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.



Saturday, 11 July 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - June 2020...

Highlights...

The first Roseate Tern of the year was present on the 8th and it was seen again briefly on the 20th...


Roseate Tern, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Even more noteworthy these days was a Turtle Dove that was seen briefly in flight on the 11th.  

Waterfowl... 

The Canada Goose moult flock consisted of over eight-hundred (along with a few home bred family parties) and they were joined by a Barnacle Goose on the 4th, that then lingered for the rest of the month and a Greylag Goose on the 8th, which only stayed to the 15th...

Greylag Goose, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves

The Mute Swan moult flock numbered around five-hundred, along with around two-hundred breeding birds and their young, while the resident Whooper Swan was present throughout.

As usual the most numerous ducks (and the only ones breeding) were Mallard (with around two-hundred present) and Shelduck (with around forty present)...

Shelduck ducklings, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves

Around thirty Tufted Duck, ten Pochard and up to eight Teal were present through out, as where unseasonable singles of Wigeon and Pintail. The only Shoveler were a pair on the 7th/8th, while up to four Gadwall were present early in the month but not seen after the 12th.

Waders...

Of the four breeding pairs of Oystercatchers, one pair fledged one chick and one pair still had at least one chick set to fledge on the Tern Island but unfortunately the other two pairs failed. The post-breeding Lapwing flock (having not bred here for awhile now) increased from two last month to three this month: four Ringed Plover (another former breeder), were seen on the 8th and a single Little Ringed Plover was present on the 26th. 

A single Curlew was seen on the 16th and two Black-tailed Godwits were present on the 3rd/4th with singles then seen regularly until the 30th when three were present...

Black-tailed Godwit (islandica), Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves

A single Turnstone was present on the 22nd and a ruffed Ruff was present briefly on the 27th... 

Turnstone, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves
Ruff (male), Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Joe Stockwell

A combined total of six Dunlin were seen on three dates; Redshanks were seen sporadically with a peak of four on the 14th; the first returning Common Sandpiper was seen on the 4th, with it or another on the 8th, with then regular sightings of up to three daily from the 22nd; the first returning Green Sandpiper arrived on the 14th, with one or two then present most days to the 30th...

Green Sandpiper, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Kev Butler

Gulls & Terns...  

Black-headed Gulls peaked at over one hundred on several dates and Mediterranean Gulls peaked at around forty on the 7th.  Both species bred, with the twenty or so pairs of the former beginning to fledge the first of their young by the months end; while a single large but unfledged chick of the latter was discovered on the 28th. Bizarrely though it was being fed by Common Terns!  A third calendar year pair of Mediterranean Gulls had been observed nest building in the spring but then apparently moved on, but not before laying at least one fertile egg it would seem. Presumably it was then incubated (alongside their own eggs?) by a pair of Common Terns that used the vacated nest. Whatever the chain of events, if the chick fledges, it will be the first successful nesting of the species on The Fleet!

In addition to the above nesting gulls there were regular single figure counts of Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and to a lesser extent Lesser Black-backed Gull; whilst an unseasonable Common Gull was seen on the 4th.
 
The fifty or so pairs of nesting Common Terns were still doing well, whilst passing terns included near daily single figures of Sandwich Terns (though ten plus were seen on the 14th); and in addition to the Roseate Tern, were a (first for the year) Little Tern on the 15th and a (first for the year) Arctic Tern on the 7th.


Roseate Tern, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves
Roseate Tern with Common Terns, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Charlie Wheeler
 

Other Water-birds...

Water Rails were heard on a couple of occasions so presumably still breeding as were more obviously Moorhen and Coot, with an incoming post breeding flock of around forty of the latter by the end of the month. On the 23rd the first couple of returning Little Grebes joined the over-summering (non-breeding) Great Crested Grebe flock, which  peaked at over thirty mid-month. 

There were regular low single figures counts of Grey Heronsand mid-teen counts of Little Egrets... 

Little Egret, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves

The five pairs of nesting Cormorants and their young still lingered; a Gannet overflew the beach and embayment on the 3rd, as did a Fulmar on the 8th...


Fulmar, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Predatory Birds...

There were regular sightings of Buzzard and Kestrel along with the occasional Sparrowhawk, so presumably all were nesting in the near vicinity. Single Marsh Harriers were regular too but there was no evidence of breeding; whilst this month's sole Red Kite was present on the 16th/17th only. The month's only Peregrine was seen on the 12th, the same day as the first Hobby of the year but another of the latter was seen on the 30th.

