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, 14 October 2012

More Firsts Of The Fall (And A Disappointing Call)

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

8th to14th October 2012

Today was definitely the most productive of the week, as on arrival at work my first Merlin of the autumn flew over (while later in the day it was on adjacent Chesters Hill) and I also heard my first Redpolls and Bramblings of the season (although I failed to get on to them). After feeding the swans and greeting fellow counters Alan and his brother Graham I then set off to do my section of the Wetland Bird Survey, just to the east of The Swannery (Shipmoor Point to Rodden Hive Point), leaving them to cover The Swannery. I drove down the private track a mile or so to the east  which runs through a little gully - like a mini Winspit Valley - although I have never found anything good here other than the usual commoner migrants. That was about to change however, as setting off on foot towards Seventeen Acre Point I noticed a pale Chiffchaff in the scrub by the stream. It was obviously an eastern type but it slowly began to dawn on me that it surely had to be of the subspecies tritis 'Siberian Chiffchaff' as it showed all the relevant features... no green on its head or mantle (just some in its wings and tail), no yellow whatsoever - either in its obvious supercilium, its underparts or even on its under-tail coverts (but I have to admit I didn't see its under-wing coverts). It also showed a subtle wing-bar (more obvious at times) and black legs and feet (with the only brown restricted to its 'soles'). Even with all these features however, to get a tristis accepted you must hear the diagnostic call... a sad 'peep'. Now this is where things went wrong... the bird was quite vocal but it was not the call that got me onto it (usually I hear a tristis and know what it is before I see it) but it wasn't calling like a Common Chiffchaff either... in fact very similar to a bird I had in autumn 2010... more of a 'heep'. Unfortunately the light and the restlessness of the bird prohibited photography but I now wish I'd tried to video it, as at least then I would have recorded the call, if not the bird! On completing my count and returning to the same spot there was no sign of it and it was also looked for later in the day but to no avail. After listening to recordings of tristis and reacquainting myself with their call I now have to put this bird down to being just an 'Eastern type Chiffchaff' after all, despite initially 'putting the news out' that it was a 'Siberian Chiffchaff' (in an area with no general access), Doh!
The view from Higher Barn, Abbotsbury today across The Fleet and Lyme Bay to Lyme Regis.
Other grounded nocturnal migrants at The Swannery this week included a Wheatear, two Whinchats, at least one Reed Warbler, numerous Common Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps while there was a noticeable increase in Blackbird, Song Thrush and Stonechat numbers. Diurnal overhead migrants included several hundred Swallows and House Martins, along with at least one late Sand Martin; several Pied, a few Grey and one late Yellow Wagtail; numerous Meadow and a few Rock Pipits; a moderate passage of Skylarks, Starlings, Woodpigeons and Jackdaws, while Jays were still passing through, albeit in smaller numbers than last week.

The resident male Marsh Harrier was again joined by an immature/female for a couple of days and two or three Hobbies were around too.
Another view from Higher Barn today, this time northwest to St. Catherine's Chapel and Abbotsbury hill beyond.
Wildfowl numbers have still in the main been increasing as today's Abbotsbury Wetland Bird Survey totals show...

Mute Swan - 350
[Black Swan] - 3
Greylag Goose - 1
Canada Goose - 200
Shelduck - 4
Wigeon - 8
Gadwall- 10
Teal - 350
Mallard - 350
Mallard (domestic) - 6
Pintail - 1
Shoveler - 25
Pochard - 225
Tufted Duck - 350
Common Scoter - 1
Goldeneye - 1

The Goldeneye and the Pintail were the over-summering birds but there had been up to thirty Pintail in the week and Gadwall had earlier peaked at fifty. The Common Scoter was not the female that over-summered but an adult male that unfortunately didn't linger. .
Not content with thinking it's a Mallard the resident Pintail now seems to think it's a Wood Duck!
Other waterbirds noted on the count were...

Cormorant - 10
Little Grebe - 20
Great Crested Grebe - 25
Little Egret - 3
Grey Heron - 4
Water Rail - 3
Moorhen - 15
Coot - 425

The only waders on the count were two Black-tailed Godwits but a few other waders were seen in the week...single Ringed Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, up to ten Dunlin and Snipe most days and fourteen Lapwing.
Gulls too were a little thin on the ground on count day...

Black-headed Gull - 370
Common Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 3

But in the week there were at least ten Mediterranean Gulls around on a couple of days along with good numbers of the larger commoner species, also now several Common Gulls and one or two juvenile/first winter Common Terns were also seen in the week.
Juv/1st winter Common tern on the roundup fence this week.
Now as none of my predictions ever seem to come true I'm not going to bother proffering one up this week... we'll just have to see if that tactic works! 

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