December 2013

What a Year - posted 31/12/13

What a year 2013 has been with a real selection of birding and conservation highlights in the harbour.  I’ll write a brief report sometime this week, but we would like to thank EVERYONE that’s contributed to our cause one way or the other over the last year. It’s certainly been a year to remember and we hope that 2014 is even bigger and better. Some interesting reports from the last two days have included a Long-tailed Duck on Swineham GP, a Black-necked Grebe in Holes Bay, 3 Great Skua past Middle Beach, Studland and 8 Goldeneye on Poole Park lakes. The best of the rest include 29 Black-necked Grebe in Studland Bay and 12 in Brands Bay, 7 Great Northern Diver off Jerry’s Point along with the Surf Scoter, 7 different Marsh Harrier and 4 separate Hen Harrier (2 male, 2 female). On Baiter 22 Turnstone, 300+ Brent Geese and 200+ Oystercatcher. There were 8 Sanderling at Shore Road and 52 Bar-tailed Godwit. The 4 Purple Sandpiper were still at North Haven and another 5 Red-throated Diver past out at sea with many Kittiwake, 4 Gannet and lots of Auks.

Happy Smew Year - 29/12/13

Highlights from today included the discovery of a redhead Smew on Swineham GP in amongst the 364 Teal, 161 Shoveler, 23 Pochard, 222 Canada Goose and 18 Greylag. Also found today were 2 first winter Little Gull feeding over the flood meadow at Bestwall. Off Swineham Point there were 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 3 Marsh Harrier, 1 Chiffchaff and 3 Kingfisher along the Frome Valley. 16 Spoonbill were off Giggers Island which were presumably part of the flock of 22 at Shipstal before they were flushed by a group of walkers. Between the harbour mouth and Goathorn were 2 Black-throated Diver, up to 7 Great Northern Diver, the Surf Scoter and a Sandwich Tern. All around the harbour today were large numbers of the regular over-wintering waders and wildfowl. Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Teal, Wigeon and Shelduck all had significant counts. A Merlin was at Fitzworth. Yesterday 7 Marsh Harrier came out of the roost and there a still currently 3 Hen Harrier ranging from Swineham, Middlebere and Brands Bay. Off Shipstal Point a Common Scoter, Great crested Grebe, Goldeneye, 2 Sandwich Tern and Red-breasted Merganser were all present. A Water Pipit was at the Wytch causeway. At Lytchett Bay there was a Merlin, 4 Greenshank and 2 Green Sandpiper

Sun Soaked - 28/12/13

Today was a day of two halfs with glowing sunshine first thing and then…the rain. Our last ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ field trip of 2013 took place this morning at Swineham where we were treated to a warm glow as we made our way around the reedbeds, flood meadows and gravel pits of Swineham. Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, and Redwing were in evidence around the rugby club, up to 3 Marsh Harrier were off Swineham Point and on the GP Pochard, Tufted duck, Pintail, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Shoveler and Greylag Geese were all present. No less than 4 Cetti’s Warbler were singing their hearts out and a hansom Kingfisher sat fishing from a post on the Bestwall flood meadow. Various grebe roost counts were made this evening with Middle Beach seeing 24 Black-necked Grebe, 11 Common Scoter, 2 Great Northern Diver, 1 Razorbill and 8 Great Crested Grebe. Off Jerry's Point 4 Great Northern Diver, 9 Black-necked Grebe, 14 Goldeneye, 50+ Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Eider. The Surf Scoter was also present.

