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, 28 July 2013

'A Shore Thing'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 22nd to Sunday 28th July 2013.......

With no real changes to the numbers or the variety of waterfowl, passerines, 'near-passerines' or raptors (the return of 'our' female Marsh Harrier being the exception) this week was all about Charadriiformes and most notably waders... Plovers and their allies were represented by at least five Oystercatchers, an early fly-over Golden Plover, half-a-dozen or so Lapwings and at least two Little Ringed Plovers... 

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover on the bund.
Juvenile Little Ringed Plover in the meadow.
Sandpipers and their allies were represented by the first couple of Whimbrels of the 'autumn', at least three Black-tailed Godwits... 

Black-tailed Godwit on the meadow pool.

 ... at least three Turnstones, a peak of six Sanderlings, peaks of twenty plus Dunlins, a peak of five Common Sandpipers, at least one lingering Greenshank...

Greenshank on the meadow pool.
.... and at least two Redshanks...

Juvenile Redshank on the meadow pool, with a bizarre almost 'Upland Sandpiper-like' head pattern!

Greenshank and Redshank on the meadow pool.
So a nice, if not exactly exciting, selection of shorebirds but only the usual 'inshore-birds'... i.e. good numbers of Common Terns still...

Just a few of the hundred plus Common Terns present this week.
... but all I could find among them were a few Sandwich Terns still and the best gull was the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the year...

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull (left) with juvenile Black-headed Gull.
 So a poor week for passerine migrants but with August just round the corner things should be picking up soon!

And Finally A Short Selection Of This Week's Swannery Insects...

Great Green Bush Cricket.

Scarlet Tiger Moth - currently the best numbers for years!

Peacock Butterfly.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

'The Abbotsbury Round-up - 600 Swans And A Long-tailed Duck!'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 15th to Sunday 21st July 2013.......


This week saw the staging of our biennial swan roundup. It is a two day event - on Friday morning fifty plus canoeists launched from the Bridging Hard in 'The Narrows' and forming a 'moving barrier' of canoes they slowly paddled up The Fleet towards Abbotsbury pushing all the moulting (and therefore flightless) non-breeding swans before them. Once, by late afternoon, the swans all rounded Shipmoor Point and into the Swannery embayment we hauled out a boom to prevent them swimming back down the lagoon. Then early Saturday morning we re-launched the canoes and slowly pushed the swans into holding pens so we could then 'process' each and every one. Processing involves ringing (or recording current rings), weighing, vaccinating and a general health check. By mid-day when the last bird was released we had 'processed' exactly six-hundred. Around fifty had already moulted however and flew over the canoes or boom and around fifty breeding birds were deliberately not caught. The biggest surprise of the day (and week) for me though was that when we were herding the swans onto the land a very unseasonal female Long-tailed Duck suddenly popped it's head up and down again beside my boat! It was clearly in moult like the swans (and therefore flightless) and had presumably been pushed up from further down The Fleet along with the swans the day before. Despite keeping an eye out for it the rest of the day and searching for it today, I never saw it again!
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand when Saturday's Long-tailed Duck briefly appeared so this is one of the wintering birds from earlier this year.
This sighting follows a relatively good winter here for the species. Following singles in early and then mid-November 2012, a single in late November was then joined by two others in early December and they stayed into early April. A female then appeared in late April and lingered into early May. Could it be that the latter bird over-summered somewhere on The Fleet (perhaps the little watched stretch between Rodden Hive Point and Shipmoor Point) only to resurface (see what I did there?) on Saturday? Almost equally unexpected on Saturday was the appearance of a female Red-crested Pochard on the Decoy Pond. There is a male currently at Radipole RSPB and there was also a report of one (unsexed) at Lodmoor RSPB that was probably one of the aforementioned birds. It is feasible however that there may have been a minor influx from the continent but a 'feral' origin for the Abbotsbury bird may be more likely as it was rather confiding.

Yet again I didn't have my camera when I discovered Saturday's female Red-crested Pochard and there was no sign of it consequently, so this is a photo of the female that was present  along with a male in February this year.

It was the July Wetland Bird Survey count today and The Abbotsbury results for wildfowl were as follows...

Mute Swan - 549 (100 or so had presumably already dispersed back down the lagoon)
Black Swan - 2
Bar-headed Goose - 3 (4 earlier in the week)
Canada Goose - 555
Barnacle Goose - 1
Shelduck - 4
Gadwall - 5
Teal - 3
Mallard - 216
Shoveler - 5
Pochard - 4
Tufted Duck - 10

Other water Birds...

The WeBS results for other miscellaneous water birds were...

Great Crested Grebe - 20
Cormorant - 11
Little Egret - 13
Grey Heron - 1
Moorhen - 4
Coot - 225

In addition in the week there was also a Little Grebe.


Juvenile Little Ringed Plover on the meadow pool this week. Following a single on Tuesday at least four have been present from Thursday to today.
Today's WeBS results for waders were...

