Poole Harbour sightings blog

A record of all interesting and notable sightings from around the harbour throughout the year.

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Archive for December, 2013

What a Year – posted 31/12/13

Posted on: December 31st, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

What a year 2013 has been with a real selection of birding and conservation highlights in the harbour.  I’ll write a brief report sometime this week, but we would like to thank EVERYONE that’s contributed to our cause one way or the other over the last year. It’s certainly been a year to remember and we hope that 2014 is even bigger and better. Some interesting reports from the last two days have included a Long-tailed Duck on Swineham GP, a Black-necked Grebe in Holes Bay, 3 Great Skua past Middle Beach, Studland and 8 Goldeneye on Poole Park lakes. The best of the rest include 29 Black-necked Grebe in Studland Bay and 12 in Brands Bay, 7 Great Northern Diver off Jerry’s Point along with the Surf Scoter, 7 different Marsh Harrier and 4 separate Hen Harrier (2 male, 2 female). On Baiter 22 Turnstone, 300+ Brent Geese and 200+ Oystercatcher. There were 8 Sanderling at Shore Road and 52 Bar-tailed Godwit. The 4 Purple Sandpiper were still at North Haven and another 5 Red-throated Diver past out at sea with many Kittiwake, 4 Gannet and lots of Auks.

Happy Smew Year – 29/12/13

Posted on: December 29th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Highlights from today included the discovery of a redhead Smew on Swineham GP in amongst the 364 Teal, 161 Shoveler, 23 Pochard, 222 Canada Goose and 18 Greylag. Also found today were 2 first winter Little Gull feeding over the flood meadow at Bestwall. Off Swineham Point there were 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 3 Marsh Harrier, 1 Chiffchaff and 3 Kingfisher along the Frome Valley. 16 Spoonbill were off Giggers Island which were presumably part of the flock of 22 at Shipstal before they were flushed by a group of walkers. Between the harbour mouth and Goathorn were 2 Black-throated Diver, up to 7 Great Northern Diver, the Surf Scoter and a Sandwich Tern. All around the harbour today were large numbers of the regular over-wintering waders and wildfowl. Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Teal, Wigeon and Shelduck all had significant counts. A Merlin was at Fitzworth. Yesterday 7 Marsh Harrier came out of the roost and there a still currently 3 Hen Harrier ranging from Swineham, Middlebere and Brands Bay. Off Shipstal Point a Common Scoter, Great crested Grebe, Goldeneye, 2 Sandwich Tern and Red-breasted Merganser were all present. A Water Pipit was at the Wytch causeway. At Lytchett Bay there was a Merlin, 4 Greenshank and 2 Green Sandpiper

Sun Soaked – 28/12/13

Posted on: December 28th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Today was a day of two halfs with glowing sunshine first thing and then…the rain. Our last ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ field trip of 2013 took place this morning at Swineham where we were treated to a warm glow as we made our way around the reedbeds, flood meadows and gravel pits of Swineham. Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, and Redwing were in evidence around the rugby club, up to 3 Marsh Harrier were off Swineham Point and on the GP Pochard, Tufted duck, Pintail, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Shoveler and Greylag Geese were all present. No less than 4 Cetti’s Warbler were singing their hearts out and a hansom Kingfisher sat fishing from a post on the Bestwall flood meadow. Various grebe roost counts were made this evening with Middle Beach seeing 24 Black-necked Grebe, 11 Common Scoter, 2 Great Northern Diver, 1 Razorbill and 8 Great Crested Grebe. Off Jerry’s Point 4 Great Northern Diver, 9 Black-necked Grebe, 14 Goldeneye, 50+ Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Eider. The Surf Scoter was also present.

