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, 10 November 2013

'Peeping Tomsk'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 4th to Sunday 10th November 2013...

Scarce Migrants...

The Swannery closed to the public for the winter season last Sunday (3rd November), so this week was the first week (since early March) that we had no paying visitors to the attraction. It was just as well then that the Yellow-browed Warbler I found on Monday, while I was taking all the signs down by the upper entrance, was viewable from public rights of way...
The Yellow-browed Warbler by The Swannery entrance © Peter Moore
  Peter Moore's Blog

This allowed several local birders/photographers to connect with it, which was fortuitous as my attempts to photograph it left a lot to be desired. Thanks go to Peter for the use of the above image.
 This was the fourth sighting at The Swannery/Grove Lane area of the autumn although it is unclear of course how many individuals were involved (anything from one to four!). This week's bird (or at least this week's sighting) was the most showy but the other scarce migrant of the week, another eastern leaf warbler, was far less cooperative, a Siberian Chiffchaff. Despite hearing it give it's distinctive sad 'peep' call on a number of occasions I just couldn't pin it down. I'm hoping it will stick around and attempt to over-winter allowing me to connect with it over the next couple of weeks.

And Now The Rest Of The News...


Today was 'Count Day' and the results of this month's WeBS for wildfowl were as follows...

Mute Swan
Mallard (domestic)
Tufted Duck
A pretty representative sample of numbers and species for the week but yesterday the Scaup 'flock' had actually crept up to four (two adult drakes and two first year females) and last week's settled Dark-bellied Brent Goose lingered until Monday. It is interesting to note that now that we are closed and have reduced the daily feeds from three to two (with only one at weekends), the two Black Swans have moved on, as have the few remaining Canada Geese taking the possible Todd's Canada Goose with them. So look out for a slightly smaller and darker Canada Goose in a flock near you now! The aim of the food reduction is to try and persuade the swans to move off down The Fleet onto the Eelgrass, which should be at its most abundant at this time of year, although we have reasons to believe that this may not actually be the case this year.

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose, a seemingly rather worn individual.

Miscellaneous Water-birds...

The results of this month's WeBS for other water-birds were as follows...

Little Egret
Grey Heron
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Again a pretty representative sample of numbers and species for the week but as usual Water Rails and Moorhens were under-recorded due to their skulking natures. The best water-bird of the week though was the Shag seen on Thursday (and possibly present the day before too). Shags are a scarce bird on the shallower, fresher West Fleet and in fact, off the top of my head this is only about the fourth record at The Swannery during my twenty-five year tenure (although one of those records involved three together). Unfortunately it was always too far off to photograph.


The results of this month's WeBS for waders were as follows...

Black-tailed Godwit
The 'Blackwits' were actually flying west and the only other waders in the week were a single Dunlin and a few Snipe.


 Gulls & Allies...

The results of this month's WeBS for gulls were as follows...

Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

This is a pretty poor representation of numbers for the week, at least for the larger species, as during the often stormy conditions hundreds were loafing on the beach opposite. Mostly Herring and Great Black-backs a few Lesser Black-backs were also present but the smaller gulls were in rather short supply. The same gales were also responsible for the appearance of one of this week's main highlights... a Great Skua that flew across the embayment and over the beach to the sea beyond, causing pandemonium as it went! Bonxies, if you prefer their widely used Shetland name, were once just about annual visitors to The Swannery but this week's bird was the first for at least four years!


The best 'BOP' of the week was today's 'ringtail' Hen Harrier, the first of the autumn, seen in the air together with the two regular Marsh Harriers (the male and a juvenile).

Land-birds, Non-passerines...

The first real Wood Pigeon movement was noted today but it involved only a few hundred moving NW rather than the usual thousands. The only other bird in this category worth a mention is the continued, although erratic presence, of the escaped/liberated male Lady Amherst's Pheasant.

Land-birds, Passerines...

Yellowhammer at Seventeen Acre Point today, just to the east of The Swannery recording area. Once relatively common at The Swannery proper it is now only just about annual, although the species still breeds around nearby Rodden,

Visible migration was again poor, even on the few mornings that conditions looked ideal. Just a few Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Siskins and the odd (Lesser?) Redpoll flew over or settled briefly. There have been no real Starling or corvid movements yet but fifty plus Carrion Crows on the beach opposite was a good count, though there was no sign of last year's probable Hoodie hybrid. As for nocturnal migrants, Goldcrests were fairly numerous and held the first few Firecrests of the autumn. Common Chiffchaffs were also still much in evidence (at least more so than their Siberian relative) but the only other warblers noted were the ever-present Cetti's. There were no more obvious thrush arrivals and the only chat of note was a Black Redstart seen during the count today but unfortunately it was outside my recording area at nearby Higher Barn.

The Fleet from Bury Knapp looking west to the West Dorset and East Devon coast, today.

The Fleet from Clouds Hill looking east to The Isle of Portland, today.

And Finally...

In the still mild conditions a number of butterflies are still on the wing including a few Clouded Yellows...
Female Clouded Yellow in The Swannery car park today, thanks Judy for pointing it out. Pity about that blade of grass!

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