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.

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Rosy Outcome!

In What Was An Otherwise Rather Quiet Week...

Monday 19th to Sunday 25th May 2014...  

Bird of the week was the Roseate Tern that was on and around the Tern Island on Friday evening with around one hundred Common Terns...

The Roseate Tern by the Tern Island.
Unfortunately it was a little bit distant for my bridge camera and the light was beginning to go.
Note the tail streamers projecting well beyond the primaries and all dark bill.

The Roseate Tern on the Tern Island.
Note the general paleness of the plumage (compared to the Common Tern behind). It did show a faint 'pinky' hue but this is hard to discern in the photos. It bore a metal and plastic ring but it was too far off to be sure of the colour of the latter in the failing light let alone see any inscriptions.

Looking back through my notes I was very surprised to discover that this is the first Roseate Tern I've seen at Abbotsbury since May 2007!

Other summer migrant highlights included several Hobby sightings through the week, although they could have all involved the same first year bird and also the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year went into the log. The only other passage passerines of note were a late Willow Warbler which was the first for a week or two and ditto a couple of Sand Martins.

As for passage waders... Dunlin peaked at a measly six and there were singles of Knot, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Sandpiper and Redshank.

So apart from the tern not a very eventful week. I'll leave you with a pic of a very obliging off patch Whinchat at Langton Hive point last Monday...


Whinchat, Langton Hive Point.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

May WeBS

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 12th to Sunday 18th May 2014...  

Bird of the week was my first Hobby of the year that flew east over The Swannery meadow this morning as I arrived for the WeBS. Half an hour later myself and count 'vols' Alan and Mike were watching two Red Kites drift off west. Also of note today (and much of the week) was the continued unseasonal presence of the duck Scaup.

The Wildfowl totals on today's Wetland Bird Survey were...

Mute Swan - 490
Black Swan - 2
Canada Goose - 52
Shelduck - 50
Gadwall - 1 
Mallard - 69
Tufted Duck - 25
Scaup - 1

Earlier in the week there were a couple of escaped Bar-headed Geese (on Wednesday), three drake Shoveler (on Thursday) and a few Pochard off and on.

The two brief and distant Bar-headed Geese

Only one drake Gadwall was seen on the count today but there have been at least two around... This one (above) that is already moulting and another still in full breeding finery. They also both had mates a week or two back so I'm rather hoping that the ducks are both tucked away somewhere on eggs.

The Wader totals on today's Wetland Bird Survey were...

Oystercatcher - 2
Ringed Plover - 1
Bar-tailed Godwit - 3
Whimbrel - 4

The Oystercatchers noted above were the pair nesting in the grounds but the other pair are now nesting on the Tern Island so presumably the sitting bird was hidden among the Sea Beet and the other was off foraging. Another two Ringed Plover flew through on Tuesday with a flock of twenty Dunlin (the peak count this week of the latter), Common Sandpipers peaked at two on Wednesday, another Bar-tailed Godwit dallied on Thursday and a Turnstone lingered on Friday - the same day that a flock of seven Sanderling flew west. The only other Whimbrel for the week was a 'heard only' yesterday and to round off the week a Greenshank dropped in this (Sunday) evening.

One of the few settled Dunlin this week.
A bright schnzii or a dull alpina?

 Friday's Turnstone.

Thursday's Bar-tailed Godwit © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

And just for confirmation! Bar-tailed Godwit © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

The Gull and Tern totals on today's WeBS were...

Herring Gull - 4
Great Black-backed Gull - 4
Sandwich Tern - 2
Common Tern - 62

There had been larger numbers of gulls earlier in the week and as well as more of the above two species there were a few 'Lesser Black-backs' and 'Black-headeds'. The tern tally though was pretty representative of the week and so it's looking like we may have around thirty pairs of Common Tern attempting to nest on the island this year. Fingers crossed.

Caught in the act! A Great Black-backed Gull taking swan's eggs.
In this instance they were addled eggs placed in an already predated nest that had been staked out with our new camera trap.

The totals for other water birds on today's WeBS were...

Great Crested Grebe - 27
Cormorant - 4
Little Egret - 6
Grey Heron - 1
Moorhen - 2
Coot - 46

The miscellaneous water bird results are pretty representative for the week (but there are always a few more Moorhens tucked away in the reed beds) and no other species were seen.
Along with the Hobby and Red Kites a single Kestrel and three Buzzards were also recorded on today's WeBS and several of the latter two  species were also seen in the week.
To passerines (and 'near-passerines') now and with the regular breeding summer migrants now settled on territory (Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House Martin and Swift) the only obvious passage birds seen were a single Wheatear on Tuesday, a single Redstart (my first of the year) on Wednesday and one or two Willow Warblers. Of the scarcer Swannery nesting species, the (still unmated?) Nuthatch is still frequenting the upper grounds, a Treecreeper has reappeared in the lower grounds so hopefully they are breeding (just being very surreptitious about it), Goldcrests are singing in both the upper and lower grounds, so presumably they are nesting too, as are several Cetti's Warblers. On a negative note though there has been no sign of the Starlings or the Bullfinches in the last couple of weeks and I still can't find any Meadow Pipits! A trip up Linton Hill on the extreme north east boundary of my recording area revealed the only pair of breeding Stonechats that I'm aware of on my patch this year and I heard Yellowhammer too so hopefully they are breeding as well. I was rather hoping to find Lesser Whitethroat on the scrubby hillside but I drew a blank here as I have in the other two occasional breeding locales so far this spring.

