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.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Swannery Birding Highlights - May 2015

Birds Of The Month...

May is often a very productive birding month at The Swannery with May 'rarities' during my tenure including Black-winged Stilt (2012), Red-footed Falcon (2003), Alpine Swift (2003), Thrush Nightingale (1996), Black Kite (1994) & Collared Pratincole (1990), not to mention numerous scarce migrants. May 2015 however was rather uninspiring with no 'rares', 'scarcities' or 'patch ticks'. In fact even some relatively common migrants were in short supply, or lacking entirely... 

The best I could come up with were the pair of Garganey present on 'Meadow Pool' on the 15th & 16th ...

The pair of Garganey © Steve Groves

...And so with a near lack of head-liners this month it's on with the rest of the news...

Apart from the aforementioned  Garganey the only other notable sighting was a Greylag Goose present on the 22nd...  

The Greylag Goose © Charlie Wheeler

Lingering 'winter waterfowl' included Teal until the 5th, with a peak of eighteen on the 2nd; Shoveler until the 17th with a peak of three on the 15th and a lone drake Red-breasted Merganser on the 2nd.

Peak counts of the commoner breeding/over-summering wildfowl were: 

Mute Swan 510; 

Black Swan 2; 
Canada Goose 40; 
Shelduck 32; 
Gadwall 7; 
Mallard 120; 
Pochard 3; 
Tufted Duck 10.

Other Water Birds... 
There were no noteworthy species but peak counts of the commoner species were: 

Cormorant 20; 

Little Egret 12; 
Grey Heron 2; 
Little Grebe 1; 
Great Crested Grebe 25; 
Moorhen 6; 
Coot 54. 

Little Egret © Steve Groves

Great Crested Grebe © Steve Groves

An Avocet was present on the 17th with it or another again on the 20th. Two pairs of Oystercatcher were nesting, with a third pair visiting from time to time. Unfortunately Lapwing have not nested for a number of years now and only a single was seen this month - arriving on the 7th and still present at the months end. Another lost breeding species is Ringed Plover and passage was poor with one on the 1st, two on the 13th and three on the 22nd. Whimbrel faired a little better with single figures being seen regularly through the month, with a peak of twenty on the 5th...

One of this month's Whimbrel © Charlie Wheeler

Only one Black-tailed Godwit was seen (on the 14th) and only two Bar-tailed Godwit (from the 15 to the 17th). The only Turnstone was seen on the 11th, whereas small flocks of Sanderling were present on the 13th (five) and on the 27th (eight). As to be expected Dunlin were far more regular but even so the largest flocks were only of ten on the 13th and again on the 22nd. 

One of this month's Dunlin © Steve Groves

Only two Common Sandpiper were noted, both on the 8th and only one Greenshank - on the 25th. There were no Redshank or Snipe.

An unseasonal Common Gull lingered until the 6th and the only Mediterranean Gull was a single first summer on the 11th and 27th. Otherwise there were just single figure counts of Black-headed Gull,  Lesser Black-backed GullHerring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull . 

The 1st summer Mediterranean Gull © Steve Groves


Sandwich Tern passage tailed off early in the month with ten on the 3rd but only single figures thenceforth... 

One of this month's Sandwich Terns © Steve Groves

After their usual fickleness up to fifty pairs of Common Terns eventually settled on the Tern Island and  began nesting but apart from the aforementioned passing Sandwich Terns no other species were drawn in by there comings and goings.

One of the breeding Common Terns © Steve Groves


Our former (now Radipole's) resident male Marsh Harrier made a brief return visit on the 8th and eight Red Kites drifted north-west on the 13th..

Three of the eight Red Kites © Charlie Wheeler

Another Red Kite lingered on the 15th but apart from an occasional Peregrine the only other raptors seen were the usual Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels, not forgetting the very vociferous Tawny Owls.

'Near' Passerines...

The only migrants were the first Swifts of the year from the 3rd, with then single figures seen regularly. So no Cuckoos or Turtle Doves this spring! That just left the usual two resident Woodpeckers species  and the four resident Pigeon/Dove species for the months tally.


The first Whitethroats of the year arrived from the 2nd (with several then remaining on territory) and only the second and third Wheatears of the year on the 5th. 

My 1st Wheatear of the year (but The Swannery's 2nd) © Steve Groves

The 7th was very productive as the year's first Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Yellow Wagtail all went into the log. The only other Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail of the month though were seen on the 8th. There were no further Garden Warblers however and only one other Lesser Whitethroat. Fortunately though both of the singing Lesser Whitethroats lingered on the periphery of the recording area (on the scrubby slopes of Linton Hill and Chesters Hill). Of the species that first arrived earlier in the spring, Sand Martins and Swallows continued to move through in single figures well into the month with one pair of the latter remaining to nest (with several elsewhere in the vicinity) but House Martins were in very short supply. Unlike Reed Warblers (many of which stayed to nest), Sedge Warbler sightings tailed off mid-month but at least one male remained on territory. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs appeared plentiful but the last Willow Warbler of the spring was noted on the 8th (another lost breeding species). There were still no flycatchers, Whinchats or White Wagtails so it looks like we will have to wait for the autumn to get these on the year list! Of the residents most noteworthy were two singing male Cetti's Warblers and a Yellowhammer that was back on the former nesting area on adjacent Chesters Hill. 

This Goldfinch was just one of the many commoner resident passerines nesting this month 
© Steve Groves

And that's it for this month except to say sorry for the late post (a month behind!) but my laptop is kaput and the only other means I have to blog is using The Swannery PC and I don't get much time at work to do this! I shall endeavour to post my June sightings asap however!

Last but not least, thanks yet again to Charlie Wheeler  wheeler-photography for the use of his images. 

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