An official account of all species that have been recorded and reported by birdwatchers and naturalists since records began.

The data for this list has been extracted from various sources, but George Greens 'The Birds of Dorset', Mansel-Pleydell's Birds of Dorsetshire, Naylor’s reference manual of rare birds and the back catalogue of Dorset bird reports have provided most information. Data is currently still being researched and records will be updated accordingly.

You can view this information in two different ways. Our alphabetical list provides information on the status of each species within the harbour, finder dates and names, photos and favored locations. By clicking on the Systematic List button you will be presented the full Poole Harbour systematic list which includes status of species, pending records and historical accounts.

To date, 331 species have occurred and have been accepted within the Birds of Poole Harbour boundaries. A further 11 distinct subspecies have also been seen. In addition, we have two species/subspecies which have been recorded, but are awaiting acceptance by the appropriate records panel.

There are a handful of historical records, for which there is currently insufficient information to allow their inclusion onto the Poole Harbour list, but are believed to be genuine records. They are listed at the end of the list.

Finally, there are a number of feral or escaped species that have been recorded within the Birds of Poole Harbour boundaries. They are included for completeness, but are not included on the Poole Harbour list.

We would be interested in hearing details of any species that do not appeared on this list.

The Birds of Poole Harbour systematic list is a PDF which you can view by clicking on the button below. It was last updated on December 2019.

Full Poole Harbour Systematic List
 

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All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

Canada Goose

Latin Name

Branta canadensis

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

This regular breeding bird first turned up in 1954 when one was shot at Sandbanks on the 2nd October. In June 1957 ten pairs were introduced to Poole Park by wildfowlers, followed by more in 1959 and by 1960 there were around 70 in Poole harbour. Brownsea was the main breeding area with with 66 pairs in 2001 and 57 pairs in 2004. They also breed at Arne, Brands Bay, Green Island and Little Sea. Large numbers also congregate on the lawns of Poole Park where they are regarded by many as pests, chasing unsuspecting locals feeding the ducks. Occasionally they are cause of a council cull debate, normally in relation to the mess they make around Poole Park where they chase unsuspecting locals feeding the ducks and roost at night.

Large numbers feed on the fields along Ballard and they fly from Poole Park back and forth across the harbour mouth and along the coast. There were at 500 Ballard Down 16th Sept 1988. They also feed at Arne, Greenlands Farm, Middlebere and around the house at North Bestwall Park. Numbers normally peak in August when there is a large moulting flock around Swineham and Arne. In late 2019 a large group of 500+ visited Upton Country Park every morning, arriving in from an unknown roosting area north of the harbour. Shooting of Canada Geese still occurs in the harbour.


Carrion Crow

Latin Name

Corvus corone

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Found right across the harbour in rural areas. Winter flocks of up to 600 birds have been observed. ‘Fishing’ Carrion Crows can be observed along the Baiter car park in autumn and winter, picking up cockles and whelks before dropping them on to the hard tarmac, a behaviour we probably haven’t seen in the harbour for almost 200 years since corvids were heavily persecuted.


Caspian Gull

Latin Name

Larus cachinnans

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

A rare but increasing visitor to UK shores and inland sites with Dorset sightings rising considerably in recent years. Poole Harbour has only two records but its likely some Caspian Gulls go un-found due to the size of the harbour. Scanning gull flocks during the winter and spring could reward you with a Caspian Gull.

A 1st S was present briefly on 19th Feb 2003 at Corfe Mullen tip (J.Lidster)

A 1st winter in Wareham Channel on 17th October 2017 (M.Lawson)


Caspian Tern

Latin Name

Hydroprogne caspia

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Up to 2017 there have been 20 Dorset records with only 4 in the harbour and none have stayed long enough to be seen by birders. News of the next one will have birders dashing to their cars.

1 killed in July 1872 at Wareham
1 on 28th July 1984 off Brownsea Island (M.A.Hallett, R.Newton)
1 on 3rd August 2011 on Brownsea Lagoon (S Holmes et al)
1 on 6th July 2012 on Brownsea Lagoon at dusk. (C.Thain).