What’s out there? – posted 26/12/13

With the incredible discovery Dorset’s first Brünnich's Guillemot in Portland Harbour today and a White-billed Diver down in Devon it begs the question just what’s out there along our coast at the moment? The recent storms and pending gales have certainly stirred up a mouth watering mixture of wandering vagrants in southern Britain. A Cory’s Shearwater seen in Weymouth Bay a few days ago also highlights that unusual species are being blown on to our shores and with more strong winds forecast for tomorrow there’s no better time to start checking your local coastal site for a storm driven goody. A Murrelet, an Auklett? Ok, I’m getting WAY ahead of myself. As well as the devastating wind, flooding has also caused chaos for many with pretty much the whole of the Frome Valley now a flood plain. This in turn could attract scarce geese and swans so keep an eye out. Species encountered over the festive period have included Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank and 4 Goldeneye at Holes Bay. At Swineham 3 Cetti’s Warbler, Shoveler, Pintail, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon all on the gravel pits. At Branksom 25 Diver species flew west all, possibly all Red-throated Diver, 60+ Kittiwake, a few Gannet, 2 Black-necked Grebe and 1 Brent Goose with 4 Purple Sandpiper and 8 Sanderling at North Haven.

Finally we hope you all had a safe and Merry Christmas and hope you have an even better new year.

Wet Christmas - posted 23/12/13

Well, I’ve never seen waves breaking all the way over the Baiter car park before and onto the playing field, quite unbelievable really.

With all this wind and weather several sea-watches have taken place at Branksome and North Haven over the last few days. The watch at Branksome yesterday morning produced an unprecedented 46 Red-throated Diver! This is a huge total for Poole Bay, and at one time a single flock of 20 flew by. Divers are very much on the move during December and January, but these kinds of totals for Poole Bay are quite un-heard of. Also counted were 32 Kittiwake, 5 Great Northern Diver, 4 Gannet, many auks and several Great Crested Grebe. Out in Shell Bay was 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Eider, 3 Black-necked Grebe and 8 Shag. In and around the rocks at the Haven Hotel 5 Purple Sandpiper, 8 Sanderling, 7 Ringed Plover and 5 Dunlin. Baiter Park sheltered many hundreds of Brent Geese, Oystercatcher and Black-headed Gulls, also 16 Turnstone, 250+ Dunlin and 21 Black-tailed Godwit.

Finally, we’re really pleased to announce our first Poole Harbour conservation project is underway with the introduction of two Barn Owl and one Kestrel Box that have been installed at Lakeviews B&B, Swineham and was totally funded by public donations. For the full story click HERE 


Diver Delight - posted 21/12/13

Divers (or Loons if you’re in America) were always an enigma to me when I was a lad. Having been mad on birds since I was 8, I spent weeks day dreaming, looking at my pocket field guide wondering if or when I would ever see one of these incredibly charismatic birds in my lifetime, blissfully unaware that every winter many would spend the cold winter months just a few miles from my house! I’m now very familiar with all three British species and am lucky to know where to look each winter to find these birds. One such place is out at sea. Divers move around…a lot, and can often be seen passing coastal sites in their tens depending on the weather. Yesterday morning a flock of 11 Red-throated Diver past east to west out in Poole Bay right across the sun and towards Old Harry rocks…beautiful. Black-throated and Great Northern Diver were also on passage with the 3 of latter settled in and around the harbour mouth. A Little Auk was witnessed flying into Poole Bay from Hengistbury. Out in Shell Bay 4 Black-necked Grebe were still present as were the 4 Eider, 71 Shag and 53 Red-breasted Merganser passed. 3 Purple Sandpiper were on the rocks at North Haven and 17 Sanderling were on Shell Beach. At Hatch Pond 40 Snipe were present, 4 Pochard and 1 Little Grebe.   

Click HERE for some stunning footage of Black-tailed Godwit in Poole Park yesterday

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  • Little Egret - Poole Park, Mike Millard
  • Black-tailed Godwit - Poole Park
  • Chaffinch - Lytchett Bay
Calm after the storm – posted 19/12/13

Another strong storm blew through yesterday afternoon/evening but died out by 11pm. Through the evening an impressive roost of 3000+ gulls headed to the Brownsea lagoon for shelter but had all gone by this morning. However, as a result of the storm a few Guillemot and Razorbill were swimming about in between the harbour mouth and Goat Horn. Also 5 Great Northern Diver were present with 4 of them forming a nice tight raft. Also present the 4 Eider still out in Shell Bay along with 4 Black-necked Grebe and 11 Sanderling on the beach. The rocks in front of the Haven Hotel held a nice mixed flock of 2 Purple Sandpiper, 12 Ringed Plover, 4 Sanderling and 25 Dunlin. Two Ruff and a Spotted Redshank at Lytchett Bay is notable.

