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, 16 June 2013

'Seaward Or Leeward'?

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 10th to Sunday 16th June 2013.......

You Win Some, You Lose Some...

There is very little to report this week but things could have been very different...On Tuesday morning I had a couple of tip-offs (thanks Brett & Mike) that a Caspian Tern found at nearby Radipole RSPB had flown off and might be heading my way. Unfortunately I was tied up with a school group all morning and wasn't able to keep much of an eye out for it. So it was with slight frustration that I then received a couple of further texts to say that Mike Morse had relocated the bird on his patch at nearby West Bexington. The tern therefore had almost certainly flown west through or at least past Abbotsbury some time in the morning. The only question is, did it fly up The Fleet passing through The Swannery (and therefore my patch) or did it fly along the seaward side of the beach (and therefore not on my patch)? Equally frustratingly, despite it being seen off and on at West Bexington until Wednesday evening, I never did see it at The Swannery even though it flew off east on several occasions and was gone for  an hour or so at a time. Thankfully it wouldn't have been a 'Swannery tick' as I saw an adult and juvenile in The Swannery embayment on the 13th September 1991 not knowing at the time that they too had already been seen earlier at Radipole. These birds then ranged along the coast between Weymouth and Abbotsbury for the next couple of days.

All this brings back memories of a few similar scenarios...

On 26th December 1995 mate Brett Spencer found a Forster's Tern flying down The Fleet at 'Littlesea'. It later emerged that there was an unconfirmed report of an unidentified small tern at The Swannery earlier that day, seen distantly from New Barn Road, but I wasn't at The Swannery that day to see it. The Forster's then lingered in the area until the 10th February 1996 ranging from Overcombe/Lodmoor RSPB in the east to West Bexington/Cogden Beach in the west. Unbelievably, despite it being seen flying up and down The Fleet on numerous occasions and also being seen off Abbotsbury Beach, I (and nobody else for sure that I'm aware of) ever saw it at The Swannery!

The remaining tales all have more successful outcomes...
On the 15th July 1998 I had a tip-off to say that a Laughing Gull seen at nearby Radipole RSPB had flown off west. Unfortunately I was tied up with a school group all morning and wasn't able to keep much of an eye out for it. Sound familiar? Remarkably though while supervising the kids during the swan feed I was fortunate enough to see the gull fly right past me! I was also able then to get word to Ian McLean (then resident) at West Bexington and he then connected with it there too!

Skipping forward to the morning of Saturday 6th March 2010 I had a phone call at home from Brett to say that mutual friend Alan Barrett had had a probable Bufflehead on the sea off West Bexington earlier that had flown off east, so I should check out The Swannery. For one reason or another I didn't actually get round to looking for it until late afternoon and, after several scans of the embayment drew a blank, I was amazed when, some way out, among a group of 'Tufties', an adult drake Bufflehead suddenly surfaced! A few local birders managed to twitch the bird that evening but thankfully it was relocated the next day further down The Fleet off Herbury Gore. It remained in the Langton Herring area until the 21st March moving back to Abbotsbury on the 22nd where it remained until 30th.

And finally... On the late afternoon of the 29th June 2010 I had just finished my feeding round and was 'taking five' when briefly out of the mist a tern loomed. Now I had been seeing Sandwich Terns on a daily basis and although my views of this particular tern weren't great, alarm bells were ringing, especially as I was aware a couple of Gull-billed Terns had been reported recently from the neighbouring county of Devon on The River Exe. I put the news out as a probable G-b T and was then informed that Mike and Alan had photographed a tern earlier that day at West Bexington and it was a Gull-billed! This bird was then seen erratically at The Swannery and off the beach throughout the following day allowing me to connect with it on a few more occasions.

The Gull-billed Tern off Abbotsbury Beach June 2010 © Luke Phillips Welsh Birder In Dorset
Thank you Brett and Luke for the use of your photos.

Now Back To This Week's News...

As I said, very little to report (hence my above ramblings). Both wildfowl and wader numbers dropped in both number and variety. The only new wader was a Curlew flying east today (with the only other waders being a few Dunlin and the breeding Oystercatchers and their young - even last week's Lapwing have moved on). The only new wildfowl were three Bar-headed Geese, in addition to the one already in the feral goose flock...
The three Bar-headed Geese on the bund.
This goose, along with Black Swan is the most regularly encountered non-established 'feral' species at The Swannery. How long is it before these two species are classed as being properly established and are placed on 'Category C' of The British List?
As for land birds there is not much to report either. Spring migration not surprisingly seems to have all but come to a standstill but there were more signs of post-breeding dispersal as there were reports of Barn Owl, Jay and Bullfinch none of which I have seen for a month or two. Also a family of Nuthatches have appeared in the lower Swannery grounds, which I assumed were the birds that nested 'up the top' by the shop but I can quite clearly hear those birds calling from my open cottage door as I write in adjacent Grove Lane (or are they just getting around a bit?). It should also only be a matter of time now until other local breeders (that did not actually breed in the grounds this year) reappear such as Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Treecreeper and then it will only be a few weeks before the first Willow Warblers begin to filter back and autumn migration starts in earnest!
One of our colony of Bee Orchids that are now beginning to flower.
Unfortunately I have been unable to find any Southern Marsh Orchids this year.

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