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.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Swannery Bird Sightings - November 2020...



Brent Geese were seen on five dates, with a peak of around 80 briefly on the 17th. All were 'Russian Brants' (aka Dark-bellied Brent Geese) bar a single 'Pacific Brant' (aka Black Brantthat was with the aforementioned flock on the 17th. Surprisingly perhaps (considering that they are now annual on The Fleet), the latter is the first of this form to have ever knowingly occurred at The SwanneryThe only other 'true' geese seen were Canada Geese with around 100 present daily

A Black Swan (the first since May) arrived on the 28th and was still present on the 30th; around 600 Mute Swans were of course present throughout; whilst the four Whooper Swans were also present virtually daily but they also made occasional excursions to nearby Rodden Hive.

Nine Egyptian Geese (the first since January) were seen on the 5th, with between six and one then seen daily until the 9th; Shelducks were present throughout with a peak of at least 30 on the 7th.

Egyptian Geese, Abbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Steve Groves

All the expected dabbling ducks were present, with peak counts of 100 Shoveler; 6 Gadwall; 300 Wigeon; 400 Mallard; 200 Pintail; and 600 Teal.

All the usual diving ducks were noted too, with peak counts of 250 Pochard; 250 Tufted Duck; 3 Scaup; and 5 Red-breasted Merganser.

Scaup (ad. female), Abbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Steve Groves

Scaup (2 1cy drakes & ad. female), Abbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler


The only Oystercatcher was seen on the 30th, the same date that the Lapwing flock peaked at 250whilst Golden Plovers were noted on four dates, with a peak of 30 on the 9th. 

The three Black-tailed Godwits seen on the 3rd were the only ones of the month; as was a Knot on the 5th; Dunlin though were seen regularly, with a peak of 14 on the 5th; Common Snipe were noted regularly, with peaks of three seen on several dates; singles of both Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper were seen  regularly, so possibly one of each may be set to over-winter, as it would seem are up to four Redshanks.


The three regular small gulls were all seen daily and all peaked in number on the 21st when over 250 Black-headed Gulls, over 100 Mediterranean Gulls and over 200  Common Gulls were all present.  The three regular large gulls were all seen virtually daily too with a peak count of 100 Herring Gulls on the 30th but both Lesser Black-backed Gulls and more surprisingly Great Black-backed Gulls were only noted in single figures.

Other Seabirds...

Gannet lingered briefly on the 1st; whilst Cormorants were present daily, with over 50 present in the roost on the 4th at least.

GannetAbbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Large Wading Birds...

Cattle Egrets continued to roost nightly, with a fairly consistent count of 22 recorded either leaving or arriving at the Swannery roost. There were also of course regular single figure counts of Little Egrets and Grey Herons; whilst a single Great Egret was seen regularly too.

Great Egret & Cattle EgretsAbbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Great EgretAbbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Great EgretAbbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Other Water-birds...

Water RailsMoorhens and Coots were all present throughout, with 410 of the latter recorded during the Wetland Bird Survey.

Little Grebes peaked at  over 25 on the 5th; whilst Great Crested Grebes peaked at only seven on the 16th. 

Single Kingfishers were seen regularly.

Hawks, Owls & Falcons... 

Single Sparrowhawks were noted on two dates;  but Marsh Harriers were seen regularly... mostly singles but with two on the 4th and 5th; whilst single figures of Buzzards were seen daily.

Single Barn Owls  were seen regularly and a Tawny Owl was heard on the 25th, although both species were almost certainly present throughout

Kestrels were present in single figures daily but single Peregrines on were seen on the 12th and 13th only.

Other Non-passerines... 

A no doubt recently released Red-legged Partridge was seen on the 20th, whilst Pheasants were relatively numerous throughout of course.

Collared Doves, Feral Pigeons and Wood Pigeons were seen daily in low double figures but over 2,000 of the latter flew west on the 4th, followed by 200 on the 5th. The only Stock Doves were also overhead migrants, with  at least 20 flying west on the 4th.  

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


Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow were again all fairly numerous throughout: Ravens were seen in single figures regularly: whilst Jays were seen on three dates with a peak of three on the 5th.

Coal Tit Blue TitGreat Tit and Long-tailed Tit were all relatively numerous but the single Bearded Reedling on the 10th was the first since October 2019. 

Bearded ReedlingAbbotsbury Swannery, November 2020 © Charlie Wheeler

Cetti's Warblers and Chiffchaffs were relatively numerous throughout but the only other warbler noted this month was a  Yellow-browed Warbler on the 3rd. 

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

Wrens were relatively numerous and Starlings peaked at over 500 on the 4th. 

The first Redwings and Fieldfares of the season finally arrived, with at least one of the former present on the 3rd followed by at least 10 on the 19th and again on the 24th; whilst 200 of the latter paused briefly on the 19th. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were present throughout, albeit apparently in single figures; whilst the only  Mistle Thrush was seen on the 4th.  

Robins and Stonechats were present throughout but only evident in single figures apart from a count of 10 of the latter on the 4th. 

Around 20 each of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were seen virtually daily; whilst Rock Pipits were also seen regularly with a peak of four on the 19th. Pied Wagtails were present throughout with up to 100 roosting nightly; and single Grey Wagtails were seen virtually daily too.
House Sparrows and Dunnocks were relatively numerous throughout.

Single Bramblings were noted on the 4th, 10th and 24th; Chaffinches were relatively numerous throughout; the only Bullfinch was heard on the 22nd; Greenfinches were seen fairly regularly but only in single figures, with a peak of three on the 5th; Linnets were seen regularly until the 10th at least, peaking at 20 on the 5th; two  Lesser Redpolls were noted on the 4th and again the 5th but with none subsequently; Goldfinches were present in low double figures throughout; whilst Siskins continued their good autumn into the first week with 50 seen on the 4th and 5th but none were noted after the 6th.

Reed Buntings were relatively numerous throughout but the only Yellowhammers were two on the 9th.

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

December sightings to follow shortly.

Steve Groves.