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 June 2014

Back Of The Netta!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th June 2014...  

I wasn't working on Monday but I popped down in the evening just to see what was around. There was no sign of the 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull that Charlie had found earlier in the day but from Helen Hide I discovered the first returning Greenshank. I saw little else of note until I reached the Decoy Pond where I was surprised to find four Red-crested Pochards. They were rather wary however and I just had time to rattle off a few pics before they flew off down the The Fleet...

The four Red-crested Pochards on the Decoy Pond, three moulting drakes and a duck, with Mallards and Coots.

Seeing how wary they were, it is tempting to speculate that they may have been genuine wild birds from the continent but with a growing naturalised population in the UK, who knows!

Above two pics - Charlie's 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

In addition to the Red-crested Pochards the only other duck of any real note this week was again the over-summering female Scaup but the few early returning Teal and Shovelers added variety to the ever present Shelducks, Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Pochards. 

A Common Sandpiper on Thursday (like the aforementioned Greenshank) was the first of the 'autumn' and the returning post breeding Lapwing flock peaked at twelve. The only other waders seen this week were the local three pairs of Oystercatchers, only one of which were successful, managing to fledge two of their three young.

Most of the Common Terns have now hatched young too and, apart from the odd fatality, seem to be doing well.

Several juvenile Grey Herons are now in residence, presumably from the Nottington heronry (or from further afield) as none have nested at Abbotsbury for awhile now.

The only 'land-bird' that went into the log this week (i.e. that wasn't either breeding or been reared in the near vicinity) was a single Sand Martin.

Juvenile Pied Wagtail at 'Bum Point'. It is nice to see that some young were reared in the area after 'our' initial sitting female was found dead on the nest.
A different shot of the first Scarce Chaser for The Fleet from last week that I misidentified as a Black-tailed Skimmer!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A 'Pec'uliar Sighting!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd June 2014...  

Way back in 1990 a Collared Pratincole flew past me and landed on the shore of The Swannery embayment as I was up a step-ladder re-constructing some reed-screens. This week, on Tuesday, twenty-four years and a month or two later, I was attending to some more reed-screens when another very interesting wader flew by. Clearly a calidris sandpiper but (although of similar size) most definitely not a Dunlin, my initial thoughts were either Pectoral Sandpiper or (perhaps wistfully) Sharp-tailed Sandpiper! In retrospect though on call and plumage it had to be a 'Pec'. After flying past me it circled back over the reed-bed and flew in the direction of the 'Round-up Site' where there are several marshy ditches and pools. Leaving my post I headed toward the said area carefully scrutinising the shoreline of The Fleet as I went. I obviously wasn't being as careful as I should have been however as suddenly the bird flew up in front of me and headed off across the lagoon and out over The Chesil! I was rather annoyed with myself to say the least as it was on a little muddy beach and it should have stood out like a (albeit cryptically coloured) sore thumb! Needless to say I didn't manage to get a photo of it but I did manage to get a photo of its impression...

Although I failed to get a photo of the Pectoral Sandpiper, I did get a photo of its footprint!

The seven previous Abbotsbury 'Pec' 'Sands' have all been in September/October and I don't believe there has been a June record in Dorset before, so a peculiar sighting indeed. As there was one at Swillington Ings near Leeds the previous day (almost due north) it is tempting to think it was the same bird that (having failed to find a mate this side of The Atlantic) is just continuing its journey south (its probably somewhere in France now!). 

Other waders seen this week were a peak of ten Oystercatchers (plus three unfledged youngsters), three Lapwings, two Redshanks, a Curlew and a Black-tailed Godwit... 

This week's Black-tailed Godwit.

The wildfowl highlight was the continued presence of the female Scaup... 

The unseasonal female Scaup.

Other slightly less noteworthy ducks were a couple of returning Teal and Shovelers and a single Gadwall (my hopes of the latter breeding this year appear to have come to nothing). The 'Feral' Goose flock still contained the Barnacle Goose and up to three Bar-headed Geese.