Oystercatcher - 4 (the remaining breeding pair and their two fledged young).
Little Ringed Plover - 4
Lapwing - 8
Sanderling - 1
Dunlin - 32
Snipe - 1 (3 earlier in the week)
Common Sandpiper - 7

In addition during the week there was a Curlew, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Redshank, at least two Greenshanks and a Turnstone.

One of this week's Greenshanks on the meadow pool.

Gulls & Terns...

The WeBS results for gulls and terns were...

Black-headed Gull - 280
Common Gull - 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2
Herring Gull - 7
Great Black-backed Gull - 3
Common Tern - 100 (including many fledged juveniles).

Also there have been a few Sandwich Terns and a several Mediterranean Gulls...
Adult Mediterranean Gull on The Fleet at Abbotsbury this week.


The regular male Marsh Harrier was seen again but otherwise there were just the local kestrels, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks...

A male Sparrowhawk at The Swannery this week.

Other 'Non-passerines'...
Apart from all the expected local breeding species the only bird of note was the Lady Amherst's Pheasant still coming to food in my garden...

The fugitive Lady Amherst's Pheasant adjacent to The Swannery in my garden again this week. 

A near miss though was a juvenile Cuckoo just to the east of my recording area at Clouds Hill/Bury Knapp today.


For a short time this week, in preparation for the round-up, I was working over on the 'blind side' of Chesters Hill/Shipmoor Point (an area not seen from my usual vantage points at The Swannery) and it was good to hear singing Meadow Pipits and see a recently fledged Stonechat - two breeding species that were unusually absent from the recording area this year. Back at The Swannery all those species that had bred were still much in evidence and may have masked some early movements but, as last week, a hundred plus Sand Martins and a single Yellow Wagtail were clearly on the move. A couple of Grey Wagtails were new in too (but like the Treecreepers and Coal Tits that arrived last week) were perhaps from nearer to home. If only the odd dispersing Dipper would drop in too!

Monday, 15 July 2013

'A Mysterious Lady'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 8th to Sunday 14th July 2013.......

A New Swannery Bird!

It's nothing to get too excited about though... I can't even tick it!
I discovered it shortly after I got up to go to work around 7am on Saturday morning. Arriving downstairs not fully awake I swung open the front door to let in some fresh air and there on the garden path only metres away was a male Lady Amherst's Pheasant! That did the fully awake I grabbed my camera only in time to see it disappear into the hedge, a trick it repeated several times that day and today...

The moulting male Lady Amherst's Pheasant disappearing into the shrubbery.

Though I did manage to get one half decent record shot...
A slightly more revealing shot of the Lady Amherst's Pheasant trying to gain entry to my chicken coop and the grain within. An aviculture type ring on its leg being confirmation (not that any was needed) of its captive origin (despite its furtive nature).

Technically 'Lady Amherst's', just like Common and Golden Pheasants, are classed as British birds, as although all originally introduced from Asia, they are firmly on the official 'British List'. Unlike the latter two species however which are placed in 'Category C1' - Naturalised introduced species - species that have occurred only as a result of introduction, 'Lady A's' is on 'Category C6 - Former naturalised species - species formerly placed in C1 whose naturalised populations are either no longer self-sustaining or are considered extinct. All this is arbitrary however as this particular individual is highly likely to have originated from the nearby Sub-Tropical Gardens where they have a few 'free-range' ornamental pheasants. It is perhaps surprising, considering a few reports elsewhere in Abbotsbury over the years, that I've never seen one at The Swannery before . (I probably should point out that as my garden virtually backs onto the Swannery I count it as part of my patch too).

Dipping Terns...

Not withstanding the above pheasant's novelty value the best birds of the week had to be the three Black Terns that turned up on my day off on Thursday and were found by work colleague Charlie...

The three Black Terns in flight over Common Terns on the perimeter fence. © Charlie Wheeler.

And the three Black Terns in flight over Common Terns on one of the tern rails.
© Charlie Wheeler.
After a prompt phone call from Charlie I was down across the fields and into Helen Hide within ten minutes but to no avail... the terns had flown. I just had Charlie's photos to confirm the id and rule out (a potential Swannery tick) White-winged Black Tern, which thankfully none of them were!
The three Black Terns, from this shot it looks as though the middle bird may be a first summer.
© Charlie Wheeler.

However this is the same Black Tern as the middle bird above and on my knowledge I wouldn't like to rule out an adult in more advanced moult but some of you may know better?
© Charlie Wheeler.

One of the adult Black Terns just beginning to moult into winter plumage. © Charlie Wheeler.

The Rest Of The Highlights...


Again nothing new to report, with small numbers of all the usual species plus the occasional reappearance of last week's unseasonal Red-breasted Merganser.


One of the two pairs of nesting Oystercatchers have now fledged two of their three young but unfortunately the other pair eventually lost all three of theirs. It's been a few years now since Lapwing even attempted to nest with us but at least four returning individuals have been present in the water-meadow this week and they were joined on Tuesday and Wednesday by two Little Ringed Plovers...