The pair of Barn Owls fledged two young but the pair of Little Owls were not seen after the 3rd so are believed to have failed this year.  Tawny Owls were not even heard, let alone seen but it seems inconceivable that there wasn't at least one pair present.

Other Non-Passerines...

The highlight was the Turtle Dove mentioned above (and as it was not photographed, below is a picture of the last bird in October 2018)...

Turtle Dove, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2018 © Steve Groves

Swifts were seen regularly and peaked at over one hundred on the 3rd, at least a few of which were nesting in the village; whilst PheasantFeral PigeonStock DoveWood PigeonCollared DoveGreat Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all present too and all nesting at least within the local area if not all in the actual grounds. 

Passerines...

Spotted Flycatcher on the 8th was the only obvious late spring migrant but return migration, or at least post-breeding dispersal, became apparent by the end of the month with single figures of Sand Martin from the 14th; a Firecrest on the 17th; and single Crossbills on the 24th and 27th (the first of the latter since December 2018). There were also sightings of single Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail and a pair of Mistle Thrush and all also fall into the latter category, as none bred at The Swannery this year. 

All seen regularly in varying numbers and either breeding within The Swannery or in the very near vicinity were: Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.

As there is a lack of passerine photos this month here's a couple of insect pics from June to end this month's post...

Azure Damselfly, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves 


Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Abbotsbury Swannery, June 2020 © Steve Groves
  

So that's it for this post except to thank Alan Barrett, Kev Butler, Joe Stockwell, Nick Urch, Steve Waite and Charlie Wheeler for their sightings and where applicable for the use of their photos. 

July 2020 sightings to follow shortly.  
 

Steve Groves.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - May 2020...


Rarities...

Purple Heron (thought to be a second calendar year) was seen (but unfortunately not photographed) flying west on the evening of the 7th. This constitutes the third Swannery record following two seen in 1998 (a second calendar year in April and a juvenile in August).
 

Waterfowl... 

Three Garganey were the undoubted highlights, a drake on the 5th and a pair on the 28th.  
  
(Drake) Garganey & Coot, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 

A few each of PochardTeal, Shoveler, Gadwall and even Wigeon and Pintail were present, along with more expected (and nesting) Canada GooseMute Swan, ShelduckMallard and Tufted Duck. Also present was the resident Whooper Swan that (unfortunately for those birders that have year ticked it in the past) is now believed to have originated from a private wildfowl collection near Bridport!

(Drake) Teal, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 


Waders...

In addition to the four breeding pairs of Oystercatchers, at least two, probably three Avocets were seen on the 8th; two (failed breeding?) Lapwings were back from the 26th; single Grey Plovers were seen on the 10th and 14th; a Little Ringed Plover (a belated first of the year) was present from the 27th to the 30th at least; Whimbrels were noted fairly regularly from the 5th to the 19th, with a peak of at least eight on the first date; single Bar-tailed Godwits were present from the 17th to the 20th and on the 28th; Turnstones were seen regularly, with a peak of three on the 3rd; single Knot were present on the 13th and 27th/28th; four Sanderlings (the first of the year) were seen on the 20th; Dunlins were regular with a peak of over twenty on the 19th; Common Sandpipers were seen regularly from the 2nd to the 16th, with a peak of four on the 6th; Redshanks were regular throughout with a peak of three on the 28th; and singles and duos of Greenshank were regular from the 14th to the 27th.

Oystercatcher, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 

Avocet & Shelducks, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Little Ringed Plover, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Turnstone, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Dunlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Greenshank, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)



Gulls & Terns... 

Most noteworthy was a lingering adult Kittiwake on the 27th.

Kittiwake, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)


The Tern Island played host to at least fifty pairs of nesting Common Terns, along with around twenty pairs of Black-headed Gulls 

Common Tern, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)


Mediterranean GullsCommon Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Sandwich Terns were also present (although not nesting) in varying frequency and numbers.


Other Water-birds...

Apart from the aforementioned Purple Heron, the highlight was Spoonbill that was seen briefly on the 13th, before flying off west. It reappeared briefly the following day but then flew off east.

Spoonbill, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Cormorants are breeding again this year, following on from the first ever breeding last year; and also nesting were a few pairs each of Water Rail, Moorhen and Coot Seen daily but not nesting were Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes, the latter peaking at forty on the 18th.