Purple Parade - posted 18/12/13

I received a phone call the other day stating that some of the regular over-wintering Purple Sandpipers were back on the slipway at North Haven. Always a pleasure to see I went down there and sure enough there were three feeding on the exposed seaweed covered seawall in front of the Haven Hotel. Numbers never really reach any higher than 5 or 6 but once located give excellent views often down to a few meters. Also seen stood from the car park at North Haven were 8 Black-necked Grebe, 4 Eider and 15 Ringed Plover in Shell Bay. From a school bird boat yesterday the open water actually seemed quite quiet with only a handful of Great Crested Grebe compared to usual 50 or so. 3 Great Northern Diver were present along with 50+ Goldeneye, 150+ Red-breasted Merganser, 21 Spoonbill on Shipstal, a young Marsh Harrier near Fitzworth, 300 Avocet and 1000+ Dunlin on the Brownsea Lagoon. Out over the Wareham Channel a new ringtail Hen Harrier has appeared possibly boosting the wintering harbour population to 4, and 5 Marsh Harrier are still present there. Middlebere is hosting big numbers of birds at the moment with 500+ Brent Geese, 700+ Teal, 300+ Wigeon, 500 Black-tailed Godwit and 200+ Avocet along with a male Hen Harrier and female Marsh Harrier

BirdLife Malta campaign Talk - Wednesday 15th January 2014

Malta lies on one of the flyways used by birds on their bi-annual migration between Europe and Africa. There are over 12,000 licensed hunters on the Maltese islands and many will illegally shoot protected birds. 

BirdLife Malta is determined to stop this tragic waste.

You are invited to this talk organised by the Dorset Bird Club and given by Andrew Morgan who has been supporting the BirdLife Malta campaign since 2008.

Methodist Church Hall, North Street, Wareham

Wednesday 15th January 2014

7.30pm – 9.30pm

Free Entry

Grim - posted 16/12/13

A big low pressure system that swung its way into the UK yesterday really brought a whole new meaning to the Christmas song ‘In the bleak mid winter’. But as always we try and put a positive spin on things by hoping that such weather can blow rare or scarce vagrants into the harbour. Little Auk, Grey Phalarope and Ring-billed Gull are all on my Christmas list and knowing this storm has come in from way out in the Atlantic a Laughing or Franklins Gull wouldn’t go amiss either! Ok, I’m living in dreamland a bit, but there are still lots of good birds in the area. On Swineham GP there is currently a nice selection of winter duck with Pochard, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon. Hen and Marsh Harrier can still be seen out hunting over the Swineham reed beds and 3 Chiffchaff were located in a sheltered corner of the site. Lapwings are congregating in big numbers out on various flood meadows with several flocks each containing 200-400 birds. Spoonbill can still be found feeding in Holes Bay on a low tide with numbers ranging from 3 to 8, also there 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Kingfisher and several colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit. At Shore Road 22 Sanderling were present along with 124 Bar-tailed Godwit including the summer plumaged individual in the photo below. There are several races of Bar-tailed Godwit each migrating and over-wintering in different areas. This bird is believed to be of the lapponica race, Lapland - Taymyr peninsula, wintering to Africa and India. Out on Baiter this morning a Sandwich Tern was sheltering from the wind with 3 Med Gulls, 284 Brent Geese and 480 Oystercatcher. Out in the harbour at least 4 Great Northern Diver remain, 90+ Goldeneye, 250+ Red-breasted Merganser and off Middle Beach 23 Black-necked Grebe were present. At the marina end of Poole Quay a flock of 19 Turnstone can be found feeding on scraps along the sea wall.

