Thursday 14 November 2019


I think I need to draw a line under this year's Little Auk quest. I lasted about 15 minutes this morning before screaming boredom got me. A Fulmar - my first for a while - was the only bird of note. Correction: the only bird. I wondered if a quick circuit involving the Burton cliffs might produce some vis mig for me. Not really...

Four visibly-migrating Mute Swans

Late morning I executed a massive skive and headed for the Abbotsbury Beach car park. It has come to my attention that Abbotsbury Swannery is hosting at least 3 (and possibly 5) Scaup. My sources (Twitter) tell me that they are all first-year birds (the dullest version possible) but I have not seen any Scaup - dull or otherwise - since we moved to this part of the world 17 years ago, and I would quite like to. My plan was to walk E from the car park along the shingle ridge of Chesil Beach, and see what I could see from the so-called 'tank teeth', the point beyond which access is restricted. It's not something I've tried before and I'm not sure what I was expecting really. A modest expanse of water maybe? A few ducks to sort through? Shouldn't be too tricky, I thought...

Overlooking Abbotsbury Swannery from Chesil Beach. This is the western end of the Fleet, which stretches away several miles E to Ferrybridge. Tank teeth in the foreground.
Zooming in a bit. The Swannery gets its name from the white blobs. Notice also, many, many dark blobs. Smaller. Much smaller.
Oh, really? Come o-o-o-o-o-on! And that's just a fraction of them. Another million were curled up asleep on the shore

Umpteen years of the Axe have conditioned me to believe that Pochard and Tufties only come in ones and twos these days. So this was a rude jolt of reality. You know that aythya ducks are all identical, right? It reminded me of the hellish autumn of 1986. The south basin of Staines Res was drained in 1985 and loads of vegetation had grown while it was empty. I assume it was this that attracted hordes of diving ducks when the basin was refilled the following year. A monstrous raft of evil aythya ducks is like a living nightmare. On the upside, the gathering did include 2 proper Ferruginous Ducks (not shiny Tupperware males) but finding them was fiendishly hard. Needless to say, I couldn't pick out any Scaup today. However, I did spot one of these...

Drake Pintail. Not close, but even I can pick out a drake Pintail.  I think I could make out another, way off in the distance, but it was asleep and therefore quite likely to have been almost anything.

Best of all was a Great White Egret. Initially picked up flying W, quite close, it changed its mind and came back, dropping into the edge of the reeds not too far away...

Flight shot! Kind of...
Shortly after landing.
Classic pose.

I haven't seen a local Great White Egret for years, and was well chuffed with this performance. I posted a photo on Twitter, which prompted a couple of local birders to list some of the good birds they've seen from this little corner of the Chesil that I had just investigated for the first time today. Not the Swannery itself, just the path from the car park to the tank teeth, plus birds on/over the sea here. This is the list: Hoopoe, Purple Heron, Snow and Lapland Bunting, Aquatic Warbler, several Dartford Warblers, Forster's Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Little Auk, Dusky Warbler, Purple Sandpiper, Long-eared Owl, Sabine's Gull, Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters...

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? As you can imagine, yet another venue has now been added to my 'Must Try and Check Regularly' list.


  1. Oh, based on your recent posts I presumed you might be thinking that there might be some local birders who are seeing too much...

    1. Ha ha! No, not in this case. Real birds, these ones. And I'm really not as readily sceptical as I might have come across in the Dodgy Birders series. It takes time and proper effort to register a hit on my dodginess radar. Though of course, a tiny minority of birders seem willing to go that extra mile, bless 'em.

  2. I’m really enjoying this second coming (third?) of the Gav. He’s been missed.

    1. Thanks Steve, much appreciated. Enjoy it while it lasts. You know what I'm like!