Archive for December, 2020

[Cancelled] New Year’s Eve Pop Up at Studland Peninsula

Posted on: December 30th, 2020 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Our final Pop Up event of the year will take place at Studland NNR in partnership with the National Trust Studland team this Thursday (31st Dec) between 10am and 1pm. Join our team across FOUR watchpoints for a last chance to maximise your 2020 yearlist and discover why Studland peninsula is such an important overwintering site for birds.

Studland Bay is an important feeding area for the UK’s largest over-wintering population of Black-necked Grebe, a scarce breeding bird in the UK. A good winter watch in Studland Bay can produce both Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, along with Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter, Brent Geese, Mediterranean Gulls and occasional Sandwich Tern. Recent sightings have also included Red-necked Grebe and Long-tailed Duck!

Our team will be stationed at four locations across the peninsula. Find us at the watchpoints below between 10am and 1pm.

Watchpoint map available here »

Parking is available along Ferry Road lay-bys, as well as the Shell Bay and Knoll Beach National Trust pay and display car parks.

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to share our optics at public events to limit risk of spreading Covid-19. Therefore, if you have your own binoculars and scopes, please bring them along, they will be really useful!

Footage from Shell Bay Pop Up on 9th Decemeber


Holes Bay Pop-Up Event This Sunday (20th)

Posted on: December 19th, 2020 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Our team will be visiting Holes Bay this Sunday to help you bird this superb urban hotspot. Recent sightings from the site include great counts of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin, as well as vast numbers of wildfowl and a small but faithful flock of Knot. The site offers a great opportunity to get your head around wader and wildfowl identification with our team.

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to share our optics at public events to limit risk of spreading Covid-19. Therefore, if you have your own binoculars and scopes, please bring them along, they will be really useful! Holes Bay is fully accessible with a cycle path running along much of the shoreline. The closest car park (pay & display) is located at Upton Country Park.

Holes Bay Pop-Up event, Sat 12 Dec

Where to find us: Creekmoor Drain (8.30am to 11.30am)

what.three.words –

Google maps pindrop –

We hope you are able to join us on Sunday, and keep a lookout on our social media and website for announcements of future locations and dates!

Pop-Up Event: Studland, Thursday 17th December

Posted on: December 13th, 2020 by Birds of Poole Harbour
We will have two members of the team based at two different points: Shell Bay and Jerry’s Point. We will be stationed from 9am-12noon (just before the rain is due to hit!) and will be happy to guide you through identifying the local birdlife. Recently, the Studland peninsula has been the go-to location for seeing winter visitors such as Great Northern Diver, Scaup, Black-necked Grebe and Common Scoter. Our team will be on hand to help you spot them and will be wearing our Birds of Poole Harbour coats so we’re easy to find. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to share our optics at public events to limit risk of spreading Covid-19. Therefore, if you have your own binoculars and scopes, please bring them along, they will be really useful!
Access to Shell Bay is simple, with our team located on the sand dunes at the end of the boardwalk from the National Trust Shell Bay car park. Access to Jerry’s Point is not far away. Use the access gate off Ferry Road, and walk along the track to meet us at the point overlooking Brand’s Bay and Bramble Bush Bay. Please bear in mind that the recent weather means that the path to the point may be flooded, which means that wellies are advisable! You can use this point on Google Maps to locate the access gate. You can also use this What Three Words location for Jerry’s Point:
Great Northern Diver – Peter Moore

Winter Birding with Birds of Poole Harbour: Delving into Diver Identification

Posted on: December 11th, 2020 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Summer-plumaged divers are among the smartest visitors to our waters and are readily identifiable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the understated non-breeding plumages these birds adopt during the winter months. The dapper summer throat patches are exchanged for a rather less distinctive appearance. That said, swimming birds can usually be identified confidently with careful study of bill structure, colour and head, neck and flank details.

Over recent months, passage migrants and returning winter species of various shapes and sizes have been arriving back for the season. As well as worrying about the prospect of separating the divers, a supporting cast of cormorants, auks, grebes and ducks can add to the confusion.

Divers have a very distinctive ‘humpbacked’ flight profile, with long, narrow wings, large protruding feet that trail and powerful, direct flight action. Birds are typically observed singly but sometimes in loosely scattered, small parties and often fly well above the horizon. All have plain wings, which instantly separates them from grebes. Separating diver species in flight can be difficult, and distant or doubtful individuals should be identified with great caution. Grebes can be ruled out quickly as the weaker fliers typically travel low over the water, with trailing feet, with fast wing beats.

