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 30 December 2011

'Unseasonal Greetings'

The flock of the 14 (Red) Knots present today (though some are hiding!)
I 'broke up' for the holidays a week last Wednesday (the day of my last blog) and due to various commitments I have only been down to The Swannery to  have a quick look round on five of the last nine days and with little results. Today was probably the best however as I was able to put in a couple of hours and there was a nice number and selection of birds to go through. Highlights included the flock of Knots pictured above. Regular passage migrants to The Swannery in spring and autumn they are usually few and far between in the winter months, though this time last year I had a flock of around fifty! A Green Sandpiper (heard but not seen) was also unusual for the time of year, as was a Blackcap - a lack of late berry-bearing shrubs on my patch makes them more regular in the village, but the mild conditions and associated insects makes the sighting less unusual perhaps. A Chiffchaff and several Redwings called from the depths of the willow maze and the three Scaup were still with the Pochard flock. Earlier in the week I thought for a moment that there were four Scaup but quickly realised that last winter's Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrid had reappeared. It looks very similar to a female Scaup (and has been claimed as such at Radipole and at The Swannery previously) but there are subtle differences. I will endeavour to get a photo if it lingers!

This though is the real deal a female (Greater) Scaup with a female (Common) Pochard.

There has been no sign of the Goosander since my last blog but later that day, after blogging, I managed to get a few slightly better shots and as they're such gorgeous birds I couldn't help myself... 

Male Goosander.
Back to today though, another interesting bird was this gull... far right...

And second from left above... A Herring type with pink legs it was noticeably darker mantled than it's companions whatever it's attitude or position in the flock. It may well be a Scandinavian bird but it lacked other typical argentatus traits such as larger size and more white in it's primaries so the jury's out. The only other notebook entries over the last week were a few Mediterranean Gulls and a single Brent Goose.

Elsewhere on The Fleet the Hume's Leaf Warbler still lingers, a 'redhead' Goosander was seen and as speculated in my last blog the now almost regular Barnacle Goose flock has reappeared for their third winter at Rodden Hive although they have yet to visit The Swannery and again they have a hybrid in their midst that I tentavily identified as a Barnacle x Ross's Goose last year but 'ansers' on a postcard please or should that be 'brantas'... see what I did there?

(Eurasian) Teal in the meadow.
A happy and bird filled New Year to you all!

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Raining Redwings!

The male Goosander reappeared last Friday and is still present off and on, though distant...

Ad. male Goosander (with Shovelers).
And preening.

And the lonely first winter male Scaup has at last been joined by two females but three is still a very low count for this time of the year here. Dabbling duck numbers are also low with a couple hundred Teal and considerably fewer Wigeon and Shoveler...

Male Shoveler.
 In the withies a few Chiffchaffs, Cetti's Warblers and Goldcrests are still vocal and Fred (one of the ringers) had a Firecrest yesterday that I failed to see, having to content myself with seeing a few of the ten plus that are present at the nearby Sub-Tropical Gardens while running an erand there today. On leaving my cottage yesterday for the short stroll to work I at last saw a Redwing my first of the autumn/winter. A wintering species I usually see (or at least hear in the night sky) for the first time by the end of October not as late as December! And today there was not one in the hedge (that runs from my cottage to The Swannery) but a flock of sixty plus! Presumably downed in the heavy rain overnight. Other highlights since my last blog were a Marsh Harrier yesterday (again missed by me but seen by Fred and also picked up by mates Alan, Mike and Cliff at nearby West Bexington) and two flyby Knots on Monday, plus the usual scattering of Mediterranean Gulls.

Last Sunday was December WeBS Count day and the figures for The Swannery to Rodden Hive Point were as follows...

Mute Swan 267
Shelduck 17
Wigeon 5
Teal 220
Mallard 496
Domestic Mallard 9
Shoveler 37
Pochard 550
Tufted Duck 260
Scaup 1
Goldeneye 8
Red-breasted Merganser 15
Cormorant 4
Little Egret 3
Grey Heron 3
Little Grebe 25
Great Crested Grebe 10
Moorhen 11
Coot 260
Lapwing 60
Redshank 5
Black-headed Gull 42
Mediterranean Gull 1
Common Gull 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2
Herring Gull 21
Great Black-backed Gull 9
Kingfisher 1

Elsewhere along The Fleet, as last week, the Hume's Leaf Warbler and Richard's Pipit still linger in the Littlesea Holiday Park/Bridging Camp area and at least one Black Brant is still with the Brent Geese.

