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 27 May 2012

Hi Man, Top Us!

Two Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus in just over a month! (See what I did there!)


Swannery sightings Monday 21st to Sunday 27th May 2012

The week started with the first Hobby of the year that shot north on Monday and this was followed by another on Wednesday that briefly tried its' luck with the local hirundines but to no avail. Other raptor sightings included the regular male Marsh Harrier (also on Wednesday only and no sign this week of the female) whilst workmate Charlie had a Red Kite a couple of times on my day off on Friday. The more regular species (Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine) were all much in evidence this week too.

Wader passage seemed at first to have fizzled out with only four species noted all week... the two pairs of nesting Oystercatcher and singles of Dunlin and Whimbrel flying through but amazingly on Thursday the second Black-winged Stilt of the year dropped in! I'd heard that a stilt briefly reported at nearby Radipole RSPB had relocated to Lodmoor RSPB and so had been checking the meadow pool all day just in case but was still mighty surprised when I discovered what I assumed to be that bird, when I scoped the pool from the road on my way home from work. When I got home it soon became clear that this was a different individual from the Lodmoor bird, as that was still in situ and for that matter a different bird from the April one, as that had been an adult male and this was clearly a first year bird. I don't know, I wait 23 years on my patch for a stilt then get two within a few short weeks! Whats more, like the first bird, it is finding the flooded meadow to its' liking, as it was still present this evening for its fourth day.

Two shots of the immature Black-winged Stilt on The Meadow Pool.
Much browner on the mantle and wings than the earlier adult, with vestigal tail marking too.

Incubating Oystercatcher... two pairs are nesting this year
but no Ringed Plovers unfortunately.
There is not much to report on the wildfowl front with little change from last week and as last week there were still a few Sandwich and Common Terns around with now around five pairs of the latter beginning to settle on the island. Not exactly the fifty-plus pairs that were present in the mid-nineties but its better than nothing!

A trip out to the extreme west of my patch to look for orchids proved fruitless in that sense but I did discover that a singing Cetti's Warbler was still present and mate Alan found a second singing individual nearby a few days later too, so although we've lost them from the actual swannery grounds they are still present on the patch after all. Other less common passerines confirmed as holding territories this week have been Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat. The scarcest passerine in Abbotsbury this week though was again not at the Swannery but at the adjacent Sub-Tropical Gardens where Curator Steve Griffith had a singing male Golden Oriole on Wednesday... typically though, although following the 'wierd sound' all through the gardens he didn't manage to glimpse this accomplished foliage blender.

Slow Worm... my first reptile of the year but I have now seen several of these legless lizards this week. unfortunately though despite there still being one or two seen I haven't yet seen an Adder this year (or a Grass Snake for that matter).

Beautiful Demoiselle... my first damselfly of the year.

Sunday 20 May 2012

A New Bird For Abbotsbury (But A Little Hard To Swallow)!

Monday 14th to Sunday 20th May 2012

Wader passage was the main feature at The Swannery again this week...a Ringed Plover was on 'The Bund' on Monday, two flew north on Thursday and two east on Friday; a Sanderling flew through on Monday, two were on 'Shipmoor Point' Tuesday and two were on 'The Beach' opposite today, with another five flying through; double figures of Dunlin were seen most days, with a peak of forty-five today; there were still 4 Whimbrels in the meadow on Monday, one at 'The Fleet Pipe' Tuesday, one over Wednesday and twelve over Thursday; whilst the first Redshank for a few weeks was present today and two pairs of Oystercatchers still linger.

Above three photo's Dunlins on the Fleet shoreline by 'The Bund'.
Top two courtesy of Charlie Wheeler.
Although the meadow is still mudless there was a little mud exposed along the shore this week.
As for wildfowl the first year male Scaup finally left, being last seen on Tuesday; a late male Pintail arrived on Thursday but as it was keeping close company with a female Mallard and was very approachable, it's presumably an escape. Tufted Duck, Pochard and Gadwall were all still present but there were no Teal or Shoveler this week.

The pair of Marsh Harriers are still around and indeed were seen displaying again today so fingers crossed still.

Sandwich and Common Terns have been seen in single figures off and on all week with the latter showing interest in the island one day then they've gone the next so fingers crossed there too!

