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, 7 April 2013

'Hope Springs Eternal'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

Monday 1st to Sunday 7th April 2013.........

Winter is still reluctant to relinquish it's hold but surely warmer spring-like weather is just around the corner?

Spring is certainly battling to make her presence felt and the season's influence was certainly behind the departure of the three wintering Long-tailed Ducks, that were last seen on Tuesday. The nine Scaup remain however and they are now becoming remarkably tame, coming in to feed at the swan feeds with the 'Tufties' and Pochard (along with the two Scaup x 'Tufty' hybrids -see last Tuesday's post). A few Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler remain too as do the usual tardy Red-breasted Mergansers but we still await the first returning Garganey.

Male Scaup at The Swannery this week. © Charlie Wheeler
Most if not all the present Swannery birds are second calendar year birds but this one's still a cracker.
Following on from last week's two singles, yet another Spoonbill flew east on Friday and went on to join the other two at nearby Lodmoor (bringing the total up to five there briefly on Saturday morning).
Smaller wading birds were on the move too, most notable were a flock of twenty-four Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits on Friday (with an equally brief single today)...

 Black-tailed Godwits (race islandica) at 'The Fleet Pipe'  © Charlie Wheeler
A mixed sex flock, the smaller more colourful males standing out from the females.
While a Greenshank too was a good early spring find (present Friday and Saturday), as was a Jack Snipe (on Saturday).

The Greenshank at 'The Fleet Pipe'.

'Also ran' waders were Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew and Redshank, all in single figures. Gull numbers were rather low too but the larger species present were cashing in on the 'by-products' of lambing in the meadows and among the 'British' graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls were one or two 'Continental' intermedius race birds.

A Barn Owl was hunting the meadows one (now light) early evening and one or two Marsh Harriers were present on and off.

The passerine migrant highlight was my first ever spring Swannery Ring Ouzel, a male in the meadow that lingered from Wednesday to Saturday although rather elusive at times and very skittish. That may have been due though to the company it was keeping... a loose mixed flock of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes some of the latter at least being shy continental race birds, looking almost pallid alongside their British cousins. I did however manage a couple of long range shots of the 'upland blackbird' (though heavily cropped).

Above two pics  male Ring Ouzel in the water meadow.
A few Wheatears were around too as was the odd Blackcap but no more Sand Martins (and still no Swallows), with Chiffchaffs still being the most common and noticeable 'spring migrant'...

Common Chiffchaff at The Swannery © Charlie Wheeler
Potential breeding passerines of note included several singing Cettis' Warblers, at least one Stonechat back on territory and after an abscence of a spring or two, at least one, hopefully two Nuthatches...

Above two pics (Eurasian) Nuthatch nest prospecting near The Swannery shop.
It'll have its work cut out plastering up that cavity!

I was not working from Tuesday to Friday this week (as I was using up the last of my annual leave before the April 6th cut-off) but despite this I still birded The Swannery for an hour or two everyday (sorry Suz). Nevertheless as always I still obviously missed a fair amount but some of the slack was taken up by my colleague Charlie, so thanks go to him for some of the above sightings and as usual some of the above photos, cheers Charlie. Click the link below to check out Charlie's Website...

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