Cattle Egret

Latin Name

Bubulcus ibis

Status

Scarce but increasing Visitor

Site And Records Information

This species was rare in Britain and Dorset until 2006. A large influx occurred in late 2007. By 2009 it had been removed from the BBRC list. However the influx was not sustained and there had not been a record in the harbour for more than 3 years (up to Nov 2015). However, a large influx into the UK during 2017/18 saw a colony form on the Somerset Levels and breeding was also confirmed in West Dorset in 2017. Since then numerous records have been obtained from several sites around the harbour with a high count of 7 birds in the Frome Valley in autumn 2018 and by December 2018 a flock of 20 were frequent in the Frome Valley.

1 on 26th Aug – 31st Dec 1996 at Ower (N.Symes et al). Also seen at Studland in the roost.
1 ‘summer 1985’ on Wareham Floodplain (Mo Constantine)
1 on 30th Jul 2001 at Middlebere (E.Thorpe et al)
3 on 2nd Nov 2007 at Arne (M.Singleton et al) then Bestwall on 4th – 12th Nov (B.Spencer et al)
4 flew north on 3rd Nov 2007 at Lytchett Bay (M.Gould, S.Robson et al)
1 on 27th Nov – 6th Dec 2007 at Upton Country Park (L.Kirton et al)
1 from 22nd Feb -18th Mar 2008 East Holme Water Meadows (D.Liley et al)
1 on 19th Apr – 1st Jun 2008 at Lytchett Bay (S.Robson et al)
1 on 10th Aug 2008 at Ower (S.Robson, M.Smith) and the at various places in the southern harbour until 27th August (S.W. Smith et al)
1 on 18th Oct – 1st Nov 2008 at Ballard Down (S.W.Smith et al)
1 on 25th Oct 2008 at Lytchett Bay (S.Robson, M.Smith)
1 on 3rd Jan 2009 at East Holme (K.Lane)
1 from 7th Mar 2009, joined by second from 11th Apr, at Wareham Water Meadows (J.Mitchell, I Pillow et al). Also seen Swineham & the Slepe/Arne Heronry. Last seen 9th May. No breeding attempted.
1 on 27th Mar – 8th Apr 2010 at Wareham Water Meadows (J.Mitchell et al)
1 on 20th – 23rd Dec 2011 at East Holme (I.Lewis et al)
1 on 10th – 13th Apr 2012 at Lytchett Bay (P. Morton et al)
1 on 11th – 28th Dec 2016 in cattle fields along Holme Lane (N.Hopper et al)
1 on 13th March 2017 on central island at Swineham GP (P.Morton and O.Slessor)
Between early 2017 and late 2018 singles and small groups were logged at several sites including 1-2 birds at Lytchett Fields in Sept 2018, singles at Arne and Wytch in Aug 2018 and a record count of 8 at Swineham in Sept 2018. Without doubt this species is fast becoming a regular occurrence in the harbour.
2 on 7th and 8th Oct 2018 at Wareham to Stoborough causeway (P.Morton)
11 on 4th Nov 2018 in Frome Valley near East Holme (K.Lane) This is a Poole Harbour record count.
A flock of 17 – 20 on 5th Nov to December 2018 at Bestwall, Stoborough and Nutcrack Lane (G Mutton et al)
1 on Lytchett Fields 13th – 14th July 2020 – (I.Ballam)


Cetti’s Warbler

Latin Name

Cettia cetti

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

The first record for the harbour was a spring bird on Brownsea in April 1976 which was actually rejected by BBRC. Swineham, Lytchett Bay and Keysworth host breeding birds now and a third of Dorsets breeding birds are in Poole harbour. Listen out for their explosive song along the river banks of the Frome in April and May.


Chaffinch

Latin Name

Fringilla coelebs

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Breeds right across the harbour in urban and rural areas. Large numbers can be viewed during visible migration watches at South Haven, Ballard and Glebelands. Large winter flocks of up to 300 birds have been recorded at places such as Arne, Swineham and Soldiers Road.


