News Article29/05/2019

New record number of Spoonbill recorded in Poole Harbour – October 2018

A new record number of 75 Eurasian Spoonbill have been counted in Poole Harbour during a survey carried out by a local environmental charity, making it the largest gathering of this species ever recorded in the UK. Spoonbills, which are closely related to herons and are large, white charismatic looking birds, were once rare visitors to Dorset but in recent years numbers have been rising due to population increases on the near continent.

The discovery was made on Oct 10th when Poole based charity ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ were conducting a survey for the species as part of a long term 18 month herons of Poole Harbour study. The Spoonbill ‘mega flock’ was spit over two areas with 40 on Shipstal Point at RSPB Arne nature reserve and the other 35 on the Dorset Wildlife Trust Brownsea Island Lagoon. It’s thought that some of these birds will carry on moving south-west into Devon and Cornwall over the coming weeks with the main bulk of the flock hopefully remaining in Poole Harbour during the winter.

Numbers of over-wintering Spoonbill have been increasing in Poole Harbour year on year for almost a decade as breeding populations in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and now the UK have increased. Each August, Spoonbill begin to arrive in Poole Harbour having left their breeding grounds and gather at favoured sites within the harbour. At present Spoonbill only over-winter in Poole Harbour but local conservationists hope that over time they will stay and become a breeding species by setting up a small colony within the harbour.

Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained;

“Discovering this new record number of 75 Spoonbill within Poole Harbour is great news. Not only does it show how important the area is as an over-wintering site for this species, it also increases the chances of some deciding to stay and breed in future years. They’re a real asset to the harbour and are great fun to watch”

Eurasian Spoonbill is an extremely rare breeding bird in the UK with only a handful of nests each year, most regularly at a site in North Norfolk. However, this summer a pair pioneered a new site at RSPB Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire, proving that the population is looking to expand.

Paul Morton added..

We’re lucky here in Poole Harbour to have some of the best nature reserves in the country and visitors will be able to visit places like RSPB Arne this winter to try and see the Spoonbill. I remember growing up in Poole Harbour through the late eighties and you’d be lucky to see one Spoonbill, let alone 75”

Spoonbill behaviour in Poole Harbour is predictable with the whole flock roosting on Shipstal Point, Arne or the Brownsea Lagoon on a high tide, and then heading out to feed in shallow channels in the Wareham or Middlebere Channel on a low tide. During the colder months, they can even be found feeding close to the cycle path in the urban setting of the Holes Bay nature park, normally in the north-eastern area of the bay. This annual increase of over-wintering Spoonbill in Poole Harbour is likely to continue, as the record has been broken every year since 2013.

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