The Swannery looking east from New Barn Road with the Dorset and Devon coast beyond Lyme Bay.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

'We Say Goosander, They Say Merganser!'

Over the last few days I've again been using up leave to try and get some more DIY done at home before Christmas, in what is our slightly quieter period at The Swannery, before the real preparations begin in the new year to re-open to the public in March. Therefore I haven't been getting out much and when I have there has been precious little to see. The highlight last week was a male Goosander feeding with the regular Red-breasted Merganser flock. Only just about annual at The Swannery they certainly don't live up to their official International (Americanised) English name of Common Merganser here with their Red-breasted cousins being far commoner!

The Goosander (with female Common Pochard). 'Redheads' (females & 1st years) are far more often encountered here than gorgeous adult males like this.
Despite the relatively colder weather wildfowl numbers seemed to have dropped if anything with still only the one Scaup present.
The 1st winter male Scaup
A lone Brent Goose (or if you prefer the International Ornithologist's Union version... Brant Goose!) settled on the beach opposite was unusual but it was just a 'Dark-bellied' and not the hoped for 'Black Brant'. The only other birds that made the notebook were a few Mediterranean Gulls, 4 Redshank, a group of three Mistle Thrushes and a Fieldfare and two fine male Bullfinches. Also Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers are still very much in evidence.

A typical view of a Cetti's Warbler
And an equally camera shy Common Chiffchaff

And finally elsewhere on The Fleet there have still been sporadic reports of the Hume's Leaf Warbler and Richard's Pipit lingering in the Littlesea/Lynch Cove area and also at least one of the Black Brants is still present.
A Meadow Pipit appropriately in The Swannery meadow... not the hoped for Richard's Pipit!
Six Green Plovers perching on a rail... if one Green Plover...
(Officially Northern Lapwings of course).

Sunday 4 December 2011

D. I. Y. - S. O. S...

'Do It Yourself' for me - a 'Surfeit Of Sibes' for others.

I have very little to report this week as I had the week off to do some much needed home improvements and was so busy I didn't get down to The Swannery to do any birding until Friday! I also did a circuit of the hides and withybeds yesterday and today when I fed but found little of note. There was still good numbers of wildfowl... 500 or so Teal along with smaller numbers of Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Shelduck in the meadow, while on the Fleet the single 1st winter male Scaup was the highlight in the Pochard and Tufted Duck flock (there were a dozen or so Scaup this time last year!). A small flock of Red-breasted Merganser is now in evidence but the only geese are the usual Canada will be interesting to see whether the presumed wild Barnacle Geese present in the last two winters will reappear this year, but we may need some cold weather to encourage them. In the withies there are still more Goldcrests than usual and a few Chiffchaffs and Cettis' Warblers. The last two winters finished off the wintering individuals of the last two species but unusually not the former! There have been a number of gulls to check through but a few Mediterraneans Gulls was the best I could do. As I haven't been getting down to the patch this last week until the afternoons the poor light saw that the camera didn't even get an airing but I took the following shot last week...

The western reedbeds from Bum Point with Golden Cap in the distance.
 Although it's been pretty quiet at Abbotsbury elsewhere on The Fleet several Siberian birds have been around... the Hume's Leaf Warbler (a first for The Fleet recording area) is still at Littlesea Holiday Park, a Richard's Pipit was seen flying up The Fleet by the Bridging Camp and up to three Black Brants are present. Although I've seen the latter many times on The Fleet I still haven't seen one at The Swannery but as it's still officially considered the Pacific race of Brent Goose (with those on The Fleet no doubt originating from the east rather than from America) even if I do finally connect with one this winter it won't be an official tick and the chances are slim as the Brent flock rarely strays west of Rodden Hive. I checked the Meadow Pipit flock in The Swannery meadow today for the Richard's but to no avail. I'm back to work tomorrow though so I should spend a lot more time in the field and therefore hopefully connect with something more exciting... maybe even a Black Brant!