Chiffchaff

Latin Name

Phylloscopus collybita

Status

Common summer breeding resident, passage migrant and winter visitor

Site And Records Information

Found right across the harbour during the breeding season. Any woodland habitat will hold good numbers of breeding Chiffchaff. Passes through in large numbers on autumn migration during Sept-Oct. Winters in mild sheltered areas with available food such as Swineham GP and at the PC World Drain, Holes Bay.


Chough

Latin Name

Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Status

Former Breeding Species, No Recent Records

Site And Records Information

Future records are not impossible. In 2001 there were a series of records in the Portland/Weymouth area and in 2003 one spent 4 days at St Aldhelm’s Head in Purbeck.


Cirl Bunting

Latin Name

Emberiza hortulana

Status

Former Breeding Species, No Recent Records

Site And Records Information

Used to breed widely across Dorset. Declined dramatically from early 50’s to its extinction around 1974. Was still breeding in the harbour in 1968 with the last singing males at Scotland Farm and Greenland’s Farm in March 1968. No harbour records since, however with populations growing just next door in Devon we can at least dream of seeing see this stunning bird back one day. West Dorset recently experienced a mini influx.


Coal Tit

Latin Name

Periparus ater

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

This bird loves conifer plantations, of which Poole Harbour has plenty. Breeds throughout the area. Can often be seen feeding with Goldcrest in autumn and winter. Numbers occasionally swell with continental arrivals during late autumn.


Collared Dove

Latin Name

Streptopelia decaocto

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Breeds in rural and urban areas around the harbour, and very common in parks and gardens. Large flocks have occurred with 57 at Poole Park on 24th October 2004.


Collared Pratincole

Latin Name

Glareola pratincola

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Pratincole are exceptionally rare in Dorset and not much commoner across the UK. Collared, Black-winged and Oriental Pratincole have all been recorded in the UK but only Collared has been recorded in Poole Harbour with just 1 record.

1 on 24th May 1977 at Holes Bay – H A Lilley. Incidentley, 5 others were seen within 2 weeks in Britain including one at Lodmoor seen by Martin Cade on 7th June 1977.


Common Gull

Latin Name

Larus canus

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Numbers build through the autumn starting in October and increasing towards December. Otherwise present all year in the harbour in tens rather than thousands, with less records from May to July. The Wareham channel, Poole Park, Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay on a low tide hold good numbers in the winter. The winter roost in Wareham Channel can be huge as large numbers build up then pass through the harbour in February and March on their way to Norway and Sweden.


Common Nighthawk

Latin Name

Chordeiles minor

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Likely to never occur again, or certainly not any time soon this amazing record still fills many local birders with envy.

1 at 11 a.m. on 23rd Oct 1983 at Studland Village (M.Massey, K.Massey, M.Howard). BB mistakenly published the date as the 25th Oct.


Common Rosefinch

Latin Name

Carpodacus erythrinus

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

A remarkable first Poole Harbour record, feeding in an urban garden on sunflower hearts and mixed seed. Surely some more records will follow this one, albeit in a perhaps more traditional habitat and location.

1 from 28th Jan to at least 10th Apr 2013 in a Broadstone garden (E. Brodie et al). A remarkable first Poole Harbour record, feeding in an urban garden on sunflower hearts and mixed seed.


Common Sandpiper

Latin Name

Actitis hypoleucos

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Birds pass through the harbour in spring and autumn. Autumn passage actually begins during mid summer with the Brownsea lagoon, Lytchett Fields, Holton Pools and Holes Bay being hotspots, it’s also at this time that the maximum site count of 27 was at Studland on 29th July 1988 and the harbour maximum of 47 was in August 1990. Birds can be found at any quiet tidal bay or creek but Lytchett Bay, Brands Bay, Middlebere and Swineham all host birds.


Common Scoter

Latin Name

Melanitta nigra

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Pre 1960 large flocks of Common Scoter used to gather in Poole Bay and included 100+ in 1958. A J Bull wrote in the 1958 Bird Report that there were “large gatherings on a scale not recently recorded in Poole Bay with up to 1000 on March 20th. All gone by the next day.” Unsurprisingly this is the maximum count for the harbour. In the late 1990’s around 20 birds was a more typical count. Otherwise odd birds were found in the Balls Lake area of the harbour, in Brands Bay and off Ham Park.