Great Northern Diver in flight silhouette © Ian Ballam

Divers usually sit low in the water (like cormorants, unlike ducks), but float higher when resting or preening, appearing long-bodied, long-necked and ‘tailless’. A very easy behavioural distinction from Cormorant and Shag is that divers do not leap out of the water to dive underwater. Instead, they gently bow their head forward and submerge with a smooth elegance, often remaining submerged for over a minute, moving surprisingly long distances underwater. Diving may follow a period of underwater surveillance (or ‘snorkelling’) with the bill and head partly submerged in the water.

Record shot of all three diver species at Studland, December 15 2014.

Of the three species that regularly occur in the UK, two are scarce breeders in Scotland (Red-throated & Black-throated), becoming widespread during the winter and the other (Great Northern) a regular winter visitor. Red-throated Diver are best searched for out in Poole Bay and Studland Bay where numbers are generally between 1-4 birds during the winter. Higher counts can occur during periods of bad weather as they move around to find more sheltered areas. In the winter, best places to look are out in Poole Bay, Shell Bay and Studland Bay with occasional inner harbour records at places like Brands Bay and even Holes Bay and Lytchett Bay. Passage birds move through Poole Bay in an easterly direction in the spring and westerly in Autumn and on days of strong passage up to 20 birds can be logged. George Green in Birds of Dorset does mention mid winter movements and highly mobile winter birds. The record maximum is 34 in Poole Bay on Christmas Day 1988, with the previous record being twelve counted flying in to the harbour, again on Christmas day 1984.

Red-throated Diver in winter plumage

Red-throated Diver Identification. Photo © Ian Ballam

Great Northern Diver are most common of the three regular diver species found inside and outside of the harbour. Outside they can be seen out in Poole Bay, whilst inside the harbour they prefer the deep channels around Brownsea, Brands Bay and the harbour mouth. Birds can also be encountered off the beaches at Shipstal, Hamworthy, Baiter and Shore Road on cold, still winter mornings, and have even turned up on Poole Park boating lake in recent years! Numbers tend to peak after sustained periods of bad weather, forcing birds to enter the harbour in search of shelter. The wet and windy winters of 2013/14 and 2019/20 saw harbour records broken each time with a high count of 16 around the harbour on February 12th 2017 and 19 logged during the Big Poole Harbour Bird Count back in January 19th 2020.

Passage occurs out in Poole Bay in autumn and spring and some full summer plumaged birds have even been logged sat out on the water in Poole Bay during May and early June. The autumn was a great year for passage birds, with up to 6 Great Northern Divers frequently recorded in October and November, of which 2 were in stonking summer plumage! First-winter birds closely resemble non-breeding adult plumage, but are separable at close range by detailed head pattern and pale fringing on upperparts forming a neat scalloped pattern.

Great Northern Diver Identification. Photo (left) © Clare Slade

Black-throated Diver are the least common of the three ‘regulars’, they can arrive and spend time in the bays outside the harbour mouth during the winter. They are scarcely recorded inside the harbour, when present the north channel off Evening Hill and Salterns Marina seems most favourable. In winter, birds can be also be found fishing off Sandbanks just outside the harbour mouth and into Studland Bay, with a maximum of 8 in Poole Bay 7th January 1989, however most records are logged from winter seawatches from Branksome Chine. Unseasonal historical  records include individuals on 31st July 1978 and 13th June 1984. One also summered in Poole Bay in 2000 and was present from June to September seen mainly off Branksome Chine. One on Hatch Pond 21-23 January 1995 was a noteworthy inland record.

Black-throated Diver Identification

Christmas ‘Eye D’ Challenge

Posted on: December 8th, 2020 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Inspired by a friend of ours recently, we’re planning on hosting an ID quiz leading up to Christmas, providing you with a head scratching ID conundrum to figure out. Each day we’ll post a new ‘EYE SHOT’, followed the next day by the answer, the original photo and ID info about the species featured each day.

Some will be relatively straight forward, some not so, and some will really get you thinking (and even provide some sleepless nights)

Each species is a regular visitor to the harbour, some more regular than others, but there’s no mega rarities, so with a bit of time (and maybe your Collins Field Guide), you should be able to work each photo

1.  So, to kick things off, here is the first ‘EYE D’ challenge. Whats this regular winter visitor to Poole Harbour?

Of course, our first ‘Eye D’ challenge was fairly straight forward with most people getting it correct. It was indeed a Redwing. The biggest clue in the close up shot is the creamy buff supercilium (stripe above the eye). The clincher in this photo is the snippet of pale throat you can see too, which combined with the supercilium makes this a Redwing.


