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, 3 February 2013

'And Then There Were Three...Again'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

Monday 28th January to Sunday 3rd February 2013

There was some substantial disturbance in the embayment again early in the week with rather eerily not a single duck or grebe present but things settled down again as the 31st January passed and February began.  All ten Scaup were present at the beginning and end of the week but it took until Wednesday for me to find the remaining Long-tailed Duck. On Friday however, after their sojourn to Portland Harbour and who knows where else, it was re-joined by the other two and all three were still present today. The pair of Goosander though were only seen on Wednesday and Thursday and there was no sign of the Barnacle Geese all week.

Six of the ten (Greater) Scaup this week (with Tufted Ducks)...four of the five males and two of the five females.

The Black-necked Grebe was only seen on Wednesday but was replaced from Thursday to Saturday by a Slavonian Grebe, the first of the winter...
This week's Slavonian Grebe, slightly more confiding than the recent Black-necked Grebe.
According to the International Ornithologists' Union we are now supposed to be calling this species Horned Grebe but I don't think that this Americanised name is going to catch on this side of the pond! If we have to have a standardised English name for this species I have always fancied 'Northern Grebe' seeing that it it is the most northerly breeding of the grebes, doesn't have horns and doesn't hail solely from Eastern Europe!

The Slavonian Grebe with (Common) Pochards and a Tufted Duck.

There were still around fifty Dunlin accompanying the three hundred plus Lapwing flock at the beginning of the week but not later and as expected at this time of year, Lapwing numbers began to drop off by the weekend. A few Snipe, Redshank and the odd Oystercatcher were the only other waders noted.
One of  a few (Common) Redshanks this week (courtesy of Charlie Wheeler).

Larid numbers were fairly low with a few Meditteranean Gulls being the only highlight. Auks are always a rare sight in The Swannery Embayment, so a Guillemot present on Wednesday, would've been a good record if it wasn't for the likely was presumably contaminated with the mystery substance that brought so many ashore dead or very weak on the seaward side of Chesil Bank this week. It was not weak enough to enable capture though and soon disappeared. Let's hope if it deteriorated further that it was rescued elsewhere.

A second winter Mediterranean Gull (with a first winter Black-headed Gull) on the meadow pool this week.

The now resident male Marsh Harrier was joined by an adult female again briefly this week, though I'm not sure if it is his mate from last year. Whether it is or not I hope she reappears later in the spring and they try another more successful nesting attempt this summer.

My fears for the over-wintering small insectivorous passerines during last month's cold snap were thankfully largely unfounded as several Cetti's Warblers are now singing and calling from the edges of the reed beds and at least one Chiffchaff is around. There are still a few Goldcrests too but no sign of the Firecrest unfortunately. The influx of thrushes now seems just a memory, with only very few Redwings and numbers of Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush are pretty much back to 'normal'.
During pretty unpleasant conditions (strong winds and squally showers) at the beginning of the week, I was filmed talking to Nick Baker from BBC Southwest's 'Inside Out' who are doing a feature on the wintering birds on The Fleet. All they could really get shots of though at the Abbotsbury end were the swans on one of the ponds as The Fleet was so rough. If I hear when it is being screened I'll let you know.

Mute Swans in the mist. Soon to feature on BBC's 'Inside Out'!
I hardly ever feature the swans on the blog so here are a few! So far they seem to have come through the winter ok.

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