More recently Common Scoter numbers have stayed pretty stable with between 3-10 present each year and the last 5-year average being five per winter. Common Scoter are best looked for off Knoll and Middle Beach, Studland or in the south east corner of the harbour at sites like Brands Bay, Goathorn or central harbour.

Passage birds are noted annually past Branksome and Old Harry and on good days can reach double figures.

Most recently (and amazingly), it’s been discovered that there’s an annual night migration of Common Scoter  in the early spring and late Autumn. On a calm night in late March or early April passings of Common Scoter have been sound recorded and seen with thermal imaging equipment tracking north over the harbour and heading in land, allowing keen birders the opportunity to ‘tick’ Common Scoter on their garden lists by listening carefully. Extraordinary!

 


Common Shelduck

Latin Name

Tadorna tadorna

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Shelduck were ‘so disgracefully common‘ that in the 1930’s the harbour was being described as Shelduck headquarters and since more of the land was being managed for wildlife it attracted even more from other wetlands in the south of England. This has given Poole internationally important status for wintering numbers of this species.

Various estimates have been attempted for the full harbour breeding population . In the 70’s Prendergast and Boyes estimated between 50 – 70 pairs and in 1975 Collins came to the same conclusion. The peak summer number for adults in summer was 274 on 10th July 1994 and they have bred on Brownsea (up to thirty pairs 2004), Arne (up to 30 pairs), Lytchett Bay, Hatch Pond, Canford Heath, Green Island, Brands Bay, Upton Country Park, Goathorn and Newtons Bay, Fitzworth and Studland (up to 50 pairs throughout the area). The amounts in brackets were estimates made by full time wardens of the three main reserves.

Once breeding is over in July local crèches build up and the balance of adults leave the harbour for communal moult in the German Waddensea. In June and July its worth looking out for crèches of around 25 different aged young with 2 adults. In the survey in 10th July 1994 five crèches containing 169 juveniles were found. The record number of juveniles was 197 in July 1992. Among other environmental pressures, it’s possible that the increase in recreational disturbance in the breeding season could be affecting their numbers. In October the adults return probably accompanied by birds from Scandinavia and the Baltic making up a regular aspect of a sea watch from Branksome and numbers in the harbour start to build. The maximum count of 4650 in January 1997 came after easterlies and north-easterlies froze the harbour for a week and included 1230 at Keysworth.

Alan Bromby in Birds of Dorset points out that “The Poole gunners had local names for most species of wildfowl which have now largely died out. Shelduck were known as “Burrow Ducks”, Pochards as “Redheads” and Tufted Ducks as “Curre” whilst the term “Ginger Curre” was reserved for Goldeneye”. Notorious ex RSPB Arne warden Bryan Pickess in his days wardening at Arne would only ever guarantee Shelduck and Meadow Pipit on any guided walk on the reserve!

“The worrying decline in Poole Harbours wintering population continued with a maximum of only 1,754 in 2000/2001. Winter maxima throughout the 1990’s were over 2000 birds, but recent winter counts show maximums of just 976 in February 2020.

Despite their decline, they’re one of the easiest birds to find on the southern sides of the harbour, and is evident in most areas with exposed mud on the low tide.


Common Tern

Latin Name

Sterna hirundo

Status

Summer Visitor & Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Brownsea is the only breeding site in the harbour for Common Tern. They outnumber the Sandwich Tern but both can be seen heading out of the harbour mouth to feed amongst the swimmers and yacht’s. Common Terns first bred in the harbour in 1951 and immediately populated the Dorset National Trusts tern islands when they were built in 1963. Eight pairs bred then and this built to 90 pairs in 1970. Numbers continued to rise and in 1990 when the Brownsea breeding colony reached 130 pairs and was classified of National importance. In 1997 pairs on nests reached 173 but heavy rain caused damage. In 2012 pairs bred, but only 1 chick fledged! There was a remarkable ringing recovery in 2000 involving a bird ringed at Brownsea in 1999 and found in Cape Province, South Africa after being hit by a train along with 45 other terns.


