Monday, 14 October 2019

Super Whooper

Delighted to clap eyes on this adult Whooper Swan in the valley late this afternoon, it was with a small mixed-aged group of Mute Swans just south east of Bridge Marsh...

They were near to where the River Coly meets the Axe

Ten years ago this species was pretty much an annual visitor to the Axe, most often recorded during cold spells or dropping in briefly in spring. From about 2010 however records took a sudden nose-dive, presumably due to the decrease in UK wintering population and/or the milder winters. They really have become something of an Axe rarity.  

My last Whooper Swan on the Axe was the obliging bird Sue Smith found in front of the Tower Hide on 7th October 2011 - so that's eight years with no Whoopers! I think I can recall somewhere in my grey matter that Ian Mc may have seen a fly-through since?  But if not, the bird in 2011 was indeed the last Axe record, it's certainly my last Axe bird whatever.

Can you just about make out the orange staining near the bill base?  This is quite common in Whoopers, it's a staining caused by birds feeding in iron rich water that's found in some parts of Iceland - how cool is that! 

Whooper Swan aside, today has been quite a birdie day - although admittedly far damper than ideal. This was especially the case during the last couple hours of the day when it absolutely lashed down, which frustratingly coincided with my time out and about.

Down here in the south west we are usually about a week to ten days behind the east coast at this stage of the autumn. It can be quite nauseous reading all about these exciting autumn incomers in Norfolk/Yorkshire/Shetland, whilst down here we have said goodbye to most of our summer migrants and find ourselves in this rather stale period with nothing but a zillion Meadow Pipits to count.  It does eventually come to us though, and today felt like day one of the south west catching up.

There has clearly been a very substantial and sudden increase in Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Blackcap numbers today, with all three species obvious everywhere that I've checked bushes - the former particularly numerous. Kev also managed a Yellow-browed Warbler right in the heart of Beer, hopefully the first of many for us this year - although it's not proving a great autumn for this species anywhere in the UK.   Overhead was busy too, mostly Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, along with a few finches too.

I have checked the gulls on the Estuary a few times today, but have nothing to show for it but a few Common Gulls.  Three Common Sandpipers and two Dunlin the only semi-notable waders present.  

Lastly, it was nice to see about thirty hirundines over Bridge Marsh late today, a mix of House Martins and Swallows. As the hirundine flocks get smaller, I feel the need to check them even more rigorously. Later in the month I will literally chase lone hirundines and grill them until they're charcoal!

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