What’s out there? – posted 26/12/13

Posted on: December 26th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

With the incredible discovery Dorset’s first Brünnich’s Guillemot in Portland Harbour today and a White-billed Diver down in Devon it begs the question just what’s out there along our coast at the moment? The recent storms and pending gales have certainly stirred up a mouth watering mixture of wandering vagrants in southern Britain. A Cory’s Shearwater seen in Weymouth Bay a few days ago also highlights that unusual species are being blown on to our shores and with more strong winds forecast for tomorrow there’s no better time to start checking your local coastal site for a storm driven goody. A Murrelet, an Auklett? Ok, I’m getting WAY ahead of myself. As well as the devastating wind, flooding has also caused chaos for many with pretty much the whole of the Frome Valley now a flood plain. This in turn could attract scarce geese and swans so keep an eye out. Species encountered over the festive period have included Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank and 4 Goldeneye at Holes Bay. At Swineham 3 Cetti’s Warbler, Shoveler, Pintail, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon all on the gravel pits. At Branksom 25 Diver species flew west all, possibly all Red-throated Diver, 60+ Kittiwake, a few Gannet, 2 Black-necked Grebe and 1 Brent Goose with 4 Purple Sandpiper and 8 Sanderling at North Haven.

Finally we hope you all had a safe and Merry Christmas and hope you have an even better new year.

Wet Christmas – posted 23/12/13

Posted on: December 23rd, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Well, I’ve never seen waves breaking all the way over the Baiter car park before and onto the playing field, quite unbelievable really.

With all this wind and weather several sea-watches have taken place at Branksome and North Haven over the last few days. The watch at Branksome yesterday morning produced an unprecedented 46 Red-throated Diver! This is a huge total for Poole Bay, and at one time a single flock of 20 flew by. Divers are very much on the move during December and January, but these kinds of totals for Poole Bay are quite un-heard of. Also counted were 32 Kittiwake, 5 Great Northern Diver, 4 Gannet, many auks and several Great Crested Grebe. Out in Shell Bay was 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Eider, 3 Black-necked Grebe and 8 Shag. In and around the rocks at the Haven Hotel 5 Purple Sandpiper, 8 Sanderling, 7 Ringed Plover and 5 Dunlin. Baiter Park sheltered many hundreds of Brent Geese, Oystercatcher and Black-headed Gulls, also 16 Turnstone, 250+ Dunlin and 21 Black-tailed Godwit.

Finally, we’re really pleased to announce our first Poole Harbour conservation project is underway with the introduction of two Barn Owl and one Kestrel Box that have been installed at Lakeviews B&B, Swineham and was totally funded by public donations. For the full story click HERE 


Diver Delight – posted 21/12/13

Posted on: December 21st, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Divers (or Loons if you’re in America) were always an enigma to me when I was a lad. Having been mad on birds since I was 8, I spent weeks day dreaming, looking at my pocket field guide wondering if or when I would ever see one of these incredibly charismatic birds in my lifetime, blissfully unaware that every winter many would spend the cold winter months just a few miles from my house! I’m now very familiar with all three British species and am lucky to know where to look each winter to find these birds. One such place is out at sea. Divers move around…a lot, and can often be seen passing coastal sites in their tens depending on the weather. Yesterday morning a flock of 11 Red-throated Diver past east to west out in Poole Bay right across the sun and towards Old Harry rocks…beautiful. Black-throated and Great Northern Diver were also on passage with the 3 of latter settled in and around the harbour mouth. A Little Auk was witnessed flying into Poole Bay from Hengistbury. Out in Shell Bay 4 Black-necked Grebe were still present as were the 4 Eider, 71 Shag and 53 Red-breasted Merganser passed. 3 Purple Sandpiper were on the rocks at North Haven and 17 Sanderling were on Shell Beach. At Hatch Pond 40 Snipe were present, 4 Pochard and 1 Little Grebe.   

Click HERE for some stunning footage of Black-tailed Godwit in Poole Park yesterday

Calm after the storm – posted 19/12/13

Posted on: December 19th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Another strong storm blew through yesterday afternoon/evening but died out by 11pm. Through the evening an impressive roost of 3000+ gulls headed to the Brownsea lagoon for shelter but had all gone by this morning. However, as a result of the storm a few Guillemot and Razorbill were swimming about in between the harbour mouth and Goat Horn. Also 5 Great Northern Diver were present with 4 of them forming a nice tight raft. Also present the 4 Eider still out in Shell Bay along with 4 Black-necked Grebe and 11 Sanderling on the beach. The rocks in front of the Haven Hotel held a nice mixed flock of 2 Purple Sandpiper, 12 Ringed Plover, 4 Sanderling and 25 Dunlin. Two Ruff and a Spotted Redshank at Lytchett Bay is notable.

