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 June, 2015

Harbour Update – posted 15/06/15

Posted on: June 15th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

A true sign that autumn is coming is when the first Green Sandpipers arrive back, which is exactly what happened today when two were seen at RSPB Lytchett Fields. This may be a sad signal that summer may be over before its even begun, buts let not for get that the autumn migration season can actually last from mid June until mid November, depending on which species you’re looking for, so don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to soak up some sun. Also at Lytchett Fields, another adult Little Ringed Plover, 11 Redshank, 6 Lapwing and 8 Teal now back. On Stoborough Heath still a calling Cuckoo and 1 Willow Warbler on territory. A Cuckoo was still calling at Swineham too. A few waders are still appearing with 7 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Whimbrel in Brands Bay and still good numbers of over-summering Black-tailed Godwit with 139 there too. There were 2 Spoonbill at Arne along with 2 Hobby and a Peregrine. A night recording session in the lower Frome Valley picked up several calling/hunting Nightjar, a flock of Curlew passing overhead, several Water Rail, a passing Coot, a distant Woodlark, night singing Reed Warblers, plus plenty of Grey Heron, Mallard, Gadwall, Marsh Frogs, plus a handful of interesting wader calls that need a bit of following up.

Harbour Update – posted 12/06/15

Posted on: June 13th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Lytchett Fields played host to 4 adult Little Ringed Plover today, asking the question…where do they keep coming from? This has been by far the best ever spring for this species at this site. Have they bred locally? on site? or do the adults just see Lytchett Fields as an excellent vacation location which is why birds keep popping up out of nowhere. Also on Lytchett Fields an increase of 12 Redshank, including two mating birds and (filmed by Ian Ballam WATCH HERE) It was busy with the regular species on the Brownsea Lagoon too with many Sandwich Tern chicks now hatched along with plenty of Black-headed Gull chicks too. There doesn’t seem to be any Common Tern chicks just yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Also on the lagoon were 3 Ringed Plover, 1 Avocet, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, several newly hatched Oystercatchers, 5 Med Gulls and 2 broods of newly hatched Shelduck

Harbour Update – posted 10/06/15

Posted on: June 10th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Several searches for the elusive eagle were conducted from in and around the harbour but to no avail. Birds encountered in the process though included 2 Crossbill over Slepe Heath, 3 Egyptian Geese in the Wareham Channel, Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Dartford all still vocally active on and around Hartland and plenty of Swift passing through. At RSPB Lytchett Fields 2 adult Little Ringed Plover were back on the fields. We still can’t work out if these are new birds that keep turning up or the same two that are possibly breeding on site. There was a Ringed Plover out in the bay today and a Lesser Whitethroat on territory at Turlin. There were Spoonbill reported in Middlebere today and there are still good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit commuting between various feeding zones in the harbour. A Red Kite was over the Bakers Arms roundabout yesterday which was just one of what seems to be a national influx over the last few days. With these nice clear sky’s keep looking up, as Cornwall had 185+ pass over on Monday alone.

Harbour Update – posted 08/06/15

Posted on: June 9th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Well it looked like the Eagle may well have landed, well not quite…more like flown by when a large bird of prey was seen being harassed by gulls heading west up the Wareham Channel from Stoborough. Now, it’s not uncommon for gulls to mob many species of raptor but according to the eyewitness account, the bird in question dwarfed the Herring Gulls, even stopping to hover over Wareham Water Meadows, a classic type of behavior of Short-toed Eagle. Unfortunately the ID couldn’t be 100% confirmed as it was flying away the whole time, so the ghostly enigma continues to frustrate. Who will finally pin it down, get a photo, find it sat in a tree eating a snake?????

An evening roost watch across the Wareham Channel produced two adult female Marsh Harriers which bizarrely came in high over the channel, flew over Arne, then over Hartland and off towards the Corfe gap. Where were they going, and where had they come from? The heathlands were alive with Nightjars again, as churring males called out from every direction. 

