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 23 February 2014

Two 'Glaucs' In One Day! (Edit: Err, Actually Probably Not, No!)

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd February 2014...  

It's been a good winter for large white-winged gulls in the Weymouth/Portland/Chesil area but I managed to miss the only one seen at The Swannery this season (until now) and that was the small adult Glaucous (that was initially 'id'd' as an Iceland) back in December. Finally though, on Thursday, I connected with an adult Glaucous Gull that I assumed was the (big) one that has been knocking about in the general area for awhile but which until now has apparently been avoiding The Swannery. It was present again on Friday...

The adult Glaucous Gull on The Chesil opposite The Swannery.

And the same image more heavily cropped. It was unfortunately always distant.

Then later Friday afternoon when I went to check whether it was still there it had remarkably been replaced a 2nd calendar year bird...

The 2nd calendar year 'white-winged' gull on The Chesil opposite The Swannery that I id'd as a Glaucous but which turns out may be a Kumlien's .

And the same image more heavily cropped. It was again unfortunately distant.

And then it was gone!

What I presumed to be the same adult Glaucous Gull was present briefly again yesterday afternoon, but as two adults plus a 2nd calendar year were seen at nearby West Bexington today, who knows?

So there has been at least two (possibly three) Glaucous Gulls at The Swannery this winter and probably even a Kumlien's. Indeed, a live one of the latter would be very nice seeing that my only Swannery record to date was of a headless corpse!

Also of note this week was a brief settled Dark-bellied Brent Goose and the sole remaining Scaup, a drake, that was last seen on Wednesday - the same day that the (or at least a) Black-necked Grebe reappeared briefly...
The Black-necked Grebe

And the same image more heavily cropped.

A couple of Kittiwakes were still around (but no more Little Gulls) and the male Marsh Harrier reappeared this week too, albeit very briefly.

The escaped Harris's Hawk still lingers and at last gave me the opportunity of a half decent image.

And so with still a lack of quality land-birds and generally low numbers of water-birds that's about it for this week... Lets hope next week producers some more 'white-wingers'!

Sunday 16 February 2014

Yet More High Winds And High Water!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 10th to Sunday 16th February 2014...  

This week saw the third highest storm surge that I have witnessed at The Swannery in my twenty-five year tenure. It may, fortunately, have been 25 years between the first and second great inundation but unfortunately it was only just over a week between the second  and third! Although the water was not quite as high as last week it still flooded out our mess hut again, just as it was beginning to dry out and although our new rearing pens survived last weeks surge they did take damage this week. Also of course there is more debris, more trees down and Cygnus, our traditional wooden trow (rowing boat) was smashed to bits.

Anyways back to the birds and it's probably not surprising then that storm driven species feature again this week...  An adult Little Gull was on The Fleet off 'Bum Point' on Tuesday, with another reported over the adjacent meadows on Saturday; three adult Kittiwakes were present in the embayment on Wednesday, with one today, and two Guillemots looking quite out of place on 'Meadow Pool' today (with sadly at least one of them clearly moribund).

Also of note was the Black-necked Grebe that lingered until Wednesday at least and five remaining Scaup on Monday. Only one of the latter was present the rest of the week however, although it would appear from a report today that the other four are further down The Fleet off Tidmoor.

The remaining drake (Greater) Scaup.

It wasn't just the majority of the Scaup that moved on this week either with (as predicted) today's Swannery WeBS count being unseasonably low...

The results for wildfowl were... Mute Swan - 318, Canada Goose - 8, Shelduck - 31, Wigeon - 1, Teal - 65, Mallard 173, Shoveler - 12, Pochard - 158, Tufted Duck - 173, Scaup - 1, Goldeneye - 14, Red-breasted Merganser - 32.

The results for other water birds were... Little Grebe - 2, Great Crested Grebe - 7, Cormorant - 5, Little Egret - 3, Moorhen - 2, Coot - 174.