On a 'red letter day' for seabirds a Fulmar overflew the embayment on the 27th (the same day that the Kittiwake was seen). 


Predatory Birds...

Red Kites were seen regularly but there was a pronounced movement on the 10th with at least fifty seen (although as some were lingering and many others moving through the actual figure may have been considerably higher!). Single Marsh Harriers were seen on five dates, whereas single Peregrines were only seen on two.

Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Barn OwlTawny Owl and Little Owl were all nesting within the recording area, or at least (judging by frequent sightings) in the very near vicinity.



Other Non-Passerines...

The highlight was the first and so far only, Cuckoo of the year, seen but not heard on the 5th.  

Swifts just reached double figures on several dates, with sightings no doubt including both passage birds and foraging breeders from the village. 

Pheasant, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all present too and all nesting at least within the local area if not all in the actual grounds. 


Passerines...

Passage migrants included two firsts of the year... a Garden Warbler on the 2nd and a Spotted Flycatcher on the 28th, both the only ones of the month. 

Following earlier arrivals though were two Yellow Wagtails on the 8th, followed by another on the 11th; single Wheatears on the 12th and 16th; and a late Willow Warbler on the 13th.  Sand Martins were still regular in the first half of the month and just made it into double figures on two dates; whilst House Martins and Swallows continued to move through too, both peaking at over thirty on the 3rd, although some of the former were no doubt local breeders from the village and a few of the latter were nesting within The Swannery. 

No doubt Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler were still moving through too but as they were all nesting as well, it was not always easy too tell passage birds from those on territory. 

Breeding 'residents'  either in or foraging within the recording area, were Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.

Starling (juvenile), Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)


Other Wildlife Highlights...  
The best sighting for me was a Sea Trout, the first seen at The Swannery during my 30 year tenure!

Sea Trout, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)



And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleagues Charlie Wheeler, Kev Butler and Joe Stockwell for their sightings. 

June 2020 sightings to follow shortly. 


Steve Groves.


Monday, 25 May 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - Highlights April 2020...

Wildfowl...

Along with the usual residents, all the regular winter wildfowl lingered, albeit in dwindling numbers. The only real surprise were three Barnacle Geese  (potentially of natural rather than naturalised origin) that flew in-off the sea, then east on the 16th.

Red-breasted Merganser (drake), Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).
Just 
one of several species of wintering wildfowl that lingered to the end of the month.


Waders...

Having lost Lapwing, Ringed Plover and Redshank as breeders some years ago now, the only breeding waders were Oystercatcher with three pairs present.  However, a late Lapwing was present on the 20th to the 22nd; single Ringed Plovers were logged on four dates, with three present on the 2nd; and Redshanks were present throughout, with a peak of at least five on two dates. Other lingering winter or passage waders seen were Knot, with two on the 18th and one on the 22nd; Dunlin on seven dates with a peak of seven on the 25th; Snipe, with singles on the 3rd and 16th; Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit (form islandica), with near daily sightings until the 21st and a peak of nine on the 18th; Bar-tailed Godwit, with near daily sightings from the 10th and a peak of over seventy on the 23rd; Whimbrel, with near daily sightings and a peak of over twenty on the 29th; Common Sandpiper, with near daily sightings and a peak of three on several dates; and Greenshank, with six on the 15th and one on the 21st.  
    
Black-tailed Godwit, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)

Bar-tailed Godwit & Knot, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)


Gulls & Terns...

Among all the usual commoner species there were singles of (second calendar year) Little Gulls, on the 12th and 19th;  around a dozen Mediterranean Gulls were seen daily; whilst the regular spring passage of Continental Lesser Black-backed Gulls (form intermedius) peaked at over twenty on the 5th. Following the arrival of the first Sandwich Terns of the year last month the first Common Terns arrived on the 5th.

Sandwich Terns, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)


Other Water-birds...

All the regulars were seen with the only real noteworthy sightings being of Cattle Egrets, which, following on from at least sixteen at the end of March, presumably continued to roost nightly throughout but with increasing daylight hours their dawn and dusk comings and goings went unobserved. The only sightings during the 'day' on site were on the 5th (one), 10th (two), 18th/19th (two) and 28th (one). 

Cattle Egrets, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).
Cattle Egret, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).


Predatory Birds...

