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 March 2013

'Too Far Over The Hill'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

Monday 25th February to Sunday 3rd March 2013

Well there is not much new to report this week, in fact there has been quite an exodus with many birds beginning to move off north and not yet being replaced by any significant numbers from further south. The three Long-tailed Ducks were present all week though, as were the nine Scaup but the pair of Goosanders were last seen on Monday and duck numbers in general were rather low. Waders too were poorly represented with the Lapwing flock dwindling to nothing by today, leaving only a few Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Snipe. Gull numbers too have been rather uninspiring with only the few Mediterranean Gulls worth mentioning. The male Marsh Harrier is still around but I only saw it on Tuesday and the only noteworthy passerines were two or three Chiffchaffs and a fresh in Grey Wagtail.
I actually saw one of my 'Steve's Most Wanted Swannery Birds (Official Non-rarities)' yesterday (yes I actually have a list)... a Grey Partridge...but frustratingly it was beyond Abbotsbury Hill on the coast road above West Bexington, a few miles to the west of my recording area. Once a common bird along the hinterland of The Fleet the resident population disappeared at around the time I began working and listing at The Swannery and therefore I never got it on my list despite some sightings elsewhere in Abbotsbury. This most recent sighting though, along with a few others tantalisingly close to my patch, still gives me hope. Even if they are of dodgy origins they are no more dodgy than some species on my (and other's) lists such as Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant! Incidentally others on that most wanted list (all non-rarities seen at The Swannery before my tenure but not since) include Eider (very rare on The West Fleet last recorded in The Swannery embayment in 1985) and Dipper (once regular on The Abbotsbury Mill Stream and even bred under Grove Lane bridge but last recorded 1982). The irony of the last one is not lost on me but one day!

Sorry I digress, going back to the Scaup I thought for a moment that all ten were back again this week until I realised that the regular Scaup-like hybrid female had returned for her third spring...
Coot & hybrid female Tufted Duck x Scaup?
She can easily be overlooked as a Scaup but has several pro Tufted features too, such as a reduced white 'blaze' and a pronounced peak (though no hint of a crest) on her rear crown (which Scaup show in certain postures but never as much as this individual does). Today I discovered she was not alone as I picked out this individual too...

Hybrid male Tufted Duck x Scaup?
This male hybrid looks superficially like a 'Tufty' but only has a stumpy crest, has dark-greyish upperparts and a more Scaup-like bill pattern. 
So careful scrutiny of the Aythya flock has revealed a couple of hybrids but will my perseverance pay off in the next few weeks with the finding of a Ring-necked Duck or maybe even a Lesser Scaup? Watch this space!

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