2.  Ok, so we started off fairly easy. We’ll step things up a bit now. Any ideas on this vibrant passerine?

This caused a few more ID issues, mainly because of the lack of features to go by. The main feature is of course the bright yellow supercilium and the amount of bold yellow under the eye too making it a gorgeous Yellow Wagtail.


3.  Yesterdays was a tad tricky so here’s something a bit kinder. Whats this familiar harbour species?

Yep, most people got this one correct. Despite only being able to see its eye, it’s still possible to see the ‘cuteness’ of this Long-tailed Tit. The the big, broad dark/black stripe over the eye and the white ‘fluffy’ feathering below are easy clues to this being a Long-tailed Tit.


4.  With pretty much everyone guessing yesterdays correctly, we’re going to step things back up again today. So, whats todays tricky ‘Eye D’ challenge? 

Day 4 – ‘Eye D’ challenge – So yesterdays was pretty hard but several people still got it right. It was an autumn male Common Redstart. Well done if you got it right. Todays will be posted in due course!


5.  Day 5 Christmas ‘Eye D’ challenge. Something a bit different this evening. A lovely Poole Harbour species, but what is it?

Day 5 ‘Eye D’ Xmas challenge answer – Yep, most people got this one correct. It is of course a Ringed Plover. Thanks Nick Gadenne for the photo. Todays will be posted shortly. Its going to be another tough one!


6.  Day 6 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – A real Sunday head scratcher. Think outside the winter box for this one….

Day 6 ‘Eye D’ challenge reveal – Yep, many of you guessed it was a chat. Many said Robin, but it was in fact a juvenile Stonechat caught and ringed this summer. Right, we’re going to make todays extra challenging.


7.  Day 7 Christmas ‘Eye D’ Challenge – A tougher challenge today. No help just yet. See if anyone can get it before we have to drop some clues….

Day 7 Christmas ‘Eye D’ challenge reveal – Yesterdays was pretty tricky and in fact no one got the right answer! The bird in question was a handsome Garden Warbler! Better luck later today!


8.  Day 8 Christmas ‘Eye D’ challenge. So sorry, for some reason this didn’t post yesterday. Whats this (now) regular breeder in the Poole Harbour area?

Day 8 ‘Eye d’ Christmas Challenge reveal – These can often be tricky up close, but many people still got it correct. It is of course a Cetti’s Warbler. Well done if you got it correct. Todays challenge will be posted a bit later


9.  Day 9 Christmas ‘Eye D’ challenge – Excuse the poor quality, we had to zoom in quite a bit to make this bird not too obvious. So, despite the zoom…..any guesses?

Day 9 Christmas ‘Eye D’ challenge reveal – Well, many of you guessed it was a pipit species, but only a handful correctly answered Tree Pipit, so well done if you got it right! Todays will be posted a bit later


10.  Day 10 Day 10 Christmas ‘Eye D’ Challenge – There should be enough in this photo to help you ID this birders favourite….

Day 10 ‘Eye D’ Challenge reveal – Yep, 99.9% of people got yesterdays. It was of course a Firecrest. Always a treat to see! Todays will be posted shortly!
11.  Day 11 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – Good to see so many people engaging with this across our social media channels. Todays may be tough for some but easy for others. Any guesses?
Day 11 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge Reveal – A skulky, now rare breeding species in Dorset which several of you guessed correctly. Yesterdays mystery bird was a Grasshopper Warbler. Todays will be posted in due course..
12. Day 12 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – A few hints in this image to to help ID this young, scrub loving summer visitor…any guesses? Answer tomorrow!
Day 12 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge Reveal – Not the best photo, but enough in it for many of you to get it correct. Day 12 was indeed a Lesser Whitethroat. Todays posted shortly
13. Day 13 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – Making things a tad easier this evening. Sorry for being a bit late, but Eggnog got in the way! Whats this dazzling close up???
Day 13 ‘Eye D’ Christmas challenge reveal. Yes, well done. Almost everyone got this one right. It was of course an Osprey from our translocation project. Todays will be posted shortly
14. Day 14 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – Another easy one tonight before a true humdinger tomorrow. Any guesses? Another poor close up image, but should be enough in here to get it…
Day 14 ‘Eye D’ Christmas challenge reveal – We knew this was too easy with 100% of people getting this correct. Day 14 was yep…you guessed it… a handsome Woodcock. Todays to be posted shortly……
15. Day 15 ‘Eye D’ Christmas Challenge – A challenge for some as not many birds have a bright orange eye…any guesses?
Day 15 ‘Eye D’ Challenge Reveal. Well, thanks everyone for contributing over the last 2 weeks, its been fun! Yesterdays final ‘Eye D’ challenge species was of course a Bearded Tit (reedling). Well done if you guessed correctly and have a great Christmas!

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