Passerine passage was less evident but highlights were a couple more Spotted Flycatchers in the 'Chapel Withybed' and a Stonechat at 'Bum Point', although a less expected migrant, was new in too.

As happened a couple of weeks ago though, the best Abbotsbury birds of the week were not at The Swannery at all but about a mile to the east and just to the west of Rodden Hive point. At least I found them this time though (while carrying out the WeBS count) and the first was the bird I have been predicting at The Swannery for the last couple of posts! When I arrived at the locality a hundred or so hirundines were feeding over the scrub along the Fleet shoreline but then alighted along a fence line. I checked through them all left to right...Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins then the last one...a Red-rumped Swallow! Before I could get my camera out though it flew and my flight shots were unfortunately abysmal! No longer an official rarity it was still a great bird to find of course but frustratingly it now joins my small list of birds seen on The Fleet at Abbotsbury but not at The Swannery (Grey Partridge and Long-billed Dowitcher being the only others). I still have high hopes though, if not this year maybe the next? And the other bird... a Corn Bunting holding territory! The first I have seen along this stretch of The Fleet (a former stronghold) for years (although I saw one at nearby Rodden last year). Lets hope they are making a bit of a comeback!

Today's Abbotsbury WeBS count (Reeds End to Rodden Hive Point)

Mute Swan - 516
Black Swan - 2
Canada Goose - 33
Shelduck - 23
Gadwall - 10
Mallard - 108
Mallard (domestic) - 2
Pintail - 1
Pochard - 14
Tufted Duck - 30
Great Crested Grebe - 28
Cormorant - 2
Little Egret - 17
Moorhen - 4
Coot - 23
Oystercatcher - 4
Sanderling - 7
Dunlin - 45
Redshank - 1
Black-headed Gull - 6
Herring Gull - 271
Great Black-backed Gull - 6
Sandwich Tern - 9

Sunday 13 May 2012

A Mudless May!

Monday 7th May to Sunday 13th May

A fairly quiet week for early/mid May... wader passage continued but not impressively so, with a Little Ringed Plover flushed off 'The Site' on Monday and three (Common) Ringed Plovers through on Thursday. There appears to be none of the latter holding territory on the beach opposite this year unfortunately (although two pairs of Oystercatchers are around). A flock of fifty Dunlin accompanied the three plovers (on Thursday) and five were with a Sanderling (the first of the spring) on The Fleet shoreline on Sunday. There were single figures of Whimbrel every day (with a max of six in the meadow on Friday) and three Common Sandpipers were also in the meadow on Saturday. The variety and number of waders may have been more impressive if the water levels in the meadow were lower but despite the sluice diverting the stream being open and pushing the water away from the meadow it has had no effect due to all the run-off from the recent rain.

(Eurasian) Whimbrels in the meadow (and the unseasonably high water level!)
Remarkably the first winter male Scaup was still present all week (having first arrived in October of last year) but the only other 'winter' wildfowl still lingering were single figures of Teal, Gadwall (that do nest occasionally) and Pochard (which may well breed for the first time soon). Tufted Duck are now regular breeders joining Mallard and Shelduck.
At least one brood of (Common) Shelduck appeared this week, this family party being in the meadow.

Any hopes of the pair of Marsh Harriers re-nesting after presumably being washed out seems to have faded as the male has not been seen at all this week and the female was only seen on Monday and Tuesday. The Tawny Owls featured on an earlier post fared better as a downy youngster appeared briefly in the mouth of the nest box but had disappeared by the time I fetched my camera!

Like the waders passerine passage was unremarkable though I notched up my first Garden Warbler of the year (having missed out last week) and only my second and third Wheatear (which is just ridiculous as I would normally have seen dozens by now!). Another Redstart went into the log as did the first Spotted Flycatcher of the season. The surrounding hedgerows are now full of Whitethroats (but no more 'Lessers') and likewise the reedbeds full of Reed and Sedge Warblers but for the second year running our Cetti's Warblers have inexplicably moved on (although there may still be a singing bird out west at 'Knob End', I just haven't been out to check recently). The Bearded Tits also didn't linger with no recent sightings or 'pings'!

As well as being alive with warblers the reedbeds are also alive with King Cups
 (or Marsh Marigolds if you prefer) and potentially deadly with Hemlock Water-Dropwort!

