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, 29 December 2013

'An Icy Dip' (Plus A Review Of 2013)

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th December 2013...  

Ok it wasn't really a dip, just a case of not being in the right place at the right time...

I have not been on duty this week and due to a rather busy seasonal social schedule with family and the in-laws, I didn't get down to The Swannery proper until Friday. Therefore I wasn't around on Boxing Day when an adult Iceland Gull was seen flying west off Abbotsbury Beach (and then at nearby West Bexington). When I received the news (while watching Weymouth FC get stuffed 3-0 by Poole FC) it left me pondering as to whether the gull had actually been at The Swannery prior to it being seen off the beach or whether it had passed by on the seaward side (and therefore not in the Swannery recording area). I tried to console myself that the latter scenario seemed most likely. That theory however was dashed the following day when I received an email from Swannery ringer Steve Hales informing me he had flushed a large white-winged gull (that he believed to be an Iceland) off The Swannery 'Bund' at around 2pm the previous day! Doh! Fortunately I have seen at least three 'Icelands' at The Swannery previously, including a two day adult way back in February 1990. I have also seen a dead adult of the form kumlieni but that's another story!.

Some consolation for missing the gull arrived today however in the form of a Long-tailed Duck...
The Long-tailed Duck was unusually co-operative,
lingering relatively close in with the Pochard and Tufted Duck

Although not discernible in the above photos it did show a pinkish hue to its bill so therefore, unless it was a trick of the light, it is a first year male.

As I didn't really cover The Swannery properly until the weekend (as Friday's visit was a washout) and as, apart from the Iceland, the Long-tail and two more Scaup (bringing the total present up to eight), there wasn't really much new in, I haven't really got anything else to report. Therefore I will conclude this last post of the year with a review of the best birds of 2013...

The Main Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Year...

Well the year started in a very similar vein to how it ended with the presence of not one but three Long-tailed Ducks...

They lingered from early January to early April, with another appearing at the end of April into May.

Also in January there were four, presumed wild, Barnacle Geese...

While a feral bird lingered from June to October and twelve, again possibly wild, arrived in November and lingered into December.
Also of 'unknown origin' were the pair of Red-crested Pochard that were seen on the 12th February...

Further singles were seen in July and October.

Both a Slavonian Grebe...
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography
... and a Black-necked Grebe were seen in January and February.

In March three single Spoonbills were seen. This being the smartest...

Further singles were seen in April and October.

A male Ring Ouzel in April was my first Spring record for The Swannery...

... and I had only seen three previously in the autumn!

There was a series of Garganey sightings in April, mostly concerning a pair, three however were present on the 14th...

April also saw the arrival of a very confiding Turtle Dove...

....and a relatively confiding Nightingale...

... only my third ever at The Swannery (not counting a single Thrush Nightingale!).

In May a distant 'ringtail harrier' was considered to be a probable Pallid...

© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography
... but the views and photos were just not good enough for a positive id. A Black Kite was also seen in May but my only photo of that as it flew west is not even worthy of publishing! Staying on the rare raptor theme but jumping forward a few months, at least one Honey Buzzard was seen in September (but not by me).
Back to June both an adult and a first summer Arctic Tern were seen...

Whilst in September several juveniles also graced the embayment.

As well as the brief Arctics, for much of the summer the Common Tern colony attracted this eastern type bird...

Though it was not thought to be a classic longipennis.

Staying with terns, three Black Terns were seen in July...

© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography
... but unfortunately not by me! Another three (or the same?) eluded me again in August!

Also in July an adult Wood Sandpiper was on the meadow pool for a couple of days...

Whilst a juvenile was on the Fleet shoreline briefly on the first of September, the same day that I discovered a couple of 'Little Stints'...

Fortunately I had enough reservations about the duller of the two to seek assistance from Brett Spencer who quickly confirmed the presence of The Swannery's first Semi-palmated Sandpiper...

It was seen intermittently until the fifth, while another Little Stint arrived at the end of the month. The low water levels in the meadow in September also attracted several Curlew Sandpipers...

... and a few wagtails but not as many as were visiting the Bum Point roost, where several thousand were seen, including The Swannery's first Citrine Wagtail (which I missed) and several first winter Yellow Wagtails that showed features of the continental race flava and even one or two that showed features of Scandinavian thunbergii!

Higher water levels in the meadow come the end of September attracted this Ruff...

... and in October this Grey Phalarope...

... Another Grey Phalarope was seen later in the month (again on meadow pool), while there had also been two Ruff in April, one in August and at least one in October.

A Canada Goose showing features of the form interior ('Todd's Canada Goose') lingered for much of the autumn...

... but its origins are unknown.

Up to three Yellow-browed Warblers were seen in October with yet another in early November...

 © Peter Moore  Peter Moore's Blog

... and there were up to three 'Eastern type Chiffchaffs' in late autumn, though in retrospect only one really showed both the classic plumage and bare part features as well as giving the classic call of Siberian Chiffchaff (form tristis)...

... and that was the individual trapped by ringers Steve Hales and Luke Phillips above. In fact confirmation of this birds id has recently been received by Luke after he sent off an accidently shed feather for DNA analysis.
I could have included so much more but that in a nutshell were the birding highlights of 2013!
Bring on 2014!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

'The Weather Outside Is Frightful And The Birding Is Less Than Delightful'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd December 2013...

