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Puffin Boat Cruise Trip Report 25/05/19 - Tom Weston, BoPH HQ Engagement Supervisor

On a warm, sunny May evening I wondered over to the Puffin boat after a day’s work in the Birds of Poole Harbour HQ. It was nice to see a gathering of likeminded birders all queuing up, waiting to alight the boat.

The trip was the first out of three sold out Puffin cruises, so we did not know what we were going to expect. With six o’clock approaching fast we alighted the boat and sat ready to go. The first few birds were recorded: Cormorant, Great-black Backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Oystercatcher. The latter sat on a nest near the quay sea wall.

Then, to my amazement a group nearer the front saw a Bottle-nosed Dolphin just off the quay swimming south. This individual was more than likely the lone individual from Portland who likes moving between Studland and Swanage. His name is ‘Danny’ and has become a local celebrity with his own Facebook page and many eager fans. Unfortunately, I did not see him.

After an introduction by Paul Morton and Mark Constantine as well as health and safety by the skipper we started the cruise. Jake Blade and I, both Engagement Assistants in the BoPH HQ, were spotters for the evening. We started the cruise by heading towards Brownsea Island to view the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s lagoon. Instantly, we saw Sandwich Terns and Common Terns both leaving their breeding grounds to feed out in the harbour as well as two Little Terns who were first picked up on the webcam earlier in the day. Six Avocets were loitering on the mud with a single individual sat on a nest, an iconic Poole Harbour species. Other birds present included the seemingly resident Shelducks, Gadwall, Black-tailed Godwits and Grey Heron as well as a small flock of migrant Dunlin which included a Knot.

Arctic  Skua chasing Common Tern

Our cruise continued, I pointed out multiple Sandwich and Common terns to the public as we headed out of the harbour entrance and into Studland Bay. A migrant Arctic Skua was picked up by Paul as it darted across Poole Bay. It started to chase and harass the local Terns as it gave an amazing display beside the boat.

Just before we left the BOPH boundary, a flock of Guillemots and Razorbills passed distantly and members of the public gained nice views of a Peregrine, two Fulmars, a Gannet, Kittiwake and the local Cormorants around Old Harry’s rock. Paul mentioned how Cormorants are persecuted throughout the United Kingdom and how this may be affecting the local population. Surprisingly, a Little Egret flew high North headed towards Poole Harbour and a flock of House Martins circled the cliff tops near Ballard down.

Kittiwake - Blackers Hole

A very informative chat by Paul and Mark as we headed past Swanage and Durlston about a range of topics including the breeding sea birds. Along this section of the coast we saw large flocks of Guillemots and Razorbills as well as a small population of cliff nesting Swifts and twenty-four Kittiwakes. At this point we were closing in on Dancing Ledges and people eagerly looked out for the Puffins.

Just past Dancing Ledges we had success! We saw five Puffins mixed in with the other auks and were provided with prolonged views of the flock for a long time. This was the highlight for many people on the boat as this species was a new for them.

Puffin - Dancing Ledge

 

After some breath-taking views of the Puffins, we headed back along the coast. The evening chill picked up but allowed a nice sunset over the harbour mouth as we passed Old Harry Rocks. The only new bird seen for the trip was a Mediterranean Gull before having one last look on Brownsea Lagoon and alighting back on Poole Quay finishing around 21:00.

All in all a stunning trip and here’s looking forward to the next one!

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