Posts Tagged ‘Mute Swan’

Watching me

Posted: November 18, 2015 in Birds, Natural History
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This young Mute swan was playing it cool but clearly was watching everything I was doing.

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Mute Swan

Posted: August 14, 2015 in Birds, Natural History
Tags:
photo by Sue

photo by Sue

photo by Sue

photo by Sue

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A bright sunny morning and a rare chance to visit Beddington Farmlands in the Wandle Valley near Merton.

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Beddington is a private site and only open to a few individuals for the recording of wildlife. Sewage disposal began on the site in 1860 as a form of fertilisation of the farmlands and the site consisted of a patchwork of fields and marshland. After the second world war it became a well known birding hot spot in London. But from the mid-1960s, the increase in sewage disposal on the land, the building of a sewage treatment works and the replacement of cattle grazing by horses all altered the environment to the detriment of wildlife. By the late 1970’s over half the site was occupied by sludge beds for sewage disposal. In an attempt to restore some wild habitat to the site 2 lakes were created in the 1990s. In 1998 a license was granted for use of the land for gravel extraction and land-fill and most of it was enclosed (on grounds of safety). The owners have continued to allow the monitoring of wildlife and habitat management but the site is not open to the public.

So a rare occasion for me to spy out this famous site. A group of 8 of us met our guide at the local train station and proceeded to the entrance to the site. Our first target was the lakes and here we had distant views of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plovers.

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Also present were families of Shelduck and Canada Geese.

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From the observation point we made our way around the mound, which occupies the centre of the accessible area (the result of land-fill operations in the past). We saw Little Grebes and one Great Crested Grebe on the second lake along with a family of Mute Swans.

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It was great to see Common Swifts whirling around the sky as these seem to be becoming rarer in London. Suddenly another bird appeared, similar in shape but bigger and we watched for 5 minutes or so as a Eurasian Hobby chased the swifts around the sky. Both expert flyers and very maneuverable it had all the appearance of an arial dog-fight between fighter planes as they jinked one way and then the over. Eventually the Hobby swooped low and was lost to sight. Had it caught its prey and gone off to enjoy the fruit of its actions?

Avion común - Common Swift - Apus apus
Common Swift
Photo by Ferran Pestana (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ferranp/)

Eurasian Hobby/Falco subbuteo
Eurasian Hobby
Photo by Tong Mu (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mu_tong/)

Derek, our guide, called our attention to a butterfly which turned out to be a Painted Lady. This is a fascinating species which hatches in Africa and then migrates north to Europe. They can then breed in this country although it is unclear whether these migrate south again or are killed by the approach of winter.

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One of the great things about this site was that it was famous for it’s population of Tree Sparrow, which is found almost nowhere else in the London area. It was partly in hope of seeing this rare bird that I had come. Sadly Derek told us that from over 250 nests and almost a thousand hatched young in 2006 the population has crashed to 1 brood last year with 10 or so young and 3 nests this year none of which have produced young. It may be this is the end for this iconic species on this site since it is likely that all birds left are from last years broods and thus closely related and there are no nearby populations from which the population can be replenished. No-one is really sure why this has happened in such a short period of time. We didnt see any during our visit. It shows that even when healthy populations of a species are present, we cannot be complacent about conserving them and their habitat.

An interesting morning’s walk and thanks to London Natural History Society for organising and to Derek for showing us around.

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Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Little Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius dubius)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Medway Valley

Medway Valley

A bright sunny day saw Keith and I heading off for New Hythe and Leybourne Lakes, which are situated in the Medway valley in Kent. Formally gravel and sand extraction pits they now form a large area of lake and scrub habitat. It is a good place for waterbirds in the winter, but the object of our visit was the healthy colony of Common Nightingales that breed here plus any other summer visitors. Despite its name, the Common Nightingale is a species which is becoming more restricted in distribution as its range seems to be contracting and the UK is on the north-western edge of that range. It is now only found at a few sites in SE England.

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It did not take long before we had found one of our targets as a Sedge Warbler entertained us with its scratchy song from the reedbed on Brooklands lake. Continuing our way along the eastern shore we heard the call of a Mediterranean Gull although we failed to locate the bird. This may have been because our attention was focused on the first Nightingale of the day, singing stridently from within the cover. This is the best time to locate them as when they first arrive on site they are more active, vocal and visible and later in the breeding season they can be really difficult to find. If we were to think this was going to be our only encounter with this species we were very mistaken and stopped for lunch at a spot where two (either a prospective pair or two rival males) were busily chasing each other through the bushes around us – intent on each other and not on our presence. However despite excellent views, their quick movement made them impossible to photograph and we would have to wait till almost the end of the afternoon till we had one pose for us in a bush whilst it sang.

Nightingale

Nightingale

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Moving on from Brooklands, we came to a patch of open grassland and my thoughts were that this would be the sort of place where you would find a migrating Northern Wheatear, when Keith spied one atop a pile of earth – wish that worked more often! We were able to get some photos before it dropped down to the ground and out of sight.

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Nightingales continued to serenade us as we proceeded around Leybourne Lake and back up the west side of Brooklands. A Willow Warbler was heard but not found together with Chiffchaff and a good number of blackcaps plus a few Common Whitethroat. A second Sedge Warbler was heard on the western side of Brooklands and a Buzzard seen distantly over the North Downs before it was time to head for home. An excellent day with plenty of summer migrants which with the lovely weather means that summer is truly on its way. I hope!

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Collared Dove

Collared Dove

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Common Nightingale [sp] (Luscinia megarhynchos)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarus)

As we left the converted farm where we were staying we flushed 2 Grey Partridge from the road-side.