This week continued to be mostly wet, windy and mild. Therefore conditions were far from those that are depicted in the current 'seasonal' image behind my blog title (that shot was actually taken in December 2010). If the weather changed little from the previous few weeks, as a consequence neither did the birds...


The only addition to last week's species tally was Brent Goose with five touching down briefly in the embayment on Monday...
A little bit of a novelty this far up The Fleet...the five Dark-bellied Brent Geese

The twelve Barnacle Geese of unknown origin were still in private fields between The Swannery and Rodden Hive to Thursday at least but have still not reappeared at The Swannery proper. Duck numbers remained basically the same regarding numbers and variety with the main highlight being the continued presence of all six (and a half) Scaup, although the first year male only re-joined the three adult drakes and two first year females today, after being missing since early the previous week. The hybrid adult female also continued to confuse the issue.

Pochard & Tufted Duck during yesterday's feed.

Fourteen of the thirty or so Pintails on meadow pool this week.




As with wildfowl there was little change this week to the numbers and variety of both waders and gulls, in fact the only real change was in the negative, with no sign of the Black-tailed Godwit that had been around the previous two weeks.



Once again little change this week. A few Redwings were the first for a few weeks as was a Mistle Thrush, the latter living up to its alternative traditional colloquial name of Stormcock singing strongly into the teeth of a gale! Despite the presence of several Chiffchaffs there was again no sign of any of the eastern type birds present earlier in the season, while the unprecedented Reed Bunting roost mentioned a few weeks back has now either been much reduced or relocated to another part of the reed-bed.

In company with several Common Pheasants, both the adult male Lady Amherst's Pheasant and the immature male Golden Pheasant continue to visit my garden (adjacent to The Swannery), the latter being a bit more co-operative with the camera this week.

So, not a very eventful week, lets hope that Santa brings a seasonal avian gift or two next week!
Merry Xmas!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Wet & Windy WeBS

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 9th to Sunday 15th December 2013...



It wasn't really the ideal weather conditions to carry out today's Wetland Bird Survey count but at least it encouraged me to use The Swannery's 4x4 to check the stretch of The Fleet between the The Swannery and Rodden Hive Point rather than walk it as usual. So while Alan, Ian and Mike counted The Swannery proper using the hides for shelter as much as they could, I set off across the fields in the truck. Using it as a mobile hide I snuck up on the Canada Goose flock just west of Rodden Hive and was able to confirm the continued presence of the twelve Barnacle Geese that I last saw at The Swannery a couple of weeks back...

The twelve Barnacle Geese that have obviously been keeping a low profile in the last couple of weeks in fields between Abbotsbury and Rodden where there is no general access.

The results of today's WeBS for wildfowl are as follows...


Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose
Mallard (domestic)
Tufted Duck
Red-breasted Merganser

The above numbers are fairly representative for the week but on Friday Teal had peaked at 600 and Pintail at 20, while there were still 6 Scaup (plus the hybrid) earlier in the week. The Goldeneye were the first of the winter but all were east of my usual patch, The Swannery embayment, so may have been present, unobserved, for a few weeks. 

Shoveler on the meadow pool this week.


Miscellaneous Water-birds...

The results of today's WeBS for miscellaneous water-birds are as follows...

                    Misc Water-birds

Little Grebe
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Water Rail
The  above numbers are pretty poor for December, probably due to the mild weather, although of course Water Rails and Moorhens are always under recorded. Earlier in the week at least one Great Crested Grebe was present too but there have still been none of the scarcer grebes as yet this season.


The results of today's WeBS for waders are as follows..


Black-tailed Godwit

A pretty poor showing but there were up to 400 Lapwing earlier in the week and a few Snipe have been around.

The Black-tailed Godwit that arrived last week was still present today.



The results of today's WeBS for gulls are as follows...


Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
The above numbers are fairly representative for the week and there were no additional species.


The regular male Marsh Harrier was the only raptor of note but as expected Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel and Peregrine were all seen and the local Tawny Owls were still very vociferous.


There was nothing of real note in this category this week (not even any 'Eastern type Chiffchaffs') but as I have so far listed all the species seen this week then it seems only right to fill you in on the passerines too, so in varying numbers the following have all been seen over the last seven days: Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting. There are a few normally regular species not on this list that I have presumably over-looked (especially as I was away at a First Aid course for a couple of days) but in the continuing mild weather the variety is still fairly poor.


The pheasant flock in my garden adjacent to The Swannery now not only contains numerous Common Pheasants and the long staying Lady Amherst's Pheasant but new in this week has been a immature male Golden Pheasant...

Immature male Golden Pheasant (far left), Common Pheasants and the Lady Amherst's Pheasant.

The above may not be the best photo (it's even hard to tell it is a Golden) but unlike the 'Lady A' I haven't been able to get very close to it as yet, as they are all pretty skittish despite the fact that they are all (Common included) locally released birds.
Other than those already mentioned and for completeness, 'Feral Pigeon', Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were the final (non-passerine) species seen this week.
Well the forecast for the coming week hints at some slightly more wintry weather so if the gales howling outside as I write don't bring anything of note in, then maybe the colder weather will!