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, 2 September 2012

'Notacilla thunbergi!'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

27th August to 2nd September 2012

The bird of the week was once again the Cattle Egret that appeared again distantly on adjacent Shipmoor Point on Monday morning...

The Cattle Egret on Shipmoor, only slightly better than last weeks shot.
At 10am it flew off north and appeared to drop down in fields just to the east of the village. As it was our coffee break, me and Charlie set off in pursuit and without too much ado found it in a cattle field beside the road by Linton Cottage. There it remained until the afternoon at least but it was not seen again.

Above two photos the Cattle Egret at Abbotsbury courtesy of Charlie Wheeler. 

Other good birds this week were the juvenile Black Tern found on Thursday that lingered mostly over its preferred patch of the meadow pool until early this (Sunday) morning...
Above two photos the juvenile Black Tern in the meadow.
Unfortunately I still await my first Swannery White-winged Black Tern but one day...
And as a way of some compensation at the tern's departure an Osprey also made a brief visit this morning only minutes after the regular male Marsh Harrier had completed it's usual circuit of the patch and flew off towards Rodden.

Apart from a very early Pale-bellied Brent Goose that flew down the Fleet on Thursday evening there was little change in the numbers and variety of wildfowl. The Greylag Goose, the now moulting Common Scoter, the over-summering male Goldeneye and the dodgy male Pintail all remained. Although there has been a few minor influxes of Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard and Tufted Duck there has been no more Wigeon or Pintail as yet.

With no mud either on the shore of the Fleet or in the meadow waders were fewer but there were still single figures of Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Redshank while Dunlin peaked at thirty.
The only tern was the aforementioned Black and the best of the gulls were single juvenile Mediterranean and Yellow-legged. A Fulmar circling the Fleet was the second of the year.

The juv. Black Tern on The Fleet. It's occurence coincided with that of
an American Black Tern in the Merseyside/Manchester area. What if?

On Wednesday three late, no doubt juvenile Common Swifts made me miss a heartbeat as they powered their way across the Fleet looking all the world like Pallid Swifts in the strong autumnal light but it was not to be. Maybe later in the autumn! Although in short supply more expected land birds included several Wheaters, a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, while a Garden Warbler was the best of its ilk. Swallow and both House and Sand Martin numbers began to build up as did at last the Yellow Wagtails with flocks of up to twenty feeding in the adjacent fields while a roost of at least a hundred were present on Friday night at least.
It was while processing some of the above wagtails that ringers Steve and Luke discovered an interesting individual that now appears to have been of the continental form Motacilla flava flava 'Blue-headed Wagtail' (rather than of the commoner form Motacilla flava flavissima 'British Yellow Wagtail'). At first however it was erroneously reported to be of the Scandinavian form Motacilla flava thunbergi (Grey-headed Wagtail), which although regular along England's east coast is an extremely rare bird in Dorset and has yet to be recorded at The Swannery or anywhere else along The Fleet. When I first heard the initial report of a thunbergi I have to say I was rather miffed at having missed such a good bird confounded by the fact that I had a probable female type some years back in the meadow that we were unable to clinch. Although thunbergi is 'just' a race it would still have been a nice bird to see (albeit in the hand) and in the current trend of 'splitting' it may well be 'upgraded' to full species status in the future. Thankfully for me the bird in question turned out to be a probable flava (which although scarce, is more regular in Dorset and I have seen several at The Swannery over the years) and it was due to a mistake that it was first reported as a thunbergi . Hopefully (and probably more likely) my first Grey-headed Wagtail will be a (less tricky to identify) spring adult male in the meadow right in front of the hide... in how about May 2013?

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