The withybeds too support several singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs but no Willow Warblers in the last few days.
The withybeds are also supporting several Orange-tips and a few Green-viened Whites this being a male of the latter the gaudier male Orange-tips were more flighty!

Swallows, House Martins and Swifts continue to arrive and a few Sand Martins are still around too but I still haven't bagged me a Red-rumped Swallow in what appears to be another good spring for the species nationally. I have had one in the past along with a probable but that was when this Mediterranean species was still a 'BB Rarity' and a brief single observer fly-by record and an even briefer shared sighting would not cut the mustard so a further sighting now (a lingering one even better) would go down nicely.
A few Sandwich Terns still linger but Common Terns have been noticeable by their absence this week until the weekend that is when ten birds again began to show some interest in the tern island... fingers crossed... a summer without them is just not the same, not to mention their rare tern pulling potential! About time Abbotsbury had another Sooty Tern or two me thinks!
In my last few posts I forgot to mention the swans! Fancy a Swannery blog not mentioning swans!
Anyways the first cygnets hatched on the 27th April, rather early for us and here they are, slightly bigger than they were and now just one of nineteen broods at the time of writing but that will go up considerably in the next few weeks.

Sunday 6 May 2012

'It Was My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To'

Monday 30th April to Sunday 6th May 2012...

It was my birthday in the week but I seemed to have missed out on the best birding gifts... Highlight of the week for me was a female type Pied Flycatcher in the 'Middle Garden' on Friday... a species which is no longer a guaranteed spring migrant on my patch these days (as it was high in the canopy I couldn't get a decent photo though). Other new-in spring migrants were a couple of Lesser Whitethroats - one singing and showing well in the 'Lower Withybed' and another heard-only in the scrub on adjacent 'Chesters Hill' - and at last several Common Whitethroats in the surrounding hedgerows. Mate Alan had a Garden Warbler on my day off on Wednesday and I flushed two Yellow Wagtails off the 'site' on Thursday. There were still Willow, Reed and Sedge Warblers passing through, although some of the latter two species will be on territory now of course but gone are the days I could say that about the first species.

From Thursday to Saturday in the cool damp weather there was a mixed flock of fifteen hundred plus Swallows, House and Sand Martins and Swifts feeding over the lagoon... Mostly Swallows, there were on occasions several hundred Swifts and hundreds of martins present too...

(Barn) Swallows resting on and off on the tern rails. Both photo's courtesy of Charlie Wheeler.
Needless to say despite trying to check the swirling masses for a birthday week tick... Red-rumped Swallow... this scarce migrant still eluded me on my patch. Of the scarcer local breeding passerines a pair of Bullfinches are still around and a family party of Mistle Thrushes dropped in so had almost certainly bred locally.

A few waders were still trickling through with the first Greenshank of the year, a Knot and Common Sandpiper, single figures of Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit most days, two Black-tailed Godwits, thirty plus Ringed Plover and eighty plus Dunlin.

Tardy winter wildfowl still included single first year male Scaup, Goldeneye and Shoveler, several Teals and Gadwalls and the now expected over-summering Pochard and Tufted Duck.

A pair of Gadwall in the meadow.
A sporadic breeder at The Swannery, with three pairs still present... maybe this year?

 A first year Mediterranean Gull was with the few remaining Black-headed Gulls; Sandwich Tern numbers dwindled further but Common Terns were much in evidence around the island on at least a few days, so not settled just yet...

Common Terns on the tern island.
 Both the male and female Marsh Harriers were seen again but it still seems that any nest must have been destroyed by the recent flooding but there is still chance for another attempt of course. The only other raptor sightings of note were the second and third Osprey of the year and like the first they were both found by workmate Charlie and  again both missed by me...

Osprey with Grey Mullet (Charlie Wheeler) 
Also missed by me were the best two (or three) Abbotsbury birds of the week, both official scarce migrants, although by way of consolation neither were seen at The Swannery... a Hoopoe near New Barn Farm (Luke Phillips) and a Serin (or two) in a Castle Hill Cottage garden (Cliff Rogers) and over Clouds Hill Cottage garden (Luke Phillips)... 'You Would Cry Too If It Happened To You'...