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

Water Pipit

Latin Name

Anthus spinoletta

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Wareham water meadows, Lytchett Fields, Holton Pools and the Wytch Causeway are the most reliable sites. Worth checking any wet marshy field during the winter. Maximum is 50 on Wareham Water Meadow the 9th December 1984.


Water Rail

Latin Name

Rallus aquaticus

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

A tricky bird to see due to it’s shy nature, but a recent survey proved that there were many more breeding pairs than first thought. It was discovered that 211 pairs were known to breed within Poole Harbour and not just 12 as first predicted by the RBBC. Patience is a virtue and sitting and watching the edge of any reed bed around the harbour could eventually produce Water Rail. Best located by familiarising yourself with their call. However, the best time to see them in the open is during freezing weather. Lytchett Fields, Sunnyside Pools, Swineham and Brownsea are all good places to try and see Water Rail.


Waxwing

Latin Name

Bombycilla garrulus

Status

Scarce Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

It seems every 4-5 years the UK gets large irruptions on Waxwing which coincides with Poole Harbour sightings. Within the boundaries the Poole Sainsbury’s car park was a real hit with 100 birds feeding on the Rowan in winter of 2010/11. Lytchett Bay, Upton and Hamworthy all recorded birds. Broadstone, Canford Heath and Parkstone seem to be favoured feeding zones with a whopping 460 at Canford Heath on the 24th January 2004.


Western Sandpiper

Latin Name

Calidris mauri

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

1 from 28th September to 15th October 2004 on the Brownsea Lagoon. This was the 10th British record and was enjoyed by over 1500 happy bird watchers making both the island and the ferry companies a healthy profit at an otherwise quiet time of year.


Wheatear

Latin Name

Oenanthe oenanthe

Status

Summer Visitor & Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Arrives from mid March onwards and can pass through on a broad front across the harbour meaning they can turn up anywhere. Falls of 10+ birds can occur at Arne, Lytchett Bay, Ballard Down, Studland, Sunnyside, Bestwall and other sites. Autumn passage is strong too with most places hosting Wheatear at some point. Breeding has occurred up on Hartland Moor twice in the last three years. Also recorded in Poole Harbour each spring and autumn is the sub-species Greenland Wheatear


Whimbrel

Latin Name

Numenius phaeopus

Status

Passage Migrant & Scarce Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Large flocks of Whimbrel used to stop off in certain parts of the harbour with counts of up to 200 being quite common out on Wareham Moors. Birds now filter through in much smaller numbers on their way north with Holes Bay, Lytchett Bay, Brands Bay and Arne occasionally reaching double figures. Autumn passage is good too with birds passing through the same sites from late July and all the way through August. In the spring, the calls of Whimbrel can be heard during the dead of night as they migrate overhead as they head north and south.


Whinchat

Latin Name

Saxicola rubetra

Status

Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Only recorded on passage from April through to September. Ballard Down, Hartland Moor and Lytchett Fields in September are hotspots, with other regular sightings at Greenlands Farm, Studland, Arne, Sunnyside Farm and Lytchett Bay but could potentially turn up at any rough scrub/heathland habitat during peak migration times. Spring sightings are scarcer but breeding plumaged males are always a joy to find on a warm April day.


Whiskered Tern

Latin Name

Chlidonias hybrida

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

1 on 10th April 2011 at Swineham GP. This was the first Poole Harbour record and arrived on the same day as Woodchat Shrike in Lytchett Bay. Also in the county that day Red-rumped Swallow and Short-toed Lark at Portland showing a decent fall of scarce migrants.


White Stork

Latin Name

Ciconia ciconia

Status

Rare Visitor

Site And Records Information

To date there have been 11 Poole Harbour records, almost all of which have occurred in the Frome Valley. The open, vast areas of Bestwall, Arne Moors and Swineham provide excellent habitat for White Stork.