Sunday 27 November 2011

The Tale Of The Bus-like Bunting

I didn't have a lot of time on the patch this weekend... I had other commitments and a stinking cold! I fed the swans of course and quickly checked to see if Friday's geese were still about, which they weren't, but that was it. Friday's geese were in fact a family party of five Eurasian Whitefronts that I found at Ditchmoor - the wet meadows behind the western reedbed. Whitefronts were once virtually annual visitors to the swannery but have dropped off a bit in recent years so are always a delight to see.

Eurasian White-fronted Geese.. two adults left and three juvs.
On Thursday I popped down The Fleet to Lynch Cove to check on the swans and during my coffee break managed to connect with the Hume's Leaf Warbler that was frequenting the scrub at the SE edge of the adjacent Littlesea Holiday Park. I had a probable in, what was then, my parents garden on the nearby Littlesea Estate some years ago but unlike todays bird it never gave the distinctive disyllabic call (I didn't hear it call at all) and in those days it was still considered a race of Yellow-browed Warbler so although it was rather a plain individual I only claimed it as the latter. It was nice therefore to legitimately add it to my Fleet list (it would have been even nicer if it had been in the swannery withybed)!
Meanwhile back at the swannery the middle of the week was rather quiet. At least one Bullfinch was still around and a flyover Yellowhammer was (now unfortunately) a noteworthy record. Good numbers of Goldcrests, a few Chiffchaffs and several Linnets were still present, the latter with the Greenfinch flock on the beach opposite (they're normally scarce here in the winter months). A flock of forty Snipe were seen in the air where they are far more visible than on the ground, as last weeks WeBS count results testify and a Golden Plover was heard. Mediterranean Gulls peaked at three and there was still only the one Scaup, though several Red-breasted Mergansers have now appeared.

Female or 1st winter Red-breasted Merganser.

1st winter Mediterranean Gull.

The best record of the week though was on Monday...While scanning the swannery embayment from Helen Hide I heard the distinctive call of a Snow Bunting. It appeared to be coming from the adjacent beach but despite scanning I failed to pick it up. Luckily I had better results earlier in the month...You wait nearly twenty-three years and two turn up within a few weeks!

Monday 21 November 2011

Craning My Neck In Vain!

Today was November WeBS count day and after feeding the swans I left count volunteers Alan and Ian to cover The Swannery while I went off and surveyed my usual stretch of The Fleet from Shipmoor Point to Rodden Hive point (the bit just east of The Swannery). There wasn't an awful lot to count, the highlight being a Common Scoter on The Fleet and a flyover Golden Plover. When I got back to compare notes with Alan and Ian they hadn't fared much better. The complete Abbotsbury (Reeds End to Rodden Hive) count was as follows....

Canada Goose 3
Common Scoter 1
Coot 210
Cormorant 1
Gadwall 3
Golden Plover 1
Goldeneye 2
Great Crested Grebe 19
Grey Heron 1
Lapwing 46
Little Egret 5
Little Grebe 31
Mallard 379
Mallard (domestic) 6
Moorhen 15 (under recorded)
Mute Swan 185
Pintail 156
Pochard 510
Pochard x Ferruginous Duck (hybrid) 1
Red-breasted Merganser 11
Redshank 3
Shelduck 7
Shoveler 14
Teal 600
Tufted Duck 210
Water Rail 2 (under recorded)
Wigeon 58
Black-headed Gull 30
Common Gull 20
Great Black-backed Gull 16
Herring Gull 93
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5
Mediterranean Gull 4

Good numbers of duck but apart from the scoter nothing unusual. Common Scoter is just about annual at The Swannery but I still await my first Velvet Scoter that was recorded with some frequency on what is now my patch before my tenure. I've had them on the sea off the tank traps but that doesn't count!
The Fleet looking west toward The Swannery from Bury Knapp.
The Common Scoter is out there somewhere!

The rest of the week was also fairly quiet... I had 14 unidentified grey geese fly north on Tuesday that I tried to make into something interesting but 14 Greylags dropped into Lodmoor RSPB later so mystery solved. The only consolation is that they may be genuine wild Scandinavian birds rather than feral birds. The first winter Scaup was still present off and on and is now clearly moulting into first winter male plumage. The 'Ferruchard' is also still present and is also clearly a first winter male so definitely different from my usual bird that hasn't turned up this year. The first Goldeneye arrived but the first mergansers of the winter haven't quite made it to The Swannery yet  albeit by a few metres! Around 30 Common Snipe were in the western reedbeds (although not seen on the count) and a Jack Snipe was being typically elusive. A  few Dunlin joined the Redshank and Lapwing and Steve Hales flushed the first Woodcock of the season from his withybed net ride. Around 10,000 Woodpigeons and fewer Stock Doves flew east on Tuesday but that was the only notable overhead passage. There were a few Fieldfare around though but still no Redwing and an elusive Lesser Redpoll was hanging around with a few Siskins.
The 1st w male Scaup with Tufted Duck.

