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, 26 April 2021

Swannery Bird Sightings - March 2021...


The wintering second-calendar-year female Ferruginous Duck that was thought to have departed  on the 24th February returned on the 3rd and was last seen on the 21st. 

A third-calendar-year Laughing Gull was present relatively briefly on the 11th and again on the 24th and 25th. This is only the second record for the Swannery recording area of this American species, following the adult-summer that was seen in July 1998. 


 Laughing Gull (3cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2021 © Joe Stockwell

Single (third-calendar-year) Caspian Gulls were present briefly on the 3rd and 15th (different individuals).


Caspian Gull (3cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, 3rd March 2021 © Joe Stockwell


Caspian Gull (3cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, 15th March 2021 © Joe Stockwell


The herd of around 500 Mute Swans still held the three wild Whooper Swans until the 5th (turning up on the River Exe the following day), while the resident presumed escape remained throughout. Having been absent all month a single Black Swan was present on the 30th/31st.

Canada Geese were present daily, with a peak of 100 on the 2nd; three Greylag Geese were present on the 2nd (a good time of year for wild Scandinavian breeders to turn up on route from their winter quarters in southwest Europe), whilst of definite naturalised origin was the Egyptian Goose seen on the 17th.


Greylag Geese, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2021 © Joe Stockwell

All the expected ducks were present with peak counts of 53 Shelduck, 80 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 14 Wigeon, 65 Mallard, 20 Pintail, 100 Teal, 120 Pochard, 150 Tufted Duck and 20 Red-breasted Merganser

In addition to the aforementioned Ferruginous Duck highlights were a single drake Garganey in-off the sea, then northwest, on the 19th and a single Long-tailed Duck on the 29th. 


Oystercatchers were present throughout, peaking at nine on the 24th; single Avocets were seen on the 3rd/4th and again on the 20th/21st; Lapwing numbers, as expected, were considerably lower than the previous month, with a peak of only ten on the 2nd and none at all after the 22nd; single Grey Plovers were noted on the 2nd and 8th; and single Little Ringed Plovers (the first of the year) were noted on the 2nd, 27th, 28th and 31st.

Curlews were regularly reported with a peak of at least six on the 22nd; single (Icelandic) Black-tailed Godwits were seen on the 1st and 17th; both Dunlin and Snipe were seen fairly regularly, albeit in single figures; single Common Sandpipers were seen regularly throughout but it is unclear whether all the sightings refer to the over-wintering bird or also involve the first spring migrants; a Green Sandpiper was seen regularly from the 23rd to the 31st; whilst Redshanks were present throughout, with a peak count of  at least ten on the 9th. The highlight though was a Jack Snipe on the 12th.

Redshank, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2021 © Steve Groves

Gulls & Terns...
The three regular smaller gull species were all present throughout, with peak counts of 100  Black-headed Gulls, 50 Mediterranean Gulls and 1,200 Common Gulls. The three regular larger gull species were also present throughout, with peak counts of 40 Great Black-backed Gulls200 Herring Gulls, 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the British form, whilst at least six Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the Continental form were also seenThe highlight though was of course the aforementioned Laughing Gull and the two Caspian Gulls .


Caspian Gull (3cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, 3rd March 2021 © Joe Stockwell


Caspian Gull (3cy), with Great Black-backed Gull (2cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, 15th March 2021 © Joe Stockwell

The first returning
Sandwich Tern was seen on the 17th and there were then near daily sightings with at least 20 present on the 30th/31st; whilst the first Common Tern of the year was present on the 31st.

Other Water Birds...

The three regular rails were present throughout, with a peak count of 50 Coots; though Moorhens were a little harder to connect with, with only single figures actually seen, whilst Water Rails were not seen at all but regularly heard. 

Both Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebes were present throughout, with a peak of two of the former and at least 30 of the latter. 

Great Crested Grebe, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2021 © Steve Groves

A single Fulmar  flew over on the 19th; Cormorants (of both the Atlantic and Continental forms) were present throughout, with a peak of 30 on the 24th.  

Up to 26 Cattle Egrets continued to roost nightly along with at least ten Little Egrets and there were also of course daily single figure sightings of Grey Herons.


The first Osprey of the year was seen on the 31st;  single Sparrowhawks were seen fairly regularly; as were Marsh Harriers but there were two together on the 17th/18th; the first Red Kite of the year was seen on the 1st, whilst two were present on the 18th/19th; and single figures of Buzzards were seen virtually daily.

Little Egret, Phone-scope Pic, Abbotsbury Swannery, March 2021 © Steve Groves

Single Barn Owls were seen on two dates; and a Tawny Owl was heard on one. Both were no doubt present throughout though. 

Kestrels were present in single figures virtually daily; single Peregrines were seen on two dates at least and a Lanner or hybrid (bearing jesses) was seen on the 23rd (the second site record).

Other Non-Passerines... 

Up to four Red-legged Partridges were seen regularly and there were regular double figure counts of PheasantsFeral Pigeons and Wood Pigeonswhilst a few pairs each of Stock DoveCollared DoveGreat Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were also present.


All the usual Corvids were seen regularly, if not daily, with a couple hundred each of Jackdaw and Rook; 20 plus Carrion Crowssingle figures of Magpie and Raven; and singles of Jay.

Great Tit Blue TitCoal Tit and Long-tailed Tit were all relatively numerous throughout, as were Wrens, Cetti's WarblersChiffchaffs and Goldcrests. The only Firecrest though was noted on the 12th, whilst the first returning Blackcap arrived on the 24th, followed by the first (five) Willow Warblers  on the 29th, and first Reed Warbler on the 31st.

Only very few Starlings were noted early in the month, with none at all seen subsequently (they haven't bred on site for years now, although a few pairs still do so in the village and on nearby farms).   

Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were both relatively numerous throughout and single Mistle Thrushes were noted on four dates. The only lingering 'winter thrush' though was a  Fieldfare on the 2nd.

Robins were relatively numerous and at least one pair of  Stonechats lingered. Single Black Redstarts were seen on the 18th and on the 23rd/24th and the first returning Wheatear was seen on the 22nd, followed by at least five on the 29th and one on the 30th.

Several Skylarks were on territory by the month's end as were a few pairs of  Meadow Pipits, the latter also passing over regularly, with several 100 noted from the 16th to the 18th. Single Rock Pipits though were only noted on the 4th and 24th; whilst Pied Wagtails were relatively numerous throughout, and a single Grey Wagtail was noted on the 15th.

Dunnocks and House Sparrows, were relatively numerous, although the latter as usual were mostly frequenting the very edge of the recording area in the cottage gardens of Grove Lane. The same could also be said of the only Greenfinches noted but ChaffinchesGoldfinches and Linnets were far more ubiquitous. A pair of  Bullfinches were noted regularly in the first few days but not subsequently, while the only Siskins noted were two on the 18th and at least one on the 30th.

Reed Buntings were  relatively numerous throughout.

... And that's it for this post except to thank, Alan Barrett, Kev Butler, Joe Stockwell, and Charlie Wheeler for additional sightings and where applicable for the use of their photos. I'll leave you with my best effort of the second Caspian Gull ...

Caspian Gull (3cy) with Great Black-backed Gull (2cy), Abbotsbury Swannery, 15th March 2021 © Steve Groves

April 2021 sightings to follow shortly.

Steve Groves.

1 comment: