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Up with the Lark - Spring Bird Boat Report - 20/04/19

On a beautifully sunny Saturday morning I board the busy boat and find a seat for the 8am sharp departure. With Safety procedures covered, Paul starts his commentary as we swiftly motor out into the harbour to start our 3.5 hour tour. Paul gives us an outline to the organisation, some history to Poole harbour and some information about current bird life in the harbour and what we might expect to see. Freshly arrived spring migratory species and Osprey are at the top of our list!

As we make our way towards the mouth of Wareham river we get our first spot from Ian Ballam, another local, on board, expert. A majestic Sandwich Tern flies past the boat having arrived in the harbour recently on its migration. Paul gives us a few tips to identifying different tern species and goes on to give some invaluable information about the best local sites to see Osprey over the coming months.

The next spot are a group of late winter leavers, a group of Brent Geese flying in a ‘V’ formation over the boat. An unusual species for this time of year as most have already left the harbour heading to cooler climate of Siberia on their migration.


Some Mediterranean Gulls join us off the back off the boat as we head closer to a small set of islands where they now breed. With a quick bird ID tip from Paul we could then tell this species apart from the similar, more common relative, the Black Headed Gull, which we also see flying above us. Paul goes onto tell us about an interesting and disturbing event that happened a couple of years ago which involved the illegal collection of these birds eggs and how BoPH played a crucial role in putting a stop to this poaching.

As we head past Fragmites’ Reed beds, the largest in Poole Harbour, we can see a large number of juvenile Mute Swans hanging out together at their ‘youth club’. Paul goes on to inform us of the threat to the reed beds from the invasive Sika deer grazing and how this has impacted bird habitats across the UK in a number of ways.

With our eyes still pealed for the illusive Osprey, we are fast approach Wareham river and some Greylag Geese and hear the distinct call of a Whimbrel, before we see it rush past us. Paul gets a small round applause following an informative display of various bird calls that we may hear within the reeds of the river banks as we enter the river. Slowly we come across a variety of calls from warblers and Paul points out the key differences between your Sedge and your Cetti’s Warblers. As we move along the warblers calls get more frequent, giving us a good opportunity to practice our call identification skills that Paul had advised us on. A reed warbler then added his call into the mix, which totally threw me, as a slightly less experienced birder on the boat!


As we passed a large open area of water within the reeds we spotted a group of Tufted Duck and10 Great Crested Grebes, diving for food. A raven then flew alongside the boat, a species that you may be surprised to know drastically dropped in number but has since made a steady recover.

Paul points out some paths in the surrounding area that are some of the lesser known about locations for spotting birds, with hints and tips to where and when to go to tick off some of the ‘must see’ species.

As we approach Ridge Warf we continue to hear the call of warblers around us and an additional species, a Willow Warbler is pointed out by Paul. In the surrounding fields we see a couple of Curlew surrounding by a group of resting Whimbrel.  As we approach Redcliffe Sailing Club we see some of the first of the seasons Swallows speedily swooping across the water. One has landed on the top of the mast of boat directly ahead of us, giving us a lovely view of it as it takes into flight as we pootle past and ponder about the toilsome journey the swallows have completed before their arrival.

As we approach Wareham Quay we pass some more urban species such as a Great tit, House Sparrow and a Starling before everyone goes soppy at the site of a  group of small Mallard ducklings!

Heading back up the river we see a pair a Jay’s following the boat before they land and Paul points out the majestic song of a Skylark and identifies a lone Reed Bunting, singing at the top his voice as he sits at the top of a bush. As we pass Ridge Warf again we see a small group of Gadwall  bobbing up and down as the drift along.

We pass some jet black Cormorants chilling out on a gate and a group of chatty Oystercatcher with their distinctive red bill and quirky call.

As we creep out of the river we find ourselves passing group of feeding Sandwich Terns, as one dives into the water at high speed it then re-emerges and takes flight as it gulps down a large, tasty Sand Eel right beside us, providing a fantastic photo opportunity for those with a quick trigger finger?

As we head around the to Arne, Paul gets a frustrating report of 2 Osprey over the Wareham Channel (where we just came from) only minutes ago, so we all up our game and keep a watchful eye on the skyline as we head back in that direction, on our war to Brownsea Island. We pass a group of Black-tailed Godwits in their vibrant rusty summer plumage as they hand out at the back of the marsh.

The sea is stunningly crystal clear as we approach Brownsea and Paul fills us in on some its interesting and colourful history. As we come in close to the lagoon we have an excellent view as we cruised slowly passed. A lone Spoonbill sat with its head down as in amongst a flock of Black-Tailed Godwits. A group of 10 or so Avocets gracefully linger along in the shallow water. Paul informs us that these few remaining individuals, who haven’t migrated with the other flocks, may stay throughout the summer months and breed. The first Common Terns have arrived to enjoy plentiful food after their long journey and a flock of Grey Plover are not what they seem as Paul’s eagle eye spots a couple of Dunlin and single Knot in amongst the crowd. Our last spot of Shelduck, Shoveler Duck and a Grey Heron bring our spectacular trip to an end as we turn and head back to the quay.

Paul rounds up the trip by highlights the importance of the support we receive from the public and how these bird boats not only enthuse people about the birds we are lucky enough the see in Poole Harbour but also go along way to supporting the projects that we run.

Although we weren't lucky enough the to spot the illusive Osprey this time, we saw a wonderful variety of over 34 bird species out in the harbour today, showcasing what an Internationally important habitat we have here on our doorstep and highlighting how important it is that protect this stunning sites for not only birds but our next generation to enjoy.

If this has inspired you to book onto one of our bird boats or bird walks please check out our website to get more information and book a trip. Alternatively pop into our HQ on the quay where our friendly staff will always be on hand to answer any questions and help you find a trip that will suit your needs.

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