Continental Cormorant

Latin Name

Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Sinensis’ (continental) Cormorant are known to be more migratory than ‘carbo’ with juveniles dispersing long distances within two months of fledging in June, and what appear to be juvenile sinensis are in large numbers on Brownsea in August and September.

Sinensis are known to be more migratory than carbo Cormorants with juveniles dispersing long distances within two months of fledging in June, and what appear to be juvenile sinensis are in large numbers on Brownsea in August and September. Maybe significant numbers of European migrants of this taxa are mixing with the dispersing carbo’s from the west of England, Wales and Ireland as they move to the east of England and this creates a peak. The identification of some birds is still very difficult and is not helped by this species habit of never sitting still and allowing careful study of the shape of the gular area. Using the gular patch alone is thought to enable eighty percent of sinensis to be identified. Whether sinensis breed in the area is not known, but birds breeding inland should be checked as they are most likely to be this type.


Continental Lesser Black-backed Gull

Latin Name

Larus fuscus intermedius

Status

Scarce Passage Migrant


Coot

Latin Name

Fulica atra

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Coot breed at certain sites like Hatch Pond, Little Sea, Poole Park, Hatch Pond and Swineham. Numbers can swell during the winter with many birds at Poole Park, but can remain very scarce in certain areas throughout the harbour. There was a 650+ in Poole Harbour during the cold spell Feb 1963 and the average 5 year peak between 2014 and 2019 is 222.

It’s also recently been discovered that just like Water Rail and Moorhen, Coot are very active at night, calling frequently above the harbour as they transit or migrate across from one site to another, or arrive from areas much further afield. They may also do these regular night flights to simply to defend a territory too. Coot can be extremely rare in some areas of Poole Harbour, take Lytchett Bay for example where there have been less than 5 visual records in the last 5 years (2015-2020), however, stick a microphone out at night and you can record Coot calling directly over the microphone every single night!

 


Cormorant

Latin Name

Phalacrocorax carbo

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Poole Harbour is nationally important passage and wintering area for ‘carbo’ Cormorant with over 3% of the British population. Breeding takes place on the cliffs of Ballard Down with a historical maximum count of 172 nests, but only 86 nests were counted in 1999 and 57 in 2003. It’s thought now that breeding totals are now in the low double figures. This species is common at many sites around the harbour later in the year but numbers increase in autumn and winter where they’ll occasionally join the large rafts of up to 700 ‘sinensis‘ Cormorants that feed in the deep channels off Shipstal, Brownsea and the Wareham Channel. Continental ‘Sinensis‘ Cormorants are known to be more migratory than ‘carbo’ with juveniles dispersing long distances within two months of fledging in June, and what appear to be juvenile sinensis are in large numbers on Brownsea in August and September. Large rafts of up to 700 sinensis Cormorant can occur by late October, feeding as one unit out in the centre of the harbour.

In 1966 John Ash recorded that on “13th February, three of the southern race flew out with 80 of the usual race.” While this is the first documented record for the harbour, Britain’s first record was in Christchurch in 1873, so it had probably been sneaking round well before that. Now Cormorants of this continental race sinensis seem to have increased in the harbour over the last 30 years mirroring a similar increase across the whole of eastern and southern England. Spring adults are conspicuous and can be seen in the Wareham channel or on the Brownsea Lagoon.


Corn Bunting

Status

Former Resident, now Rare Visitor

Site And Records Information

The 1968-72 Atlas found that the species was widely distributed across Dorset including parts of Poole Harbour. In Jan 1963 up to 17 were attracted to corn put out for waterfowl at One Acre Pool, Studland. This was during the prolonged freeze in that famous winter. A significant decline began in the 1970’s and continued until the mid-90’s. Looks like the best hope now is a fly-over during a visible-migration watch or there just may be one in a winter finch and bunting flock?


Corncrake

Latin Name

Crex crex

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Like the rest of the country, Corncrake was at one time a common summer resident but started to disappear around 1900. By 1950 it had virtually ceased to breed in Dorset. Since then only migrants have been found. There are 9 records since 1958 but none for 19 years. Most ‘recently’…..