Harbour Update – posted 07/06/15

Posted on: June 7th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Is the Short-toed Eagle getting closer? Today the bird in question was seen hovering at distance in Wareham Forest, but unfortunately too distant to guarantee a confirmed ID. The bird was last seen dropping down in to the Morden Bog area but couldn’t be relocated. However, if history is repeating its self, and this is the returning bird, then its due to pay a little visit to the harbour at some point, like last years bird did when it popped up at Arne for a few minutes. I feel an early morning vigil from a good vantage point is on the cards tomorrow morning. Reported sightings were very low today with the only birds of note being 2 Brent Geese in Brands Bay, a Cuckoo still calling at Arne, 2 Nightjar and a hunting female Marsh Harrier on Hartland and a Hobby over Slepe Heath. Despite the low number of reported sightings, the harbour is still full of ‘the expected’ species with the added bonus that they’re all fledging young at the moment. At Arne this morning it seemed every bush had calling juvenile Blue and Great Tit, there were several Linnet families that had formed one decent sized flock and Starlings were gathering in numbers. Its always nice this time of year to be able to highlight some ID features with some of our comer species through our ringing activities. Today I caught a pair of Goldfinches, which by observing closely you can easily sex this time of year out in the field.

Goldfinch Pair

You can see the over all structure of this male is bulkier with a longer, stronger bill and bigger head. The main features involve the red on the males head extending behind the eye and having an overall glossier look, where as on the female the red is restricted to staying in front of the eye. On closer inspection the males have strong black nasal hairs too, where as females are pale grey.


MALE                                                                         FEMALE

Talking of looking closely, local birder Ian Ballam has been photographing a ringed Reed Warbler at RSPB Lytchett Fields recently and has gathered enough photos to be able to get a full ring number – Y329352. We have managed to trace the ring number as one of ours, showing that this bird was first ringed as an adult in 2012 meaning that this bird is at least 4 years old and has made a minimum of 4 return trips to Sub-Saharan Africa. All being well, it will be off in September making its fifth trip south…what a bird!

Harbour Update – posted 06/06/15

Posted on: June 6th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

The wind kicked in early from the usual south-westerly direction, but with this came news of a potential Short-toed Eagle over towards Hurn/Wimborne area. A few local Poole Harbour birders had their eyes to the sky’s the moment the news came through but unfortunately there was no further information for the rest of the day. This follows reports of a possible Short-toed Eagle in the new Forest two days ago; will we see one arrive in Poole Harbour over the coming days? Last years bird did venture within the harbour boundaries, but for only a few minutes before it ventured back towards Morden Bog. The heaths surrounding the harbour hold plenty of snakes (their main food source) so it’s as good a place as any to support this species. Be aware though, there are also plenty of very pale Buzzards locally too, which can also hover whilst hunting too. Brownsea today had a Great White Egret, 150+ Black-tailed Godwit and good numbers of settled nesting Common Tern and Sandwich Tern. A bit of night listening from Lytchett Fields last night produced nothing much other that some calling/displaying Redshank, a Greenshank and some Lapwing.

To highlight the vibrant sounds of the breeding season, where it seems everything from Blackcaps to Blackbirds, Dabchicks to Dartfords have all fledged young in the harbour, I have included a short recording of one of the true sounds of summer…the chorus of the Skylark. The recording comes from the Frome Valley and the sonagram shows just a 2 second section of the song, highlighting the complexity and beauty of this well know songster. For many reasons this is a sound that is unfortunately disappearing from our countryside, so enjoy!

