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.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - July 2020...


Roseate Tern was present briefly on the 18th. Bearing a ring it was clearly different from last month's bird.

Roseate Tern, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

The first Cattle Egret since April arrived on the 15th, being joined by a second on the 17th and seven more on the 18th. The flock then flew west and were not seen again.

Cattle Egret, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Great Egrets were present briefly on the 21st, the first since February.

The first Osprey since April, flew west on the 17th.


The Canada Goose moult flock still consisted of around eight-hundred and fifty (along with a the few home bred family parties) early in the month and the Barnacle Goose still lingered throughout. The Mute Swan moult flock numbered around seven-hundred, along with around two-hundred breeding birds and their young, while the resident Whooper Swan was still present throughout.

As usual the most numerous ducks (and the only ones breeding) were Shelduck (with around forty present); Mallard (with around two-hundred and fifty present) and Tufted Duck with around  fifty present early in the month (although unlike the former two species, only one brood was seen). The first Shovelers for several weeks were seen on the 24th and peaked at eight on the 29th.  while also the first Gadwall for several weeks were present on the 13th with a peak of five on the 20th. Over-summering single drakes of Pochard, WigeonPintail and Teal were present throughout but the latter was joined by up to seven others from the 13th.


Oystercatchers peaked at twelve on the 5th (and the pair on the Tern Island fledged a chick making a total of two from the four pairs present this year). The post-breeding Lapwing flock increased from three last month to five this month; an unseasonable Golden Plover was present from the 14th to the 17th; single Ringed Plovers were seen on three dates; and single Little Ringed Plovers were seen on four dates. 

Golden Plover, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Golden Plover, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Little Ringed Plover, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

The first returning Whimbrel was seen on the 9th with one to three then noted on four further dates; Single Curlews were seen on three dates; one to two Bar-tailed Godwits on three dates; whilst Black-tailed Godwits were present virtually daily with a peak of ten on the 8th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Three Turnstones were present on the 19th and there were then further singles on three dates; single Knots were seen on the 7th and 22nd; Sanderlings were present on five dates with a peak of six on the 20th; whilst Dunlin were regular with counts of between thirty and forty from the 19th to the 22nd.

Dunlins, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

Common Sandpipers  
were seen daily with peaks of nine plus in the last week; Green Sandpipers were present, pretty much daily too with a peak of at least seven on the 30th; Redshanks were also seen almost daily from the 10th with a peak of eight on the 16th; and single Greenshanks were seen on three dates but with two present on the 22nd.

Green Sandpiper, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Greenshank, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Gulls & Terns...  

Following not long after the bird in May, two equally unseasonable Kittiwakes were present briefly on the 12th. 

Kittiwakes , Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

Meanwhile Black-headed Gulls fledged the last of their young from The Tern Island and with birds dispersing away numbers dropped to around seventy early in the month. There was a marked increase in Mediterranean Gulls however, with a count of over two-hundred and thirty on the 3rd. There was a fairly high percentage of juveniles too, joining the juvenile fledged from The Tern Island (the first for the Fleet).

Mediterranean Gull (first calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 
© Steve Groves

A Common Gull seen on the 19th though, was the only one of the month. Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls were present daily with regular counts of around twenty of the former and one-hundred to two-hundred of the latter;  At least two Lesser Black-backed Gulls were present on the 4th with a single on the 31st; An adult Yellow-legged Gull was seen on the 4th, whilst the first juvenile was seen on the 12th. Single juveniles were then seen on seven other dates, with three on the 13th and at least two on the 27th. 

Yellow-legged Gull (first calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 
© Steve Groves

Yellow-legged Gull (first calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 
© Steve Groves

The Common Terns fledged at least eighty young from The Tern Island but with social distancing it was not possible to ring the chicks this year so an accurate count was impossible. Over one-hundred adults were still present early in the month but numbers dropped dramatically by the month's end as the breeding birds and there young dispersed elsewhere.  

Common Tern (first calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

As expected, single figures of Sandwich Terns continued to be seen throughout but totally unexpected was a flurry of Little Tern records, with birds present daily from the 12th to the 31st, including eleven together on the 22nd.  This former breeder is now barely annual, in fact there was only a single sighting last year. 

Sandwich Tern (first calendar year), Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves
Little Terns, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

Other Water-birds...

Water RailsMoorhens and Coots were all still raising young, while the post breeding flock of the latter increased to around one-hundred and thirty. The post-breeding/moulting grebe flock consisted of up to three Little Grebes and at least thirty Great Crested Grebes. The first Kingfisher since March was seen on the 17th, with another present on the 31st. There were regular single figures counts of Grey Herons and mid-teen counts of Little Egrets. The nesting Cormorants fledged the last of their young and at least twenty adults and juveniles roosted nightly. In addition a flock of twenty flew west on the 30th.

Cormorant , Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Predatory Birds...

There were daily sightings of Buzzards and Kestrels, and the pair of Barn Owls and there two young were seen regularly. 

Barn Owl , Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Single Marsh Harriers were seen on six dates and Peregrines on four. There was however only one sighting each of Sparrowhawk and Red Kite.

Other Land-birds...

PheasantFeral PigeonStock DoveWood PigeonCollared DoveGreat Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all present. 

Swifts were seen regularly, mostly in single figures but with groups of ten to fifty on occasion, whilst an impressive movement on the 3rd involved at least nine-hundred. The nesting Swallows were boosted by other local breeders and most days twenty to fifty were present, whilst post breeding dispersal brought good numbers of Sand Martins too, with counts of up to two-hundred on at least two dates. House Martins were seen less frequently but over twenty were present on the 9th at least. 

Swallows, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Joe Stockwell
Sand Martins, Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

JayMagpieJackdawRookCarrion Crow and Raven were all present in varying numbers and frequency.

Blue TitsGreat Tits and Long-tailed Tits were all still present, whilst Coal Tits that arrived back last month also increased in number. 

Cetti's WarblersChiffchaffsSedge WarblersReed WarblersBlackcapsWhitethroats and Goldcrests were all still present (with no doubt their numbers being swelled by local and not so local bred birds); whilst the first returning  Willow Warblers were seen from the 14th.  

Dunnocks,   WrensBlackbirdsSong Thrushes and Robins were all still present, though the only Stonechat was a single on the 1st. Starling numbers (mostly juveniles) increased dramatically though, with at least three-hundred roosting on several dates. 

SkylarksMeadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were all still present, being joined by a Grey Wagtail on the 28th and single Yellow Wagtails on five dates from the 7th but with three on the 29th and two on the 31st. 

House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Linnets and Reed Buntings were all still present, whilst a few Siskins were heard on the 6th. 

Linnet , Abbotsbury Swannery, July 2020 © Steve Groves

That's it for this post except to thank Alan Barrett, Kev Butler, Joe Stockwell, Nick Urch, and Charlie Wheeler for their sightings and where applicable for the use of their photos. 

August 2020 sightings to follow shortly.  

Steve Groves.