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, 20 January 2013

'A Week Of Two Halves'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

14th to 20th January 2013

One of the three Long-tailed Ducks still present this week.
Not surprisingly the week began much as the previous week had ended with all the star 'winterers' still in situ...The four Barnacle Geese, the ten Scaup, the three Long-tailed Ducks, the Black-necked Grebe, the Marsh Harrier and the Firecrest and all were still in residence by the weeks end too. Also of note was the lone Dark-bellied Brent Goose still in the western 'Ditchmoor' meadows preferring it's own company even when the Canada and Barnacle Geese dropped by. The Greylag Goose however that arrived last summer (and was still present last Sunday) was not seen at all this week.
The three hundred strong Lapwing flock was joined on occasion by an Oystercatcher, up to four Redshank and fifteen plus Dunlin. Gull numbers were rather low with only a few Mediterraneans noted among the commoner species but a first winter Kittiwake was a most unusual fair-weather visitor.

On Friday though the weather changed...

Looking north from meadow hide on Friday.

The four Barnacle Geese in the meadow this week. Very wary, I'm still of the opinion that they are truly wild arctic  birds rather than naturalised birds from Britain or the near continent,

Although, so far, few if any wildfowl seemed to have been displaced by the cold snap the meadow is  beginning to attract some (Eurasian) Wigeon.
The snow and minus temperatures however only seem to have taken hold a mile or two inland of The Fleet, so The Swannery and it's environs acted like a refuge to thousands of field feeding thrushes and plovers. On Friday hundreds settled briefly before filtering southeast but by today thousands were feeding in the surrounding fields. Lapwing numbers barely increased, if at all, but Golden Plovers peaked at around two thousand (with another two thousand just to the east near Rodden). There was also a peak of around two thousand Fieldfare and around a thousand Redwing (although many more flew SE). On closer inspection an unquantified number of the Redwings were actually Song Thrushes, whilst a number of Blackbirds and even the odd Mistle Thrush were also on the move. Also involved in the movement were several hundred Skylarks and a few Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Yellowhammers.

A Yellowhammer in my garden (which is adjacent to The Swannery) today. Taken through a rather dirty window.
A flock of fifty Common Snipe flushed by the Marsh Harrier may have been weather displaced birds also, while a Jack Snipe I unwittingly stepped right over before it took to the wing almost certainly was. What was probably another, more flighty, individual was also accidentally flushed further along the path a few minutes later. One or two unhappy looking Cetti's Warblers at least are still surviving as are a few equally sad looking Chiffchaffs.
It's difficult to know whether to hope for more cold weather next week to bring in some choice birds or whether to hope for milder weather so that the birds won't struggle so much... But what will be will be... so I'll leave you with a few more of this weekend's wintry scenes whilst they remain...

St. Catherine's Chapel above The Swannery.

Looking NNE from The Swannery toward Linton Hill.

Looking NNW from The Swannery toward Abbotsbury Hill.

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