1 an immature male (“sexed by dissection”) being found dead by Mike Tuck outside Studland P.O. on 8th September 1966.
1, possibly 2, on 16th Apr 1970 calling at Fitzworth Creek, Corfe River.
1 male found dead on 10th Sep 1970 at Studland
1 on 25th Sep 1996 at Lytchett Bay was seen in flight as it was flushed from rank grass (S.Robson)

 

 


Crane

Latin Name

Grus grus

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

With populations increasing in eastern and central-southern England it’s no surprise we’re seeing more records of Common Crane in the harbour in recent years. A lovely early account came from Studland whilst showing the Weymouth Grammar School YOC group round Brands Bay on 2nd December 1978 one of the pupils asked Studland warden Rees Cox the identity of six Cranes that flew into Greenlands Farm and alighted in the fields. According to Rees, the birds “alighted and fed in the fields by Brands Bay.”

1 on 16th Aug 1975 at Lytchett Bay
6 on 2nd Dec 1978 at Brands Bay
1 19th & 22nd Sep and 3rd & 10th Oct 1999 at Lytchett Bay (S.Robson et al)
1 on 13th Oct 2004 on the Brownsea Lagoon (many observers)
3 on 11th Apr 2014 over Stoborough (N.Hopper)
2 on 5th March 2016 over Holton Lee and Lytchett Bay (P.Morton)
1 on 3rd June 2016 over A35 (Poole Harbour boundary), Lytchett Minster (P.Morton)
4 on 8th November over the Ower at the Rempstone Estate, later seen over the Fleet at Portland.
1 on 10th April 2018 over Upton Heath (H.Murray)
2 over Poole Harbour Mouth on Sept 24th 2018 (C.Wilcox) and the following day found feeding at a private site in the harbour (B.Maxted). They were then heard calling at dawn near RSPB Arne on Sept 26th 2018. They were then later seen feeding on private farmland on the Rempstone Estate later that day.
1 present/roosting in the Hartland Moor/Middlebere area from 15th – 18th Jan 2019
1 over Middlebere 27th Jan 2019 (F.Keeling)
1 over Ridge, Wareham on 2nd March 2020 (B.Ford)

There are various outstanding reports of between 1 and 4 Cranes at Holes Bay and/or Arne in Jan and/or Oct 2012. We would be pleased to receive any further details on these reports.


Crossbill

Latin Name

Loxia curvirostra

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Numbers of Crossbill around Poole Harbour are very much dependent on invasions. The actual underlying population which is centred around Rempstone heath is quite low, however irruptions are frequent and in those years they can be very common. In addition birds can also stay in the area for several years sometimes until the next invasion. Arne frequently hosts Crossbill in and around it’s pine areas. During August, September and October parties of Crossbill are on the move and can frequently be observed passing over head any habitat, but learning their contact/social calls in vital to their ID. Glebelands, South Haven and Ballard are best sites for hearing and seeing Crossbill on migration.


Cuckoo

Latin Name

Cuculus canorus

Status

Summer Visitor

Site And Records Information

Normally arrive mid to late April. The heathlands around the south and west of the harbour are good sites such as Coombe Heath (Arne), Middlebere, Stoborough Heath, Hartland Moor and Godlingston Heath. They can be heard through the day and night, especially moonlit nights until around late June and the adults are still around until mid July although harder to spot once they stop calling. The large number of nesting Reed Warblers would suggest that the harbour is a good breeding area however records of juveniles only occur once or twice a year.


Curlew

Latin Name

Numenius arquata

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Common throughout the harbour, especially during the winter. Large gatherings of up to 300 birds can be seen from the RSPB hide at Shipstal. Harbour maximums can reach up to 2000 with an almost equal spread throughout the southern and western bays. There has been proved breeding on Upton Heath in 1981 and 82 and they have been heard singing on Hartland Moor in breeding season too. Ringing recoveries show most of our wintering birds are from either, Sweden, Finland, Germany or the Netherlands. On a low tide during the winter Curlew can be found on almost any exposed mud around the harbour with Holes Bay, Brands Bay, Middlebere and Upton CP offering good views.


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