Purple Parade – posted 18/12/13

Posted on: December 18th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

I received a phone call the other day stating that some of the regular over-wintering Purple Sandpipers were back on the slipway at North Haven. Always a pleasure to see I went down there and sure enough there were three feeding on the exposed seaweed covered seawall in front of the Haven Hotel. Numbers never really reach any higher than 5 or 6 but once located give excellent views often down to a few meters. Also seen stood from the car park at North Haven were 8 Black-necked Grebe, 4 Eider and 15 Ringed Plover in Shell Bay. From a school bird boat yesterday the open water actually seemed quite quiet with only a handful of Great Crested Grebe compared to usual 50 or so. 3 Great Northern Diver were present along with 50+ Goldeneye, 150+ Red-breasted Merganser, 21 Spoonbill on Shipstal, a young Marsh Harrier near Fitzworth, 300 Avocet and 1000+ Dunlin on the Brownsea Lagoon. Out over the Wareham Channel a new ringtail Hen Harrier has appeared possibly boosting the wintering harbour population to 4, and 5 Marsh Harrier are still present there. Middlebere is hosting big numbers of birds at the moment with 500+ Brent Geese, 700+ Teal, 300+ Wigeon, 500 Black-tailed Godwit and 200+ Avocet along with a male Hen Harrier and female Marsh Harrier

BirdLife Malta campaign Talk – Wednesday 15th January 2014

Posted on: December 17th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour


Malta lies on one of the flyways used by birds on their bi-annual migration between Europe and Africa. There are over 12,000 licensed hunters on the Maltese islands and many will illegally shoot protected birds. 

BirdLife Malta is determined to stop this tragic waste.

You are invited to this talk organised by the Dorset Bird Club and given by Andrew Morgan who has been supporting the BirdLife Malta campaign since 2008.

Methodist Church Hall, North Street, Wareham

Wednesday 15th January 2014

7.30pm – 9.30pm

Free Entry

Grim – posted 16/12/13

Posted on: December 16th, 2013 by Birds of Poole Harbour

A big low pressure system that swung its way into the UK yesterday really brought a whole new meaning to the Christmas song ‘In the bleak mid winter’. But as always we try and put a positive spin on things by hoping that such weather can blow rare or scarce vagrants into the harbour. Little Auk, Grey Phalarope and Ring-billed Gull are all on my Christmas list and knowing this storm has come in from way out in the Atlantic a Laughing or Franklins Gull wouldn’t go amiss either! Ok, I’m living in dreamland a bit, but there are still lots of good birds in the area. On Swineham GP there is currently a nice selection of winter duck with Pochard, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon. Hen and Marsh Harrier can still be seen out hunting over the Swineham reed beds and 3 Chiffchaff were located in a sheltered corner of the site. Lapwings are congregating in big numbers out on various flood meadows with several flocks each containing 200-400 birds. Spoonbill can still be found feeding in Holes Bay on a low tide with numbers ranging from 3 to 8, also there 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Kingfisher and several colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit. At Shore Road 22 Sanderling were present along with 124 Bar-tailed Godwit including the summer plumaged individual in the photo below. There are several races of Bar-tailed Godwit each migrating and over-wintering in different areas. This bird is believed to be of the lapponica race, Lapland – Taymyr peninsula, wintering to Africa and India. Out on Baiter this morning a Sandwich Tern was sheltering from the wind with 3 Med Gulls, 284 Brent Geese and 480 Oystercatcher. Out in the harbour at least 4 Great Northern Diver remain, 90+ Goldeneye, 250+ Red-breasted Merganser and off Middle Beach 23 Black-necked Grebe were present. At the marina end of Poole Quay a flock of 19 Turnstone can be found feeding on scraps along the sea wall.


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