Poole Harbour is made up of many different habitats, which in turn provides a stunning variety of bird life throughout the entire year.

This is an interactive guide to help you learn when and where the best places are to watch birds. Poole Harbour is made up of many different habitats, which in turn provides a stunning variety of bird life throughout the entire year.

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Baiter Park

The Baiter Park and Whitecliff area is a large and recently reclaimed part of Poole Harbour, which is often very busy with people. However, despite its close proximity to Poole Town centre, this urban setting can produce some excellent birding.

There is a decent cycle/footpath which runs above the shoreline arching round to the shallow Parkstone Bay. Winter is the best time for a walk around Baiter and Whitecliff when different stages of the tide can produce a whole range of species. On a high tide, especially during adverse weather conditions, many birds take shelter on the main Baiter playing fields with up to 15 Ringed Plover, 15 Turnstone, several Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and in extreme cold weather the occasional Golden Plover.

It was also recently discovered that Jack Snipe are regular night feeders out on Baiter, in amongst the small pools that are created after heavy rain. During winter storms overwintering Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull are also regularly found hunkering down on the playing fields whilst birds like Kittiwake, Little Gull and Little Stint have also been recorded using the fields. Each winter a flock of between 50-150 (Dark-bellied) Brent Geese arrive from Siberia to feed on the short turf with good numbers of Oystercatcher also joining them.

With so much open water to view, species such as Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe and Great Northern Diver are relatively easy to find from November through to February. Scarcer species such as Smew, Slavonian Grebe, Black-throated Diver, Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck are also worth keeping an eye out for. Black Redstart can sometimes be found overwintering at the western end of Baiter near Fisherman’s Dock and Rock Pipit are regular on the playing fields too with occasional Water Pipit in amongst the more common Meadow Pipit.

Birding Info

There are no hides or viewing screens but large open panoramic views allow easy birding out across the water. A scope is useful especially in winter. Baiter is busiest for birds during winter and early spring but make your visits earlier in the day before large numbers of the public begin using the site. In strong SW gales in winter Baiter is an excellent sheltering spot for many birds and is well worth checking the playing fields in the most torrid of weather for sheltering gulls, waders and over-wintering terns.

Facilities

Baiter has an excellent cycle path bordering the southern edge providing easy access and viewing opportunities out across the water. There are public toilets managed and maintained by the Borough of Poole and plenty of eating establishments along Poole Quay front within a 3-5 minuet walk from Baiter.

Parking

Baiter Park has a large pay and pay and display car park on the waterfront located within BH15 1UY. It’s also easy to locate walking from Poole Quay.

Spring

Brent Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit and Wheatear

Summer

Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Herring Gull

Autumn

Great Crested Grebe, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart and Wheatear

Winter

Brent Goose, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone, Kittiwake, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Kingfisher, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit and Black Redstart

Bestwall & Swineham River Walks

Situated to the east of Wareham, Swineham and Bestwall provide the widest range of habitats in the harbour with reed beds, floodplain, river banks, woodland and gravel pits all combining to allow for a long list of birds to be seen on each visit.

A lengthy public footpath runs around the entire site, and you can park along Bestwall Road, but don’t drive or park beyond the entrance of Wareham Rugby Club as this becomes a private road thereafter.

A walk along the edge of the River Frome in spring is a sheer delight as Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler all announce their presence with their loud songs whilst hirundines swoop low over the gravel pits and floodplains. In early spring and winter Bittern use the reed beds around the main gravel pit at Swineham and viewing from the eastern end at dusk from January to March could reward the observer with a sighting. Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier can be watched from the end of the footpath at the gravel pits along with Bearded Tit in the winter.

The main gravel pit holds overwintering wildfowl with occasional scarcities such as Scaup and Smew mixed in with the more regular species such as Gadwall, Shoveler and Tufted Duck. In spring, passage waders such as Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper use the floodplains. Gulls often drop onto the main gravel pit around dusk before moving off to the main Wareham Channel roost with Ring-billed Gull and Caspian Gull being recorded in recent years.

At the end of the breeding season, the reedbed east of the gravel pit is probably the best place to try and see Bearded Tit within the harbour. Swineham and Bestwall attract their fair share of rarities with Lesser Scaup, Cattle Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Black Tern and Red-rumped Swallow all logged within the last few years. A visit at anytime of year will reward you with a set of new experiences not easily replicated elsewhere in the harbour.

Birding Info

This section of the Frome Valley is productive right the way through the year and with a large set of gravel pits situated in the centre of the two rives the area attracts a good variety of birds. In winter, standing down on the corner of the gravel pits, looking out across the reedbed can be good for Marsh and Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin. In March, Bittern depart from Swineham Gravel Pits on clear, still March evenings. If wet, the flood plains can attract a variety of waders and the gravel pits have in the past attracted a variety of tern species including Whiskered, White-winged and Black Tern. Kingfisher, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Bunting are all frequent.

Facilities

There are no facilities around the Swineham and Bestwall river walks and footpaths are not suitable for cycling or wheelchairs. During the winter the footpaths can become exceptionally muddy so wellies are advisable. The footpaths are managed and maintained by Dorset County Council and look out for wooden signage posts directing walkers.

Parking

To access the Bestwall and Swineham river walks you can park along Bestwall Road BH20 4HY. There is strictly no driving beyond Wareham Rugby Club. Please don’t obstruct residential driveways.

Spring

Garganey, Bittern, Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo, Swift, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Cetti's Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler

Summer

Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Hobby, Barn Owl, Skylark, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler

Autumn

Osprey, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Redstart, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Bearded Tit

Winter

Gadwall, Pochard, Scaup, Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Kingfisher, Fieldfare, Redwing, Cetti's Warbler and Bullfinch

BoPH HQ Poole Quay

Our new engagement HQ was opened on March 1st 2018. This vibrant, interactive and engaging space was designed and created to provide the public with a modern and in depth view into the harbour and its important bird life.

With large interactive touch screen maps, listening stations, live webcams, in store bird hide and so much, this quay front experience has received rave reviews from both the public and local businesses alike. Our charity hosts a number of events throughout the year including many bird boat tours which you can learn about and book onto in the HQ, as well as speaking to our staff and volunteers about all you need to know about ‘birding the harbour’. HQ Address - 19 Enefco House, Poole Quay, Dorset, BH15 1HJ

Birding Info

Birding from Poole Quay can be surprisingly productive and with an open sea view species such as Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe are regular in the winter off Poole Quay. Turnstone and Ringed Plover roost on the rocks of the protective marina sea wall with Turnstone often feeding along the quay in mid winter. Much of our nocturnal migration work has been based around the Poole Quay/Old Town Poole area and has been extremely productive with species such as Common and Green Sandpiper, Tree Pipit and even Ortolan Bunting occurring regularly at night over our BoPH HQ in the autumn.

Facilities

Numerous cycle paths lead to Poole Quay, either from Whitecliff and Baiter or via Upton Country Park and Holes Bay. There are plenty of eating establishments close by and our HQ is fully wheelchair accessible. Within our HQ we sell a great range of ‘Cruelty Free’ binoculars and telescopes, have several touch screen interactive maps, live bird webcams from around the harbour, detailed and thorough information about the harbour and its birds, project information, Poole Harbour bird cruises, bird sound listening stations, in store bird hide and more!

Parking

The nearest parking is the Quay Visitors multi story car park at Old Orchard, Poole BH15 1SB. There are also numerous free two-hour spaces located around Old Town Poole.

Spring

Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Mediterranean Gull, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Peregrine, Swift, Swallow

Summer

Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Swift, Swallow and LOTS of Herring Gulls

Autumn

Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Peregrine, Osprey (occasional), Kingfisher, Shag, Cormorant

Winter

Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Great Northern Diver, Guillemot, Sandwich Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Egret, Peregrine, Kingfisher.

Bramble Bush Bay Studland

Tucked up in the southern inner section of the Poole Harbour mouth, Bramble Bush Bay is a quiet and secluded area of tidal mudflat. It offers great views out across the deeper sections of the inner harbour where good numbers of open water species gather in the winter such as Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye and Great Northern Diver.

Turnstone, Sanderling, Oystercatcher Grey Plover and Ringed Plover all feed in the bay on the low tide and on high tides some roost on the large concrete ‘tank traps’ half way along the bay. In late summer tern and gull feeding flocks gather in large numbers in the tidal race just inside the harbour mouth and off the southeast of Brownsea Island.

The shoreline near the houseboats in Bramble Bush Bay is the best place to scan this area from. Following the bay south it reaches Jerry’s Point, another excellent vantage point to view the large open parts of the inner harbour where Long-tailed Duck, Eider and Velvet Scoter sometimes feed. The heathland bordering Bramble Bush Bay hold resident Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and in the summer Nightjar.

Birding Info

Bramble Bush Bay holds good numbers of over-wintering birds but they can get spooked easily by dogs off leads so please keep dogs on leads in this area at all times if possible. A walk out to Jerry’s Point, just north of Bramble Bush Bay is highly advisable in mid winter as this allows a wider field of view and can give good, close views of Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe and Goldeneye. A scope is advantageous and watching from ‘The House Boats’ can also be good for open water species and waders on the low tide.

Facilities

The Studland Ferry Road is popular with cyclists and Shell Beach car park is easily access via bike from either the Sandbanks to Studland chain ferry from Poole or by cycling through Studland and along the Studland peninsular. There are public toilets within the car park.

Parking

Bramble Bush Bay is best accessed by parking in the Shell Beach National Trust pay and display car park at BH19 3BA. National Trust members park for free. Cross the road heading SW back towards Bramble bush Bay.

Spring

Summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Dartford Warbler, Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin.

Summer

Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Shag, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Meadow Pipit.

Autumn

Brent Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Curlew, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Reed Bunting, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Redstart.

Winter

Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Slavonain Grebe, Eider, Common Scoter, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Shag.

Brand’s Bay

The whole of the Studland Peninsular provides birding interest right the way through the year and positioned on the inland southern side of Studland lies Brand’s Bay. This large shallow bay drains quickly on the falling tide and fills just as quickly as the tide rises.

