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, 24 November 2013

The Temperature Drops...

But My Blood Pressure Rises!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 18th to Sunday 24th November 2013...

Well last week, having almost certainly missed a fly-over Twite and a fly-over Lapland Bunting while I was away, I pondered whether I would actually have connected with them even if I had been at work. Well my first day back on Monday proved that I may well not have, as despite being technically in the right place at the right time, I still managed to miss yet another good bird, that (yet again) was seen by Luke, flying northwest over his ringing site on private land a mile or so to the southeast... a Richard's Pipit. Fortunately, like the finch and bunting, it wouldn't have been a Swannery tick but once again it would still have been nice to connect with. In fact the 'Richard's' sighting went somewhat against the grain as despite what appeared to be often excellent conditions for overhead passage there was very little evidence of 'vis-mig' at all. A single Redpoll was the highlight (excepting the Richard's of course if it did indeed fly over the patch and not take a detour) and that was about it, save for a trickle of Meadow Pipits and small groups of Starlings, although a few Redwings were heard at night and a few were seen leaving their roost one morning.

The withy-beds still held a few Chiffchaffs (but there was no sign of the Siberian), while the reed-beds held several Cetti's Warblers (but no Bearded Tits) and a Blackcap still frequented my adjacent garden (as did the male Lady Amherst's Pheasant).

With good land-birds in short supply it was left to wildfowl to enliven the week and indeed the main highlight was the reappearance of a flock of twelve presumed wild Barnacle Geese...
The Barnacle Geese that frequented the water-meadows from Wednesday to Friday.

This is now the fifth winter in a row that a flock of Barnacles have appeared on the West Fleet. Numbers have varied but there were peaks of forty-nine in winter 2009-10, eighty-five in 2010-11, thirty-seven in 2011-12 and four in 2012-13. It is easy to dismiss these as wandering 'feral' birds but they are extremely wary and are surely more likely to be wild birds, perhaps part of the population that regularly winter along the continental coast of the English Channel.

All the usual duck species were present, albeit in not very impressive numbers and this included (at last) the first couple of Red-breasted Mergansers of the season (but still no Goldeneye). The main duck highlight though was the brief appearance of two 'Redhead' Goosanders...
One of the two 'Redhead' Goosanders on Tuesday.
.. and the continued erratic presence of the four Scaup...
The two drake and two female Scaup with two drake Pochard.
The regular wintering female Scaup x Tufted Duck reappeared this week (so no doubt there will be claims of five Scaup in the near future) and it was joined by a male Ferruginous x Pochard and a male presumed Scaup x Tufted Duck (but the latter more closely resembles a 'Tufty' so will unlikely cause any confusion to any birders 'scoping' from the tank teeth or New Barn Road. While on that subject I appreciate it is difficult to view the Pochard flock from public rights of way but that doesn't give would be observers the excuse to totally ignore the no access signs at the tank traps and walk along the Fleet shoreline of Chesil as two birders did yesterday (and not for the first time I hasten to add)! There is no public right of way along the privately owned landward side of The Chesil here (hence the fence and 'no access' signs). The reason for the restriction is to avoid disturbing the birds and the other fauna and flora of the reserve. Such intrusive and irresponsible behaviour only results in flushing all the birds in the western embayment and trampling the shingle vegetation in the process too. For that reason I am no longer going to be putting out daily updates on the presence of the Scaup or any other scarce or rare birds in The Swannery embayment on Rare Bird Alert or the Dorset Bird Club Daily Sightings Blog for the time being at least. I will still be publishing the blog of course so there won't be a total news blackout (and that therefore may seem to defeat the object) but I feel confident my readers are a bit more responsible than those two idiots!

Back to the birds a few waders went into the log... one hundred or so Lapwing, thirty plus Snipe, eight Dunlin, three Redshank and a single Turnstone. While the best of the gulls were two Yellow-legged Gulls (a first and a third calendar year) along with the now expected few 'Meds'.

The only raptor of note was the male Marsh Harrier. The juveniles and the adult female appear to have moved on (for the time being at least).

And that's about it in a winter when as yet there have been none of the  less common grebes, no Long-tailed ducks, no wild grey geese or 'wild' swans... maybe next week?

The female Scaup x Tufted Duck today.


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