A few of the 10,000 Woodpigeon.

A symptom of the mild weather... A Crab Apple in fruit and blossom in my garden with The Swannery beyond.
And finally... the Common Crane that was lingering at Langton and Rodden was last seen on Monday but unfortunately, despite keeping my eyes peeled even more than usual, to my knowledge it never made it to The Swannery, so my hope of two ticks in two weeks didn't come off. Also the fear of my first Swannery Crane being one of the uncountable released birds from the Somerset levels becomes ever more likely!

Sunday 13 November 2011

At Last A (Snow) Flurry Of Activity

There was a rather quiet end to the week but an excellent start!
I fed today and yesterday and had a round of the hides and withy-bed but found little of note. The best birds on Friday were a Marsh Harrier and a Merlin… both over while I was baiting the decoy pipes first thing. The nets are under repair at the moment so we are not actually operating the decoy as yet but by baiting it now we hope to start catching some duck for ringing fairly soon.

I was away in London on Wednesday and Thursday… staying with my brother Rob enabling me to see his play that he has co-written and is directing. It is called ‘The Unrest Cure’. A  P.G. Woodhouse inspired comedy set in Chickerell it is showing at The Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead until the 26 November… plug, plug! I did manage to get in a little birding at Rob’s local golf club in Finchley where the highlight for a country bumpkin like me, were several Ring-necked Parakeets. This species is actually on my Swannery list but as any in west Dorset are more likely direct escapes rather than naturalised this may be a bit stringy!
Another naturalised species on The Swannery list is Mandarin Duck and although initially my first few records were probably escapes, recent birds are perhaps far more likely to be birds from the now burgeoning North Dorset population.  I have come across many recently during swan rescue work and on estate land north of Dorchester so the two present on Monday may well have been legitimate.

Male Mandarin Duck on the Decoy Pond
 (it just happens to be standing in front of some anti-erosion mesh)

Female Mandarin Duck by the tank traps. At no point did I see the 'pair' together.
After saying in my last blog that there had as yet been no Redwings, Fieldfares or Bramblings I was informed that ringers Steve and Luke had seen a Brambling in the finch flock on the swan nest site last weekend. Also several Fieldfares were around this week with one flock of seven coming in off the beach. Other passerine highlights included a few Bearded Tits… heard but not seen as was last week’s still lingering Bullfinch.
A hint of wader passage around the full moon was probably not a coincidence… with a couple of Golden Plover, a Black-tailed Godwit and ten Dunlin joining the Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank already present.
There were still good numbers of dabbling duck but diving duck were still low in number, though the single Scaup and ‘Ferruchard’ were still present off and on and a few Brent Geese flew through. Last weeks Red-breasted Goose has been tracked down on the Exe where it is accompanying Canada Geese and it is in some quarters now being reported as of ‘unknown origin’.
Red Fox and Teal...

Red Fox and more Teal...

Red Fox and yet more Teal and Pintail...
And then there were none...
We're always telling school groups how the decoy used to be operated by a man using a red dog to lure the ducks in relying on there instinct to follow potential land predators knowing they can easily make their getaway when required!

