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 September, 2015

Harbour Update – posted 29/09/15

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Another day and yes…more Spoonbills! There were 42 on the Brownsea Lagoon today and there are plenty more along the south coast at present hopefully making their way here. I would love to see 50 by the end of the week…fingers crossed. There were a minimum of 4 Bearded Tit along footpath 12, Lytchett Bay and at Lytchett Fields there were still 2 Whinchat, 2 Spotted Flycatcher and 1 Wheatear. The fields were generally quiet with 30+ Dunlin, 4 Greenshank and 4 Green Sandpiper. Two Kingfisher have been reported from Poole Park over the last couple of days, apparently showing very little fear of people and perching up on posts just yards from the general public. Great photo opportunities, especially with this late evening sun we’ve been getting.

Below are a couple more sounds from recent recording sessions up at Glebelands, Ballard. The first is a party of Siskin that passed very low overhead. Both Siskin and Goldfinch seem to be moving in big numbers at present so learning the Siskins chattering and tiu calls will alert you to their presence as they pass over in small groups.

Siskins – Calls of a migrating party over Glebelands, Ballard – 28/09/15

The second recording isn’t actually a migrating call, but in fact an alarm call from a Blackcap. This bird was in a bush behind and obviously didn’t like me standing where I was. This can be a common sound in scrubby habitats at this time of year so well worth knowing if you’re out and about.

Blackcap – Alarm calls of a male at Glebelands, Ballard – 28/09/15

Harbour Update – posted 28/09/15

Posted on: September 29th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

The Spoonbill total on Brownsea seems to be going up day by day with 37 counted on the lagoon. Last year, when the British record was broken for the largest flock ever gathered in the UK (49) numbers were still growing in late October. So considering we’re already on 37 and its not even October yet, I would hazard a guess we could see another record-breaking year for this species. Also on Brownsea were 2 Firecrest, 1 Hobby, 200+ Avocet and 2 Sandwich Tern. On Hartland Moor a female Merlin is still present, harassing Meadow Pipits and it looks as if there are now 6 Marsh Harrier in the west Poole Harbour roost. The lower part of Studland was quiet with a single Cetti’s Warbler at South Haven (very rare here) and reasonable numbers Goldfinch, Linnet, Siskin, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipit passing overhead. In Studland Bay there are already 4 Black-necked Grebe back and they were joined by 1 male Common Scoter. A sound recording session up Glebelands, Ballard was well worth the effort with many birds on the move including 1 Crossbill, 1 Yellowhammer, 8 Yellow Wagtail, 22 Pied Wagtail, 5 Grey Wagtail, 20+ Siskin, 40+ Redpoll, 500+ Linnet and Goldfinch, 500+ Meadow Pipit and 10+ Skylark. It also seems Song Thrush are now on the move with several passing over in the dark just before sunrise. When will the first Redwing be heard?

With several visits to Glebelands recently we have a few more sound recording to upload. The first is Lesser Redpoll a species that will move right the way through October and in to November too. This recording gives nice examples of both the che-che-che and pyuee call that they do.

Lesser Redpoll – Flight calls of an autumn migrant – Glebelands, Ballard – 28/09/15

The second recording is of a migrating Yellowhammer. Not always thought of as a migrant, Yellowhammer will move around singularly or in small flocks looking for feeding areas. This was my first migrant Yellowhammer of the autumn and it’s p-lick sounding call can be heard at 9, 11, 15, 19 and 23 seconds.

Yellowhammer – Flight calls of an autumn migrant– Glebelands, Ballard – 28/09/15

Harbour Update – posted 27/09/15

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Very quiet around with only birds of note being 4 Pintail at Lytchett Bay, 3 Brent Geese arriving at Whitecliff and the Spoonbill flock on Brownsea reaching 35. A vis mig session at South Haven, Studland produced 18 Chaffinch, 11 Greenfinch, 9 Lesser Redpoll, 32 Linnet, 309 Goldfinch, 119 Siskin, 19 Pied Wagtail, 13 Meadow Pipit 14 Swallow, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Stock Dove, 1 Merlin and 1 Sparrowhawk. There were 5 Yellowhammer at Brands Bay. General birding around the harbour at present is still very rewarding with good numbers of common waders and wildfowl now back and especially with this gorgeous late summer sun, making migrant birds active. 


Harbour Update – posted 26/09/15

Posted on: September 27th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

A vis-mig session was held up on Ballard at first light, and although the conditions looked good for birds to move, it never really got going beyond a slow trickle. However, whilst listening to passing migrants the song of a Woodlark was picked up distantly from one of the farm fields, a really odd record for Ballard and after a bit of tracking down 2 were actually discovered. These were only the second and third record for the Studland peninsular all year. Also noted during the session were 4 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Crossbill, 11 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Skylark, 50+ each of Linnet and Goldfinch and 70+ Meadow Pipit. Also seen on Ballard were good numbers of Chiffchaff and Stonechat along 1 Peregrine, 1 Sparrowhawk and 1 Buzzard. The 2 Firecrest were at Middlebere again near the cottages, also 5 Goldcrest, 2 Blackcap, 20 Chiffchaff, 1 Whinchat, 1 Whitethroat, 16 Stonechat, 1 Marsh Harrier and 1 Sparrowhawk. In the channel were 6 Spoonbill, 1600 Black-tailed Godwit and a few Wigeon. From Slepe Heath a Hobby was seen chasing some of the many, many Swallow that were passing through all day and 1 Woodlark on the heath. 

