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, 25 May 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - Highlights April 2020...


Along with the usual residents, all the regular winter wildfowl lingered, albeit in dwindling numbers. The only real surprise were three Barnacle Geese  (potentially of natural rather than naturalised origin) that flew in-off the sea, then east on the 16th.

Red-breasted Merganser (drake), Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).
one of several species of wintering wildfowl that lingered to the end of the month.


Having lost Lapwing, Ringed Plover and Redshank as breeders some years ago now, the only breeding waders were Oystercatcher with three pairs present.  However, a late Lapwing was present on the 20th to the 22nd; single Ringed Plovers were logged on four dates, with three present on the 2nd; and Redshanks were present throughout, with a peak of at least five on two dates. Other lingering winter or passage waders seen were Knot, with two on the 18th and one on the 22nd; Dunlin on seven dates with a peak of seven on the 25th; Snipe, with singles on the 3rd and 16th; Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit (form islandica), with near daily sightings until the 21st and a peak of nine on the 18th; Bar-tailed Godwit, with near daily sightings from the 10th and a peak of over seventy on the 23rd; Whimbrel, with near daily sightings and a peak of over twenty on the 29th; Common Sandpiper, with near daily sightings and a peak of three on several dates; and Greenshank, with six on the 15th and one on the 21st.  
Black-tailed Godwit, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)

Bar-tailed Godwit & Knot, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)

Gulls & Terns...

Among all the usual commoner species there were singles of (second calendar year) Little Gulls, on the 12th and 19th;  around a dozen Mediterranean Gulls were seen daily; whilst the regular spring passage of Continental Lesser Black-backed Gulls (form intermedius) peaked at over twenty on the 5th. Following the arrival of the first Sandwich Terns of the year last month the first Common Terns arrived on the 5th.

Sandwich Terns, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves)

Other Water-birds...

All the regulars were seen with the only real noteworthy sightings being of Cattle Egrets, which, following on from at least sixteen at the end of March, presumably continued to roost nightly throughout but with increasing daylight hours their dawn and dusk comings and goings went unobserved. The only sightings during the 'day' on site were on the 5th (one), 10th (two), 18th/19th (two) and 28th (one). 

Cattle Egrets, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).
Cattle Egret, Abbotsbury Swannery, April 2020 (Steve Groves).

Predatory Birds...

In addition to the four regular breeding species Red Kites were logged on the 10th (two) and on the 13th (one); Single Marsh Harriers were regular but a pair were seen together on the 20th; Single Ospreys flew north on the 16th and 19th; Single Barn Owls were either heard or seen on the 4th, 5th and 7th; and a pair of Little Owls were present throughout, nesting for the second year in a row after a long absence.

Other Non-Passerines...

The first Swifts of the year were seen on the 26th but other than that only the usual resident species were present.


Joining the usual residents and following on from the first Blackcaps, Swallows, Sand Martins and Wheatears of the year last month (all of which continued to arrive this month), earliest dates for spring migrants were as follows... Willow Warbler on the 3rd, Sedge Warbler on the 8th, Reed Warbler on the 9th, House Martin on the 16th and Whitethroat on the 22nd.

Most noteworthy was a Nightingale, heard but not seen, on the 16th. Only the fourth seen or heard within The Swannery recording area during my 31 year tenure! Another species seen this month with less than ten previous Swannery records is Water Pipit... at least one was present from the 8th to the 11th but two were seen together on the 9th. These were presumably the same two birds, in the exact same location, that were present last April. Also of note single Yellow Wagtails were seen on the 23rd and 27th. 

As the Nightingale didn't show itself, above is the bird that frequented my garden, adjacent to The Swannery in April 2013, photographed through my bedroom window!

Unusually several regular spring migrants were absent with no Garden Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Whinchats, White Wagtails or Tree Pipits!  Hopefully they'll appear in May!

And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleague Charlie Wheeler for additional sightings. 

May 2020 sightings to follow shortly. 

Steve Groves.