Being so close to the open sea Brand’s Bay acts as a welcome refuge for open water species such as divers, grebes and sea duck when rough conditions force them in from Studland and Poole Bays. During the winter large congregations of waders and wildfowl gather on the exposed mud and by December, over the big low tides, thousands of birds can be watched right the way across to the Goathorn Peninsular. On high tides during the winter Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye can easily be found off Redhorn Point along with several Great Northern Diver.

A well-positioned National Trust hide on the edge of the bay allows for good views of most species but binoculars or a telescope are essential. Scarcer species can occur such as Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter so a visit on cold winter mornings can pay dividends.

In spring and autumn, the area hosts plenty of passage migrants with Osprey occasionally hunting in the bay and the surrounding heathland hold a good variety of warblers, chats, flycatchers and thrushes during peak migration times.

Birding Info

To the north of the hide there is sandy peninsular called Redhorn Point, which is a good place to scan for divers, grebe and sea duck during the winter. The heathland boarding the edge of Brands Bay is good for regular heathland species and the hide is only a short 5-10 minute walk from Greenland’s Farm allowing you to cover a good range of habitats during a morning or afternoon walk.

Facilities

Brands Bay is best accessed by foot or by bike either by cycling along the Studland Road from the chain ferry or from the Knoll Beach or Middle beach car park. There is a great hide on the southern edge of Brands Bay which is best visited during the autumn and winter and visiting on a low or rising tide is most productive with waders often being pushed closer to the hide.

Parking

Parking for Brand's Bay, Greenland’s Farm or Godlingston Heath is best at the National Trust Knoll Beach or Middle Beach pay and display car park and then walking or cycling down to the main foot and cycle path access points which are sign posted from those car parks.

Spring

Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Brent Goose, Little Egret, Osprey, Grey Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot, Mediterranean Gull, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Summer

Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Stonechat Meadow Pipit and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, Red-breasted Merganser, Great White Egret, Osprey, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Yellow-legged Gull, Dartford Warbler, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff, Redstart.

Winter

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Goldeneye, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Plover, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Great White Egret, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Dartford Warbler.

Branksome Chine & Poole Bay

The inclusion of Branksome Chine within our Poole Harbour recording area provides us with a large, expansive area of Poole Bay to monitor as a sea-watching site. Watching from here has to be planned carefully and the time of year with the correct wind direction is vital to success. Time it right and you can be treated to a whole range of species you wouldn’t normally encounter anywhere else in the harbour.

The best times to watch are during the spring and autumn when strong southeast winds blow birds closer into shore that would otherwise be passing further out in Poole Bay. During the spring Arctic Skua, Great Skua and Pomarine Skua all move through Poole Bay and species such as Little Gull, Little Tern, Black Tern and Roseate Tern can be recorded too. In the autumn there is the possibility of seeing Grey Phalarope, Little Auk or even Sabine’s Gull, all of which have been recorded from Branksome Chine.

Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwake can be seen during periods of unsettled weather and in the winter a fair amount of time watching the rolling waves could reward you with good numbers of passage Red-throated Diver and occasional Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver. In late winter/early spring large auk movements occur out in the bay with thousands of Guillemot and Razorbill passing back and forth in the right conditions. If a mid-summer storm blows in a sea-watch could yield Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel. To the east a large feeding raft of Great Crested Grebe forms each winter, often consisting of 100+ birds.

Birding Info

A telescope is almost essential for Poole Bay as most sea birds pass out in the bay at quite some distance. Without doubt sea watching during an easterly wind direction is most beneficial. Peak times to watch the bay are early morning between April and May and then August to October. However winter sea watches can also be productive with species such as all three Divers, Long-tailed Duck, Common and Velvet Scoter and Eider all possible. Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skua are all annual in the correct conditions and scarcities such as Grey Phalarope and Sabine’s Gull have also been logged out in the bay.

Facilities

The long promenade that runs between Sandbanks and Boscombe Promenade allows easy access by bike. Poole Bay can be viewed from many areas but Branksome Chine is the most northerly point of our Poole Harbour recording area. There are public toilets close by and a selection of eateries along the promenade.

Parking

Parking can be found at the Branksome Chine pay and display car park located at BH13 6LP. For a higher, wider angle view you can park along Cliff Drive located at BH13 7JE.

Spring

Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Fulmar, Gannet, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Little Tern, Black Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Roseate Tern, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull

Summer

Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern

Autumn

Common Scoter, Fulmar, Gannet, Storm Petrel, Leach's Petrel, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Sabine's Gull, Kittiwake, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Little Auk

Winter

Brent Goose, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Fulmar, Gannet and Kittiwake

Brownsea Lagoon

Brownsea Island rarely needs an introduction but reiterating just how wonderful and important the lagoon is to birdlife never becomes a chore. The island is owned by the National Trust and the lagoon managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

In summer thriving Common Tern and Sandwich Tern colonies pulse just metres away from the well-positioned hides as passage Black Tern, Little Tern and Roseate Tern occasionally drop in to join the party. As the spring and autumn migration seasons pick up, the lagoon acts as a refuelling service station for many thousands of birds throughout the year as Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Common Sandpiper Greenshank and Whimbrel drop in for a quick snack. The lagoon holds nationally and internationally important numbers of Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit, along with good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Spoonbill, Dunlin, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler.

In the trees around the lagoon Firecrest, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Treecreeper are frequent with migrant passerines such as Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin all making use of the open water and its fringes.

The lagoon serves as an important high tide gathering area for many of the harbour’s overwintering waders and wildfowl and to say the lagoon has had its fair share of rarities over the years would be an understatement with Elegant Tern, Caspian Tern, Western Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Bonaparte’s Gull, Common Crane and Cattle Egret all recorded in recent years.

Birding Info

The Brownsea Lagoon is managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and there is a suggested donation of £2 per person upon entry of Lagoon nature reserve. There are two well positioned hides which look out east across the lagoon and give good views of waders, wildfowl and terns. A scope is advantageous but the hides often have DWT volunteers situated inside who allow you to view birds through their scopes. Terns begin arriving back on to their nesting islands by early May and offer excellent photographic opportunities for keen photographers. Passage waders begin using the lagoon from early July with the peak time for passage occurring in August and September. Peak numbers of Spoonbill usually occur in early to mid October but they’re present for most of August and the whole of September too. The Brownsea Lagoon is a rarity hot spot with species such as Elegant Tern, Caspian Tern, Baird’s, Stilt, Western and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and Bonaparte’s Gull all found here in recent years so make sure you get your eye in for anything ‘a bit different’.

Facilities

Two ferry companies run trips to Brownsea Island, these are Brownsea Island Ferries and Greenslades. During the open season, which runs from mid March until late October, ferries from Poole Quay run from 10am to 4pm and the journey to Brownsea takes 20 minuets. If catching the Ferry from Sandbanks then boats run from 10am to 4:30pm with the trip to Brownsea only taking 5 minuets. Brownsea Island closes at 5pm each day during open season. Entry to Browsnea is free for National Trust members, but please check National Trust website for latest admission fees for non-members. On the island the National Trust has good café and public toilets can be found at several sites across the island. During the winter the National Trust opens the island on a set of winter weekend dates allowing you to witness lagoon at one of the most productive times.

Parking

Brownsea is only accessible by boat. Ferry’s run from Poole Quay and from the Sandbanks Quay. If catching the ferry from Sandbanks then you can park on the pay and display Panorama Road located at BH13 7RB. If departing from Poole Quay then parking can be found at the Quay Visitors multi story car park located at BH15 1SB.

Spring

Spoonbill, Avocet, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Kingfisher

Summer

Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Roseate Tern, Kingfisher and Reed Warbler

Autumn

Spoonbill, Avocet, Grey Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Shoveler, Garganey (occasional), Merlin.

Winter

Wigeon, Gadwall Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Spoonbill, Avocet, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Firecrest, Lesser Redpoll and Kingfisher

Challow Hill Corfe

Challow Hill is right on the southern border of our Poole Harbour boundary and is situated just east of Corfe Castle. With a small Dorset County Council car park located at the base of the hill along Sandy Hill Lane, Challow Hill offers a breathtaking (and breathless) walk up to one of the best views across the Poole Harbour basin.

During spring and summer, the luxurious song of Yellowhammer and Blackcap ring out in tandem with the bells of nearby Corfe church. Passage migrants in spring and autumn, having freshly arrived in the area, make their way along the ridge towards Nine Barrow Down, or out through the Corfe Gap. Continue along the path east at the top of Challow Hill which will eventually lead you to Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks, but the main bulk of scrub on the edge of the hill is where much of the interest lies.

Whinchat, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and occasionally singing Grasshopper Warbler all pass through in the spring with Garden Warbler, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Wagtail being welcome additions during the autumn. Resident birds include Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer.

Birding Info

Challow hill is most productive in spring and autumn with Dartford Warbler, Yellowhammer and Whitethroat all breeding in good numbers along the path. In autumn and spring the ridge leading to Challow Hill funnels migrant birds in to the scrub along the path and species such as Willow Warbler, Redstart, Blackcap and Garden Warbler can be seen, especially in autumn. The view from the top of the ridge is incredible and offers excellent sky watching opportunities where species such as Red Kite, Osprey, Hobby and even Honey Buzzard should be looked for during peak migration times. Visible migration can be strong through the Corfe Gap and an early morning visit in October could reward you with a good variety of finches, thrush’s, pipit’s and wagtails flying over.

Facilities

There are no facilities at Challow Hill, but you can find public toilets and a small coffee shop situated within the National Trust car park at Corfe Castle. The walk up Challow Hill is a steady but steep incline but the views when you reach the top are stunning. This path is really popular with cyclists as it will lead you all the way east across the top of Nine Barrow Down and eventually to Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks.

Parking

BH20 5JF but spaces are limited so arrive early to obtain a parking space. If this car park is full then you can park at the main National Trust pay and display car park at Corfe Castle where NT members park for free. Its then only a short 5-10 minute walk to the base of Challow hill.

Spring

Ring Ouzel, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Stonechat, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Skylark, Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Whitethroat

Summer

Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Yellowhammer, Common Whitethroat, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Chiffchaff.

Autumn

Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipits, Swallow, House Martin, Kestrel.

Winter

Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Merlin, Raven, Linnet.