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  • Bar-tailed Godwit - Shore Road, Ian Ballam
  • Sandwich Tern - Baiter Park
  • Turnstone - Poole Quay
Winter snippets - posted 11/12/13

Small bits of coverage from the last few days. Lytchett Bay had a nice run of winter birds yesterday morning with 4 Spoonbill overhead, a male Hen Harrier, 1 female Merlin and a Water Pipit, along with 27 Avocet, 1 Grey Plover, 4 Brent Geese, 100+ Shelduck and 7 Rock Pipit.  At Baiter 18 Ringed Plover were again close to the cycle path feeding on the beach this morning and in Poole Park the water levels are still relatively low on the boating lake which allowed Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Turnstone to all be feeding just feet from the general public as they walked past.

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  • Redshank - Poole Park
  • Black-headed Gull - Poole Park
  • Common Gull - Poole Park
The Magic of Merlin - posted 09/12/13


Merlin seem to be in short supply this winter with only a handful of reports since October. However the discovery of one on the Brownsea Lagoon this afternoon led to one of the most spectacular natural history encounters I’ve ever witnessed. A female was spotted flying low over the lagoon scanning the area ready for a launch. It settled in the Tamarisk bush for a few minutes then all hell broke loose. It targeted a small flock of 50 Dunlin which it spooked and chased around the lagoon, twisting and turning every meter or so. It then forced the Dunlin up about 200 feet in to the sky until both predator and prey were just specks in the sky flashing white then brown as the Dunlin tried their best to escape. The Merlin valiantly managed to split a single Dunlin from the flock and stooped it all the way back down to the lagoon where they then both completed another five laps of the lagoon before the Merlin finally claimed its prize….astonishing experience. The lagoon was looking stunning with around 500 Avocet, 6 Spoonbill, 200 Oystercatcher, 30 Bar-tailed Godwit plus all the usual Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Little Egret, Brent Geese and Knot. Out in the harbour Red-breasted Merganser numbers seem to still be increasing unless birds are just congregating in bigger flocks as around 200 were seen, 50 Goldeneye, 1 Scaup, 1 Great Northern Diver, a Black-throated Diver was in the North Channel and a single Black-necked Grebe. From the RSPB anniversary Birdboat yesterday 4 Marsh Harrier around the boat was a real treat as a Peregrine came in and harassed them. Two Ring-billed Gulls have been seen over the last few days with a 1st year bird on Swineham GP yesterday evening and a 2nd year bird in Holes Bay on the 6th Dec. A Yellow-browed Warbler was at Knoll Beach Studland today and a flock of 30 Crossbill were present near Rempstone Forest. A redhead Goosander came into roost on Swineham GP and Lytchett Bay still has 5 Green Sandpiper. 3 Hen Harrier (two males and a female) were out over Swineham and 7 Woodcock flew out over Arne Moors. From Bramble Bush Bay good numbers of Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, a few Sanderling, Great Crested Grebe and Brent Geese are still present and the Sanderling flock at Sandbanks continues to feed along Shore Road on a low tide.

Finally I would like to thank the wonderful ‘A Focus on Nature’ team, Lucy McRobert, Stephen Moss, Dr Rob Lambert and their 9 members who helped out on the school bird boat this morning and then hosted an incredible workshop session and talk at Stoborough School this afternoon. 

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  • Sanderling flock - Sandbanks, Ben Scott
  • Chaffinch - Arne
  • Coal Tit - Arne
Open Water Species - posted 05/12/13

Here at ‘BoPH’ we really enjoy receiving your sightings, and many thanks to those of you that email us regularly. It has become very obvious that since we set up ‘BoPH’ it’s prompted people to start looing at Poole Harbour in a bit more detail. It’s made our year hearing all about the lifers, and harbour firsts people have been experiencing and are thrilled that people now have new, regular patches that they watch. With this in mind, we urge you to carry on sending in more and more sightings, especially of open water species. This is a cracking time of year for scarce species like Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Red-necked Grebe to arrive, so reports like this would be of great value. To give you an example I found a redhead (female or first year) Goosander off Hamworthy beach yesterday, a species seldom seen on saltwater, also the long staying Scaup that has set up home out in the middle of the harbour this winter.  There are still currently 5 Eider near the harbour mouth and the Surf Scoter doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. There are many decent sized flocks of Goldeneye at the moment, often containing 20-30 individuals. It’s well worth scanning through these flocks for species like Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. There are still at least 4 Great Northern Diver in the harbour with these strong winds over the next 24 hours keep your eyes peeled for Grey Phalarope and tiny Little Auk. A guided walk at Arne yesterday produced the ringtail Hen Harrier in Middlebere along with 400 Avocet, 800 Black-tailed Godwit and 200 Lapwing. The track down to Shipstal was littered with Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Blackbird and there were 2 Dartford Warbler on Coombe Heath. Out over Swineham 3 Marsh Harrier were circling together.


