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 April 2013

'Compare the 'Blackwits'.com'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

Monday 8th to Sunday 14th April 2013.........

As hoped for, the first Garganey of the year at last put in an appearance this week. Two (a pair) were on flooded reed stubble in the western ('Ditchmoor') reed beds on Friday and then today three eventually gave themselves up in the water meadow...
The three Garganey in the water meadow today...two drakes and a duck.

Another shot of two of the Garganey.
Skulking among the rushes and sedges at first they broke cover at the appearance of the regular Marsh Harrier.
The other wildfowl highlights were the continued presence of the nine wintering Scaup and a brief visit from a tardy ('Dark-bellied') Brent Goose.

The single Black-tailed Godwit seen by colleague Charlie last Sunday was still present on Monday allowing me to catch up with it, having missed it the day before. It appeared to be of the nominate race limosa rather than of the Icelandic race islandica which I assumed it to be on my last weekly roundup (following the twenty-four islandica race birds on the 4th). It looked larger, longer billed and longer legged than even the female (which are larger) Icelandic birds that Charlie found and photographed last week but most crucially it had the typically 'retarded' summer plumage of the nominate form. None of last week's islandica birds, not even the females, showed such plain unmarked upper-parts. It lingered all week and was today joined by another 'Blackwit', an Icelandic bird!...


The two Black-tailed Godwits in the water meadow today. The larger plainer left hand bird appears to be of the nominate race limosa (which in Britain breeds sparsely in England and southern Scotland) whereas the smaller, more colourful right hand bird is a typical Icelandic race bird islandica (which in Britain breeds on the Northern Isles) and is usually the most numerous form on passage and in winter here.

The three Garganey and two Black-tailed Godwits in the water meadow today along with four (Northern) Shoveler, two (Eurasian) Wigeon and a (Eurasian) Teal. This shot illustrates that the orange-red of the left hand limosa bird stops abruptly on the breast and doesn't extend down the flanks as the deeper rufous-red does on the right hand islandica.
Other waders on the move were two Grey Plovers on Monday, a single Jack Snipe on Tuesday, with two on Wednesday, whilst the latter day also produced a Turnstone and the first Whimbrel of the spring. A few Ringed Plovers, Curlews, Snipe, Dunlins and Redshanks were seen or heard most days and as the week progressed a few more Whimbrels were logged and on the final day of the week the first Common Sandpiper arrived.

There were no gulls of note but a few Sandwich Terns were around daily and the first Common Tern of the spring was found by the 'count boys' today.

The results of today's April Swannery Wetland Bird Survey were as follows...

Mute Swan - 381
Black Swan - 2
Canada Goose - 9
Shelduck - 27
Wigeon - 8
Gadwall - 14
Teal - 33
Mallard - 110
Mallard (domestic) - 2
Garganey - 3
Shoveler - 20
Pochard - 38
Tufted Duck - 156
Scaup - 9
Red-breasted Merganser - 18
Little Grebe - 3
Great Crested Grebe - 11
Cormorant - 5
Little Egret - 4
Moorhen -  3
Coot - 58
Oystercatcher - 6
Black-tailed Godwit - 2
Whimbrel - 1
Curlew - 1
Common Sandpiper - 1
Redshank - 5
Black-headed Gull - 26
Common Gull - 2
Herring Gull - 17
Great Black-backed Gull - 30
Sandwich Tern - 15
Common Tern - 1
 
Thanks as always to Alan, Ian and Mike for helping me with the Abbotsbury section of the count and thanks too to Don, Graham and Chris for the other Fleet sections and the two Kens for Portland Harbour. I'm still short of a counter for 'The Littlesea'/Chickerell section, so come on all you local birders... your local WeBS organiser needs you!
 
I was going to say 'on to land birds now' but the only raptors of note were both wetland species... the first Osprey of the spring flew north on Tuesday and there was still the occasional sighting of one or two Marsh Harriers.

And so to passerines... The highlight was a  Firecrest on Thursday (the first since January so a definite new arrival) but close behind were the first Swallows of the spring that arrived from Tuesday, the first Willow Warblers and House Martins on Friday and the first Sedge Warbler today. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and after a weeks hiatus Sand Martins continue to move through but there were no Wheatears this week and as yet no White or Yellow Wagtails...maybe next week!

Other Swannery wildlife...



Charlie found this cool Beetle at The Swannery this week and we identified it as a Violet Oil Beetle © Charlie Wheeler
Thanks for the above and following photo Charlie.




PS...


I forgot to mention last week that the first swan's eggs of the year were laid on the 1st April...



Above...one of the thirty odd pairs of Mute Swan that have laid so far. © Charlie Wheeler


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