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038059-IMG_9242 Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix)
Grey Partridge
Photo by Tony Morris (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonymorris/)

Our first birdwatching stop was in Aldeburgh, famed home of the composer Benjamin Britten. Turning north up the coast road we stopped at the marshes just outside Aldeburgh and found a good selection of Duck plus at least 6 Little Egrets.

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Little Egret

Little Egret

Arriving at Minsmere around lunchtime we headed off through the woodland area. Marsh Tit was seen on the feeders. This locally rare member of the tit family is very common here and is certainly one of the birds of the reserve. Green Woodpecker was heard and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker seen flying away through the trees. Arriving at the extensive reed-beds we spend sometime waiting for a Bittern to make its presence known but with no luck.

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We move onto the Freshwater mere and are greeted by the sight of Marsh Harriers over the reeds. Three geese are seen on the far-side of the Mere and closer examination reveals them to be Tundra Bean Geese, a rare winter visitor which is only usually found in the UK in the Yare valley on the Suffolk / Norfolk border and in Scotland near Falkirk, so this is a good sighting away from those areas.

Tundra Bean Goose · Nestucca Bay NWR, Oregon
Tundra Bean Goose
Photo by Skip Russell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/skipr/)

Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Our final stop is overlooking some pools in the reed-bed and some mud-flats. On the former there are two sleeping swans. Unfortunately they remain asleep covering all the necessary indicators of which species they are. Then they briefly raise their heads and it is clear from their yellow beak markings that these are two Whooper Swans, winter visitors who will soon be heading north to their breeding grounds. Before I can get a photo they resume their sleeping pose! On the mud-flats are Oystercatchers and Avocets.

Pied Avocet

Pied Avocet

Grey Partridge [sp] (Perdix perdix)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Tundra Bean Goose [sp] (Anser serrirostris)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Decided to go out for a walk by the River Cray. Starting at Footscray High street I followed the course of the river as it wound through Footscray meadows all the way to 5 Arch bridge.

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows approaching 5 Arch Bridge

R.Cray @ Footscray Meadows approaching 5 Arch Bridge

The weather was pretty awful and it rained for much of the way, but by the time I reached the bridge and the main pool the sun had come out.

The main pool from Five arch Bridge

The main pool from Five arch Bridge

Unfortunately it was very quiet and apart from a single Little Grebe and a single Great Crested Grebe there were only Mallard, Tufted Duck and Coot to be seen along with a family party of Mute Swans.

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

JUvenile Mute Swan

JUvenile Mute Swan

Coot

Coot

I then went onto another stretch of the Cray a few miles away at Hall Place but here the story was the same and it was very quiet. It was very noticeable how much water was flowing down the river, no doubt as a result of the recent rainfall.

R.Cray @ Hall Place

R.Cray @ Hall Place

So only 22 species for a three hour walk but lovely countryside and the soup and bread at Hall Place was a fine antidote to the cold, wet weather

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

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A grey morning but the first opportunity this year to get out and do some birdwatching away from the local patch. The sighting of a Firecrest the day before drew me to Kelsey Park in Beckenham. Firecrest, an uncommon winter visitor to the UK has been one of those birds for me. In all my years of birding I have only ever seen one and that was about 20 years ago. The combination of its rarity and its elusive nature certainly has something to do with this lack of records but I think there are just some birds you are not fated to see!

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Today would be no exception to the rule. I arrived at the location in which it had been seen yesterday and waited. But there was not a movement, not a sign or a sound of the bird.

Still this is a good site for birding and I made my way back to the Lake to see what I could add to the years species list. A rather obliging Little Grebe came close for photos together with other regular residents. Mandarin Duck were present in good numbers (8 males and 4 females) – the largest party have seen for quite some years in this area.

Mandarin duck (male)

Mandarin duck (male)

Tufted Duck (male)

Tufted Duck (male)

LIttle Grebe

LIttle Grebe

Grey Heron on nest in heronry

Grey Heron on nest in heronry

Mute Swans and Canada Geese

Mute Swans and Canada Geese

I had intended going onto another site nearby but by lunchtime the rain had begun to fall and after one final look around the area where the Firecrest had been seen with no luck I decided to head for home. Oh well maybe one day.

One other interesting sighting on the lake was the presence of a male Cayuga Duck. This is a Domestic Duck species imported into the UK from the USA. A local told me that it was found in someone’s garden locally and then released onto the lake.

Cayuga Duck (male)

Cayuga Duck (male)

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Although the Swannery population is made up of Mute Swans the occasional visitor from outside appears to join the residents. In this case a Black Swan, a native of Western Australia, which has escaped from a bird collection elsewhere has found that Abbotsbury is a good place for an easy life.

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Feeding time at the Swannery is a boisterous affair although some Swans are not prepared to wait and go straight to the source.

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The Swannery at Abbotsbury in Dorset was established by Benedictine monks in the 11th century as a farm to produce birds for food. The Monastery was destroyed in the 16th century and the swannery passed into the hands of the Ilchester estate. It is now run as a bird sanctuary and tourist attraction.

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Abbotsbury Swannery near Weymouth in Dorset is unique in being the only managed nesting colony of Mute Swans in the world. There are usually around 150 nesting pairs with a total count of around 600, although the peak recorded count was 900 birds. This is an unusual place as nesting swans are usually fiercly territorial and would not normally allow other swans or humans to get close to their nests. In July when the birds are flightless they are herded into pens and checked, weighed and ringed.

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Occasionally an escaped swan finds it way to the swannery, in this case a Black swan escaped from a wildfowl collection.

Occasionally an escaped swan finds it way to the swannery, in this case a Black swan escaped from a wildfowl collection.

The earliest record of the swannery was as part of a monastic institution in 1393. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the swannery was purchased by the Strangeways family and it has remained in the family until this time.