The results for waders, gulls, etc. were... Oystercatcher - 2, Lapwing - 45, Redshank - 5, Kittiwake - 1, Black-headed Gull - 41, Common Gull - 88, Herring Gull - 12, Great Black-backed Gull - 12, Guillemot - 2.

The only real additions to the above tally for the week were a dead Greylag Goose (possibly the bird from a few weeks back?) and several Mediterranean Gulls

Raptors are also recorded on the WeBS and today's tally was... Buzzard - 3 and Kestrel - 1.
With no Marsh Harriers this week the only addition to the above was the escaped Harris's Hawk that was last seen on Monday.

There were no other land birds of note (excepting the lingering escaped Golden Pheasant), although it was nice to hear many of the song birds in full voice, particularly today in the welcomed spring like conditions.

The Chesil Bank has changed quite dramatically since the storms -
looking now almost like a lunar landscape!

And a closer look... The dip on the top of the bank is presumably where the sea just surged over the top. Also note the deposits of shingle out into The Fleet!

Just some of the debris left behind by the storm including a rather ironic sign (placed upright for comic effect)!

Sunday 9 February 2014

High Winds And High Water

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 3rd to Sunday 9th February 2014...  

The results of Wednesday's storm surge... four feet of water on the 'Picnic Site'.

This week saw the second highest storm surge that I have witnessed at The Swannery in my twenty-five year tenure. The biggest was in my first year, way back in December 1989. Along with all the tons of debris, that storm produced at least three Leach's Storm Petrels and a Great Skua in The Swannery embayment. The best I could manage this time round though were two small flocks of adult Little Gulls (a six and a seven, neither lingering long) and a few Kittiwakes. The only other 'new in' bird was a Black-necked Grebe (the first this winter) - found on Friday it was still present today. 

As I was unable to photograph the Little Gulls or the Black-necked Grebe it's going to have to be more of the (Greater) Scaup I'm afraid. All eight were present most of the week but on Friday I could only find six and today none! I'm sure that they are not too far away as even accounting for the mild conditions it's still a little early for them to be heading north.
As next Sunday is February WeBS count day I will have a fuller report of the water bird numbers next week... but don't expect high numbers!
There is not much to report on the land bird front either with still no Chiffchaffs for instance, though a few Redwings were a little unexpected in the continuing mild conditions.
And that's about it this week so I'll leave you with a few more pics of Wednesday's flood...

The 'Withy Walk' bridge!

The 'Crossroads'

The Office and Staff Hut.

The interior of the Staff Hut!
The tide line inside is only an inch or so lower than that of 1989. Our fridge and freezer were a write off but we're hoping that our chairs will dry out eventually!



Sunday 2 February 2014

Into February

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 27th January to Sunday 2nd February 2014...  

Yet another pretty uneventful week...


A Greylag Goose on Wednesday was at first presumed to be the regular returning bird but it failed to come in for either of the feeds and was gone the next day, so probably not. A single Dark-bellied Brent Goose on Friday was an even briefer visitor but a Muscovy Duck lingered for two days on the beach opposite and bizarrely showed no interest in joining the other ducks to take advantage of the swan feeds. Despite being resident on the nearby village pond this is only the second time I have recorded this domesticated species at The Swannery. Most of the regular commoner wild ducks were present in varying numbers and the best of these were again the eight Scaup...

Adult drake (Greater) Scaup. One of the eight over-wintering.

Waders & Gulls...

A Bar-tailed Godwit was an unusual winter visitor to The Swannery but more expected were a hundred plus Lapwing along with a few Redshank and Snipe. As for gulls there were no surprises, with all the regular commoner species noted in varying numbers.


The male Marsh Harrier and the escaped Harris's Hawk were the only noteworthy sightings.


There is nothing of note to report in this category either but hopefully things will improve shortly with spring just around the corner! 

Grey Wagtail on the Mill Stream by Grove Lane Bridge (a former nesting site).