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Today was the February Poole Harbour WeBS count which always produces good counts of birds and occasionally a goodie here or there. Today it was Lytchett Bays turn to report ‘find of the day’ in the shape of an adult Ring-billed Gull, which was settled in the bay briefly before lifting off and headed towards the Wareham Channel. It was gulls galore in the harbour on today’s low tide with literally thousands littering the mudflats around the entire harbour, mostly Common Gull by the looks of things with a good spread of Black-headed, Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and lesser numbers of Mediterranean Gull. There were also Yellow-legged Gulls in Wytch Lake (1) and on the Brownsea Lagoon (3). There’s no better time to try and find scarcer gull species and with so many gulls visiting the harbour each day hopefully it’s a case of when rather than if we see the likes of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls starting to appear, or perhaps even another Ring-billed Gull or two. Equally unexpected was a group of 5 Slavonian Grebe off the houseboats at South Haven, a species that’s seen big declines over the last 5-10 years. Also off the houseboats was a single Great Northern Diver and a Merlin was on Studland Heath. On the main Poole park boating lake was 1 Kingfisher, 8 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Goldeneye. At Norden sewage works 1 Firecrest was present and up to 6 Chiffchaff were feeding/singing. The Lesser Yellowlegs was on Lytchett Fields early morning and Spoonbills were on Shipstal, Brownsea and in Wytch Lake and the Wareham Channel. At Swineham 11 Barnacle Geese were on the main pit. There was also a report of a ‘brown owl’ flying over the marsh at Middlebere on Friday evening.
A blustery and blowy day, over cast sky and damp in the air…not quite the glorious early spring day we had last weekend, but still, its best not to rush and will the spring away, remember, it is still only February! Which in turn means there’s still plenty of a good winter birds to try and catch up with. Day by day the Poole Harbour Black-necked Grebes are transforming more and more into their much more attractive summer plumage and even the Great Northern Diver that are frequenting the harbour mouth area are moulting and changing ever so slightly. There are still lots of Great Crested Grebe across the open bodies of water in the harbour, all at various different stages of moult, some also in full summer finery and some still as dull as dish water (bit harsh we know). Many of the Reed Bunting that are frequenting the Holton Lee/Lytchett Bay area are also mostly half way through their abrasion process, where the tips of their winter plumage wear away revealing summer breeding plumage underneath. The Holton Lee feeding station is a good place to see examples of this as several males are currently feeding below the feeders. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was on French’s Pools. At Poole Park there was no sign of the Goosander but 3 Goldeneye, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Kingfisher and 4 Little Grebe were all out on the main boating lake.
There was a nice mix of birds today as the weather settled and provided us with a calm and still evening. At the harbour mouth early evening a Great Northern Diver and 4 Red-breasted Merganser flew out to roost, the Eider was off Pilots Point again, a Sandwich Tern was fishing in Poole Bay and a Razorbill was settled off one of the Sandbanks Groynes. In Poole Park the drake Goosander was still present with 4 Little Grebe, 3 Goldeneye, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, a Kingfisher and a Water Rail. In Holes Bay north there were still 20 Pintail, 100 Dunlin, 1 Knot and the Smew was in Holes Bay NE. At Lytchett Bay a Jack Snipe, 2 Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine the Lesser Yellowlegs and the Greenshank were all noted across the site. An amazing encounter of a Gannet flying over the mouth of the River Frome, near Swineham took local birder Nick Hopper by surprise. Black-necked Grebes were in Studland and Shell Bay as well as South Deep. At Arne 14 Spoonbill were on Shipstal and the Great Grey Shrike was seen again along Soldiers Road. One thing we forgot to mention was that a couple of grey male Hen Harriers joined our regular 4 in the west of the harbour on Wednesday morning. The Corfe Mullen Waxwing were again at Hanahm Road with 4 present.
The tides are currently good for gull watching as they come into the harbour to roost for the night. Low tides an hour prior and during sunset attract large numbers of gulls to come and settle which in turn may attract in scarcer species such as Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. Late February and into March is the best time to Look for rarer gull species so its well worth swatting up on ID features. Sadly, no such gulls were found in amongst the several thousand Black-headed Gulls that came into pre-roost at Lytchett Bay, although c20 Med Gulls were still nice to see. The Lesser Yellowlegs was out in the bay feeding with a group of Redshank and a single Greenshank hugged the marsh. Out in the Turlin Channel 4 Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Great Crested Grebe were feeding. Over Holton Lee a Green Sandpiper went over with a Marsh Harrier following after. The 4 Corfe Mullun Waxwing were seen again at the end of Hanham Road but only briefly. A fine drake Goosander was swimming around on Poole Park boating lake with 3 Goldeneye, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 3 Little Grebe.
Fairly quiet today with just a few snippets of news. The Smew was still in Holes Bay NE, just 3 Black-necked Grebe were seen in Studland Bay a Firecrest was at Upton CP, 15 Spoonbill and a Peregrine were at Shipstal, Arne. At Shore Road 81 Bar-tailed Godwit were feeding in the inner harbour, on Poole Park boating lake 3 Red-breasted Merganser and a Goldeneye were feeding and at Whitecliff 5 Turnstone and 2 Rock Pipit were on the sea wall. At Holton Lee a Green Sandpiper and a likely Water Pipit flew over there too.
Bar-tailed Godwit - Shore Road - Ian Ballam