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, 28 July 2014

A Positively Purple Patch Plus...

A Bit Of Late News...

Ringer Steve Hales had two Grasshopper Warblers and nine Willow Warblers Sunday morning and a Yellow Wagtail over on Friday evening!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A Positively Purple Patch

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 15th to Sunday 27th July 2014... 

There were certainly some quality birds this week. Best of the bunch was a Great Egret on Thursday... 

Above two pics the Great Egret with a Little Egret.  
Both © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

I found the bird on the far shore, near Cuckoo Coppice, as I went down to feed at just after 8.30 am on Thursday. Moments earlier my text alert had sounded but when I saw the bird I became somewhat distracted. When I did get round to reading my text it was not surprisingly from Mike Morse at West Bexington to say that he and Alan Barrett had just had a Great Egret flying east. Ironically it had first been seen earlier at Seaton by their ex-fellow 'West Bex' patch-birder Ian McLean! Distant for most of it's hour and a half (or so) stay it did get fairly close to the Fleet Pipe Hide at one point but it stubbornly stayed the far side of the perimeter fence... 

The Great Egret from Fleet Pipe Hide.   
It was subsequently seen at the RSPB reserves of Lodmoor and Radipole. 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

I thank Charlie for the use of his images, which were better than my efforts and Mike and Alan for the tip off.

Off the top of my head this is about the tenth Great Egret for The Swannery although there have been a few 'unconfirmed reports' and maybe a bit of duplication (three within a few months in 2003 for instance). 

Now most British birders refer to the species as Great White Egret of course but for once I prefer the 'official' IOU standardised English name of Great Egret. It may be Americanised (in America the species is known as Great Egret) but the word 'white' just seems superfluous. If a distinction needs to be made between the American and Eurasian forms then American Great Egret and Eurasian Great Egret works fine (as does African Great Egret and Eastern Great Egret for the other two forms). Some refer to the Old World forms as Great White Heron of course (which is technically more accurate as it is an Ardea not an Egretta) but then that just causes confusion with the white morph of the Great Blue Heron of the Americas (which surprise surprise is colloquially known as the Great White Heron). Confused? Well I suppose there will never be complete agreement on standardised English names! 

Any ways back to the other good birds of the week...

Last week's Black Tern lingered all week (or at least to Saturday, as I was off this weekend and didn't get down to The Swannery on Sunday)... 

The Black Tern this week - the lower image more heavily cropped.
And a less heavily cropped image of the Black Tern by Charlie. 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Remarkably the Black Tern was joined by a Roseate Tern on Monday... 

The Roseate Tern far left and the Black Tern far right, with Common Terns.

The Roseate Tern centre, 
with adult Common Tern left and first summer Common Tern right
The Roseate Tern (the same image as above but more heavily cropped).

It bore a metal ring indicating that it was different from the other two or three individuals seen earlier this summer (one of which was colour ringed and the other one or two un-ringed). Also drawn in by the thriving Common Tern colony this week were a few Sandwich Terns and at last the first (and long anticipated) Little Terns of the year - an adult with two still dependent young. Five tern species in one week! As for gulls, all the usual species were present in varying numbers including a few Mediterranean Gulls and a couple of early Common Gulls.

The fourth quality bird of the week was a Wood Sandpiper that Steve Hales saw briefly on Thursday on Bum Point. Thankfully it, or another, was on Meadow Pool on Saturday (and was reported again on Sunday)... 

The Wood Sandpiper on Meadow Pool.

The 'Woody' shared the pool with a couple of Green Sandpipers, which had been a bit thin on the ground, but a peak of four were seen on Thursday...

One of this week's Green Sandpipers.

Other waders noted were a singles of Little Ringed Plover and Knot, whilst there were peaks of two Snipe,  three Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, three Whimbrel, three Curlewthree Redshank, three Sanderlingfive Common Sandpiper and forty Dunlin, plus a few Oystercatchers and Lapwings

Unseasonal wildfowl included the female Scaup still all week plus a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on Monday! Otherwise numbers and variety remained similar to the last few weeks. 