Corfe River Valley

This secret corner of Poole Harbour is well worth a visit for its tranquillity as well as its bird life. The valley, nestled just to the north of Corfe Castle, leads down to Middlebere acting as a flyway for migrant birds entering and leaving the harbour.

With dense woodland cover at the source then opening up to grazed floodplain followed by reedbed towards the mouth at Middlebere, the valley offers a great mixture of habitats to explore. In spring and summer, the songs of common resident and summer migrants provide a stunning audial experience with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Song Thrush filling the airwaves, whilst in autumn passage migrants including Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler use the valley as a refuelling station.

The Corfe Gap is a natural funnel for migrating birds with waders such as Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel using the valley to make their way in and out of the harbour and on one occasion a Long-tailed Skua was observed following the river valley heading towards the Corfe Gap and in 2008 a Lesser Grey Shrike was found. Several access points with footpaths can be found at various spots along the valley, with one beginning in the National Trust car park at Corfe Castle, heading north over the railway track.

Birding Info

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the river valley with migrant species such as warblers, chats, flycatchers and thrush’s using the valley as a migration corridor. In summer Hobby hunt for insects around the valley and on Hartland which boarders the valley to the west. Summer breeding birds include Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher and in the evenings Nightjar leave the heathlands to feed along the river valley. In 2008 a Lesser Grey Shrike was found here too indicating its potential to host rarities too.

Facilities

There are no facilities in the Corfe River Valley but a café and public toilets can be found in the National Trust care park at Corfe.

Parking

The best access into the Corfe River Valley is to park at the main National Trust car park at Corfe Castle, BH20 5JF or at the Norden park and ride at BH20 5DW. Footpaths are then signposted down the valley which cruise along the eastern edge of Hartland Moor.

Spring

Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper, Nuthatch

Summer

Common Buzzard, Hobby, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap and Chiffchaff

Autumn

Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher

Winter

Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Bullfinch and Siskin

Greenlands Farm & Godlingston Heath

Greenlands Farm and Godlingston Heath are owned and managed by the National Trust providing an exciting and different assortment of habitats within close walking range of each other. Greenlands Farm is a large openly grazed site consisting of pasture with several scrubby areas bordered by small sections of mixed woodland.

In spring, good numbers of Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail use the open grass areas whilst Whinchat, Redstart and Whitethroat can often be found in amongst the scrub. The variety of autumn passage migrants include Spotted and Pied Flycatcher along with Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Tree Pipit, Ring Ouzel and occasionally scarcer species such as Melodious Warbler, Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike. Godlingston Heath is another rich and important heathland area of Poole Harbour with Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Nightjar and Tree Pipit all present with Hobby and Merlin also regular during summer and winter respectively.

The whole site is vast with excellent footpaths and easy access off Ferry Road. A visit in spring or autumn could result in a healthy list of birds and with Brand’s Bay just a five-minute walk away, a whole morning’s birding could be enjoyed exploring a great mix of habitats.

Birding Info

This protected and sheltered corner of Studland is an excellent spring and autumn migrant trap with the area holding good numbers of birds through April and May and also August and September. Later in the autumn the ‘vis-mig’ (visible migration) season begins and through late September, October and early November many thousands of thrush’s and finches move along the Studland Peninsular on cold, clear mornings which can seen and heard overhead as they make their way down towards south Haven. The open pastures of Greenland’s Farm attract feeding migrants and can hold good numbers of Wheatear, Redstart, Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat through August and September.

Facilities

There are public toilets and a café in the Knoll Beach car park but out on Godlingston Heath and Greenland’s Farm there are only basic footpaths and cycle ways with no visitor infrastructure. Please stick to cycle ways and footpaths around these sites. The landscape is rich and incredibly beautiful and a visit to Agglestone Rock out on Godlingston Heath is an absolute must.

Parking

Parking for Greenland’s Farm or Godlingston Heath is best at the National Trust Knoll Beach or Middle Beach pay and display car park and then walking or cycling down to the main foot and cycle path access points which are sign posted from those car parks.

Spring

Cuckoo, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and Whitethroat

Summer

Hobby, Nightjar, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Linnet

Autumn

Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Brambling

Winter

Merlin, Stonechat, Fieldfare, Redwing, Dartford Warbler, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll

Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve

Managed by Natural England, Hartland Moor NNR is a large and important stretch of heathland that sits to the south of RSPB Arne and north of Corfe Castle. Referred to by Enid Blyton as Mystery Moor its large and open setting offers great views as well as great birds.

The centre of the site is wet and boggy providing attractive hunting grounds for Hobby that feed on dragonflies as they emerge in the warm Dorset sunshine. Classic heathland species such as Dartford Warbler, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit can all be found relatively easily and the area lends itself to holding good numbers of common migrants such as Wheatear, Redstart, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat and Whinchat during the autumn with Woodlark gathering here from September onwards.

In summer Cuckoo and Nightjar are frequent and during the winter birds of prey such as Peregrine, Merlin and occasionally Short-eared Owl can be found. There is a good number of footpaths criss-crossing Hartland Moor but responsible walking, dog walking and cycling is key to keeping this special and sensitive habitat in pristine condition.

Birding Info

The Hartland area can be excellent for passage migrants especially in autumn. The most productive months for migration are August and September where species such as Redstart, Whinchat, Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher can all be found around the heathland fringes. Hartland also has a healthy population of Dartford Warbler and Nightjar which can be found relatively easily during summer evenings. There are also numerous ‘perching posts’ out in the wetter less accessible parts of the Moor which attract Merlin and Peregrine in winter which use them as plucking posts.

Facilities

Cycling to and around Hartland is by far the best way to see the area with a selection of paths criss-crossing the moor. Please stick to cycle paths and refrain from cycling across the heathland as this this is hugely damaging to both the habitat and heathland breeding species. There are no public toilets or facilities on or around Hartland with the nearest being RSPB Arne around 2 miles away.

Parking

Parking around Hartland Moor is fairly limited with most users of the area parking in the Middlebere Farm access layby located at BH20 5BN. There is strictly no driving or parking down the Middlebere Farm access track and please refrain from parking on road-side verges around Hartland Moor.

Spring

Hobby, Cuckoo, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dartford Warbler and Raven

Summer

Hobby, Cuckoo, Nightjar, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Whitethroat and Dartford Warbler

Winter

Hen Harrier, Merlin, Woodcock, Short-eared Owl, Fieldfare, Redwing, Dartford Warbler, Siskin and Bullfinch

Hatch Pond

Hatch Pond, a Local Nature Reserve managed by the Borough of Poole, is the best site around the harbour to see Snipe which can normally be difficult to see well. Bittern used to be a regular winter visitor here but have not been seen for the past couple of years, it is hoped with the booming population in Somerset that birds will return here once more.

Late evening and early morning are the best times to visit the area. A recently improved viewing area overlooking an area of reedbed named Elborn’s Cut is the best place to observe roosting and feeding Snipe and if you’re lucky a Water Rail may scuttle into view.

This is also where Bittern used to be seen so it is well worth spending some time here. This area can be found towards the northern end of the open water amongst the pines running along the east side of the pond. During the winter a large Magpie roost of over 100 birds occurs in the trees on the far side of the pond. Pochard regularly appear here during the winter in small numbers and rarities such as Purple Heron, Lesser Scaup and Black-throated Diver have occurred in the not too distant past.

Bearded Tit has been recorded in the reedbed during autumn passage with Reed Warbler breeding here too. Park along Stinsford Lane on the side where the industrial units are and then cross back over the road and either enter the site at its northern boundary through the gate or to the south by the traffic lights where most of the ducks congregate.

Birding Info

Autumn and Winter are the best times to visit Hatch Pond. Although only a small site it’s attracted some great birds in the past including Purple Heron, Iceland Gull, Marsh Warbler, Black-throated Diver and Lesser Scaup.

Facilities

Hatch Pond is a small nature reserve but is a welcome oasis nestled within a busy part of Poole. Several eating establishments and large supermarkets are situated close by. There are several viewing spots around the southern and eastern edges of the pond.

Parking

There is limited parking along Stinsford Road situated at BH17 0SW.

Spring

Great Crested Grebe, Kingfisher, Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff

Summer

Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe and Reed Warbler

Autumn

Common Snipe, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Kingfisher and Reed Bunting

Winter

Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail, Snipe and Kingfisher

Holes Bay Nature Park North East

Holes Bay NE forms part of the Holes Bay nature park and is owned and managed by the The Dorset Wildlife Trust, Borough of Poole and Poole Harbour Commissioners. It is a large shallow tidal bay that sits at the most northern part of Poole Harbour and is a hugely productive site, especially during the winter.

The temperature within this part of Holes Bay is often a few degrees warmer than other areas of the harbour, owing to the two water channels that flow in to it at the northern section. This sector of Holes Bay has a cycle path on the eastern side allowing for incredibly close views of many species. During the winter this area plays host to several hundred (often thousands) of Teal and Wigeon as well as smaller numbers of Avocet, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Oystercatcher.

Star species include Spotted Redshank, which often feed in the mouth of the outflow channel alongside confiding Spoonbill and Little Egret and in past years species such as Smew and Goosander have also been found feeding within the mouth of the channel. Low or rising tides are the best time to visit Holes Bay NE, as the rising tide forces feeding birds to within feet of the cycle path. Kingfishers are also frequent in winter as are Peregrine, Buzzard and, less so, Kestrel.

During the spring and autumn passage migrants drop into Holes Bay NE including Whimbrel, Turnstone, Knot and Common Sandpiper with passerines also featuring such as Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler in the surrounding scrub. In August and September Osprey occasionally visit this site due to the bountiful supplies of fish. Parking at Upton Country Park and walking/Cycling to Holes Bay NE will provide you with a good range of habitats to explore and a great list of birds to find.

Birding Info

This section of Holes Bay is without doubt most productive in winter and best watched on a low (or even better) on a rising tide. Make sure you check the channel under the bridge at the southern end for species such as Smew or Goosander and the outflow that runs into the bay from behind PC World is often good for feeding Spoonbill and Spotted Redshank. A scope is advantageous.

