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, 30 December 2012

'Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot...'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

24th to 30th December 2012

The last full week of 2012 and yet another one of wet and windy weather. I wasn't working this week but popped down to feed a few times and have a quick look round but in the unfavourable conditions birding was not easy. So once again I have little to report other than that the three Long-tailed Ducks were still present early in the week and at least one at the end but they can be elusive so I wouldn't be surprised if all three are still around. In fact all the duck are unusually behaving rather elusively, concentrating in the area under the lee of the beach off Shipmoor Point, making picking anything out among them, at such distance, tricky, so the maximum count of four Scaup should probably have been higher. The four Barnacle Geese that flew east yesterday with the feral Canada Geese were presumably the four seen earlier in the month and possibly truly wild arctic birds, whilst the single feral Greylag Goose that arrived in early July still lingers. Around thirty Mediterranean Gulls were present daily and new in today were up to thirty Redshank with the Lapwing but in the blustery conditions and limited time (due to other commitments) that was the best I could do.
As once again this week the camera didn't even come out of its bag I thought I'd leave you in my last post of 2012 with...

The main Swannery birding highlights of the year...

The drake Wood Duck that lingered from the 18th March to the 3rd April...
A really good time of year for a vagrant American duck to appear. However, despite being one of the commonest ducks stateside they are also one of the commonest ducks in captivity and as it wasn't exactly wary (if that is even relevant) it will unfortunately have to go down as a probable escape.

With the exclusion of the Wood Duck there were no official rare wildfowl in 2012 but of note were the five Egyptian Geese in February...feral and increasing but still unusual in West Dorset. Four Garganey together in March (two drakes, two ducks). Two Common Scoter (a female from late July to late September and a juvenile from late October to late November), common off the beach but scarce on the West Fleet. A male Ruddy Duck for a few days in July (one of the few that has survived the eradication programme - I kept quiet about that one!) and finally of course the Long-tailed Ducks.

The adult Black-winged Stilt 12th to the 18th April. My first at The Swannery and the first official record since 1956! Soon to be followed by...

An immature Black-winged Stilt 24th to 27th May,
with yet another at nearby Lodmoor at the same time!
The only other wader of note was the Wood Sandpiper from the 4th to the 17th August but other noteworthy Charadiiformes were my third ever Swannery Iceland Gull in February and a Glaucous Gull in April.

The juvenile Cattle Egret 24th to 27th August (photo courtesy of Charlie Wheeler).
The only 'rare' heron in 2012, annual in recent years.

 Yellow-browed Warbler 25th October. Despite there being at least ten previous Swannery records this was the first to be ringed. This was the best 'land-bird' of 2012 at The Swannery but there were several near misses...
In May there was a Golden Oriole just to the west at the Sub-tropical Gardens and a Hoopoe and a Red-rumped Swallow just to the east near New Barn. The latter area also played host to an 'Eastern' Chiffchaff in October and a Lapland Bunting in November.

So 2012 is nearly at an end... two official rarities and one tick (the stilts)... not the best birding year but still some great birds not to be forgot! What will 2013 have to offer?

A Happy New Year to all my readers!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

'Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain'

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

17th to 23rd December 2012

Birding was hard work this week with me and my optics continually drenched or worst still, in the latter case, completely misted up, so I don't have an awful  lot to report. The three Long-tailed Ducks were still present however as were at least eight Scaup and all the usual commoner ducks were well represented too with, for instance, over six hundred Teal present. Larids too were numerous including Mediterranean Gulls which often equalled or even outnumbered Black-headed Gulls. The male Marsh Harrier continues its residence but there were no other raptors of note and no new passerines...

So that's about it for this post and as the camera didn't even come out of its case this week I'll leave you with a couple of pics from the archive...

The Swannery in December 2010...what a contrast!
We were virtually snowed in at The Grove for two weeks and could only get up to the village by 4x4.
Forward to 2012 and this week once again we needed a 4x4 to reach the village but this time due to floods!

A (European) Robin in the withybed.
Seasonal greetings to you all!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

'Branta Clause!'

Well I'm still posting even though it's frequently causing me to tear my hair out (what little I have left). Amazingly I didn't have any trouble uploading the few poor pics I'd taken this week but frustratingly I was unable to initially increase their size once they were uploaded. Usually you have the option of small, large or largest and I normally go for large (as largest goes into the margins) but this week it wouldn't give me the option until just by chance I cut and pasted them in again and it then worked, albeit briefly! Whats that all about? Anyway here are the latest..

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

10th to 16th December 2012


It was December WeBs (Wetland Bird Survey) Count day today and the results for The Swannery and the adjacent Abbotsbury stretch of The Fleet (reproduced below) pretty much sum up the numbers and variety of the waterbirds seen this week, The only other waterbirds to add to the tally were the four Barnacle Geese that flew east on Wednesday...

No not Santa and his reindeer but Branta and rainclouds!
You'll have to take my word for it that these are Barnacle Geese but quite an evocative pic nevertheless I feel...

...and the same shot again but more heavily cropped.
My gut feeling is that these Branta geese were truly wild birds, along with the two seen last week and also the flock of fifty plus seen recently at nearby West Bexington...but I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

The results of today's WeBS were...

