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, 13 April 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - March 2020 Highlights...


Nine Greylag Geese  flew east on the 6th, followed by two north on the 16th.  These may well have been true wild birds returning to Scandinavia from wintering grounds in Spain but a settled tame bird on the 26th however, was most definitely of 'feral' origin. With no Scaup or Long-tailed Ducks the duck highlight was  a  Goldeneye seen erratically from the 4th to the 18th. Formally a common winter visitor they are now unfortunately rather scarce here.

Goldeneye (female) & Great Crested Grebe, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 
© Joe Stockwell


Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Redshanks and Snipe were regular but more noteworthy were a flock of around thirty Knots that were present briefly on the 31st (the first since October); a single Dunlin which was seen on the 25th; and a Jack Snipe seen even more briefly on the 30th. Black-tailed Godwits were seen on four dates, with eighteen on the 18th, twelve on the 19th and two on the 23rd and 31st; whilst also on passage were three Curlews on the 11th, along with a single on the 19th. The over-wintering Common Sandpiper was still present to the 28th at least.

Dunlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Steve Groves

Gulls & Terns...

Among all the usual commoner species there were two sightings of (second calendar year) Caspian Gulls, the first on the 6th and the second on the 18th (but possibly both the same individual) and there were three sightings of (third calendar year) Yellow-legged Gulls on the 2nd, 6th and 18th (probably all the same individual). The first Sandwich Tern of the year arrived on the 23rd and there were then single figures daily to the end of the month.

Caspian Gull (2nd calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 
© Joe Stockwell

Other Waterbirds...

Cattle Egrets roosted throughout and peaked at sixteen on the 24th; whilst last month's lingering Red-necked Grebe remained until the 5th.

Predatory Birds...

Three Red Kites were logged on the 22nd and at least one on the 26th; whilst single Marsh Harriers were regular but the only Peregrine was seen on the 20th. A Barn Owl was heard overnight on the 16th/17th and at least one of last year's breeding Little Owls were back on territory (actually on the 28th February but it got left off last month's post).

Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Charlie Wheeler
Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Charlie Wheeler


Early spring passage began in earnest with the first Swallow on the 16th; the first Sand MartinsBlackcaps and Wheatears from the 18th and the first influx of Chiffchaffs on the 19th. The best passerine of the month though was a Black Redstart on the 18th.

Black Redstart, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2020 © Kev Butler

And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleagues Joe Stockwell, Kev Butler and Charlie Wheeler for finding and photographing some of the above birds. Also thanks to Swannery WeBS volunteers Alan Barrett and Nick Urch and to other work colleagues and visiting birders that reported Swannery sightings. 

April 2020 sightings to follow shortly.

Steve Groves.