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, 21 July 2013

'The Abbotsbury Round-up - 600 Swans And A Long-tailed Duck!'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 15th to Sunday 21st July 2013.......


This week saw the staging of our biennial swan roundup. It is a two day event - on Friday morning fifty plus canoeists launched from the Bridging Hard in 'The Narrows' and forming a 'moving barrier' of canoes they slowly paddled up The Fleet towards Abbotsbury pushing all the moulting (and therefore flightless) non-breeding swans before them. Once, by late afternoon, the swans all rounded Shipmoor Point and into the Swannery embayment we hauled out a boom to prevent them swimming back down the lagoon. Then early Saturday morning we re-launched the canoes and slowly pushed the swans into holding pens so we could then 'process' each and every one. Processing involves ringing (or recording current rings), weighing, vaccinating and a general health check. By mid-day when the last bird was released we had 'processed' exactly six-hundred. Around fifty had already moulted however and flew over the canoes or boom and around fifty breeding birds were deliberately not caught. The biggest surprise of the day (and week) for me though was that when we were herding the swans onto the land a very unseasonal female Long-tailed Duck suddenly popped it's head up and down again beside my boat! It was clearly in moult like the swans (and therefore flightless) and had presumably been pushed up from further down The Fleet along with the swans the day before. Despite keeping an eye out for it the rest of the day and searching for it today, I never saw it again!
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand when Saturday's Long-tailed Duck briefly appeared so this is one of the wintering birds from earlier this year.
This sighting follows a relatively good winter here for the species. Following singles in early and then mid-November 2012, a single in late November was then joined by two others in early December and they stayed into early April. A female then appeared in late April and lingered into early May. Could it be that the latter bird over-summered somewhere on The Fleet (perhaps the little watched stretch between Rodden Hive Point and Shipmoor Point) only to resurface (see what I did there?) on Saturday? Almost equally unexpected on Saturday was the appearance of a female Red-crested Pochard on the Decoy Pond. There is a male currently at Radipole RSPB and there was also a report of one (unsexed) at Lodmoor RSPB that was probably one of the aforementioned birds. It is feasible however that there may have been a minor influx from the continent but a 'feral' origin for the Abbotsbury bird may be more likely as it was rather confiding.

Yet again I didn't have my camera when I discovered Saturday's female Red-crested Pochard and there was no sign of it consequently, so this is a photo of the female that was present  along with a male in February this year.

It was the July Wetland Bird Survey count today and The Abbotsbury results for wildfowl were as follows...

Mute Swan - 549 (100 or so had presumably already dispersed back down the lagoon)
Black Swan - 2
Bar-headed Goose - 3 (4 earlier in the week)
Canada Goose - 555
Barnacle Goose - 1
Shelduck - 4
Gadwall - 5
Teal - 3
Mallard - 216
Shoveler - 5
Pochard - 4
Tufted Duck - 10

Other water Birds...

The WeBS results for other miscellaneous water birds were...

Great Crested Grebe - 20
Cormorant - 11
Little Egret - 13
Grey Heron - 1
Moorhen - 4
Coot - 225

In addition in the week there was also a Little Grebe.


Juvenile Little Ringed Plover on the meadow pool this week. Following a single on Tuesday at least four have been present from Thursday to today.
Today's WeBS results for waders were...

Oystercatcher - 4 (the remaining breeding pair and their two fledged young).
Little Ringed Plover - 4
Lapwing - 8
Sanderling - 1
Dunlin - 32
Snipe - 1 (3 earlier in the week)
Common Sandpiper - 7

In addition during the week there was a Curlew, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Redshank, at least two Greenshanks and a Turnstone.

One of this week's Greenshanks on the meadow pool.

Gulls & Terns...

The WeBS results for gulls and terns were...

Black-headed Gull - 280
Common Gull - 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2
Herring Gull - 7
Great Black-backed Gull - 3
Common Tern - 100 (including many fledged juveniles).

Also there have been a few Sandwich Terns and a several Mediterranean Gulls...
Adult Mediterranean Gull on The Fleet at Abbotsbury this week.


The regular male Marsh Harrier was seen again but otherwise there were just the local kestrels, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks...

A male Sparrowhawk at The Swannery this week.

Other 'Non-passerines'...
Apart from all the expected local breeding species the only bird of note was the Lady Amherst's Pheasant still coming to food in my garden...

The fugitive Lady Amherst's Pheasant adjacent to The Swannery in my garden again this week. 

A near miss though was a juvenile Cuckoo just to the east of my recording area at Clouds Hill/Bury Knapp today.


For a short time this week, in preparation for the round-up, I was working over on the 'blind side' of Chesters Hill/Shipmoor Point (an area not seen from my usual vantage points at The Swannery) and it was good to hear singing Meadow Pipits and see a recently fledged Stonechat - two breeding species that were unusually absent from the recording area this year. Back at The Swannery all those species that had bred were still much in evidence and may have masked some early movements but, as last week, a hundred plus Sand Martins and a single Yellow Wagtail were clearly on the move. A couple of Grey Wagtails were new in too (but like the Treecreepers and Coal Tits that arrived last week) were perhaps from nearer to home. If only the odd dispersing Dipper would drop in too!

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