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, 13 October 2013

Two Scarce Migrants (& An Enigmatic Goose)

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 7th to Sunday 13th October 2013.......

The Headline Birds...

The Grey Phalarope I found on meadow pool on Monday morning was a real surprise considering the benign conditions prevailing at the time. It normally takes a storm force ten for one to appear in the Swannery embayment let alone in the meadow. The reasons for its unusual appearance may have been explained by the fact that it was presumably sick, being found dead the following day. It had only narrowly escaped from a Sparrowhawk attack the previous afternoon too.

Grey Phalarope meadow pool.
Despite their usual confiding nature this bird was always rather distant.
The second scarce migrant of the week was a Yellow-browed Warbler that I found on my way to work on Thursday morning in Sycamores by the upper entrance . It was seen again late morning but I didn't manage to connect with it again after my initial sighting. Previously averaging about one every two years at The Swannery this is in fact now the third consecutive October that one has been seen here. 

And Now The Rest Of The News (& That Enigmatic Goose)...


Today we carried out the Swannery October Wetland Bird Survey. The results of today's count for Wildfowl are as follows...

Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose
Tufted Duck

The above results are pretty representative of the week, although the Teal numbers are quite exceptional. The only additional species for the week, that were not seen during the count, were Black Swan with the two regular  birds still present and a few Gadwall. The Barnacle Goose was presumably the 'feral' bird that has been around off and on all summer but it was rather standoffish, flighty and didn't associate with the Canada flock as usual, so who knows? The Scaup that had arrived overnight was the first of the autumn...

The first Scaup of the autumn, an adult male (still moulting out of 'eclipse').
It is presumably a returning bird as it certainly 'knew the ropes' at the morning feed!
Also of interest this week was the appearance of a Canada Goose that showed some characteristics of 'Todd's Canada Goose' (form interior) and is presumably the bird that has been seen at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire and Blagdon Lake, Somerset in the last few years... or at least it looks to my eyes identical to pictures of that bird posted on line at the time...
This week's possible 'Todd's Canada Goose' (form interior) left
with two 'Atlantic Canada Geese' (form canadensis).
The possible 'Todd's Canada Goose' (form interior) foreground
with an 'Atlantic Canada Goose' (form canadensis).

The possible 'Todd's Canada Goose'.
In the field this bird was subtly smaller than the other Canadas; was noticeably darker, particularly on the breast; had less cleaner white cheeks and a dark 'strap' on its throat. Any one of these features can often be seen on our usual 'feral' canadensis birds (as some of these may not be racially pure) but for them all to be present on a single bird surely indicates that this is genetically something different? If not a Todd's then at least an intergrade? And if it is a Todd's then what are its origins?

Miscellaneous Water Birds...

The results of today's count for other water birds are as follows... 

Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Little Egret
Water Rail

As for Wildfowl the above results are also a pretty representative tally for the week (although Water Rail and Moorhen being rather secretive were therefore no doubt under counted). Also at least one Grey Heron was around most days.


The results of today's count for waders are as follows...  


The above results were not quite so representative. There were still around eighteen Lapwing earlier in the week and a few more Snipe but the Redshank was the first for weeks. Unusually there were no other species noted.


The results of today's count for gulls are as follows... 
Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Once again a fairly representative count for the rest of the week, with no additional species and no terns.


I missed both of the best sightings of the week, a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier on Thursday and a Merlin today. Both the male and juvenile Marsh Harriers were still regularly seen as was at least one Peregrine (and of course there were several Buzzards, Kestrels and the aforementioned Sparrowhawk).


Common nocturnal migrants were again in rather short supply. The only warblers I saw (other than the Yellow-browed) were Chiffchaffs and the only chats (bar the usual Robins and Stonechats) were a few Wheatears. Despite large movements elsewhere in the country the only thrushes seen were Song, Mistle and Blackbirds, although these were all slightly up in number perhaps, as were Goldcrests. Visible diurnal passage was made up mostly of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits but a few Grey Wagtails and Rock Pipits also went into the log. There were still a few Swallows around plus the odd House Martin, while there were also a few Skylarks, Linnets and Siskins on the move.
All the usual 'resident' passerines and other land birds were also present of course including the male Lady Amherst's Pheasant at the nearby Grove.
I didn't manage to get a photo of this year's Yellow-browed Warbler so below is a picture of last year's bird after it was trapped and ringed and before it was released...
Last year's Yellow-browed Warbler.

Thanks as always to Alan & Ian for helping with the Swannery count and of course to all the other Fleet & Portland Harbour counters.

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