Harbour Update – posted 04/06/15

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

The White-winged Black Tern stayed for its third day today at Swineham GP, right up until dusk, which may suggest it could be there tomorrow, however I was told by local birder Nick Hopper the other day that they often tend to migrate at night so we’ll wait and see. Thanks too to Brett Spencer for aging the bird for us as a 2nd summer.  Also at Swineham a Little Gull, and 1 Grey Plover. Highlights from Studland included 6 Sanderling and a Wheatear and Lytchett Bay saw its first Hobby of the year. Some sad news today in that the ‘beta’ Marsh Harrier nest, i.e the new female that arrived last year and successfully raised 3 young has abandoned her nest, despite the chicks having hatched. This was due to the fact the male who was feeding her and the chicks has definitely disappeared. The same male was also providing to the ‘alpha’ nest where the female (who is possibly more experienced) is currently doing a good job of feeding herself and her chicks, lets just hope she can keep it up. It was a magical night on Slepe Heath last night when a GIANT moon raised its sleepy head from behind Corfe Castle as no less than 7 Nightjar were churring all around me. The recording below was taken just as the moon was fully visible above the Purbecks, and was originally just supposed to be a Nightjar recording but a Common Buzzard and a Cuckoo had other ideas! The sonagram shows the last seven seconds of the recording highlighting the churring of the male Nightjar, its wing claps as it flies off and the calling Buzzard

European Nightjar, Common Buzzard, Common Cuckoo – Slepe Heath 03/06/15

Harbour Update – posted 02/06/15

Posted on: June 2nd, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

On a day that looked like it was going to be a complete right off, actually ended up being very productive, even producing a rarity amongst the crowd. At around 1pm we received a phone call from Ian Alexander saying he was sure he had found an adult White-winged Black Tern on the main pit at Swineham. The description sounded spot on so we shot down there, and upon arrival we were indeed treated to stunning adult White-winged Black Tern. This is a remarkable find in as much as this is the third record of this species in as many years at the same site, where previously, the only other records ever for this species in the harbour was of one on Brownsea Island 49 years ago. Also noted over the gravel pits whilst watching the Tern was 1 Hobby, 20+ Swift, numerous Swallow, House and Sand Martin, a few singing Cetti’s Warbler and one of the Marsh Harriers. A sea watch from Branksome Chine this morning produced 1 Great Skua, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2 summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, 1 Kittiwake, 2 Fulmar, 10+ Gannet and 4 Sandwich Tern. At Poole Harbour mouth a whopping 123 Sanderling were on Shell Beach along with 5 Turnstone, 3 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plover. Also in the harbour entrance were 4 Little Tern and possibly another 2 on Shell Beach, and 2 Brent Geese on Pilots Point. On Lytchett Fields today were 80 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ringed Plover, 3 Redshank, 3 Lapwing, 8 Swift and 1 Peregrine.

White-winged Black Tern at Swineham 02/06/15 

To watch in HD click play and hover the curser over the cog shaped symbol and select 1080

Harbour Update – posted 01/06/15

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Waders continue to be the staple at present with a few odds and ends still dripping through. In Brands Bay yesterday 3 Ringed Plover, 199 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Knot and 5 Little Egret were counted along with 30+ House Martin and 30+ Swift, including one with a white rump patch. Semi-decent views were obtained and it seems to have been nothing more than just a Common Swift sporting a dashing white rump…enough to get the heart racing for a few short moments though. At Lytchett Bay a single Little Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, 3 Greenshank and 33 Black-tailed Godwit were noted.

Little Owl information

With your great feedback to our request for Swift sightings last week, I’d like to put out another request for information if I may. Little Owl has been absent (as far as we know) from the Poole Harbour basin for around 10-15 years. They used to breed at places like Arne, Middlebere, Lytchett Bay and Upton CP but with the increase in Tawny Owl and Barn Owl number’s, the Little Owls have been ‘forced out’. However, with so much suitable habitat, its beyond belief that Little Owl is totally absent within the Poole Harbour area. We have been working with Dr Emily Joachim who recently set up the new UK Little Owls group (and soon to be live website), which seeks to report and gather information on Little Owl sightings from across the UK. Although not classed as native, their drastic decline nationally over the last 20 years has highlighted the fact that something is going seriously wrong within their environment, and we’d like to get to grips with what that is locally. Is it just an increase in numbers of other owl species, or is there something much more complex going on?

We would like to put out a request for anyone that has found/knows about any Little Owls within the areas of the attached map so we can share it with Dr Emily Joachim for her research.  Any information would be gratefully received.

To report any sightings please email us at birdsofpooleharbour@gmail.com

Call 01202 641 003