Facilities

Holes Bay North East forms part of the Holes Bay Nature Park, which is part of the Dorset Wildlife Trusts Great Heath Living Landscape initiative. The area is managed by Poole Harbour Commissioners and the Borough of Poole. There are several eating establishments on the east side of the dual carriage way within a 2-3 minuet walk of Holes Bay NE. There is an excellent (mostly flat) cycle path that boarders the entire Holes Bay Nature Park. There are currently no hides or viewing screens but with such an open view they’re not really needed.

Parking

To view the north-east section of Holes Bay it’s best to park at Upton Country Park pay and display car park, BH17 7BJ then follow the cycle path signposted to Poole. Or you can park at the Asda pay and display car park at the southern end of Holes Bay, BH15 1JQ and walk or cycle along the cycle path north to Holes Bay NE.

Spring

Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff

Summer

Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Yellow-legged Gull

Autumn

Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Osprey, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Turnstone, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wheatear, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Firecrest

Winter

Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Kingfisher

Holes Bay Nature Park South East

Holes Bay SE forms part of the Holes Bay Nature Park and is owned and managed by the The Dorset Wildlife Trust, Borough of Poole and Poole Harbour Commissioners. It consists of a large shallow tidal bay that sits at the most northern part of Poole Harbour.

However, its close proximity to a busy dual carriageway, numerous retail parks and business estates doesn’t seem to put off the many hundreds (sometimes thousands) of birds that use the area throughout the year. The SE corner of the bay has a cycle path that runs right the way along the eastern edge of the shoreline, which makes viewing birds on a high or low tide fairly straightforward, although using binoculars and/or a telescope will certainly be beneficial. Holes Bay SE is at its most productive in the winter when large numbers of waders and wildfowl shelter and feed here.

At the northern end of Holes Bay SE, where the railway line crosses the bay, the deep channel leading into Holes Bay NE often hosts good numbers of Great Crested Grebe, several Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye during the winter and in recent years a returning redhead Smew has been present. Wigeon and Teal are numerous through the winter with occasional visits from species such as Gadwall, Pintail, Pochard and Goosander. On a low tide Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Avocet all feed in Holes Bay SE and during periods of migration are joined by Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel that are easiest to see during April, May and August with infrequent visits from Knot, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Turnstone.

Birding Info

This section of Holes Bay is without doubt most productive in winter and best watched on a low (or even better) on a rising tide. Make sure you check the channel under the bridge at the northern end for species such as Smew or Goosander and the large open area at the southern end also holds good numbers of waders on a low tide. A scope is advantageous.

Facilities

Holes Bay South East forms part of the Holes Bay Nature Park, which is part of the Dorset Wildlife Trusts Great Heath Living Landscape initiative. The area is managed by Poole Harbour Commissioners and the Borough of Poole. Asda is only a short walk from the south east corner of Holes Bay and has public toilets and café. There are no bird hides or screens but with such an open vista they’re really not needed. There is an excellent (mostly flat) cycle path that boarders the entire Holes Bay Nature Park.

Parking

To view the south-east section of Holes Bay it’s best to park at Upton Country Park pay and display car park, BH17 7BJ then follow the cycle path signposted to Poole. Or you can park at the Asda pay and display car park at the southern end of Holes Bay, BH15 1JQ and walk or cycle along the cycle path north to Holes Bay SE.

Spring

Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Wheatear, Swallow, House Martin, Blackcap and Chiffchaff

Summer

Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern

Autumn

Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Osprey, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Turnstone, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff

Winter

Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Kingfisher

Holmebridge

Holmebridge is a convenient place to stop and check en route to and from other birding locations. This site is on the extreme west of our boundary and encompasses a large river valley that many birds use as a navigational highway.

In winter the floodplains act as a feeding zone for many Mute Swan, which in turn attract the occasional Whooper or Bewick’s Swan, especially when the valley is flooded. White-fronted Goose and Pink-footed Goose are also occasional visitors to this site and Goosander feed in the river. The best time to watch Holmebridge is at dawn and dusk when birds are commuting between their feeding and roost sites.

When the river valley floods it attracts large numbers of Lapwing and wildfowl which in turn attracts birds of prey such as Merlin, Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier that can often get lured away from the temptations of Poole Harbour. In the summer Hobby breed close by and visit the valley to feed on dragonflies.

Birding Info

Holmebridge is very much a ‘stop off’ site, a place to check and scan (mostly in the winter) whilst en route to somewhere else. Looking west tends to be best with Pink-footed and White-fronted Goose, Whooper and Bewick’s Swan worth looking out for. If the frome Valley is flooded which it quite often is in winter then the area can become very productive for wildfowl and some waders, especially Black-tailed Godwit.

Facilities

There are no facilities at Holmebridge.

Parking

There is a small amount of parking for several cars at the bridge located at BH20 6AF.

Spring

Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch

Summer

Kestrel, Hobby, Kingfisher, Swift, Skylark, Stonechat, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff

Autumn

Hobby, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Swallow and House Martin gatherings, Stonechat, Whinchat

Winter

Scarcer Swans, Pink-footed Goose, Egyptian Goose, Goosander, Merlin, Lapwing, Grey Wagtail, Siskin

Holton Heath National Nature Reserve

Holton Heath National Nature Reserve really is a hidden gem. Just a short walk from Holton Heath train station, this small but important section of heathland and mixed woodland provides an excellent stop off site en route to Purbeck or the southern part of the harbour.

Access is easy with parking right next to the site and the surrounding habitat is rich in biodiversity. Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Nightjar, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit are all present at certain times of the year.

Like many other areas in the harbour the insect rich gorse and heather provides plenty of food for passage migrants such as Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler during the autumn. The surrounding woodland and the main track that leads to Sandford has Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and occasionally Lesser Spotted Woodpecker along with Firecrest in the autumn.

Birding Info

There are a good selection of breeding heathland species and the site sees good numbers of autumn passage migrants such as Spotted flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. The site is surround by a nice selection of mixed woodland so Siskin, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Woodpeckers are all frequent. Best times to visit is May to September.

Facilities

There are no facilities at Holton Heath NNR. Heathland footpaths are well established but please stick to the paths at all times.

Parking

There is on road parking on Station Road, BH16 6HX. Holton Heath Train station is also only 250m away from the eastern entrance of the reserve and only a short distance from Poole train station.

Spring

Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Stonechat, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler

Summer

Nightjar, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Woodlark, Stonechat, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler, Firecrest and Spotted Flycatcher

Winter

Stonechat, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest

Holton Lee

Livability Holton Lee is a wellbeing discovery centre set in 350 acres of rich and diverse habitat in the north of Poole Harbour. It is part of the Livability family of services and is an organisation Birds of Poole Harbour have been working closely with for several years.

Holton Lee is made up of saltmarsh, heathland, coniferous and deciduous woodland whilst offering incredible views out across the Wareham Channel. The site has two well-positioned hides, one overlooking a busy feeding station where Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker can be observed at close quarters. The other hide looks out across a newly created set of tidal scrapes where species such as Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank and Green Sandpiper all appear on migration.

In the autumn and through the winter this hide also provides incredible views of Kingfisher allowing for great photographic opportunities. The heathland has resident Dartford Warbler, Nightjar (summer) and Stonechat with spring and autumn passage migrants such as Whitethroat, Whinchat and Wheatear.

The views out across the Wareham Channel can often produce sightings of Osprey from the spring until late autumn as well as waders and wildfowl making their way up and down the channel.

Birding Info

There are two bird hides on site. The ‘Holton Pools’ hide and scrapes were set up and installed by the Birds of Poole Harbour charity in 2017 in partnership with Livability Holton Lee. This looks out across a set of tidal pools and reedbed and is an excellent place to watch Kingfisher in autumn and winter. The ‘Feeder Hide’ is situated on the eastern side of the reserve and is a busy feeding station right the way through the year.

Facilities

The infrastructure and facilities at Holton are in place to enable Livability to fulfil their core objectives as a charity by being a wellbeing discovery centre for its guests. Therefor the buildings aren’t accessible to general visitors although there is a toilet block situated close to the car park that visitors may use. Footpaths are well maintained and managed and lead you through an excellent range of habitats.

Parking

There is a car park at the end of the long lane that leads up to the set of main Holton Lee buildings at BH16 6JN. Despite Holton Lee being a private estate the Livability charity has been kind enough to grant visitor access and welcome visitors to explore the site. Please consider becoming a ‘Friend of Holton Lee’ by supporting the charity financially if you begin visiting regularly. Visit the main reception building next to the car park for more information on becoming a Friend of Holton Lee.

Spring

Osprey, Little Ringed Plover, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Redstart, Stonechat, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler

Summer

Hobby, Mediterranean Gull, Nightjar, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Osprey, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Whitethroat and Dartford Warbler

Winter

Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Kingfisher, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Marsh Tit, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Crossbill

Lytchett Bay Nature Reserve

This small accessible heath forms part of Lytchett Bay Nature Reserve and is owned by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and jointly managed with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation. The area is special in that it provides a smooth gradation from dry heath to wet heath to reedbed and then saltmarsh.

Consequently, this small area hosts a very wide diversity of special species. Dartford Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit can all be found here. A dusk visit in summer provides a very good opportunity to hear and see Nightjar as the male delivers his “churring” song.

Its position on one of the most northern shores of Poole Harbour makes it a good area for migrants both grounded and overhead. Wryneck, Yellow-browed Warbler, Woodlark and Lapland Bunting are all on the site’s list. The small ditch that borders the southern edge often hosts Kingfisher and in spring the loud burst of Cetti’s Warbler song is often heard.

Despite the small size of Lytchett Bay Heath, on August mornings good numbers of passage migrants can pass through the area. The site is also very good for reptiles and Sand Lizards can often be seen. Access to this site is from Sandy Lane and the entrance gate is clearly marked “Lytchett Bay Nature Reserve” with an interpretive board and map just beyond the gate.

Birding Info

Lytchett Heath is only a small section of heath but is well worth a walk around certainly between April and September. It was recently discovered that in August and September good numbers of common migrants pass through the site and an early morning visit could provide a variety of warblers and chats.

