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.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week - Monday 3rd to Sunday 9th November 2014...

Three Dorset Rarities In One Day!

The first of this week's Dorset rarities was a first winter drake Green-winged Teal on meadow pool on Thursday. This constitutes the fourth Swannery record of this North American equivalent of our (Eurasian) Teal following an adult drake in November/December 1999 and first-winter drakes from November 2001 to January 2002 and November/December 2007. The only other record for The Fleet was a drake at Rodden Hive in March 2005. This week's bird proved elusive for the rest of the week but was seen again back on meadow pool on Sunday.

The 1st winter drake Green-winged Teal

The second county rarity of the week was  an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose that was with the Canada Goose flock on Sunday. There have been three previous Swannery records of this Greenland breeding form of (Greater) White-fronted Goose including the first ever for Dorset (found by the late Brigadier Geoffrey Westbrook) in October 1992. The other records were of three together in November 1998 and one in October 2008. The most regular form of this goose in Dorset of course is the pink-billed, Russian breeding Eurasian White-fronted Goose but there is some evidence that the Greenland form may be best treated as a full species.

The adult Greenland White-fronted Goose © Steve Groves 
Note the large orange bill, overall darkish plumage and smallish white blaze
The adult Greenland White-fronted Goose © Steve Groves 
Note the bold belly barring.

The third county rarity of the week (and like the latter also found on Sunday), was a first winter Surf Scoter. There have been no previous Swannery records of this Arctic North American breeding sea-duck but there are two previous records for the Chesil Bank and The Fleet recording area: One on The Fleet at Littlesea in December 2000 (that was then present in Portland Harbour until January) and one on the sea off Abbotsbury Beach in February/March 2008 (that also ranged to West Bexington). Sunday's bird was first found by birders that were infringing on a part of the beach where there is no general access (where they were presumably trying to relocate a Little Auk seen the previous day - more on the auk later). It is unclear however if the scoter was initially found in The Swannery Embayment. When I found it independently later (without prior knowledge), while carrying out the WeBS on private land, it was on The Fleet just to the south east of the embayment so I was wrestling with my conscience as to whether I could count it on my Swannery list! Luckily, although it was still in the same area later in the day, I was still able to see it and identify it (at considerable distance) from Helen Hide within The Swannery grounds, so I'll take that! Number 262 on my Swannery list!

Other Wildfowl... 

Apart from the three species already mentioned the main highlights were a slightly unseasonal first winter Garganey on Tuesday, the two Long-tailed Ducks and the four Scaup. For a fuller picture of the current Swannery wildfowl, Sunday's November WeBS totals were: 

Mute Swan - 664; 
'Greenland' White-fronted Goose - 1; 
Canada Goose - 42; 
Shelduck - 9; 
Wigeon - 340; 
Gadwall - 1; 
Teal - 300 (1000 on Wednesday); 
Green-winged Teal - 1; 
Mallard - 438; 
Pintail - 4 (100 on Wednesday); 
Shoveler - 31; 
Pochard - 275; 
Tufted Duck - 237; 
Scaup - 4 
Long-tailed Duck - 2; 
Surf Scoter - 1
Red-breasted Merganser - 13.

In addition the two long-staying Black Swans were last seen on Tuesday and the Scaup-like hybrid remains. Note however, no Goldeneye!


Only four species were seen during Sunday's October WeBS count:

Golden Plover - 1;
Lapwing - 164;
Knot- 1; 
Redshank - 4;

In addition in the week there were just two Snipe and an Oystercatcher.

Gulls & Allies... 

A Little Auk was present in The Swannery Embayment on Friday and Saturday, the first since November 2003! Also at least four Yellow-legged Gulls were seen (two adults and two first winters) but few gulls were seen during Sunday's November WeBS count (larger counts in the week, if any,  follow in brackets): 

Black-headed Gull - 32 (100+); 
Mediterranean Gull - 2 (50+); 
Common Gull - 1 (10+); 
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 (30+);  
Herring Gull - 77 (100+); 
Great Black-backed Gull - 14 (200+). 

Other Water-birds... 

Sunday's November WeBS totals give a good idea of the numbers and variety of other water-birds present this week: 

Little Grebe - 22; 
Great Crested Grebe - 44; 
Cormorant - 5; 
Little Egret - 4; 
Grey Heron - 1; 
Moorhen - 20; 
Coot - 445; 
Kingfisher - 1. 

In addition in the week there were a several Water Rails in evidence.


An immature Marsh Harrier was seen on several occasions and there were single figures of BuzzardSparrowhawk and Kestrel, whilst at least one Peregrine was also around.

Passerines etc...

Last week's (or another) Firecrest was still in the upper grounds on Sunday at least and on the same day the first four Lesser Redpolls of the autumn were ringed by Steve Hales, whilst a few Siskins were heard in the week. There was at least one Blackcap and there were several Chiffchaffs still. There were also still plenty of BlackbirdsSong Thrushes and even Mistle Thrushes (but still no Redwings or Fieldfares). Overhead passage was almost non-existent save for several thousand Woodpigeons and several hundred Stock Doves and although the Jay passage seems to have petered out there were still several around. At least one Rock Pipit was again along the shore and numerous Meadow Pipits in the surrounding meadows (where else?). There was still a pre-roost gathering of at least fifty Pied Wagtails and a few Grey Wagtails were still visiting the stream. The reeds still held plenty of Reed Buntings and Cetti's Warblers, whilst Bearded Reedlings were heard from time to time. It's also nice to see a murmuration of Starlings again albeit very small in numbers compared to when thousands would black out the sky here!

And Last But Not Least...

Thanks to Steve Hales, Nick Urch and Paul Harris for their additional info. Also thanks to Alan Barrett and Ian McLean for helping with the Swannery WeBS (and to all the other Fleet & Portland Harbour counters of course).

Another image of the Greenland White-fronted Goose © Steve Groves 

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