2 on the 2nd April 1884 around Arne
1 seen near Ridge from 22nd to 27th April 1976.
1 flew over Arne towards Wareham meadows on the 28th April 1984.
2 flew over Godlingston Heath towards Arne on 1st May 1993.
1 spent most of the day at Bestwall on 21st June 2001 but was sadly only enjoyed by a select small group of birders due to the Foot and Mouth restrictions
1 over Bestwall 12th July 2008
1 on Arne Moors 13th April 2010
1 on Wareham Water Meadows September 25th – October 4th 2010
1 over Stoborough heading west – May 1st 2018 (N.Hopper)

1 on Sept 6th – 13th on the Sunnyside Scrape. A ringed individual from the Knepp reintroduction project (J.Mitchell et al)


White Wagtail

Latin Name

Motacilla alba alba

Status

Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Probably under recorded but passage is evident in spring and winter with birds recorded at South Haven, Godlingston, Arne, Wareham Water Meadows, Lytchett Bay, Upton Country Park and Ballard.


White-fronted Goose

Latin Name

Anser albifrons

Status

Scarce Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Nearly annual but numbers vary with the weather. During periods of cold weather the best places to look are Bestwall, Arne, Middlebere and the Frome Valley. Birds normally arrive in late December or early January the earliest record is of six NW over Studland on 14th October 1992. Most recent records….
2 on 16th February at Swineham GP
1 on 22nd October 2010 at Baiter
19 on 10th January 2011 at Bestwall with numbers dropping to 6 by the 18th of January
6 on 19th November 2018 west along Middlebere (D.Lister)
1 on NW corner of Arne Moors Dec – Jan 2018/19 (P.Morton et al)


White-rumped Sandpiper

Latin Name

Calidris fuscicollis

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Strangely one of the rarest North American sandpipers to occur in Poole Harbour with only one record, even though White-rumped Sandpiper is actually one of the most frequently encountered nationally only just behind Pectoral, Buff-breasted and Semipalmated Sandpiper. Like many other ‘Poole Harbour firsts’ Brownsea Island was the location for the harbours first White-rumped Sandpiper.

Just one record of 1 on 22nd-24th August 2007 on the Brownsea Lagoon (G.Armstrong and I.Prophet)


White-tailed Eagle

Latin Name

Haliaeetus albicilla

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

A pair frequented the Rempston Woods in 1860, one of which was trapped there by the keeper, the other was shot at Lulworth soon afterwards (per MP). Its hoped that future translocation projects may be carried out on the south coast, therefor becoming a frequent visitor to the harbour once more.

A sighting of a large eagle species in 2008 over Hartland Moor was thought to be this species but sadly wasn’t confirmed.


White-winged Black Tern

Latin Name

Chlidonias leucopterus

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

The first Poole Harbour record was in 1964 with no records then for 40 years. Then there were three in three years 2013,14 and 15. The best places to check are Swineham GP but also in amongst feeding tern flocks off the southern Brownsea shoreline on a running tide, also on the Brownsea Lagoon.
1 on the 3rd June 1964 on Brownsea Island
1 1st-winter on 15th – 16th September 2013 at Swineham GP (MJ Lawson, P Moore et al)
1 juv on 10th September 2014 off Brownsea watched from the House Boats (G Armstrong et al), relocated at Swineham GP that evening (A Brown et al) and was present early the next morning only
1 2cy from 2nd-4th June 2015 at Swineham GP in near full breeding plumage (I Alexander et al)


Whitethroat

Latin Name

Sylvia communis

Status

Summer Visitor & Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Regularly seen in large hedgerows from late April to early May but breeding sites are in much decline. On passage Ballard, Arne, Lytchett Bay, Studland, Lytchett Heath and Middlebere are good with birds breeding at Upton Country Park, Ballard and Studland. Autumn passage can be strong, so anywhere with suitable rough scrubland should host birds throughout August and September