I’m leaving the best to last however as there were three potential Swannery ticks in the offing for me this week. The first was a Common Crane that after being seen briefly at Radipole on Sunday was relocated on The Fleet at Langton Herring on Monday. Checking the Dorset Bird Clubs Sightings first thing Tuesday I also learned of a Snow Bunting on Abbotsbury Beach, also on the Monday, which was seen to fly into my recording area. I was rather gutted as I had been working in the area up to ten minutes before the sighting! Luckily I managed to pop over to the beach in my coffee break on Tuesday and there it was still present feeding on the path at the back of the beach and within my patch… rounding my patch list up to 260! I really should have got this species before but there have only been two Abbotsbury records during my tenure and it is unclear whether either was actually seen on the patch. With the bunting safely under my belt I could now turn my attention to the crane… but despite keeping an eye out all morning it didn’t appear. Late morning I heard that it was still well settled at Langton Hive so in my lunch hour I popped over to at least get it on my Fleet list. I arrived just in time to see it sailing off west and terrified I was going to miss it at The Swannery I hurried back but to no avail as it settled at Rodden Hive instead… within the Parish of Abbotsbury (despite several major rarities there being published as being at Langton Herring!) but still a couple of miles short of The Swannery. And as I write that is still where it is, so I’m still hoping that over the next few days I may pick it up on my patch. There has only been one previous Abbotsbury record and again before my tenure and I’m not sure whether it was within the patch. The third potential tick stalled just short of Abbotsbury at Langton Herring…literally as it was picked up exhausted… a Pallid Swift! Now wouldn’t that have been a good record for The Swannery?!
Snow Bunting Abbotsbury Beach

And another shot.

Sunday 6 November 2011

No Fireworks!

As The Swannery is now closed I don't have to work at weekends now until March, when we open again. We still feed the swans (and the Mallards, Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Coots and Moorhens!) over the weekends though and I volunteer to do the bulk of this as I like to have a look round anyway. I didn't find much today however or yesterday for that matter. The best day since my last blog was Friday 4th when there were seventeen Mediterranean Gulls (a good count for The Swannery still) and the first hint of Woodpigeon passage with twenty NW (early days yet I hope). Steve Hales our resident ringer (myself, Dave and Suz are only licensed to ring waterfowl) also popped in to try his luck and managed to catch the male Bullfinch that I saw earlier in the week although unfortunately a Firecrest managed to escape. The rest of the week was rather quiet... though there are still good numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Pintail, with a few Shoveler and Gadwall. Pochard and Tufted Duck numbers aren't very impressive as yet and there is still only the one Scaup and no Merganser or Goldeneye as yet. Apart from the pigeons there has been little overhead passage and no Brambling, Redwing or Fieldfare. There have been still a few Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank but no other waders. Lets hope that things pick up soon!

Male Bullfinch (and Steve's hand!)
Steve Hales has his own blog concentrating on the ringing side at The Swannery... and so has Luke who also rings at The Swannery and at another sight nearby...

Thursday 3 November 2011

'A Goose Loose Above The Sluice!'

Despite putting in a good effort today I found little of note. A Green Sandpiper was in the meadow again which is unusual for The Swannery as they are mainly an early autumn (that is to say June/July) visitor here with very few winter records. The meadow also held good numbers of Teal, Pintail and Wigeon, no doubt due to the very high water on the west Fleet caused by the SE winds and low pressure, despite the fact that the new moon was a week ago! Amongst moderate numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck the 1st winter Scaup was still present, as was the 'Ferruchard'. All I could find in the withies though were a few Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap (not the hoped for Pallas's Warbler!). There was still little overhead passage either but in the evening several Mediterranean Gulls were picked out in the gloom of the gull pre-roost gathering. Yesterday (Tuesday 1st November) I fared a little better with an immature male Marsh Harrier and almost as exciting a fine male Bullfinch. The former are far more regular here than they once were, while the latter are allways rather sporadic... a few records a year on average but a pair or two occasionally nest and when they don't here, they usually do somewhere else in Abbotsbury.
Male Wigeon with female Teal
Little Grebe... a common winter visitor to The Swannery.
 Monday (31st October) was the first day of our closed season...that is to say the first day of the autumn that we are closed to visitors. All the seasonal staff have now left (James, Charlotte and Charlie) leaving just me, Swanherd Dave and Suz plus a few contractors when required. One of the first jobs of 'winterization' is to lower all the water levels on the nest site and in the reedbeds. It was while I was extricating a rather stubborn 'hatch' (sluice) that I heard the shrill high pitched 'cackle' of a goose right over my head. I had been tipped off that the 1st winter Red-breasted Goose originally found at Stanpit (east Dorset) a couple of weeks ago, that then relocated to Ferrybridge (at the other end of The Fleet) on Sunday, had disappeared up the lagoon in the afternoon and therefore may well appear at The Swannery. Well it did, as looking up there was a first winter Red-breasted Goose. It dipped below some trees and appeared to land in the grounds but by the time I got out of the ditch and went to investigate there was no sign of it. I didn't see or hear which way it had gone and I never saw it again and at the time of blogging as far as I'm aware neither has anybody else. This is the third time I've had this attractive Russian breeding goose on my patch. The first was an obvious escape back in 2003 that not only summered but bore an avicultural type plastic ring. The second was in November 2006. This bird turned up at Ferrybridge with Russian Brent Geese but briefly visited The Swannery in the company of feral Mallards. Although this was accepted as a wild bird I'm afraid I'm always going to have my doubts having approached to within a few metres of it and due to the company it was keeping. Even the 2003 bird accompanied the Brent flock in late autumn and if it hadn't been for it's ring it too may have been claimed as wild. This lastest bird though could well be wild, as even though, like the 2006 bird, it left the company of it's Brent Goose cousins, unlike the last bird, more importantly it appeared to shun the company of our dodgy Mallards! 
The November 2006 adult Red-breasted Goose with Mallards (and Pochards behind).
I didn't work Sunday (30th October) or get a chance to have a look round. Colleague Charlie was working though (his last day of the season) and his highlights were a Curlew over and four Mediterranean Gulls in the meadow.
Mediterranean Gulls (3 1st winters right, adult left rear) with Black-headed Gulls and Wigeon (Charlie Wheeler)