A Guide to Birding in Lytchett Bay

Facilities

Cycling your way round all the Lytchett Bay sites is a great way to explore the area. Lytchett Bay viewing mound, Lytchett Heath and Lytchett Fields are all within easy cycling distance from one another. There are no toilet or eating facilities at any of the Lytchett Bay sites. Lytchett Heath forms part of the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Great Heath Living Landscapes initiative and is jointly managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Please keep to the small but well-established network of footpaths around the site.

Parking

There is limited parking along Sandy Lane BH16 5LU. The main access to the site is situated along Sandy Lane just 50m west beyond Otter Close. The site is accessed via a residential area so please park sensibly and don’t block local residents driveways.

Spring

Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting

Summer

Nightjar, Stonechat, Reed Warbler, Dartford Warbler and Bearded Tit

Autumn

Kingfisher, Redstart, Cetti's Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest and Bearded Tit

Winter

Water Rail, Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest and Bearded Tit

Lytchett Bay View

Lytchett Bay View is managed by the local parish council and the Borough of Poole and is much more than its name suggests. Yes, there is a fabulous view of Lytchett Bay, but it is also the gateway to the Turlin Moor shoreline and at its heart a green space that includes a good diversity of trees and shrubs together with a lush summer meadow.

It is also Lytchett Bay’s premier visible-migration site. The view of the Bay has recently been enhanced by the provision of a perfectly placed raised viewing platform. This can be good at any time of day and on any tide, but a telescope is essential to see the more distant birds.

Whilst autumn, winter and spring provide the biggest diversity, a summer surprise such as a feeding Osprey is not unusual. In the reeds and scrub that surround the viewpoint the soundscape is always diverse. Water Rail, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and Bearded Tit can all be heard or seen in season.

Whilst the viewpoint is a popular place to enjoy the sunset make sure you scan through 360 degrees. Birds commute between Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay, especially Black-tailed Godwit and Little Egret. The movement of these flocks provides a great spectacle.

When a north wind blows in autumn hundreds of thrushes pass over the site and on those crystal cold mornings the sky can shimmer with large flocks of migrating Woodpigeon. Interest in the wider site often pays dividends with warblers, crests and the occasional surprise such as Pied Flycatcher, Brambling, Yellow-browed Warbler or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The wildflower meadow attracts a wide range of butterflies and dragonflies in season as well as lots of botanical interest.

Birding Info

The Lytchett Bay viewing mound is wheelchair accessible and only a 80m from Border Drive. Its best to view during a low or rising tide and mornings offer better light with the sun rising behind you to the east.

A Guide to Birding in Lytchett Bay

Facilities

Cycling your way round all the Lytchett Bay sites is a great way to explore the area. Lytchett Bay viewing mound, Lytchett Heath and Lytchett Fields are all within easy cycling distance from one another. There are no toilet or eating facilities at any of the Lytchett Bay sites. The Lytchett Bay viewing mound was formed in partnership between Lytchett Minster and Upton Town Council, Birds of Poole Harbour and the Borough of Poole.

Parking

There is a limited amount of parking along Border Drive at BH16 5SB. Once parked take the short footpath south towards Chads Copse and the new Lytchett Bay viewing mound is on your right hand side.

Spring

Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Greenshank, Redshank, Redstart, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler

Summer

Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff

Autumn

Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Spoonbill, Woodpigeon and Song Thrush

Winter

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Red-breasted Merganser, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Water Rail, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Bearded Tit

Middle Beach Studland

During the winter, Studland Bay plays host to the largest overwintering Black-necked Grebe flock in the country with between 30-40 present each year. The eelgrass beds off Middle Beach, which in late autumn attract the first returning Brent Geese, also play home to both Spiny and Short-snouted Seahorses as well as pipefish, the latter being the favoured food of Black-necked Grebe.

The now much scarcer Slavonian Grebe is also present but in ever decreasing numbers each winter with Common Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and even Red-necked Grebe all possible. During the winter big gatherings of Mediterranean Gull form and in spring breeding-plumaged adults gather on the beach for several weeks before moving off to their nesting grounds. From the National Trust Middle Beach car park it is possible to scan across Studland Bay although a telescope is required to identify the more distant birds.

During the autumn visible-migration of finches, thrushes and pipits can be experienced and in spring and summer Sandwich Tern and Common Tern arrive back to feed. When a south-easterly wind blows strong it’s possible for Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and any of the 4 skua species to get blown into Studland Bay.

Birding Info

Middle Beach offers a unique opportunity where by you can stand and scan a very productive area during the winter, which is only several meters from where you can park. The high viewpoints that look out across Studland Bay allow you to scan both north and south and with the prominent wind direction being south-westerly the large shallow bay is often flat calm allowing easy findings of species such as Black-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver and Common Scoter. Velvet Scoter, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebe are all possible in winter too. In winter a late afternoon visit is good as grebe roosts form before dusk out off Middle Beach. In spring and autumn during periods of strong east/south easterly winds species such as Great or Arctic Skua, Gannet and Manx Shearwater can get blown into Studland Bay.

Facilities

There are café’s and public toilets at both Middle Beach and also Knoll Beach, which is only a 10 minuet walk from the Middle Beach car park. For birding there are several fantastic viewpoints based on the edge of the actual Middle Beach car park that look out across the whole of Studland Bay. A telescope is beneficial.

Parking

Parking for Middle Beach is best at the National Trust Middle Beach pay and display car park, BH19 3AX. National Trust members park for free.

Spring

Potential Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe in summer plumage, Fulmar, Gannet, Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear

Summer

Very, very, very, very, busy in the summer with Sandwich Tern and Common Tern passing the bathing holiday makers frequently.

Autumn

A sea watch in a strong south easterly could produce Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Gannet, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern. Late October sees the first Black-necked Grebes arrive into the bay.

Winter

Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe (20+), Slavonian Grebe, occasional Red-necked Grebe, Velvet Scoter, Red-throated Diver and Eider. Mediterranean Gull, Firecrest and Ring-necked Parakeet

Middlebere

Middlebere is one of the premier birding sites in Poole Harbour, offering a great variety of birds, mainly in the autumn and winter. The Middlebere Channel borders the southeastern side of the Arne Peninsular and is viewable from Coombe Heath, Arne, or from the National Trust “Avocet” hide on the eastern edge of the channel.

In winter up to 500 Avocet and 1,000 Black-tailed Godwit roost at the top of the channel on the high tides with Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin all regular at this time too. Access to the National Trust hide is via the long track that begins by the parking area on Hartland Moor. On mild autumn mornings, passage migrants such as Redstart, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat can be found feeding in the scrub along the track with Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail frequent in the fields.

In spring, mixed wader flocks consisting of Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and knot drop into Middlebere quite frequently. During the winter, the top end of Middlebere can be a birder’s dream as the tide rises, pushing large numbers of wader and wildfowl on to the last remaining parts of mud in the harbour. In the autumn, Middlebere is also one of the best places to see Osprey as they hunt and feed on favoured perching posts around the channel.

Birding Info

Middlebere is best visited on a rising or high tide from July through to late February. This site is renowned for holding good numbers of waders during the winter and is a good place to try and see hunting Peregrine, Marsh and Hen Harrier during the colder months. In spring and autumn passage waders drop into the top end of Middlebere out in front of the hide and its also a great place to watch migrant Osprey in the autumn.

Facilities

Cycling and walking down to Middlebere is by far the best way to see the area with a long flat track leading you straight to the Middlebere Hide. Please stick to cycle paths and refrain from cycling across the heathland as this this is hugely damaging to both the habitat and heathland breeding species. There are no public toilets or facilities at Middlebere with the nearest being RSPB Arne around 2 miles away. The Middlebere hide is very popular and offers great views of waders and wildfowl in the winter and the track leading down to the hide is good for common passage migrants in August and September. Please don’t walk through the courtyard of the Middlebere Cottages at the end of the track as these are privately owned by the National Trust. Please use the path that leads round behind the cottages.

Parking

There is limited parking at the Middlebere Farm layby at BH20 5BN. There is strictly no driving down the Middlebere Farm track. Please refrain from parking on road verges along the Arne to Corfe Road bordering Hartland Moor.

Spring

Spoonbill, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Barn Owl, Cuckoo, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler

Summer

Spoonbill, Osprey, Hobby, Barn Owl, Cuckoo, Nightjar, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Hen Harrier, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Knot, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Osprey, Yellow-legged Gull, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Wheatear, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler

Winter

Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Spoonbill, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Barn Owl and Stonechat

North Haven Sandbanks

North Haven lies on the northern side of the Poole Harbour entrance and is a busy and bustling part of the area. With all of the harbour’s boating traffic having to enter and leave through this 300m wide gap, you could quite easily find yourself questioning “is it really good for birds here?” Well, quite simply, yes it is.

North Haven offers a unique set of features that can’t be found anywhere else in the harbour, including the seaweed covered slipway of the chain ferry and adjoining concrete seawall shelf. Several large bouldered groynes jut out into the sandy bays and the harbour entrance itself, all of which benefit different species in different ways.

Autumn and winter are the best seasons to spend time here with North Haven being the only reliable place to try and see Purple Sandpiper as they feed on the exposed concrete shelves below the car park on a low tide. On high tides, small flocks of waders including Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling roost on the ends of the groynes and sharp-eyed observers at dawn and dusk will have the thrill of watching Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe entering and leaving the harbour as they head to and from their roost sites.

In the summer both Common and Sandwich Tern exit and enter the harbour mouth throughout the day as they make their way back and forth to favoured feeding grounds in Poole Bay, sometimes diving just feet from the conveniently placed picnic benches that look out south towards Studland.

Birding Info

North Haven is a ‘stop off’ site for birders, an area to check and scan en route to other birding destinations. It’s the only semi-reliable site to see Purple Sandpiper between October and February as they sometimes feed on the sea-shelf below the car park. Its also worth checking the long concrete groynes further round the North Haven peninsular for roosting small waders such as Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Purple Sandpiper. You can scan Shell Bay easily from North Haven and in winter pick up birds such as Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe from the car park. In summer it’s also the best place to watch Common and Sandwich Tern leave and enter the harbour. A strong easterly wind occasionally blows species such as Gannet, Arctic or Great Skua closer to the shoreline.