Whooper Swan

Latin Name

Cygnus cygnus

Status

Scarce Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Whooper Swans in Britain normally come from Iceland and these birds occasionally get blown off course over the sea ending up too far south and may then make there their way along the Dorset coast or up the valleys through the harbour. The few ringing recoveries in southern England however indicate that these birds are from Finland.
In the 1960s regularly reported over-wintering at Little Sea, however since then weather conditions have to be extreme before this bird becomes easy to see in the harbour.
The maximum was “a herd of c64 visited the harbour” during the big freeze on 19th January 1963.
A.J.Bull wrote of this great run of records in the 1964 Bird report; On 27th November 2 flew west from Brands Bay. During the latter half of December several were seen on Little Sea including 4 on the 19th. 8 others were seen flying into Poole Harbour: 6 including one juvenile on December 20th and one on December 27th”.
In 1962 one to three were reported in January then in 1963 “there were ten Whoopers regularly in January and on the 19th of the month a herd of 54 visited the harbour (Helen Brotherton). For some time in February two or three were to be seen close to the main Sandbanks Road at Shore Road”
A rather odd record of a bird found on 9th March 1960 at Poole Park which stayed 13 months until 8th April 1961
After that visits became more prosaic with two in Poole Harbour on the Holton Heath Shore on 14th December 1967 seen by Dr Godfrey. Next were “A skein of forty flying over Brownsea in March 1980” seen by Tony Wise.
The three most recent visits represent some sort of passage through the harbour with two birds on Brownsea on 4th November 1994, on the 28th October 1997 (the earliest of dates), two Swans were seen to fly out of the harbour “whooping”, on 31st October 1999.


Wigeon

Latin Name

Anas penelope

Status

Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

A winter visitor from Scandinavia and Russia, many birds pass through on their way further south. As over-wintering birds arrive back in late September numbers start to rise in many places around the harbour. Birds spend most of October in eclipse plumage with majority in their fine winter colours by November. Holes Bay, Holton Shore, Arne Bay, Lytchett Bay, and Brands Bay all hold large numbers especially in very cold weather.


Willow Tit

Latin Name

Poecile montana

Status

Former Resident, now Rare Visitor

Site And Records Information

Mainly identifiable by it’s song, this almost identical relation to the Marsh Tit is now considered extinct in Dorset. The boggy areas around South Haven and Little Sea were particularly favoured where they could potentially be seen in the mixed Tit flocks that roam the area. Below are examples of (semi)recent sightings.

1 singing on 21st April 1977 at 12 Acre Wood
1 on 8th & 15th February 1998 at Lytchett Bay
1 on 11th February 1998 on the Arne feeders
1 on 2nd May 1998 at Slepe Copse
1 singing on 8th April 2000 at Corfe Castle

Any claims of Willow Tit in Poole Harbour and Dorset are extremely important. A sighting must be submitted to Dorset Bird Club with a written description, ideally a photo and even better a sound recording.


Willow Warbler

Latin Name

Phylloscopus trochilus

Status

Summer Visitor & Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

More easily found on spring and autumn migration when large numbers pass through the harbour. Ballard Down, Arne, Sunnyside Farm, Studland, Middlebere and Lytchett Bay are all regular feeding areas. Singing males can be heard from April onwards but nowadays very few pairs stay and breed. Breeding totals were far greater 20-30 years ago with 30-40 pairs at Arne alone in the 70’s. Singing males have most recently been encountered along Soldiers Road, Arne and at Hartland.


Wilson’s Phalarope

Latin Name

Phalaropus tricolor

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

1 on 20th June 1988 in Holes Bay. Discovered by a surveyor who was monitoring Redshank numbers in preparation for the new Holes Bay bridge.


Wood Sandpiper

Latin Name

Tringa glareola

Status

Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Wood Sandpiper used to be quite hard to catch up with in Poole Harbour. Birds used to appear in the past at sites Lytchett Bay, Sunnyside Farm, Brownsea Lagoon, Swineham and Bestwall. They usually start to pass through from mid August and can be observed through September. However with the creation of Lytchett Fields, Holton Pools and Sunnyside Pools sightings are now far more frequent with Lytchett Fields seeing several per autumn. Spring passage is much weaker, but again, Lytchett Fields has seen several recent spring records.


Wood Warbler

Latin Name

Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Status

Scarce Summer Visitor & Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

Being in the right place and the right time is now key for Wood Warbler. Has bred along the Arne Road, Slepe Copse, Brownsea, Greenland’s Farm, Ridge Moors, Arne triangle, Stoats Wood near Canford Heath, Hartland Moor, Arne reserve and Studland…..but not recently! It is much more likely to be seen as a passage migrant, and has also been recorded at Ballard, Poole Park and Lytchett Bay. Spring birds begin to pass through in mid-April and have all gone through by early May. Autumn sightings are ver very rare.


Woodchat Shrike

Latin Name

Lanius senator

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Woodchat Shrike occurs in Dorset almost annually, primarily as an overshooting spring migrant. There are 7 harbour records, 3 in the last 10 years.