Several Common Tern chicks have now hatched but the only other tern species around the island were again a few Sandwich Terns, whilst the only noteworthy gull was the first-summer Mediterranean Gull again.

The best raptor of the week was an early returning Osprey on the 'Osprey Perch', which had only been re-erected (following the winter storms) the day before!

Also back was the first returning Kingfisher and another Little Grebe (joining the flock of fifty-five of its Great Crested cousins).

To passerines now and the only real highlight was the appearance at last of the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year (at The Swannery proper) which was singing in the scrub over on Shipmoor Point!

So a pretty interesting week considering it's now mid-summer. Lets hope the following few weeks produce a few unusual sightings too...

Until next week I'll leave you with a few non-birdy pics (the last three courtesy of colleague Charlie)...

Edit - I id'd this as an ad. male Black-tailed Skimmer but it's actually an ad. male Scarce Chaser, a first for The Fleet recording area!
Golden-ringed Dragonfly at The Swannery this week

Crab Spider at The Swannery this week.

Grass Snake by the 'Mill Stream' this week. 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Sunday, 15 June 2014

June WeBS

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 9th to Sunday 15th June 2014...  

There was little, if any, evidence of northward bound passage this week but post breeding dispersal continued, with several more species reappearing having been absent since early spring.


The only real highlight was the continued presence of the female Scaup... 

The female Scaup on The Bund. 

Though oddities in the naturalised-goose moult-flock included up to three Bar-headed Geese and the Barnacle Goose still...

The Barnacle Goose of 'presumed naturalised origin'.

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

Mute Swan - 485
Black Swan - 2
Bar-headed Goose - 1 
Canada Goose - 700
Barnacle Goose - 1
Shelduck - 37
Gadwall - 1 
Mallard - 201
Pochard - 19
Tufted Duck - 39
Scaup - 1

Miscellaneous Water-birds...

The other water-bird totals on today's Wetland Bird Survey were...

Little Grebe - 1
Great Crested Grebe - 50
Cormorant - 9
Little Egret - 9
Grey Heron - 5
Moorhen - 2
Coot - 60


Only three species were recorded this week - three pairs of Oystercatchers (one with three young and one on eggs), two Lapwings and four Black-tailed Godwits.

Gulls & Terns...

The gull and tern totals on today's Wetland Bird Survey were...

Black-headed Gull - 5
Herring Gull - 7
Great Black-backed Gull - 7
Sandwich Tern - 2
Common Tern - 120

This was a pretty representative tally for the week but in addition a second calendar-year Mediterranean Gull was present on Thursday.

Just a few of the fifty plus pairs of Common Terns now incubating on the tern island.  
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Common Terns on the perimeter fence. The only other 'sternids' the (so far) thriving colony attracted this week were a few passing Sandwich Terns.


The only noteworthy reports were of up to three Red Kites at 'Abbotsbury' that would probably have been viewable from The Swannery at some stage, although I failed to connect.

Other Land-birds...

Sand Martin was the only species seen that hadn't bred locally either at The Swannery or at least elsewhere in the parish but during the WeBS today I was pleased to hear my first Lesser Whitethroat of the 'spring/summer'. Unfortunately though it was just to the east of my recording area, along The Fleet in the overgrown Clouds Hill Cottage garden, so I've still not had one on the actual patch yet this year!

Only one pair of Swallows are nesting at The Swannery this year but I'm pleased to report that their first clutch has been successfully fledged (unlike last year!). 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Monday, 9 June 2014

'Two Way Traffic'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 2nd to Sunday 8th June 2014...  

Northward bound waders consisted of a flock of twenty-two Sanderlings on The Fleet shoreline of Chesil opposite on Thursday (with four also on Tuesday and Wednesday), whilst Dunlins (including a few of the form arctica) peaked at fourteen on Wednesday. Apart from the two pairs of breeding Oystercatchers and their young the only other wader was a Black-tailed Godwit that arrived on Wednesday and was still present Sunday. 