Facilities

North Haven is easily accessible by bike either via the chain ferry from Studland or via the Sandbanks approach road, with both directions offering pleasant and different scenic settings. The Sandbanks Quay is also located at North Haven, which is where you can catch the smaller Brownsea Island ferry over to Brownsea Island. There are public toilets near by and a selection of eateries along the Sandbanks peninsular.

Parking

There is a short-stay pay and display car park left of the chain ferry landing area at BH13 7QN which is a one hour maximum stay zone. Alternative pay and display parking can be found along Panorama Road located at BH13 7RB.

Spring

Brent Goose, Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Shag, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern

Summer

Cormorant, Shag, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Roseate Tern

Autumn

Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet and Lesser Redpoll

Winter

Brent Goose, Eider, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin and Rock Pipit

Old Harry & Ballard Down

Ballard Down is owned and managed by the National Trust providing scenic cliff top walks within our Poole Harbour recording area. A patchwork of habitats from chalk downland, mixed copses & scrub and sheer cliff faces provide great diversity of areas to explore and find a wide variety of birds.

One of the annual highlights is the visible-migration that occurs over the Ballard ridge each autumn with large numbers of finches, thrushes, pipits and wagtails moving through along with good numbers of common spring and autumn passage migrants. On the cliffs small numbers of Fulmar and Shag breed as do a pair of Peregrine and at sea Gannet, Manx Shearwater and skua species can be watched passing Old Harry at the right times of the year.

Skylark, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer are all present during the summer whilst the large open areas of grazed pasture on top of Ballard play host to good numbers of migrating Wheatear, Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit. Access is best via the National Trust South Beach car park at Studland and then follow the lower coastal path out towards Old Harry Rocks.

Birding Info

Early mornings are best at Ballard as it’s predominantly a migration site with most birds moving through the area between sunrise and midday. Visible migration watching from the top of Ballard is best experienced from mid September to early November. Early autumn passage (late July to mid September) is also strong through the area.

Facilities

The paths out to Old Harry and Ballard are a popular cycle route and well worth giving a go if you like birding by bike! There are public toilets on the corner of Manor Road and Watery Lane and the Banks Arms pub, next to the car has a good reputation for good food and drink. There is also a small seasonal café at South Beach called Joe’s Café.

Parking

Parking for Ballard is best at South Beach car park, a National Trust owned pay and display car park. National Trust members park for free and the car park is located at BH19 3AU. From the car park head down Manor Road and take the SW coast path out towards Old Harry and Ballard Down.

Spring

Mediterranean Gull, Shag, Gannet, Arctic Skua, Peregrine, Fulmar, Skylark, Wheatear, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swift, Common Redstart.

Summer

Shag, Cormorant, Peregrine, Fulmar, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, House Martin

Autumn

Peregrine, Skylark, Yellow Wagtail, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Ring Ouzel, Raven, Plus large October movements Goldfinch, Linnet, Siskin, Brambling, Crossbill, Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail.

Winter

Mediterranean Gull, Skylark, Peregrine, Merlin, Raven, Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Gannet. Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet pass the headland during the winter.

Poole Park

There’s a whole lot more to Poole Park than feeding the ducks and a visit in winter or early spring can reward the observer with many species other than just Mallard and Canada Goose. Resident species such as Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen and Greylag Geese are easily found but look a little harder and there’s more to Poole Park than you might realise.

Winter provides the most variety as wanderers from the harbour seek sanctuary on Poole Park’s shallow and sheltered lakes. Each winter between 5-10 Red-breasted Merganser venture on to the main boating lake along with several Goldeneye and it’s certainly worth keeping any eye out for Scaup, Goosander and Smew during periods of colder weather. The lakes attract 2-3 Kingfisher each winter and there’s probably no better place in Poole Harbour to try and see these remarkable birds on a cold winter’s day.

Each winter/early spring the main lake is drained, exposing an attractive set of muddy pools, irresistible to several species of wading bird. Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatcher and Turnstone can all be attracted to feed on the lake during this period with big gull gatherings also occurring late in the afternoon. Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Mediterranean Gull and Black-headed Gull all roost and feed when the mud is exposed.

In spring, the lakes are a welcome stopover site for passage Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin and in the summer a large gathering of Swift can be found hawking insects over the lakes. Little Grebe are regular during the winter and occasionally a Black-necked Grebe will venture onto the main boating lake. The thin stands of trees bordering the numerous footpaths around the lakes can hold small parties of Siskin whilst several Yellow-browed Warbler have been logged over the past few years. Rarities in recent years have included Long-billed Dowitcher, Ring-billed Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck.

Birding Info

Winter is definitely the best time to bird Poole Park and can offer great urban views of Kingfisher from October through to February. When the main boating lake is drained for a few weeks each year it attracts a good variety of waders including Redshank, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher. A scope is useful to see further out onto the main boating lake.

Facilities

There are currently no hides or viewing screens at Poole Park but birds can be found relatively easily during the winter with the main boating lake holding most interest. There are public toilets close by and a selection of eateries. Within the park. A large foot path boarders the entire boating lake and is worth a walk around during winter with Kingfisher, Red-breasted merganser and Goldeneye seen daily.

Parking

There is good parking around the Poole Park area. After midday it’s best to park along Park Lake Road, BH15 1TR as the light will be behind you where as in the mornings it’s best to park along Whitecliff Road BH14 8DX. The park closes at dusk and is closed to vehicles between 6am and 10am Monday to Saturday. When the park is open you can also park in main Poole Park car park at BH15 1TU or the Ark car park at BH15 2QE.

Spring

Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Iceland Gull, Swift, Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin

Summer

Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Swift

Autumn

Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Swift, Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, mixed tit flocks in the surrounding woodland, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Winter

Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Firecrest, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

RSPB Arne, Coombe Heath

Coombe Heath is located in the southeast of the Arne peninsular and is bordered by the bird-rich Middlebere channel. The area is owned and managed by the RSPB and there are two nature trails to follow: the seasonal Raptor Trail (open from August to February) and the main Coombe Heath trail.

Both trails are predominantly a mix of incredibly biodiverse dry and wet lowland heath but also take in wet woodland, acid grassland, saltmarsh and tidal mudflats whilst overlooking reed beds. In spring and summer, the Coombe Heath trail is the place to visit to hear the scratchy song of Dartford Warbler and once you’ve located the song you’ve got every chance of spotting the bird itself flitting amidst the gorse. The Coombe Heath pond, although famous for its spiders and dragonflies is the perfect spot to catch mixed flocks of migrants in autumn.

The warm summer evenings vibrate with the churring song of Nightjar whilst Hobby chase dragonflies over the heathland. In the winter the Middlebere channel fills with wildfowl, waders and birds of prey meaning the Coombe viewpoint is arguably the best Osprey vantage point in the harbour. In autumn and winter the Raptor Trail is a good spot to look for both Hen and Marsh Harrier and the small scrapes in front of the viewpoint is a favourite with Kingfisher and Green Sandpiper.

Birding Info

The Coombe Heath walk has several incredible and productive viewpoints along with a bird hide and well-positioned viewing screen. In late summer the RSPB also opens up an extra trial called the Raptor Trail, which is accessed via Coombe Heath. The main Coombe viewpoint is the most productive spot on this walk and a vigil at any time of year can produce a great list of birds. Without doubt its also one of the best places to view Osprey in Poole Harbour during the autumn. The waterside viewing screen is best watched on a rising or falling tide as birds follow the waterline and you can often be rewarded with close of views of large Avocet flocks during mid-winter.

Facilities

RSPB Arne now has an excellent café and shop situated next to the main car park. There are also a reasonable number of public toilets available both at the car park and at the café. Cycle paths at Arne are limited, however many people choose to cycle down to RSPB Arne from Wareham, along the Arne Road which is scenic and pleasant way to visit the reserve where you can then leave your bike and head out on to Coombe Heath for a walk. The reserve also has two motorised trampers, which can be pre-hired through the reserve team.

Parking

The only parking for Coombe Heath is the main RSPB Arne pay and display car park situated at BH20 5BJ where RSPB members park for free.

Spring

Osprey, Whimbrel, Woodlark, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Linnet

Summer

Hobby, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Nightjar, Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Spoonbill, Osprey, Grey Plover, Black tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher

Winter

Brent Goose, Teal, Wigeon, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Avocet, Black tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank and Dartford Warbler

RSPB Arne, Shipstal Point

The Shipstal trails are the main visitor walks at RSPB Arne with a number of marked trails to follow. The area is a mix of diverse habitats including lowland heath, farmland, saltmarsh plus ancient oak, pine, beech and birch woodland.

If you haven’t been to RSPB Arne before take one of these trails for some spectacular views across Poole harbour. The RSPB’s Arne farm lies at the heart of the area with some grazed fields and hedgerows lined with large oaks where you might see species such as Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. The holly trees around the visitor car park makes this one of the most reliable places to see Firecrest all year round with numbers peaking in the autumn.

Shipstal Heath hosts small numbers of Dartford Warbler and Stonechat and the ancient oak woodland called “Big Wood” is a good spot for Spotted Flycatcher in the summer. Arne Bay is arguably the best place to see large numbers of Spoonbill in the UK with over 70 individuals roosting together in October 2017.

Large numbers of Wigeon, Teal and a good numbers of Pintail make it a good spot for ducks in winter whilst Shipstal Beach offers views into the harbour to scan for Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver and Red-breasted Merganser and with luck one of the other species of grebe or diver may appear at this time of year too.

Birding Info

Like many places around the harbour Shipstal is best watched during the winter. The UK’s largest over-wintering flock of Spoonbill gather on the high tide at Shipstal Point and from the cliff top above Shipstal Beach a fantastic view out across central Poole Harbour allows for scanning of open water species such as divers, sea duck and grebes. On a low tide, looking south down the Wytch Channel during the winter can offer views of many over-wintering wader and wildfowl species.

Facilities

RSPB Arne now has an excellent café and shop situated next to the main car park. There are also a reasonable number of public toilets available both at the car park and at the café. Cycle paths at Arne are limited, however many people choose to cycle down to RSPB Arne from Wareham, along the Arne Road which is scenic and pleasant way to visit the reserve where you can then leave your bike and head out down to Shipstal Point for a walk. There is a great two-level bird hide at Shipstal which looks out over the salt marsh. The reserve also has two motorised trampers, which can be pre-hired through the reserve team.

