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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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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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

Call 01202 641 003