The Black-tailed Godwit (with a Mallard).

The Black-tailed Godwit (a cropped version of the above).

One of the breeding Oystercatchers on the 'Middle' Duck Decoy Pipe.

As, at least some of, the waders were still heading north towards their breeding grounds, some of the wildfowl this week were already beginning to arrive back from theirs. A drake Shoveler arrived back on Friday and three Teal (including a duck) were back on Saturday. The two drake Gadwall still linger (and I'm still hoping their two mates will emerge from the reed-beds with some ducklings soon) and there are still several Tufted Ducks and Pochards present. The highlights though were the reappearance of the duck Scaup and a very brief visit by a drake Garganey that flew across the embayment with a Peregrine right on its tail Friday evening. The falcon reappeared moments later with empty talons but the Garganey presumably kept on going all the way to Radipole!

The non-breeding naturalised-goose moult-flock has now swelled to over five-hundred strong. Predominantly consisting of Canada Geese of course, there are a few oddities in the form of a single Barnacle Goose, a hybrid Greylag x Canada and briefly on Thursday two Bar-headed Geese. In a similar vein the two Black Swans are still within the Mute Swan herd. 

Just a few of the Canada Geese present at the moment
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography 

There were no Roseate Tern sightings this week (nor any sign of the 'easternish' Common Tern) but the (nominate) Common Terns are now doing well (fingers crossed) on the tern island with over one-hundred individuals present (so hopefully fifty plus pairs)!

One-hundred plus Common Terns over the tern island
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Apart from a 'probable' Turtle Dove that sped east on Friday (that if clinched would have been the first of the year) there was no obvious land bird passage and so it seems I will have to wait to the autumn now (if I'm lucky!) for this year's missing spring migrants such as Cuckoo, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit! 

With no sign of any Southern Marsh Orchids in the usual spots yet again this year (although there are one or two historical locales I haven't checked yet) I'll leave you with a photo of one of the Bee Orchids now flowering in the car park...

Bee Orchid on the bank of the main car park.

Thanks to Al Barrett and Charlie Wheeler for a few of the above sightings and also to the latter for the use of two of the above pics.

Monday, 2 June 2014

'Tickled Pink'

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..


Monday 26th May to Sunday 1st June 2014...  

Bird of the week was the Swannery's second Roseate Tern of the year. Bearing no rings and pretty pink  it was clearly a different individual to that seen the previous week... 

Above two photo's Tuesday's adult Roseate Tern on The Tern Island with Common Terns

It (or possibly yet another) re-appeared on Saturday and gave closer views... 

Above three pics - Saturday's adult Roseate Tern...
It seemed to have slightly shorter tail streamers than Tuesday's bird.

Another dark-billed tern was also present this week... 

This week's dark-billed Common Tern

It is no doubt the bird showing some characteristics of the Asian form that has been present for the last few summers... it has virtually an all black bill, has dark red legs and is slightly darker grey - but it just doesn't seem to quite tick all the boxes of a classic eastern longipennis,  so maybe a hirundo/longipennis intergrade? 

Apart from the terns it was a rather quiet week and with passerine/near passerine spring passage now seemingly all but over it was left to a few tardy northward bound waders, namely Dunlin and Whimbrel, to pad out the notebook. Slightly more notable however was the, presumably already southward bound, Green Sandpiper that was a 'heard only' on Friday and Saturday. 

So that was the best I could do this week, not bad I suppose, one or possibly two Roseate Terns but it would have been nice to have added Bee-eater to my Swannery list seeing that four flew along the west Dorset coast at the weekend, oh well one day!

I'll leave you with a few pics of some 'great' birds... Great Crested Grebes and a couple of a recently fledged Great Spotted Woodpecker at The Swannery this week...

Despite being present all year round in The Swannery embayment and regularly displaying the species never nests here so presumably summering birds are 2nd calendar year birds that are still sexually immature?

One of a brood of recently fledged Great Spotted Woodpeckers in The Swannery withy-bed