As for warblers the reed-beds are now heaving with Reed and Sedge along with quite a few Cettis's, while in the hedgerows Common Whitehroats are numerous. The Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the withy-beds have yet to be joined by any returning Willow or Garden Warblers and similarly there have been no more Yellow Wagtails and as yet still no Tree Pipits but with all the latter species (plus all the usual autumn passage migrants - and maybe something more unusual) it's only just a matter of time!

I'll leave you with my best images of the Great Egret...

The Great Egret, with a Little Egret near Christmas Ditch.

The Great Egret at 'The Fleet Pipe'.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Hints Of Things To Come

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 14th to Sunday 20th July 2014... 

Bird of the week was the adult Black Tern present around the Tern Island today (Sunday) and Saturday... 

Above two pics the moulting adult Black Tern with a Common Tern.
The Black Tern... about the best I could do and heavily cropped.
The Black Tern, in better light but more distant still (with Common Terns).

The Tern Island is certainly bustling at the moment. On Monday evening Luke Phillips and Joe Stockwell  came over to ring the chicks. They ringed eighty seven in total but there were a few that were still too small to ring, a dozen or so that had already fledged and also still a few possibly viable clutches still to hatch. So an educated guestimate would be that at least a hundred chicks will fledge this year, from around fifty to sixty pairs, the best year yet since the Common Terns colonised the artificial island back in the early 90's. Although no doubt well below the numbers that used to fledge from the vast ternery  once present on the beach here.

One of the younger Common Tern chicks we encountered.
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Common Tern chicks in a bucket awaiting their  turn to be ringed.
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography
A first summer Common Tern that has been around this week.

A first summer Little Gull on Tuesday was also a contender for bird of the week but it was much less co-operative than the tern, I didn't even manage to get a record shot. 'Also rans' on the gull and tern front were a few Mediterranean Gulls and a slightly unseasonal Common Gull, while Sandwich Terns continue to be regular.

Waders increased in variety and numbers this week. Oystercatchers peaked at five and Lapwings at around seven again. The first Ringed Plover of the 'autumn' was logged (as none nested again this year) and four Little Ringed Plovers were around for most of the week...   

Three of this week's Little Ringed Plovers in the meadow.

Other firsts of the autumn were Dunlin, which peaked at forty on Saturday, Sanderling (three), Knot (three), Turnstone (one) and Green Sandpiper (one), whilst others already noted on return migration were Common Sandpiper (peaking at two), Whimbrel (also peaking at two) and Black-tailed Godwit (peaking at three)... 

Black-tailed Godwit (all islandica) peaked at three on Thursday.

The female Scaup continues to over-summer with the Tufted Ducks and after a weeks absence several Pochard rejoined them. Also reappearing after a blank week were a few Shoveler and a Gadwall, while a few Teal were also still around. A Little Grebe and a Kingfisher also went back into the log.

A Marsh Harrier today (the first since early April, as none attempted to nest this year) was the best raptor of the week, whilst the best passerines were three Yellow Wagtails, the first of the year, that flew west on Saturday. More evidence of return migration included a noticeable increase in Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat numbers and a build up of Sand Martins and Swallows too. 

So it seems that things are definitely livening up... watch this space!

Along with many bird species Water Voles seem to have had a good breeding season with this youngster being seen regularly along the lower stream.

Thanks this week to Luke, Joe and Charlie and a belated thanks to Alan and Mike for last week.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A Ruff & Stuff...

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week...

Monday 7th to Sunday 13th July 2014... 

I was on leave this week and although I was busy with day trips (and a few chores) I still managed to pop down The Swannery most evenings and I also went in for this (Sunday) morning's WeBS count of course. Despite my comparative lack of coverage I still managed to find a male Ruff on Meadow Pool. Now Ruffs are just about annual at The Swannery, mostly in late autumn and early winter but a male in summer (or at least largely summer) plumage is a bit of a scarcity... 