Click Here for information on a recent ringing session that took place in the west of the harbour, looking for wintering Woodcock, Snipe and Jack Snipe



RSPB 20 YEAR ANNIVERSIRY BIRDBOAT – 08/12/13 (Important notice - there will be no refreshments on board so please bring tea or coffee with you)




This Avocet was photographed in Lytchett Bay about a week ago on 30/11/12. After a bit of research and numerous emails we have finally managed to track down where it was originally ringed. It was ringed as a chick in 2012 at Ile de Re, western France. An intriguing recovery showing that this Avocet actully traveled north to spend the winter in Poole Harbour.


Ringed Avocet - Lytchett Bay 30/12/13   


Northerly route to wintering grounds in Poole Harbour   


Winter at it's best - posted 03/12/13

The harbour is a joy to watch at anytime of year, but there is something truly magical about winter. Dramatic scenery drenched in peace and calm spreads out across the Purbeck Hills towards Studland as more and more birds arrive for the cold winter months. The last two days have show-cased the variety of birdlife currently in the harbour brilliantly. Starting off with Birds of prey. Finally, two male Hen Harrier were seen together (Wareham Channel) proving that there are indeed currently two individuals patrolling the harbour along with a ringtail Hen Harrier. They seem to wander far and wide, as they have been reported from Middlebere, Swineham, Wareham Channel and Lytchett Bay all within the last 24 hours! There are also currently SIX different Marsh Harrier frequentingthe Swineham/Wareham Channel area with birds also visiting Brands Bay, Middlebere and Lytchett Bay. Out on water the number of species and birds are building day by day, providing a real spectacle. Today from a School Birdboat tour around the harbour the following birds were seen. The Surf Scoter, 5 Eider Duck off Goathorn, 3 Great Northern Diver, 90+ Goldeneye, 200+ Red-breasted Merganser, 26 Spoonbill (6 Arne, 20 Brownsea), 70+ Great Crested Grebe, 340 Brent Geese, 300 Oystercatcher, 200 Avocet, 12 Greenshank, 50+ Grey Plover, 500+ Dunlin, 200+ Redshank, 50 Lapwing, a male Hen Harrier (Middlebere), and a Common Seal. Off Middle beach, Studland the Black-necked Grebe count seems to hover between 25-40 birds as they spread themselves along the bay in small parties. A flock of 24 Ringed Plover were seen at Baiter.

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  • Reed Bunting - Lytchett Bay, Ian Ballam
  • Carrion Crow - Hamworthy
  • Brent Goose - Baiter Park
Harbour update - posted 02/12/13

A decent number of reports from yesterday, but unfortunately after much searching the Glossy Ibis couldn’t be relocated at Middlebere, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s still well worth checking further up the river valleys and out on various secluded flood meadows, as these are all prime Glossy Ibis habitat.  An early morning watch at Middlebere still produced a male Hen Harrier, juvenile Marsh Harrier, 462 Avocet, c800 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Green Sandpiper. Out in Brands Bay 5 Eider have now appeared with 2 Great Northern Diver and good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe. Out from Knoll/Middle Beach Studland a total of 40 Black-necked Grebe were in several loose flocks. In Lytchett Bay a ringtail Hen Harrier was present also there a flock of 60+ Fieldfare, 178 Shelduck, 1 Cetti’s Warbler, 200+ Lapwing, 12 Snipe, 4 Raven, 4 Water Rail and 2 Greenshank

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