Parking

The only parking for Shipstal is the main RSPB Arne pay and display car park situated at BH20 5BJ where RSPB members park for free.

Spring

Sparrowhawk, Whimbrel, Redshank, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Nuthatch and Bullfinch

Summer

Buzzard, Kestrel, Redshank, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher

Autumn

Spoonbill, Osprey, Avocet, Curlew, Redstart, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher and Treecreeper

Winter

Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Spoonbill, Peregrine, Curlew, Fieldfare, Redwing, Firecrest and Treecreeper

RSPB Lytchett Fields

This lesser-known RSPB reserve is tucked well out of the way but is well worth a visit. A permissive path and basic infrastructure installed by Birds of Poole Harbour and RSPB leads past some productive pools to viewpoints overlooking Sherford and French’s Pools.

These pools are tidal and were created in 2012/13 when the seawall breached. Subsequent annual management has turned them into one of the most productive shorebird sites in Dorset. Since their creation, 33 species of wader have been recorded here. Timing is important although a visit at any time of year can be productive.

When the tide in the harbour is rising the fields can be teeming with birdlife. Over high spring tides much of the mud can be covered and birds will be roosting, this makes birding harder although newly created islands have provided high ground for the birds to use. The list of rarities is extensive and growing: Green-winged Teal, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Spotted Crake, Black-winged Stilt, Temminck’s Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Aquatic Warbler just to mention the most recent ones.

The draw of commoner waders during peak migration times is just as exciting with Little Ringed plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper all easy to find at the correct time of year. In spring and autumn the scrub bordering the fields can be productive for passage migrants such as chats and warblers with the pools attracting good numbers of wagtail species too.

Pedestrian only access is via Slough Lane or Watery Lane. Park at either French’s Farm Fields car park or if this is full, in the recreation ground on Seaview Road.

Birding Info

Although the set up is basic, Lytchett Fields offers an exciting birding opportunity throughout the year certainly during peak migration times. The best times to visit are April through to September but even during the winter birds of prey, winter waders and wildfowl are all possible. Visiting early morning and late afternoon can be better for viewing on sunny days but on over cast days visiting any time of day is good. This site has also become a bit of a rarity magnet over the last few years with Stilt and Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Temminks Stint, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt, Cattle Egret and Aquatic Warbler all found on the fields.

A Guide to Birding in Lytchett Bay

Facilities

Cycling your way round all the Lytchett Bay sites is a great way to explore the area. Lytchett Bay viewing mound, Lytchett Heath and Lytchett Fields are all within easy cycling distance from one another. There are no toilet or eating facilities at any of the Lytchett Bay sites. Access to Lytchett Fields was agreed in partnership between Birds of Poole Harbour, the landowner and the land managers the RSPB. In 2013 Birds of Poole Harbour funded the installation of two viewing areas known as Sherford Pools and French’s Pools.

Parking

There is a new SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) car park at the top end of Watery Lane, just off Policeman’s Lane at BH16 5ND. If this car park is full then you can use the Upton recreation ground car park along Sea view Road at BH16 5NF.

Spring

Shelduck, Red Kite, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Scandinavian Rock Pipit, Water Pipit

Summer

Osprey, Hobby, Peregrine, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler

Autumn

Teal, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail

Winter

Teal, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Water Pipit, Reed Bunting

Shell Beach & Bay Studland

Shell Bay sits at the southern side of Poole Harbour mouth and has a long sweeping beach that leads south down to Pilots Point. The beach in winter can be busy with dog walkers but Sanderling favour this beach more than any other within Poole Harbour with up to 40 present each winter.

Out on the water Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and occasionally Red-necked Grebe can be seen through the winter as can Great Northern Diver and Eider too. At dawn and dusk birds enter and depart the harbour heading to or from their favoured roosting sites. The sand dunes that run along the back of Shell Bay can hold passage migrants in spring and autumn and sea watching during periods of strong easterly winds can produce Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and auks.

Viewing out into Poole Bay from Shell Beach can produce passage sea birds such as Velvet and Common Scoter, all three regular diver species and a good variety of tern species which if lucky could include Little, Black or Roseate Tern. Access is simple with parking in the large National Trust Shell Bay car park just next to the chain ferry tollbooths.

Birding Info

Autumn and Winter are definitely the best times to visit Shell Bay with open water species such as divers, grebes and mergansers present during the winter and autumn passage migrants over head during September, October and November. For ‘vis-mig’ (visible migration) you’ll need to arrive on the sand dunes of South Haven at dawn on a clear autumn morning (late September to early October is best) with a light north to north-east breeze. Learning bird migration calls will allow you to identify migrants as the fly overhead across the harbour mouth.

Facilities

The Studland Ferry Road is popular with cyclists and Shell Beach car park is easily accessed via bike from either the Sandbanks to Studland chain ferry from Poole or by cycling through Studland and along the Studland peninsular. There are public toilets within the car park. There are no hides at Shell Bay.

Parking

The easiest access to Shell Bay is by parking in the pay and display Shell Bay National Trust car park at BH19 3BA where National Trust members park for free. A short board walk leading through the reed bed leads you to a set of sand dunes, which offer a good vantage point for scanning the bay.

Spring

Mediterranean Gull, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Shag, Sanderling, Swallow, Wheatear, Blackcap, Chiffchaff

Summer

Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Rock Pipit

Autumn

Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Swalllow, House Martin, Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Siskin and Linnet

Winter

Great Northern Diver, Eider, Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Sanderling, Mediterranean Gull Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Linnet and Reed Bunting

Slepe Heath

Owned and managed by the National Trust, Slepe Heath is an excellent site to visit with easy to follow footpaths off Soldiers Road and great birds on view throughout the year. Being a heathland site, it hosts a sensitive and delicate ecosystem. Slepe Heath can be a busy feeding and stopover site for passage migrants in the autumn with Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Wheatear, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Redstart represented during August and September. Resident heathland species such as Dartford Warbler and Stonechat can be found throughout the year and this is a good spot to see and hear Nightjar on balmy summer’s evenings. Through the winter Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier commute across the heath with the occasional Great Grey Shrike overwintering on site. From the high ridge on the northern part of Slepe Heath views out across the Wareham Channel, Swineham and Arne Moors can be had and with a telescope, species such as both Marsh and Hen Harrier, feeding Spoonbill, hunting Osprey plus Great White Egret and Bittern can be seen if watched for long enough.

Owned and managed by the National Trust, Slepe Heath is an excellent site to visit with easy to follow footpaths off Soldiers Road and great birds on view throughout the year. Being a heathland site, it hosts a sensitive and delicate ecosystem.

Slepe Heath can be a busy feeding and stopover site for passage migrants in the autumn with Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Wheatear, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Redstart represented during August and September. Resident heathland species such as Dartford Warbler and Stonechat can be found throughout the year and this is a good spot to see and hear Nightjar on balmy summer’s evenings.

Through the winter Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier commute across the heath with the occasional Great Grey Shrike overwintering on site. From the high ridge on the northern part of Slepe Heath views out across the Wareham Channel, Swineham and Arne Moors can be had and with a telescope, species such as both Marsh and Hen Harrier, feeding Spoonbill, hunting Osprey plus Great White Egret and Bittern can be seen if watched for long enough.

Birding Info

Slepe Heath is a productive and beautiful heathland landscape with stunning views of Poole Harbour to the north and Corfe and the Purbeck Ridge to the south. The unbroken skyline views offer good sky watching opportunities for birds of prey and birds moving up and down the Frome Valley. It holds good numbers of regular heathland breeding species and is a magnet for common autumn passage migrants during August and September. In winter Merlin and Peregrine are frequent around the site. Slepe Heath adjoins on to Hartland Moor so a large area can be covered during a morning or days walk.

Facilities

There are no facilities on or around Slepe Heath with RSPB Arne offering the nearest toilets and eating establishments around two miles away. Slepe Heath is also very exposed with very little cover in terms of shelter so take water if it’s hot or waterproofs if wet! The views on the higher parts of the heath are breath taking and the footpaths are well marked and established. Please don’t cycle or walk off the main tracks.

Parking

To access Slepe Heath please park at Sunnyside Farm BH20 5BH, just on your right hand side after driving through the village of Ridge. Walk along the tramway south and walk east across Stoborough Heath National Nature Reserve and across Soldiers Road on to Slepe Heath.

Spring

Hobby, Cuckoo, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Wheatear and Dartford Warbler

Summer

Osprey, Hobby, Nightjar, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher

Winter

Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Stonechat

South Haven Studland

South Haven is the southern landing stage of Poole Harbour mouth and is made up of a small sand dune system, open sandy beach, a condensed reedbed and a small mixed wooded area. It’s also where the Sandbanks chain ferry loads and unloads vast numbers of cars each year, especially in the summer.

Despite all this toing and froing, the area is a great visible-migration watch point in the autumn with large numbers of thrushes, finches, pipits and wagtails passing north over the harbour mouth when a NE wind blows. Big days have seen just over 6,000 Song Thrush and 3,000 Redwing logged in a single morning, but dedication and warm clothing are needed to endure this sort of spectacle. Within the reedbed Water Rail and Reed Warbler breed and in some years roosting Starling form large flocks, known as a murmuration, at dusk during the winter.

South Haven is the best spot to witness birds leaving and entering the harbour as Shag, terns, Great Northern Diver, grebes and sea duck dodge the chain ferry several times per day. The wooded area holds small numbers of migrants during periods of passage including warblers, chats and occasional flycatchers and also provides visible migration species such as Redwing, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet an area to rest before lifting up to head off high and over the harbour mouth. Access is simple by either parking in the National Trust South Beach car park, or as a foot passenger via the chain ferry from Sandbanks.

Birding Info

Other than Ballard Down, South Haven offers the best chance of experiencing Poole Harbour ‘vis-mig’ (Visible Migration). Through late September, October and early November many thousands of birds including thrush’s, finches, pipits and wagtails move through the harbour following very defined migration corridors, with the Studland peninsular being one of them. During this period cold, bright mornings with a light northerly wind are best but you need to be on top of the sand dunes at dawn, ready for the first birds to move at sunrise.