Sunday 30 October 2011

The 'Start' Of Winter

Wednesday to Friday (26th to 28th) were fairly quiet with only a little overhead passage mostly on the latter day and this only involved a few Siskins, a Lesser Redpoll, Sky Larks, Starlings and a few Swallows still. On Thursday however I did miss by minutes a Short-eared Owl in the water meadow. My colleague Charlie though was luckier...

Short-eared Owl (Charlie Wheeler)
I was off on Saturday 29th but managed to get down to the Swannery for a good look round. On the way down I just glimpsed a chat disappearing into the swannery meadow hedge but despite patiently waiting for it to reappear it never did so I dismissed it as a likely Robin and carried on. After checking the withy bed my next port of call was Helen Hide on Bum Point (real name honest) over looking the tern island and relatively close to the beach. A 'Ringtail' (female or 1st winter) Hen Harrier was flying away over the embayment and I lost it over by the water meadow. Hopefully it will be another good winter for this raptor as several were in the area last year. Their were also several large gulls on the beach opposite. They were mostly Great and Lesser Black-backs with a few Herring but also an adult Yellow-legged Gull. The first adult I've had here since the demise of the regular returning individual last summer. An adult Mediterranean Gull also flew down the lagoon. Despite the massive increase in this gull at the other end of The Fleet in recent years this has barely been reflected up this end. I ended my visit by checking the water meadow but there was no sign of the harrier unfortunately. There was however a good number of Teal, Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler, two Redshank and a few Lapwing and Snipe. On my way out I had a quick chat with my colleagues (who'd drawn the short straw to work the last weekend of our open season). James informed me that he'd seen a female Redstart in Simon's Hide earlier. I told him it was more likely a Black Redstart due to the time of year and the fact it was in a building and indeed he did say it looked rather grey. We don't get many Black Redstarts at The Swannery despite their regular occurrence in the village in late autumn and early winter (especially around the monastic 'ruins') and two of the half dozen or so I have seen here were also in hides. Heading for home I retraced my steps and while passing the same hedge as earlier a 'vist tik tik' call alerted my presence to a chat lurking in the hedge. A female Black Redstart! Unfortunately it was still too furtive to get a picture but a good Swannery record all the same!

A slightly better shot of the 1st winter (Greater) Scaup with Tufted Duck.
Still the only one of the season so far and a bit sporadic as it comutes between here and Lodmoor RSPB.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Return Of The 'Ferruchard'

Still rather quiet in the last few days. There has been a little overhead passage mostly involving Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Linnets, Siskins, Lesser Redpolls, Reed Buntings, Starlings, still a few Swallows and the first Jackdaws, but nothing impressive yet. In the withies there are a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests but that's about it. Highlights have been a Marsh Harrier on Friday (21st), followed by a Merlin on Saturday (22nd) and a Green Sandpiper yesterday (24th). The only other waders present have been the 50 odd Lapwing, a few Snipe and a couple of Dunlin and Redshank.

Green Sandpiper (with preening Eurasian Wigeon).

Most of the usual duck species are present including the first winter 'first winter' Scaup...