The Linton Hill Stonechats.
One of several male Reed Buntings holding territory this year.

Singing male Dunnock, one of several common breeding passerines that appear to be having a good breeding season.

I'll leave you with a pic of just a few of the many cygnets that have hatched so far this spring...


Sunday, 11 May 2014

May's Missing Migrants!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 5th to Sunday 11th May 2014...  

First a bit of late news from last Sunday. After publishing last week's post I learnt I had missed a female Scaup, at least one Arctic Tern and a (feral/escape) Bar-headed Goose! I hadn't been working that day but even so I did pop down briefly late afternoon and saw nothing of note. Now I wasn't that bothered about the goose of course but was slightly miffed about the duck and the tern. Fortunately this week I caught up with the Scaup and it was still present today...

The duck Scaup on The Decoy Pond. She is now paired with a drake Tufted Duck, so we may soon have a couple more Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrids to contend with id-wise!

... And, I also caught up with at least one Arctic Tern...

Arctic Tern on the tern rails Tuesday.

There were probably a few more Arctic Terns among an eighty strong flock of mostly Common Terns that were feeding and resting in the lee of Chesil Bank opposite on Saturday but distance and viewing conditions made confidently clinching any a thankless task. Other sightings associated with the strong south-westerly that day were a (second calendar year) Little Gull and a (fourth calendar year) Yellow-legged Gull.

Wader passage continued, albeit without much variety, and peak counts were:
Grey Plover - 1; Whimbrel - 10; Bar-tailed Godwit - 1; Dunlin - 200; Redshank - 1. Also present were the two breeding pairs of Oystercatcher (with a third pair occasionally intruding into the recording area from beyond Shipmoor Point).

Waterfowl numbers and variety remained pretty much the same as last week, with no real surprises apart from the Scaup.

Passerine (and 'near-passerine') passage migrants were still in rather short supply too, with many former Swannery regulars still yet to make an appearance this year, namely Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Hobby, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit!

I'm just hoping it's still not too late to see at least a few of the above this spring, let alone an official scarce migrant or vagrant!

I'll sign off with a couple of moth pics from Charlie...

Poplar Hawk Moth at The Swannery this week © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Poplar Hawk Moth at The Swannery this week © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography


Sunday, 4 May 2014


Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 28th April to Sunday 4th May 2014...  

This week's title is a bit of narrative licence of course, as the 'serendipity' that Luke had when a Serin flew over his ringing site at nearby Clouds Hill (Abbotsbury) on Wednesday wasn't technically a 'dip', it was just highly likely that said Serin had previously also flown over The Swannery and unfortunately for me I didn't connect. It's now been around twenty years since my last here. Therefore the best bird of the week for me was a fly over Red Kite later that same day (that was too distant to photograph), though a Fulmar that Charlie had on Thursday was equally as scarce on the landward side of the Chesil. It would have been even more noteworthy if it had been the 'Blue' one that flew past Portland Bill that same day!

The first Swifts of the year were the highlight of the commoner 'summer migrants', while passage waders included over twenty each of Whimbrel and Dunlin, at least three Common Sandpipers, two Ringed Plovers and singles of Curlew and Snipe.

A couple of Whimbrels on 'The Bund'. A slightly better shot than last week's effort.

Some thirty Common Terns were on or around the tern island, along with a few Sandwich Terns still...

Just a few of the Common Terns (and one of the Sandwich Terns) gracing the tern rails this week.

All of the wintering wildfowl have now departed leaving just the regular breeding species along with two pairs of Gadwall (only sporadic nesters), several pairs of Tufted Duck (that are just about establishing themselves as regular nesters) and a few Pochard (that look like they may nest in the near future).  

Drake Shelduck on Meadow Pool today. One of The Swannery's regular breeding wildfowl species along with Mallard, Canada Goose and Mute Swan (of course!).

So yet again not a very eventful birding week but I still feel there's a very good bird yet to come this spring and now we're into May a nice southern overshoot would make a fitting, if slightly belated, (significant) birthday present!
I'll leave you with a shot that Charlie took of a Muslin Moth at The Swannery this week...

Muslin Moth © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography