in the sure knowledge that they, like the Garganey, have flown all the way from Africa rather than from the nearest Aviary!
Spawning Common Toads in the meadow.
Tringa phalaropus? No swimming (Common) Redshank!
Now a bit of a plug... if you've enjoyed The Swannery birding highlights over the last few months you can now pay us a visit as we opened to the public yesterday and will be open every day until the end of October. We even have a few nesting swans already with two clutches of two and we are expecting over a hundred nests before the spring is out and maybe the odd rare bird too!
And to finish another shot of the Wood Duck... will it linger?

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