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

Black-headed Gull

Latin Name

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Probably one of the most numerous birds in the harbour. Can be encountered on any habitat at any time of year. There is a large breeding colony of c6000 pairs off the Holton shore which it shares with 120+ pairs of Med Gull. Sadly the colonies of Little sea, Studland and Holes Bay are long gone due to the erosion of the spartine marsh they used to nest on.


Black-necked Grebe

Latin Name

Podiceps nigricollis

Status

Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

Poole Harbour hosts nationally important numbers of this species. By far the best place to watch is Studland Bay and Shell Bay with a max count of 81 during the winter of 2010/11. It’s often the most important wintering site in UK. Small groups do move in to the harbour, with the body of water between Brands Bay and Brownsea worth checking as birds swim into roost in the evenings as well as smaller groups out in central harbour that often join the grebe and duck roost off Round Island. The earliest was off Shipstal Point on 16th August 1999 and the latest was on the 3rd May 1992 at Arne.

Birds are most numerous in February when its assumed that numbers are boosted by migrant birds moving north. A major oiling incident in the harbour in 1964 halved the wintering population. A partial recovery occurred in the 80’s and 90’s with a high count of 30 in Studland Bay 8th Feb 1997. Three died and two more were oiled as a result of the 1964 collision.

Recent ‘obscure’ records include 1 on Poole Park boating lake in April 2018, 1 in Lytchett Bay on 29th Dec 2019 and 4 summer plumaged individuals in the Wareham Channel in April 2018 suggesting they were staging migrants passing through the harbour.


Black-tailed Godwit

Latin Name

Limosa limosa iclandica

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Poole Harbour is an internationally important site for Black-tailed Godwit. With harbour counts exceeding 2000 it makes them an easily seeable bird in many of the bays and water meadows. Middlebere holds around 300-400 mid winter as does the Brownsea lagoon. Other large flocks can be found in Brands Bay, Lytchett Bay, Holes Bay and Arne Bay. Also found on the water meadows and fields of Bestwall and Swineham all the way up to East Stoke ! There is a regular small flock of summering birds now.


Black-throated Diver

Latin Name

Gavia arctica

Status

Scarce Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

The least common of the three (main) diver species, they can arrive and spend time in the bays outside the harbour mouth during the winter. They are scarcely recorded in the inner harbour apart from their favourite over-wintering zone seems to be the north channel off Evening Hill and Salterns Marina. In winter 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. Mainly recorded past Branksome Chine during winter sea watches.

Unseasonal 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-winged Stilt

Latin Name

Himantopus himantopus

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

The pattern of occurrence is interesting for Dorset. There are 2 records from the 19th century. Next there were 3 records between 1956 and 1960. 25 years passed before the next (1985) but there were a further 5 by 1990. Another 21 years (2011) passed before the County then enjoyed another 6 records up to the end 2014. There are currently 4 Poole Harbour records…..

1 on 3rd Aug – 6th Sep 1960 at Wareham sewage works found by Helen Brotherton, J Follett and P Partington
1 on 7th Jun 1978 on Brownsea Lagoon
2 on 12th-13th Apr 2014 on flooded fields at Swineham/Bestwall (P.Morton et al)
3 from 21st – 25th May 2014 at Lytchett Fields (I.Ballam et al)
1 on 11th -14th May 2016 at Lytchett Fields (D.Jones et al)


Blackbird

Latin Name

Turdus merula

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Common throughout the harbour with numbers rising especially during autumn migration and hard weather. In late October many hundreds (sometimes thousands) can be heard migrating overhead in the darkness in the company of Redwing and Fieldfare. South Haven is a good spot to watch migrating Blackbirds.


Blackcap

Latin Name

Sylvia atricapilla

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Territories are found throughout the woodland bordering the harbour. Poole Park, Upton Country Park, Lytchett Bay, Arne and Studland are regular spots with passage birds flooding through the area in September and October. Regular on migration in scrubby habitats like Ballard, Middlebere, Lytchett Bay, Greenlands Farm and good numbers in the PC World drain during September and October.


Blue Tit

Latin Name

Cyanistes caeruleus

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Found in gardens, parks, woodland, urban and rural areas across the harbour. Common but very very beautiful.


Blue-headed Wagtail

Latin Name

Motacilla flava flava

Status

Scarce Passage Migrant

Site And Records Information

The first Poole Harbour record came from Wareham in on 4th June 1903. It has always been rare and this is demonstrated by the fact that there have only been 4 recent records.

