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.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - May 2020...


Purple Heron (thought to be a second calendar year) was seen (but unfortunately not photographed) flying west on the evening of the 7th. This constitutes the third Swannery record following two seen in 1998 (a second calendar year in April and a juvenile in August).


Three Garganey were the undoubted highlights, a drake on the 5th and a pair on the 28th.  
(Drake) Garganey & Coot, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 

A few each of PochardTeal, Shoveler, Gadwall and even Wigeon and Pintail were present, along with more expected (and nesting) Canada GooseMute Swan, ShelduckMallard and Tufted Duck. Also present was the resident Whooper Swan that (unfortunately for those birders that have year ticked it in the past) is now believed to have originated from a private wildfowl collection near Bridport!

(Drake) Teal, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 


In addition to the four breeding pairs of Oystercatchers, at least two, probably three Avocets were seen on the 8th; two (failed breeding?) Lapwings were back from the 26th; single Grey Plovers were seen on the 10th and 14th; a Little Ringed Plover (a belated first of the year) was present from the 27th to the 30th at least; Whimbrels were noted fairly regularly from the 5th to the 19th, with a peak of at least eight on the first date; single Bar-tailed Godwits were present from the 17th to the 20th and on the 28th; Turnstones were seen regularly, with a peak of three on the 3rd; single Knot were present on the 13th and 27th/28th; four Sanderlings (the first of the year) were seen on the 20th; Dunlins were regular with a peak of over twenty on the 19th; Common Sandpipers were seen regularly from the 2nd to the 16th, with a peak of four on the 6th; Redshanks were regular throughout with a peak of three on the 28th; and singles and duos of Greenshank were regular from the 14th to the 27th.

Oystercatcher, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves) 

Avocet & Shelducks, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Little Ringed Plover, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Turnstone, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Dunlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Greenshank, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Gulls & Terns... 

Most noteworthy was a lingering adult Kittiwake on the 27th.

Kittiwake, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

The Tern Island played host to at least fifty pairs of nesting Common Terns, along with around twenty pairs of Black-headed Gulls 

Common Tern, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Mediterranean GullsCommon Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Sandwich Terns were also present (although not nesting) in varying frequency and numbers.

Other Water-birds...

Apart from the aforementioned Purple Heron, the highlight was Spoonbill that was seen briefly on the 13th, before flying off west. It reappeared briefly the following day but then flew off east.

Spoonbill, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Cormorants are breeding again this year, following on from the first ever breeding last year; and also nesting were a few pairs each of Water Rail, Moorhen and Coot Seen daily but not nesting were Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes, the latter peaking at forty on the 18th.

On a 'red letter day' for seabirds a Fulmar overflew the embayment on the 27th (the same day that the Kittiwake was seen). 

Predatory Birds...

Red Kites were seen regularly but there was a pronounced movement on the 10th with at least fifty seen (although as some were lingering and many others moving through the actual figure may have been considerably higher!). Single Marsh Harriers were seen on five dates, whereas single Peregrines were only seen on two.

Red Kite, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Barn OwlTawny Owl and Little Owl were all nesting within the recording area, or at least (judging by frequent sightings) in the very near vicinity.

Other Non-Passerines...

The highlight was the first and so far only, Cuckoo of the year, seen but not heard on the 5th.  

Swifts just reached double figures on several dates, with sightings no doubt including both passage birds and foraging breeders from the village. 

Pheasant, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all present too and all nesting at least within the local area if not all in the actual grounds. 


Passage migrants included two firsts of the year... a Garden Warbler on the 2nd and a Spotted Flycatcher on the 28th, both the only ones of the month. 

Following earlier arrivals though were two Yellow Wagtails on the 8th, followed by another on the 11th; single Wheatears on the 12th and 16th; and a late Willow Warbler on the 13th.  Sand Martins were still regular in the first half of the month and just made it into double figures on two dates; whilst House Martins and Swallows continued to move through too, both peaking at over thirty on the 3rd, although some of the former were no doubt local breeders from the village and a few of the latter were nesting within The Swannery. 

No doubt Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler were still moving through too but as they were all nesting as well, it was not always easy too tell passage birds from those on territory. 

Breeding 'residents'  either in or foraging within the recording area, were Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.

Starling (juvenile), Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

Other Wildlife Highlights...  
The best sighting for me was a Sea Trout, the first seen at The Swannery during my 30 year tenure!

Sea Trout, Abbotsbury Swannery, May 2020 (Steve Groves)

And that's it for this post except for a thank you to my colleagues Charlie Wheeler, Kev Butler and Joe Stockwell for their sightings. 

June 2020 sightings to follow shortly. 

Steve Groves.