In addition to the four regular breeding species Red Kites were logged on the 10th (two) and on the 13th (one); Single Marsh Harriers were regular but a pair were seen together on the 20th; Single Ospreys flew north on the 16th and 19th; Single Barn Owls were either heard or seen on the 4th, 5th and 7th; and a pair of Little Owls were present throughout, nesting for the second year in a row after a long absence.


Other Non-Passerines...

The first Swifts of the year were seen on the 26th but other than that only the usual resident species were present.

Passerines...

Joining the usual residents and following on from the first Blackcaps, Swallows, Sand Martins and Wheatears of the year last month (all of which continued to arrive this month), earliest dates for spring migrants were as follows... Willow Warbler on the 3rd, Sedge Warbler on the 8th, Reed Warbler on the 9th, House Martin on the 16th and Whitethroat on the 22nd.

Most noteworthy was a Nightingale, heard but not seen, on the 16th. Only the fourth seen or heard within The Swannery recording area during my 31 year tenure! Another species seen this month with less than ten previous Swannery records is Water Pipit... at least one was present from the 8th to the 11th but two were seen together on the 9th. These were presumably the same two birds, in the exact same location, that were present last April. Also of note single Yellow Wagtails were seen on the 23rd and 27th. 

As the Nightingale didn't show itself, above is the bird that frequented my garden, adjacent to The Swannery in April 2013, photographed through my bedroom window!

Unusually several regular spring migrants were absent with no Garden Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Whinchats, White Wagtails or Tree Pipits!  Hopefully they'll appear in May!



And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleague Charlie Wheeler for additional sightings. 

May 2020 sightings to follow shortly. 


Steve Groves.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - March 2020 Highlights...

Wildfowl...

Nine Greylag Geese  flew east on the 6th, followed by two north on the 16th.  These may well have been true wild birds returning to Scandinavia from wintering grounds in Spain but a settled tame bird on the 26th however, was most definitely of 'feral' origin. With no Scaup or Long-tailed Ducks the duck highlight was  a  Goldeneye seen erratically from the 4th to the 18th. Formally a common winter visitor they are now unfortunately rather scarce here.

Goldeneye (female) & Great Crested Grebe, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 
© Joe Stockwell


Waders...

Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Redshanks and Snipe were regular but more noteworthy were a flock of around thirty Knots that were present briefly on the 31st (the first since October); a single Dunlin which was seen on the 25th; and a Jack Snipe seen even more briefly on the 30th. Black-tailed Godwits were seen on four dates, with eighteen on the 18th, twelve on the 19th and two on the 23rd and 31st; whilst also on passage were three Curlews on the 11th, along with a single on the 19th. The over-wintering Common Sandpiper was still present to the 28th at least.

Dunlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Steve Groves

Gulls & Terns...

Among all the usual commoner species there were two sightings of (second calendar year) Caspian Gulls, the first on the 6th and the second on the 18th (but possibly both the same individual) and there were three sightings of (third calendar year) Yellow-legged Gulls on the 2nd, 6th and 18th (probably all the same individual). The first Sandwich Tern of the year arrived on the 23rd and there were then single figures daily to the end of the month.

Caspian Gull (2nd calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 
© Joe Stockwell


Other Waterbirds...

Cattle Egrets roosted throughout and peaked at sixteen on the 24th; whilst last month's lingering Red-necked Grebe remained until the 5th.


Predatory Birds...

Three Red Kites were logged on the 22nd and at least one on the 26th; whilst single Marsh Harriers were regular but the only Peregrine was seen on the 20th. A Barn Owl was heard overnight on the 16th/17th and at least one of last year's breeding Little Owls were back on territory (actually on the 28th February but it got left off last month's post).

Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Charlie Wheeler
Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Charlie Wheeler


Passerines...

Early spring passage began in earnest with the first Swallow on the 16th; the first Sand MartinsBlackcaps and Wheatears from the 18th and the first influx of Chiffchaffs on the 19th. The best passerine of the month though was a Black Redstart on the 18th.

Black Redstart, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Kev Butler


And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleagues Joe Stockwell, Kev Butler and Charlie Wheeler for finding and photographing some of the above birds. Also thanks to Swannery WeBS volunteers Alan Barrett and Nick Urch and to other work colleagues and visiting birders that reported Swannery sightings. 

April 2020 sightings to follow shortly.


Steve Groves.