A male on 25th April 1999 at Ballard Down (T Elborn)

A male on 25th April 2013 at Lytchett Bay (S Robson)

A male on 27th April 2013 at Holton Lee (N Hopper)

A female on 22nd April 2014 at Lytchett Bay (I Ballam)


Bluethroat

Latin Name

Luscinia svecica

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

This is a scarce species in Dorset, it does not occur annually. All of the Poole Harbour records are believed to refer to the red-spotted race L.s.svecica. In recent years, early spring influxes of the white-spotted race L.s.cycanecula have occurred, particularly around Portland. The first of these for Poole Harbour is a very realistic prize for local rarity searchers.

1 on 22nd Sep 1960 at Baiter Point
1 on 13th Apr 1968 in Serpentine Road, Poole
1 from 26th to 29th Sep 1971 in the north-west corner of Lytchett Bay
1 (male) on 14th Oct 1984 at Little Sea, Studland
1 on 29th May 1989 at Arne
1 trapped and ringed on 27th Aug 1993 at Keysworth (R.Gifford)
1 trapped and ringed on 29th Aug 2015 at Lytchett Fields, Lytchett Bay (R.Gifford et al)


Bonaparte’s Gull

Latin Name

Chroicocephalus philadelphia

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

One at Brownsea Island was re-identified several hours later from a photograph taken on the afternoon of 30th July 2017 (per Rare Bird Alert). Thankfully it was still present the following morning when it was found feeding on the lagoon (N.Hopper et al). It was still present at the time of writing (2nd Aug) and is thought to have been a 2nd calander year bird.


Bonelli’s Warbler sp.

Latin Name

Phylloscopus sp.

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

Bonelli’s Warbler was split into two species in 1997. Western Bonelli’s P.bonelli and Eastern Bonelli’s or Balkan Warbler P. orientalis. Separation of the two species in the field is difficult and relies largely on differences in call. Consequently records of each and “either or’s” are considered by BBRC.

To the end of 2015 there have been 7 Western’s, only one of the much rarer Eastern and 3 Bonelli’s Sp in Dorset.

A Bonelli’s Warbler Sp on 19th Aug 1974 at Brownsea Island. It has not been possible to identify this bird to one of the “new” species.


Brambling

Latin Name

Fringilla montifringilla

Status

Passage Migrant & Winter Visitor

Site And Records Information

No longer a guaranteed over winterer but definitely a regular passage migrant in October and early November again from ‘Vis Mig’ sites like South Haven, Ballard and Glebelands. Quite often found in amongst over wintering Chaffinch flocks at sites like Arne, Middlebere and Greenlands Farm. An impressive 300-500 birds over wintered at Arne in 2003/04.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Latin Name

Tryngites subruficollis

Status

Vagrant

Site And Records Information

A rare transatlantic vagrant which would normally be looked for in autumn, but with only two Poole Harbour records, one of which being in mid June, it just goes to show you should be prepared to see/find odd birds at odd times of years in odd places.

1 on 12th Sep 2011 on Brownsea Lagoon (N.Hopper)
1 on 15th June 2017 on Lytchett Fields (I.Ballam)


Bullfinch

Latin Name

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Breeds in urban and rural areas of the harbour favouring areas with thick hedge rows and fruit trees. Frequent at Upton House, Lytchett Bay, Holton Lee, Studland and Swineham. Movements and birds in odd places are also detected at times of passage and are usually mainly local birds dispersing, however in some years genuine migration does occur. This was most noticeable in 1987 when a flock of 40-60 birds were recorded at Studland coinciding with an autumn influx of birds into the county the previous October. Other notable counts have been 30 at Parkstone in Dec 1974 and 40 at Holton Heath on 18th Nov 1984.


Buzzard

Latin Name

Buteo buteo

Status

Resident

Site And Records Information

Buzzards are commonly seen and heard all around the harbour area. They are most likely to be seen over the farmland, wetlands, the heaths and the conifer plantations but can appear even above urban conurbations to the north and east, perhaps thermalling individually or in groups on warm days or in transit low over the roofs. They even now nest in the centre of Poole!

Tony Wise said “apparently bred on Brownsea in the 1950’s.” In 1967 F R Clafton wrote excitedly in the Bird Report “In the Rempstone area near Corfe Castle, S P W Corbett thought a pair were possibly nesting and Elizabeth Ollivant reported frequent sightings at nearby Bushey”

During spring up to 20 Buzzards may be seen soaring over open areas from a high vantage point and display often then occurs over suitable nesting sites. They become less conspicuous during the nesting season though can still be encountered soaring singly or carrying prey to young in the nest. In late summer and autumn juveniles can be located by their loud food-soliciting squeals. In winter, the species is often seen on roadside perches such as telegraph poles, presumably waiting for road kill. They also ‘worm’ in fields for long periods during the winter.


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)
1 roosting on Swineham GP Island 26th July 2020 (P.Morton et al)
5 flew over Lytchett Fields on 8th August 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.


Call 01202 641 003