Facilities

The Studland Ferry Road is popular with cyclists and Shell Beach car park is easily accessed via bike from either the Sandbanks to Studland chain ferry from Poole or by cycling through Studland and along the Studland peninsular. There are public toilets within the car park. There are no hides at South Haven. However, Littlesea which is large, shallow fresh water body nestled within the Studland Peninsular has two hides on the fringes of its shoreline and are access via footpaths from the Shell Beach car park.

Parking

South Haven is best accessed by parking in the Shell Beach National Trust pay and display car park at BH19 3BA. National Trust members park for free. A short board walk leading through the reed bed leads you to a set of sand dunes, which offer a good vantage point watching visible migration over South Haven.

Spring

Great Northern Diver, Summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe, Shag, Sanderling, Mediterranean Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Wheatear

Summer

Very busy with people during the summer. Shag, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Reed Warbler and Dartford Warbler

Autumn

Possible big passages of Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Brambling, Crossbill and Chaffinch. In early autumn Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Whinchat, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat are all possible

Winter

Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Shag, Mediterranean Gull, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Linnet, Dartford Warbler.

Stoborough Heath National Nature Reserve

Soldiers Road runs in between Hartland Moor and Stoborough Heath NNR with several places to park. With an open piece of high ground at the southern end of the road consisting of mixed scrub, open pasture and heathland, a stop along Soldiers Road is always worth it at anytime of year.

The high ground gives excellent viewing opportunities out across the Wareham Channel and leads to a stunning network of paths and tracks in and around the Sunnyside and Stoborough Heath area. This area lends itself to providing migration corridors for many passerines such as Redstart, Wheatear, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher and Tree Pipit with Cuckoo and Hobby regular in the spring and summer. Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Woodlark and Nightjar are all regular during the summer and it can often be a good area for Ring Ouzel during the latter part of the autumn.

At the northern end of Soldiers Road, a large wet section of heathland can be found on the western side of the road, which leads down to Sunnyside Farm. Here a view out across the heath can produce hunting Barn or Short-eared Owl on cold winter evenings and at dusk Woodcock and Snipe head out to feed, passing overhead in the gloom.

Birding Info

This area does well for common autumn migrants such with a variety warblers, flycatchers and chats passing through during August and September but it can also be productive in the spring with occasional Ring Ouzel, Redstart and Whinchat. Stoborough Heath leads on to Hartland so a good mix of heathland species can be found during spring and summer

Facilities

There are no facilities on or around Soldiers Road or Stoborough Heath with RSPB Arne offering the nearest toilets and eating establishments around two miles away. The area is also very exposed with very little cover in terms of shelter so take water if it’s hot or waterproofs if wet! The footpaths are well marked and established so please don’t cycle or walk off the main tracks. The higher peak located at the southern end of Stoborough Heath provides stunning views north out across the Wareham Channel.

Parking

To access Soldiers Road please park at Sunnyside Farm BH20 5BH, on your right hand side after driving through the village of Ridge. Walk along the tramway south and walk east across on to Stoborough Heath National Nature Reserve.

Spring

Hobby, Cuckoo, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler

Summer

Hobby, Cuckoo, Nightjar, Woodlark, Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Willow Warbler

Autumn

Hobby, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Whitethroat and Spotted Flycatcher

Winter

Merlin, Snipe, Woodcock, Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl

Upton Country Park

Upton Country Park is owned and managed by the Borough of Poole in conjunction with the Friends of Upton CP and offers another unique birding opportunity right on the outskirts of Poole. At around 140 acres it hosts a wide variety of habitats and includes a good-sized pay & display car park.

New and improved walkways and cycle paths across the whole site allow for easy access to just about every corner of the park. The deciduous woodlands host species such as Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay whilst the newly opened SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) in the north of the park can see migrants such as Stonechat, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Firecrest which all pass through. The SE section of the park borders an intertidal section of Holes Bay, meaning that waders and wildfowl can often be found during the winter months.

Standing at the Stone Bench or on the wooden bridge on the SE outskirts of the park will provide good close views of species such as Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and occasionally Knot and Avocet. From Upton CP there is a cycle path heading east around Holes Bay, leading to Holes Bay NE, which is another extremely productive site.

Birding Info

The salt marsh close to the south-east boundary of the park holds good numbers of waders and wildfowl in winter on the high tide giving good close views of species such as Pintail, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank especially from ‘The Stone Bench’. The mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland hold common woodland species and in autumn common passage migrants occur in small numbers around the park. The large grazing fields on the eastern boundary of the park sees a large over-wintering flock of Black-tailed Godwit utilise the fields for feeding during the winter.

Facilities

Upton Country Park is excellent for cycling around and leads on to the Holes Bay cycle path towards Holes Bay north-east and south-each, both of which are also excellent birding sites, especially in winter. The park has public toilets and a good café. There are currently no bird hides or viewing screens but good open views of Holes Bay can be had along the southern boundary of the park.

Parking

There is a large pay and display car park at Upton Country Park located at BH16 5LW.

Spring

Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch and Treecreeper

Summer

Stock Dove, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting

Autumn

Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Osprey, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wheatear, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Firecrest and Meadow Pipit

Winter

Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Little Egret, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kingfisher, Fieldfare, Redwing, Firecrest and Reed Bunting

Upton Heath Nature Reserve

Upton Heath sits at the most northerly part of our Poole Harbour boundary and is sandwiched between Upton, Creekmoor and Corfe Mullen, meaning that several easy and convenient access points and parking areas can be found. The area comprises mostly of open dry and wet heath habitat with small sections of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland interspersed with several small lakes and grazed farm fields on the western edge.

Despite being classed as an “urban heathland” it boasts good numbers of iconic heathland species such as Dartford Warbler and Nightjar whilst in spring and autumn good numbers of passage migrants such as Redstart, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Wheatear all filter through the area. Winter thrushes use the farm fields to the west and in the woodlands Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper can be found.

From the high northern part of Upton Heath at Corfe Mullen, incredible views can be had looking out south across the harbour and in the spring and summer it’s well worth keeping an eye out for Hobby and Red Kite whilst on warm early summer’s evenings Nightjar and Cuckoo calls overlap as the daylight fades away. Upton Heath is also great for reptile watching with all six native species present on the heathland and a visit in April and May can reward the visitor with sightings of the emerald green male Sand Lizard basking on sheltered patches of pale heathland sand in amongst the heather.

Birding Info

Upton Heath is one of the largest remaining pieces of heathland within the Poole Harbour basin and offers the chance to engage with all typical Dorset heathland species. It’s a large vast area and is probably worth exploring over a couple days. In autumn it can see a good number of passage migrants passing through.

Facilities

There are no facilities out across Upton Heath but a network of well maintained and managed foot and cycle paths allow access to many areas of the heath. Please stick to all foot and cycle paths and avoid deviating onto the heathland.

Parking

There are several access points on to Upton Heath with parking at the north of the heath along Springdale Road BH21 3QN. You can also access from the south of the heath via Heights Road BH16 5QW or on the east of the heath on the corner of Longmeadow Lane and Beechbank Avenue at BH17 7YL.

Spring

Red Kite, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Stonechat, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch and Linnet

Summer

Shelduck, Hobby, Cuckoo, Nightjar, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Blackcap, Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Linnet

Autumn

Redstart, Stonechat, Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Treecreeper, Jay, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Winter

Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Fieldfare, Redwing, Dartford Warbler, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Whitley Lake Sandbanks

Whitley Lake, best viewed from Shore Road/Banks Road, is a large and extremely shallow area of Poole Harbour, busy with kite and wind surfers on a high tide it is equally busy with birds on a low tide. Like many places in Poole Harbour, winter is the best time to observe good numbers of birds, when the tide drains away exposing a large, flat sandy seabed which provides excellent feeding grounds for birds such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Oystercatcher and Curlew.

Whitley Lake extends out towards Salterns Marina and is adjacent to the North Channel, the main route for commercial vessels entering and leaving the harbour. Due to the sandy seabed in this area it’s often the preferred feeding area for any Black-throated Diver that enter the harbour but is also frequently used by Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Goldeneye and occasionally Common Scoter. Follow the road north up towards Evening Hill for stunning views across the whole of Whitley Lake and over to Brownsea.

Scanning from this vantage point with a telescope could produce any number of the species mentioned. In early spring, normally around March, the low tide area of Whitley is also a huge draw for large numbers of Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull that all gather on the sand when food is exposed by the receding tide. At the foot of Evening Hill on the inland side of the road to Whitley Lake lies a small nature reserve called Luscombe Valley.

This delightful area is managed by the Borough of Poole and is an under-watched and potentially productive area of mixed scrub and birch woodland. Passerines can gather here in the autumn with Dartford Warbler, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Firecrest, Stonechat and Wheatear all noted over the years. Access to Whitley Lake is simple with a large cycle path bordering the entire site with pay and display parking along the entire length of the Sandbanks Road.

Birding Info

Avoid this area during the summer holiday’s as it gets extremely busy. Winter is the best time to visit as Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Oystercatcher and Curlew can all feed close to the footpath on a rising tide. Luscombe Valley Nature Reserve sits at the northern edge of Whitley Lake and is a largely under-watched birding site which could hold passage migrants during peak migration times.

Facilities

The Sandbanks Peninsular is excellent for cycling along with a large flat cycle route and footpath bordering the eastern edge of Whitley Lake. There are public toilets along Shore Road and numerous cafes, bars and a mini-super market all close by. There are no bird hides but in the viewing is easy with unbroken views right out across the water/sand all the way to Brownsea.

Parking

There are numerous places to park along the Sandbanks peninsular including pay and display along the entire length of Banks Road at BH13 7PW. There is also a large pay and display car park at the end of Banks Road at BH13 8QJ.

Spring

Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Wheatear

Summer

Sandwich Tern and Common Tern. Be aware!, This area can be incredibly busy during the summer so if it's birds you're after, Look elsewhere!

Autumn

Brent Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Stonechat, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler and Firecrest

Winter

Brent Goose, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone and Sandwich Tern

Call 01202 641 003