Mute Swan 515
Black Swan 2
Greylag Goose 1
Canada Goose 72
Shelduck 35
Wigeon 60
Gadwall 27
Teal 360
Mallard 426
Mallard (domestic) 7
Pintail 11
Shoveler 29 (120+ in the week)
Pochard 690
Tufted Duck 313
Scaup 7 (9 in the week)
Long-tailed Duck 2 (3 still in the week)
Goldeneye 10
Red-breasted Merganser 30
Little Grebe 8
Great Crested Grebe 10
Cormorant 5
Little Egret 4
Grey Heron 2
Moorhen 10
Coot 1,000
Lapwing 300
Dunlin 1
Snipe 17
Redshank 4
Turnstone 2 (new in)
Kingfisher 1
Black-headed Gull 81
Mediterranean Gull 23
Common Gull 83
Herring Gull 7
Great Black-backed Gull 4

Thanks as always to Alan, Ian and Mike for their help.
This week's raptors included the regular male Marsh Harrier which was again joined today by an apparent adult female and also of note was a Merlin that dashed through on Wednesday.
Passerines highlights were several Redwings, a few Jays still, the two Nuthatches, only one or two Chiffchaffs, a flyover Yellowhammer, a brief Lesser Redpoll among several Siskins, at least one Bullfinch and best of all, among a small flock of Goldcrests, a Firecrest (presumably last weeks bird).

One of the (Eurasian) Nuthatches (with a Blue Tit) on my Grove Lane feeders. One of two birds present, they were seen to display this week at the entrance to a tree cavity in the same tree that the last breeding birds occupied a few years back, so fingers crossed for the spring!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

'And Then There Were Three...'

It appears I'm not alone in having problems uploading photos on Blogger and now Google are apparently trying to resolve the problem (thanks Nick and Brett for your technical support!). Having had few photo opportunities this week I only had two photos to upload on this post anyway and they uploaded fine (having already taken the precautionary measure of re-sizing them). I then went to add another pic of the Barnacle Geese though to last week's post with no joy, so the problem has still not been rectified as yet! Anyway for the time being I shall continue to persevere, so here is this week's...

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

3rd to 9th December 2012

The two probably wild Barnacle Geese lingered until Tuesday (and are now apparently in Poole Harbour) while a Pale-bellied Brent Goose dropped in briefly on Monday before flying off east. There is still a nice selection of commoner ducks and worthy of note among them were nine Scaup, a single 'Redhead' Goosander and now three Long-tailed Ducks (all female/first winter types) but the latter have often been out of sight just to the east of The Swannery embayment and always too distant for a photo..
As nothing of note was very cooperative when it came to photography
I had to make do with some more obliging subjects...

Bottoms up! Mallards are only too willing to muscle in on the swan feeds.

Common Pochard & Tufted Duck await their turn!
 The regular male Marsh Harrier was seen virtually daily but there were no other harriers or any other raptors of note for that matter. Waders too were poorly represented with just Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe seen and there were no surprises on the gull front either. To passerines now and there are still a few more Jays around than would normally be expected and a couple of Nuthatches still too. Several more Siskins were around this week but no Redpolls and the single Bullfinch remained. A few more thrushes were apparent including a few Redwings and the first Fieldfare of the season. Bearded Tits were heard from deep within the reeds but not seen as were several Cetti's Warblers. Only one or two Chiffchaffs remain however and Goldcrest numbers have dropped off but passerine highlight of the week was a Firecrest spotted appropriately as I tended the bombfire!

 Well with temperatures predicted to plummet next week there might be be a slight cold weather movement, maybe some wild grey geese or a Smew but in the meantime I'm still holding out for a Waxwing!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

'Good Things Come In Twos'

Well I'm still persevering. I did manage to add a couple of pics to last weeks blog and this week I have managed to upload three with a struggle but no more, so here for one more week at least are the...

Swannery birding highlights of the week...

26th November to  2nd December 2012

The main highlight was the appearance of one then two Long-tailed Ducks (following on from the two sightings earlier in November). The first arrived on Wednesday and was joined by another on Thursday and Friday with at least one still present today. They favoured the area off Shipmoor Point so were rather distant but, due to the persistent attentions of a Peregrine, on one occasion one just came within range for a half decent photo... 
One of the Long-tailed Ducks (both of which are 1st winter/female types).
Other ducks of note were the lingering (first winter) Common Scoter to Wednesday at least, when two ('Redhead') Goosanders also flew west and the Scaup peaked at eight. Virtually all the commoner species were also represented with good numbers of Mallard, Teal, Pochard and Tufted Duck, while there were also several Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler along with a few Gadwall, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.
 On Friday two distant geese eventually gave themselves up as Barnacle Geese when they joined the 'feral' Canada Goose flock (that also still holds the regular Greylag). It would be easy to assume that they too are 'feral' (part of the naturalised introduced population) but they were wary and they may well be the vanguard of the now regular wintering flock that have commuted between The Swannery and nearby Rodden Hive over the last few winters. 

The two Barnacle Geese in the meadow with Canada Geese...

  and on the Fleet shoreline.
 There were two Harriers this week... the  male Marsh Harrier is still regular and on Friday a ('Ringtail') Hen Harrier also hunted over the meadows and reedbeds. On that same busy bird day, to add to the tally, volunteer Dave C. found a Black-necked Grebe but unfortunately I failed to connect with it, despite checking through the several Great Crested and Little Grebes present.
The hundred or so strong Lapwing flock held, over the course of the week, a Black-tailed Godwit, a couple of Dunlin and a peak of seven Redshank, whilst a Curlew flew west and at least thirty Snipe were present. There were a few gulls around, particularly early in the week and a count of forty plus Mediterranean Gulls was still impressive this far up The Fleet despite their continued increase.
A few Redpolls were the passerine highlight, even outnumbering Siskins, mostly 'flyovers' but two did linger briefly in the Alders enabling their confirmation as being Lessers. A Bullfinch was the first for a few weeks but still no Hawfinch! Yes the latter would be most welcome (with some still on the move in East Dorset) but with a few Waxwings now reaching West Dorset perhaps that would be a more likely tick... There are virtually no berries around though to draw them in so I'll just have to check out every flyover 'Starling' just in case, although that too will probably prove to be fruitless (see what I did there)!