Above pics the moulting but still largely summer-plumaged male Ruff that was present on Meadow Pool Friday evening... it even still had a bit of a ruff!

The Ruff was accompanied by two Greenshanks...

The two Greenshanks.

...And the latter were still present for today's WeBS along with seven Lapwings and three Oystercatchers (presumably the successful breeding pair and one of their young). Other waders noted in the the week were a peak of four Common Sandpipers, three Redshanks, two Snipes and singles of Whimbrel and Black-tailed Godwit...

Above two pics the summer-plumaged Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

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

Mute Swan - 572
Black Swan - 2
Bar-headed Goose - 1 
Canada Goose - 637
Barnacle Goose - 1
Shelduck - 22
Teal - 10
Mallard - 168
Tufted Duck - 52
Scaup - 1

Note that the female Scaup is still present but also note the apparent lack this week of Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard!

A Tufted Duck and her brood on the Decoy Pond. © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

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

Great Crested Grebe - 31
Cormorant - 16
Little Egret - 8
Grey Heron - 1
Moorhen - 4
Coot - 281

Note no Little Grebes or Kingfishers.

Three preening Little Egrets on Meadow Pool.

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

Black-headed Gull - 111
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 13
Great Black-backed Gull - 2
Common Tern - 80

Note no Mediterranean Gulls or Sandwich Terns.

The first Common Tern fledglings of the summer. © Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography

Land-birds provided no real surprises with most post breeding dispersal masked by local breeders. The exceptions however were Sand Martins that continued to pass through and the first Grey Wagtail that reappeared on The Mill Stream. 

This cock Linnet 'dillied and dallied' by Meadow Hide!
A juv. Pied Wagtail that Charlie digitally captured this week. 
© Charlie Wheeler wheeler-photography
Thanks Charlie for the use of five of the above pics and for also keeping an eye out in my absence!

So it's back in the harness tomorrow and so ironically more time on the patch to find another quality wader I hope!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Avian Autumn Arrives!

Swannery Birding Highlights Of The Week..

Monday 30th June to Sunday 6th July 2014...  

Not surprisingly this week was mainly about returning waders and to a lesser extent wildfowl. 

The first Little Ringed Plover of the 'autumn' (and in fact the year, as none were seen in the spring) was seen briefly on Tuesday and almost as brief were a flock of thirteen Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits in the meadow on Wednesday (although one lingered to Saturday). There were also singles of Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Snipe (the latter another first of the 'autumn'), whilst the Lapwing flock dropped back to seven and Oystercatchers to six (including the two fledged young).

The single Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit that lingered from Thursday to Saturday.

Returning wildfowl included peaks of six Gadwall, eight Teal and four Shoveler, whilst the female Scaup still lingered with the Pochard/Tufted Duck flock.

So that's what adult summer female Scaups look like!
The seven-hundred strong Canada Goose moult flock.
In there somewhere are also a Bar-headed Goose and a Barnacle Goose (plus a few hybrids).

There has been a slow build up of post breeding Black-headed Gulls, including the first juveniles, and associated with this were a couple of Mediterranean Gullsbut as last week the bustling Common Tern colony only attracted a few passing Sandwich Terns

One of this week's Mediterranean Gulls (a first-summer), with Black-headed Gulls.

As for land-birds a report of a Red Kite was the only raptor of note and as last week the only passerine that made the log was Sand Martin but in contrast to last week's single, there were  several flocks of up to fifty, that this year far outnumber all the local-breeding feeding-flocks of Swallows, House Martins and Swifts put together! I hope that this turn of events is just a blip!

There weren't many  Dragonflies and Damselflies this week but I did manage to digitally capture this male  Common Blue Damselfly that I initially posted as an Azure.
The best butterfly was a Silver-washed Fritillary but that was far too restless to photograph!