Harbour Update – posted 25/09/15

Posted on: September 27th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

The Great White Egret was sat on the sea wall of the Brownsea Lagoon first thing, and there were 31 Spoonbill on the lagoon along with a minimum of 14 Spotted Redshank and 100 Avocet. On RSPB Lytchett Fields the Little Stint was still present, also 60 Dunlin, 6 Greenshank, 7 Green Sandpiper and 2 Little Grebe in the bay. Migrant wise, things are quieting down a bit now but there were still 6 Wheatear, 30 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 20 Blackcap and 1 Grey Wagtail were at Greenland’s Farm, double figures of Wigeon and Pintail in Brands Bay and at Middlebere 9 Pintail, 1165 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 49 Dunlin, 3 Chiffchaff and 2 Firecrest.

Firecrests – Middlebere – Peter Moore

Harbour Update – posted 24/09/15

Posted on: September 25th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Another day, another Great White Egret sighting this time from Shipstal hide, Arne. On the rough ground next to the Twin Sails bridge there were 5 Wheatear, 11 Meadow Pipit, 1 Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail. A new arrival at Lytchett Fields came in the shape of a Little Stint that was hanging out with several Dunlin, also 4 Greenshank and 4 Green Sandpiper there. Brownsea saw 31 Spoonbill and a great count of 17 Spotted Redshank, also 72 Common Redshank present and a Peregrine sat at the back of the lagoon.

Harbour Update – posted 23/09/15

Posted on: September 24th, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Its been hard to pin down exactly how many Spoonbill there are in the harbour this week, but we were sent a message yesterday afternoon stating there were 7 at Middlebere and knowing there were some on the Brownsea webcam we did a count (several times to be sure) and arrived at 23, so it seems there are currently a minimum of 30, with still the rest of September and the whole of October for the flock size to grow. Also at Middlebere were 122 Avocet, 1100+ Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Pintail and 1 Peregrine Falcon.  On Brownsea there were 14 Spotted Redshank, still a few Common Tern and Sandwich Tern using the lagoon as a resting spot, 2 Turnstone, 5 Ringed Plover and the usual Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Redshank, Dunlin and Oystercatchers. At Baiter 1 Wheatear was on the beach, also 30 Ringed Plover and 1 Dunlin. AtRSPB Lytchett Fields it seems both the Curlew and Wood Sandpiper have moved on as the fields only held a few Redshank, Snipe and Lapwing. There was plenty of Chiffchaff around the site too.

Two species that are commonplace migrating over our coastal areas of Poole Harbour in the autumn are Greenfinch and Bullfinch. Both can form large flocks as they pass overhead with peak numbers passing by from mid October to early November. Greenfinches have a fast repetitive call that rarely changes in pitch.

Greenfinch – Calls of an autumn migrant over Ballard Down 19/09/15


Whereas Bullfinch do their lovely soft piping ‘piu’ call as they pass overhead, so when a flock of 20+ all pass over calling it’s quite a sound. In this recording it’s only a couple of individuals, we’ll hopefully get some examples of these bigger movements.

Bullfinch – Calls of a couple of autumn migrants passing over Ballard Down 19/09/15

Harbour Update – posted 22/09/15

Posted on: September 23rd, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Winter continues to press on with the first Merlin seen dashing across Hartland Moor whilst at roughly the same time 5 Marsh Harrier left the west harbour roost. On Brownsea the (one of the) Great White Egrets was on the Lagoon at dawn along with 16 Spoonbill and a good number of Little Egret. There was also a Great White Egret sighting in Middlebere around mid-morning too. We’re still trying to determine how many Great White Egret there are in the harbour at present. It could just be the same bird flying around from location to location, although there seems to be a list of sightings which show a site faithfulness to the Arne Peninsular (both western and eastern shoreline), then another list of sightings which show allegiance to Brands Bay, Brownsea, Goathorn etc. However, I guess we won’t really know until either two are seen together, or simultaneously seen at two different locations at the same time. Also on the Brownsea Lagoon today 15 Spotted Redshank, 1 Hobby, 1 Peregrine, 2 Kingfisher, 1 Turnstone, building numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank and decent numbers Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. There were also 3 Wheatear around the sea wall. At RSPB Lytchett Fields the Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper are still there, and incredibly a Little Tern arrived to fish in the bay with both Sandwich and Common Terns.