Adult (left) and juvenile Little Ringed Plovers in the meadow this week.
A heavily cropped shot of the adult Little Ringed Plover.
On Friday a couple of Curlews circled over and there were two Black-tailed Godwits on Tuesday with a single yesterday and today...

The Black-tailed Godwit on meadow pool today.
Dunlin peaked at twenty on the Fleet shoreline of the beach today, whilst Common Sandpiper peaked at two on Friday the same day that a Green Sandpiper was also present. One or two Greenshanks lingered for much of the week and Redshank peaked at four today.
Little and large... one of the Greenshanks and the Green Sandpiper on meadow pool.

The Green Sandpiper.

And one of the Greenshanks with a Teal.

Gulls & Terns...

In addition to the three Black Terns a few Sandwich Terns were seen as usual and of course still plenty of breeding (and three first-summer) Common Terns... and with the first chicks beginning to fledge, myself and Charlie along with local based ringer Luke went over to the tern island Wednesday evening to ring as many chicks as we could. Luke ringed forty-eight in total (as I'm only licensed to ring wildfowl) and at least half-a-dozen had already fledged. Also we were surprised to discover that there were still around three clutches being incubated, maybe displaced birds from Lodmoor? Thankfully our brief visit on such a warm evening didn't appear to upset these late nesters as they were straight back on their eggs once we left. So hopefully a bumper year for the terns at Abbotsbury this year despite the failure at Lodmoor. 

Two Common Tern fledglings fight over a fish.

A Common Tern fledgling with what appears to be a young Mackerel!
A few Mediterranean Gulls continue to be seen among the returning Black-headed Gulls but the larger gulls held no surprises again, as yet.
A juvenile Black-headed Gull... there have been no juv. 'Med' Gulls yet though.


All the four regular species were seen in the week while 'our' male Marsh Harrier reappeared today for the first time since the 19th May (while it's mate hasn't been seen since the 30th April)! So unfortunately for the second year running their nesting attempt came to nothing.


The only long-distance migrants obviously on the move were Sand Martins again, with a peak of one hundred plus mid-week. Post breeding dispersal from closer to home was also in evidence with several Coal Tits fresh in (they don't nest at The Swannery but do so in the near vicinity) and a few Treecreepers, that do still occasionally breed with us but that surprisingly have not been seen here since January 2012!

Some other Swannery Wildlife...

Violet Ground Beetle.

Grey Mullet sp. © Charlie Wheeler.

Thanks again to Charlie for permission to use his photos and for suggesting this weeks post title! Check out his website by clicking the following link... wheeler-photography

Monday, 8 July 2013

'Bits & Bobs'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 1st to Sunday 7th July 2013.......


Now into July it was not surprising that the bird news this week is mostly all about waders but with just a hint of the passerine movement to come.


For the second week running there is not much to report with all the species from the last few weeks still present. The only real surprise was the very early appearance today of a drake Red-breasted Merganser! More expected was the first returning Little Grebe joining the moulting flock of thirty plus Great Crested Grebes.


Joining the two Oystercatcher families this week were singles of Grey Plover, Lapwing, CurlewBlack-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and Green Sandpiper, while Redshank peaked at three and Common Sandpiper at six.
The Bar-tailed Godwit (with worm). © Charlie Wheeler.

The Black-tailed Godwit.

Gulls & Terns...

The post-breeding dispersal continued and among the Black-headed Gulls was the first juvenile of the year, while six Mediterranean Gulls and two early Common Gulls were also in their ranks. There were no surprises among the larger gulls and apart from a few Sandwich Terns the thriving Common Tern colony drew in no other species.

The putative intergrade  hirundo/longipennis  Common Tern reappeared this week... seen here centre with a typical adult hirundo left and a first summer right. © Charlie Wheeler 

The first two Common Tern chicks that fledged from the island today, hopefully the first of many!

Common Tern on Bum Point... food doesn't seem to have been hard to find this year!
© Charlie Wheeler

One of several Sandwich Terns that have been regular visitors to the the Common Tern colony.
© Charlie Wheeler

Land Birds...

With no raptors of note again it was left to the passerines to make the notebook and the only ones that did (as they were not local breeders) were a single flyover (heard only) Yellow Wagtail, the first of the 'autumn' and a few Sand Martins.

 And finally a few insects...

A female Beautiful of many now on the wing.

A teneral male Blue-tailed Damselfly.

An adult male Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly... I'd been stalking this beauty for a couple of weeks!

Leaf Beetle sp. © Charlie Wheeler.

Leaf Beetle sp. © Charlie Wheeler.
Less cooperative with the camera were a couple of firsts of the year... a Clouded Yellow Butterfly and a Scarlet Tiger Moth... hopefully the first of many!

A big thanks again to colleague Charlie for providing several of the above images. Check out Charlie's website by clicking the following link.... wheeler-photography