First winter Greater Scaup (honest!) with Common Pochard.
But no mergansers or Goldeneye yet. The regular hybrid male Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard has returned though for it's umpteenth year, well I say that but for the last autumn or two it has been sporting a metal ring (which I was unable to read) but this year there is no sign of a ring! Either it lost it (unlikely but swans can) or my regular bird has actually involved at least two individuals (I have had several female hybrids too over the years so they're not rare).
Male Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard (note no ring!)

Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard (the same bird as above I assume).
I wasn't working today but after popping over to see the lingering Snow Bunting at The Bridging Camp I felt inspired to go and find my own down the beach but to no avail. There was an impressive flock of six plus Rock Pipits flitting around the tank teeth though, a regular autumn migrant to The Swannery with one or two over-wintering most years.

Rock Pipit (this one was by the Fleet Pipe Hide a few days ago).
 Going back to the hybrid theme these oddities are regular visitors to my patch...

Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrids (with Common Pochards and Tufted Ducks).

Domestic Goose x Canada Goose hybrids (with Canada Geese and Common Coots).
Whereas the first two's parentage is fairly straight forward the following three (there are actually five in the area) are a bit more tricky. They may look just look pure domestic geese but there is something not quite right. They show a few hints of a Canada parent and this was borne out on a trip to Slimbridge a few years ago (not long after these geese first turned up) as I encountered a mixed pair of Canada Goose and White Domestic Goose with a few young in tow that looked almost identical. Mystery solved!
The Swannery from The Tank Teeth.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Harvest 'Nest A Ball'

It's gone very quiet again on the bird front. A few Skylarks, Starlings, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Siskins and the odd Redpoll or two are still trickling over north west and there are still a few Swallows, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and the odd Wheatear around. The only new waders for the month were two Knots that flew west on Tuesday and on the wildfowl front a first winter Scaup was new in today, the first of the 'winter' (unfortunately the light was not good enough for a photo).
   While inspecting the western reedbeds assessing this coming seasons thatching crop I came across this...
An old Harvest Mouse nest.
We used to come across these fairly regularly but they are now few and far between. A couple of years ago I found an active one that had green reed leaves incorporated into it so it is nice to know that these little critters are still present in what is after all their natural habitat, even if they are not doing so well in their adopted cereal crop environment.

Monday 17 October 2011

(West) Indian Summer

It was rather quiet today with the return of typical blustery autumnal weather. The only new birds noted were 13 Brent Geese that settled on The Fleet briefly before heading off west. Although there was a slight passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, again all heading west, there was no visible passerine passage at all. Yesterday though (Sunday 16th October) was much better both bird wise and weather wise. There was some evidence of visible migration with a number of Swallows and House Martins (Steve Hales counted 230 and 60 respectively while tending his ringing nets in the afternoon) and a few Siskins,  Skylarks, Starlings and Pied Wagtails headed west with the highlight being a Redpoll and a few Bearded Tits, the latter heard but not seen. Yesterday was also WeBs count day (ie The Wetland Bird Survey). The only unexpected wetland bird though was this...

A White-cheeked Pintail (with Mallard)
White-cheeked Pintail or to give them there captive trade name...Bahama Pintail (as it is from captivity that this bird obviously originated) are native to the West Indies and much of South America and is one of the most frequent exotic escapes to occur at The Swannery. It wasn't around during the count (which is always in the morning) but dropped in during the afternoon. I leave the counting of the actual swannery to mate's Alan and Ian while I do the stretch of The Fleet immediately east of The Swannery, from Shipmoor Point to Rodden Hive Point.
A view from Cloudshill, in my count section, looking east toward Portland lost in the mist.
We didn't find anything exciting but the results of the count from The Swannery to Rodden Hive Point were...

Mute Swan 640
Black Swan 1
Canada Goose 18
Wigeon 108
Teal 318
Mallard 562
Domestic Mallard 14
Pintail 72
Shoveler 26
Pochard 194
Tufted Duck 215
Cormorant 20
Little Egret 3
Grey Heron 2
Little Grebe 16
Great Crested Grebe 29
Water Rail 1 (under recorded)
Moorhen 20 (under recorded)
Coot 192
Lapwing 40
Snipe 5 (under recorded)
Black-headed Gull 67
Common Gull 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Herring Gull 7
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Kingfisher 1.