Another commonly heard sound this time of year is the sound of Chiffchaff as they move through the bushes feeding, quite often in groups. Up on Ballard on Saturday morning there had been an obvious fall of Chiffchaff with birds continuously calling from every hawthorn and gorse bush on the headland. Their autumn call isn’t the same as the well-know chiff chaff chiff chaff, but instead a far carrying whoweet call.

Common Chiffchaff – Calls of several autumn migrants on Ballard Down 19/09/15


Probably the most numerous migrant moving at the moment is the Swallow. There are currently thousands moving each day, some heading south and some staying put and feeding in big groups. The Swallows in this recording were passing over my head and heading out to sea, saying goodbye to another British summer. A rude Goldfinch tries to steal the show at the beginning of the recording though.

Swallows heading out to sea as they migrate south – Ballard Down 19/09/15

Harbour Update – posted 21/09/15

Posted on: September 22nd, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Today sightings were few and far between with a single Little Tern in Brands Bay briefly and the Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper still present at RSPB Lytchett Fields along with good numbers of Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing. Spoonbills continue to commute between Brownsea and Arne with a steady group of 28 so far. Last year numbers really built up in October, so with 28 already present are we going to see the British record of 49 (held by Brownsea last year) get smashed? It was also observed that the first Redwings of the autumn arrived on the east coast this week. We don’t normally see ours until early October but do occasionally get some earlier during late September vis-mig watches.

Talking of vis-mig, below are a couple more sound recordings from the session up on Ballard last Saturday. The first is quite special. It was thought at the time that we had recorded an Ortolan Bunting but we wanted to double check with the guys at the Sound Approach who kindly confirmed it’s definitely an Ortolan. Its quite tricky to hear but the three diagnostic calls can be heard at 4.5, 10 and 20 seconds. To illustrate why they’re Ortolan Bunting calls I’ve included cut outs from the recordings sonagram showing the peaked ‘n’ shape type call they do, which the Sound Approach describe in Catching the Bug, referring to migrating Ortolan Buntings as “showing much variation in pitch, calls are typically single notes spaced well apart, plucked from different strings of the same instrument”

Ortolan Bunting migrating over Ballard Down on 19/09/15 – 6:09am


Secondly, here are a flock of Linnet passing close by over the cliff top. Linnets will be one of the numerous species encountered during autumn vis-mig watches, but its worth familiarising your self with these calls as they can sound similar to other species such as Goldfinch, but as the Sound Approach state, “their twittering averages lower-pitched (than Goldfinch) and has far less range between the higher and lower notes.

Linnet flock migrating over Ballard Down – 19/09/15 

Harbour Update – posted 20/09/15

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by Birds of Poole Harbour

What started off as a blanket of thick fog covering the harbour, eventually gave way to a stunning late summers day. The only draw back was that the first Poole Harbour WeBS (Wetland birds Survey) count of the winter was due to start at 9am, which the think fog hampered for about 45 minutes but eventually cleared. Highlights included a Great White Egret in Brands Bay and then another (or the same) viewed from the Wytch Causeway. At Lytchett Fields the Wood and Curlew Sandpiper remained also there 635 Teal, 313 Redshank, 4 Knot, 5 Green Sandpiper, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Kingfisher and 22 Little Egret. There’s certainly no shortage of Little Egret at the moment with 36 counted from the Shipstal Hide at Arne and many others around the harbour too. 23 Spoonbill were seen near Wytch and then flew towards Arne. 3 Lesser Redpoll passed over Shipstal Point. There were masses of Hirundines, mainly Swallow taking advantage of the warm weather and presumed abundance of flying insects. A scan across any skyline would result on hundreds (likely) thousands of birds all busily feeding. Other than that wildfowl numbers are slowly increasing as Teal and Wigeon can now be seen at most of the usual haunts and the lone Brent Goose was again at Shore Road. A Whinchat was on Hartland Moor

Between now November, vis-mig (visible migration) can be encountered at several coastal spots along the harbour such as Ballard Down and South Haven. This movement occurs every year and involves species such as wagtails, finches, pipits, larks and hirundines. Durlston CP is one of the best places in the country to experience this, but many of the birds that pass over Durlston then come and pass over the harbour (especially in a NE wind). Identifying these birds by sight is almost impossible as they pass over-head, often in large flocks so the only other way to identify them is by sound. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting sound recordings on this blog of some of the species you can see and hear pass over-head during the vis-mig season, which will hopefully help you be able to identify them on your own out in the field.

We’ll start with some easy ones. Meadow Pipits pass in big numbers every autumn and have a distinctive high-pitched call which they make continously as they fly over.

Meadow Pipit – Flight calls of a flock of 20+ passing over Ballard Down on 19/09/15

Another good one to try and pick out is Grey Wagtail. These also move in reasonable numbers through out the autumn and have a distinctive double note call as they pass over-head. Grey Wagtail will migrate either individually, in two’s, threes or sometime’s in larger groups.

Grey Wagtail – Flight calls of a migrant passing over Ballard Down on 19/09/15 


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