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, 27 November 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - October 2020...



Pale-bellied Brent Goose flew west on the 12th and two flew west on the 28th, whilst single Dark-bellied Brent Geese were seen on four dates between the 13th and 28th but with a flock of fifteen present on the 18th; Canada Geese were present daily with 320 counted during the month's Wetland Bird Survey; while a single Greylag Goose was seen on the 2nd. 

Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

Mute Swans were of course present throughout and 705 were counted during the month's WeBS, although this didn't include the near 200 cygnets on site (as for ease we don't include the latter for WeBS until November as many are not fully fledged to then). The single resident and last month's two 'new' Whooper Swans were joined by a fourth on the 12th and all four were still present on the 31st.

Whooper Swans, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

Virtually all the regular duck were present throughout, with peak counts as follows... Shelduck 7; Shoveler 100; Gadwall 4; Wigeon 300; Mallard 480; Pintail 35; Teal 610; Pochard 130; Tufted Duck 200. In addition the first two Scaup since January arrived on the 24th and they were joined by a third for the remainder of the month on  the 29th. The only Red-breasted Merganser though was seen on the 22nd.

Scaup (ad. female, 2 1cy drakes), Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves      


Lapwings were present daily, with their number increasing to 30 from the 20th; a single Golden Plover was seen on the 10th and a single Ringed Plover was seen on the 3rd. 

Two Bar-tailed Godwits were seen on the 12th, with three on the 19th; a single Turnstone was present on the 3rd; a single Knot on the 19th; whilst Dunlin were seen regularly, with a peak of nine on the 3rd; a Jack Snipe was seen on the 3rd:  Common Snipe were seen regularly, with a peak of 23 on the 3rd; Single Grey Phalaropes were seen on five dates from the 2nd to the 15th; single Common Sandpipers were seen regularly but with at least two present on the 10th/11th; single Green Sandpipers were seen on seven dates between the 8th and 22nd; Redshanks though were scarce, with one on the 12th/13th and two on the 25th and single Greenshanks were  noted on the 3rd and 12th.

Knot, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

Dunlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

Jack Snipe, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Grey Phalarope, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Gulls, Terns & Skuas...

Kittiwake was seen briefly on the 23rd, followed by two on the 31st; Black-headed Gulls peaked at over 200 on the 12th; Mediterranean Gulls peaked at over 250 on the 24th; Common Gulls were seen in single figures regularly until the 20th, but then at least ten were seen daily; Great Black-backed Gulls peaked at over 200 on several dates; Herring Gulls peaked at over 100 on the 23rd; a (third calendar year) Yellow-legged Gull was seen on the 1st; whilst Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen in single figures fairly regularly.

Kittiwake (1cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Joe Stockwell

The only terns recorded this month were Sandwich Terns with two briefly on the 12th and only the second Great Skua of the year was seen briefly on the 31st.

Great Skua, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Joe Stockwell

Large Wading Birds...

A (reintroduction project) White Stork flew east on the 11th and then on the 14th, what was presumably the same bird, circled over before flying west; Glossy Ibis flew east and then west on the 20th. Cattle Egrets were seen almost daily (and no doubt roosted nightly), with a peak of 19 on the 30th; there were regular single figures counts of Grey Herons; single Great Egrets were seen on the 4th and 15th; whilst Little Egrets peaked at over ten on the 24th.

Cattle Egrets, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

Great Egret & Cattle Egrets, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Other Water-birds...

Water RailsMoorhens and Coots were all present throughout, with 160 of the latter recorded during the Wetland Bird Survey.

Little Grebes increased to over 25; whilst Great Crested Grebes declined to around ten.

Cormorants were present daily, with 18 counted during the Wetland Bird Survey and single Kingfishers were seen regularly but with at least three on the 14th.

Kingfisher, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Kev Butler

wks, Owls & Falcons... 

There were regular sightings of  Sparrowhawks, mostly singles but with two on two dates; single Marsh Harriers were seen on three dates; three Red Kites were seen on the 16th; whilst single figures of Buzzards were seen daily.

Single Barn Owls  were seen regularly but not for the first month this year there were no reports of Tawny Owls though they were almost certainly present

Kestrels were seen in single figures daily; single Merlins were seen on six dates; and single Peregrines on five.

Merlin, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Other Non-passerines... 

Pheasants were relatively numerous throughout, as were Feral PigeonWood Pigeon, and Collared Dove. The only Stock Doves though were four west on the 15th.  

Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were both present in single figures throughout.


MagpieJackdawRook and Carrion Crow were all fairly numerous throughout; Ravens were seen in single figures regularly; whilst single Jays were seen on the 1st and 7th. 

Coal Tit Blue TitGreat Tit and Long-tailed Tit were all fairly numerous.

Swallows were present regularly with peaks of over 500 on the 12th/13th, whilst he last two of the month were seen on the 27th. House Martins were present regularly in the first half of the month with a peak of over 5,000 on the 3rd, while the last of the month were seen on the 14th. 

Cetti's Warblers were comparatively numerous throughout; Chiffchaffs were also relatively numerous through much of the month with peaks of at least 30 on the 9th and 16th but only single figures were noted after the 22nd; Blackcaps were present in single figures at least until the 16th but with none subsequently. The only other warblers this month were  Yellow-browed Warblers with singles on the 5th, 16th, 18th and 26th. 

At least one Firecrest was seen fairly regularly; whilst ten plus Goldcrests were present throughout. 

At least single figures of Wrens were also present throughout and at least 50 Starlings roosted nightly, with smaller numbers regularly encountered through the day.  

Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were present throughout, mostly seen in single figures but with a minor influx of the former on the 5th when 20 plus were evident; three Mistle Thrushes were seen on the 1st followed by a 'heard only' on the 12th and two on the 15th. 

Robins and Stonechats were present throughout but only evident in single figures; whilst one or two Wheatears were seen on the 2nd, 9th and 12th. 

Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were seen virtually daily moving west, with regular counts of 100 plus, although the former peaked at at least 200 on the 7th; Rock Pipits were seen regularly with a peak of three on the 15th. 

Pied Wagtails were present throughout with at least 50 roosting nightly and a westward passage involving at least 100 on several dates; Grey Wagtails were seen virtually daily with peaks of at least five on the 5th and 16th; but the only Yellow Wagtail was heard on the 2nd with no further reports. 

Pied Wagtail, Abbotsbury Swannery, October 2020 © Steve Groves

House Sparrows and Dunnocks were present throughout.

Three Bramblings that flew west on the 22nd were the first of the year; Chaffinches were present throughout; the only Bullfinches were a couple seen on the 16th and at least one heard on the 27th; Greenfinches were seen fairly regularly but only in single figures, with a peak of at least five on the 13th; Linnets were present throughout, peaking at over 200 on the 14th;  Lesser Redpolls were regular, with a peak of at least ten on the 11th; a flock of at least ten Common Crossbills flew west on the 9th; Goldfinches were present in low double figures throughout; whilst Siskins continued their good autumn with double figures seen most days but with 100 plus were noted on 13th.

Reed Buntings were present throughout, whilst a Yellowhammer was heard on the 18th and two were seen on the 22nd.

... And 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. 

November sightings to follow shortly.

Steve Groves.