1 on 21st Apr 1893 at Corfe Castle (Field 29th Apr1893)
1 on 31st May 1975 at Wytch
1 on 28th Jun 1981 at Arne
1 on 1st Jun 1982 on Ballard Down
1 on 18th May 2008 at East Holme (S.Robson et al)
1 on 28th May 2009 at Middlebere (G.J.Armstrong et al)
1 on 10th Apr 2011 at Lytchett Bay (D.Bandfield et al)


Woodcock

Latin Name

Scolopax rusticola

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Although a past breeder, no confirmed breeding sites have been found for a few years, but it is possible breeding birds could get missed. Like Nightjar in summer, these birds are easiest to see at dusk in the winter. Birds are frequently seen flying from the woodland at Soldiers Road, across the Arne road and out on to the Arne moors normally about 20 minutes before total darkness. Many of the woodland around the harbour supports Woodcock during the winter, and by standing of the edges of the woodland at dusk looking against the skyline will allow you to see the birds leaving daytime hiding spots and heading off to feed. During extreme cold weather the harbour can see Woodcock invasions, like in 2010 when birds were getting recorded on many country roadside verges at night literally dying to find food. During the 2013/14 winter period we conducted a winter Woodcock of Poole Harbour study which proved that an estimated c650 Woodcock over-winter within the Poole Harbour area each year.

Woodcook – Ringed at Sunnyside Farm – Paul Morton


Woodlark

Latin Name

Lullula arborea

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Woodlark have become ever so slightly easier to find in the harbour compared to 20 years ago as plenty of new suitable habitat becomes available due to conifer clearing work and heathland restoration projects. Birds start their stunning descending songs in early February and can be heard ringing out across many heathlands during the day and night at Arne, Stoborough, Grange, Studland, Holton Lee and Godlingston Heaths through March and April. On passage they can be seen during the ‘Vis Mig’ (Visible Migration) season passing over head at Glebelands, Ballard and North/South Haven. In 2011 up to four pairs bred at Arne with a post breeding flock of nine birds seen many times in the August. Post breeding flocks of 5-10 birds aren’t unusual around Hartland, Stoborough Heath and Soldiers Road.


Woodpigeon

Latin Name

Columba palumbus

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Evident around the entire harbour, Woodpigeon is a bird you can’t fail to see. However, to make the most of these plump pigeons you may want to watch the mass Woodpigeon migration that takes place across the harbour usually in early November each year. A mind blowing 161,257 were counted flying across the harbour in just 5 hours on the morning of November the 7th 2010..


Wren

Latin Name

Troglodytes troglodytes

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

An abundant species throughout the harbour found in any woodland, garden, scrub, heathland even reed bed habitat. High counts generally occur in winter, usually at roost sites, for example Studland has Dorsets highest count of 250 birds in the winter of 1987 and 300 birds in 1988.


Wryneck

Latin Name

Jynx torquilla

Status

Scarce Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

A much sought after bird to find on a fine autumn day. Records span right around the whole harbour from Upton Heath and Holes Bay, all the way through Sandford and Wareham to the heaths of Arne, Godlingston and Studland. The best months to track one down are August and September in any rough, scrubby area.

1 on 14th September 2008 on Ballard Down
1 on 10th September 2008 on Brownsea Island
1 on 14th September 2008 at Studland
1 on 8th September 2009 at little Sea Studland
1 from 4th – 5th September 2009 at Middlebere
1 on 22nd September 2009 at Upton
1 on 1st Sptember 2010 at Middlebere
1 from 24th – 30th August 2012 at Middlebere
1 on 11th September 2012 at Greenland Farm, Brands Bay
1 on 13th September 2012 on Brownsea Island
1 on 19th & 20th Sept 2016 on Coombe Heath, Arne
1 on 29th September 2016 in a Parkstone Garden, Poole (P.Derrick)
1 on 30th September 2016 at South Haven, Studland (G.Armstrong)

1 on 25th Aug 2019 – Lytchett Heath ringed during a ringing session (T.Elborn, S.Robson et al)
1 on 26th Aug 2019 at Ballard Down/Ulwell (B.Edge)
1 on 27th Aug 2019 at Hydes Heath, Arne (M.Parker)

1 0n 6th September at Lytchett Fields (P.Morton)


Call 01202 641 003