January 2014


We will be liaising with the Brownsea team tomorrow to discuss Saturdays trip to the island. The forecast of strong winds may prevent us from visiting. We will keep you updated over the next 24 hours.

Many thanks

‘Birds of Poole Harbour’


Brighten up a grey day - posted 30/01/14

For me birds have the ability to turn a whole day on it’s head. Take this morning for example, I was scanning the water off Baiter car park and discovered a Slavonian Grebe bobbing along just meters from the beach. Now, I’ve seen ‘Slav Grebes’ many, many times but recently they’ve become increasingly difficult to find in the harbour with only about two records all winter. This is a stark comparison of the 6 -12 birds that could usually be found out in the bays around Studland in past years. Watch a video of today’s bird HERE. Also present with the Slavonian Grebe was a lovely sleek Black-throated Diver, 39 Red-breasted Merganser and 14 Great Crested Grebe. At Holes Bay over the last few days a redhead Goosander has been present near the railway bridge, along with a Peregrine devouring a Wigeon on a bare patch of grass. Also in Holes Bay (north) 112 Redshank, 104 Avocet, 62 Dunlin, 27 Curlew and 1 Spotted Redshank. At Lytchett Bay a female and 1st year Marsh Harrier were recorded, 300+ Lapwing, 6 Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank and 15 Snipe. At Swineham the Smew was still present and the Marsh Harriers continue to impress with between 6 and 9 birds often present. 

Click To Enlarge
  • Slavonian Grebe - Baiter Park
  • Goosander - Holes Bay, Ian Ballam
  • Spotted Redshank - Holes Bay, Ian Ballam
Day of two half’s – posted 27/01/14

On Sunday it was the Poole Harbour WeBS count. The forecast mentioned that the horrid low-pressure system that hit us in the morning would pass by early afternoon. Our Poole Harbour WeBS team kept their fingers crossed hoping the wind and rain would pass through by the time the survey started. It didn’t! The weather also had an affect on the tide meaning that what should have been a pretty standard low-tide was actually a very high tide, therefore producing little or no waders at sites that should have contained hundreds, if not thousands. Luckily about an hour after the survey started the sky cleared in an instant allowing a certain amount of surveying to take place. Highlights included 24 Spoonbill, 1 female Scaup and 3 Great Northern Diver off Shipstal, Arne. The redhead Smew was again at Swineham GP along with 166 Shoveler, 153 Teal, 70 Gadwall, 128 Coot, 36 Pochard and 27 Greylag Geese. It’s almost certain that there are currently 5 Hen Harrier in the harbour at the moment with 3 male and 2 female. Amazingly, I’ve just received news too that 9 Marsh Harrier left their roost site this morning, which must be a recent record. There are numerous large Lapwing flocks around the Frome Valley with a flock of almost 700 counted along Arne Moors. Out in the harbour the usual Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe could be seen in good numbers and the 2 Black Swan were still out on the Stoborough flood.

19 of the 24 Spoonbill at Arne

Swinenot go to Swineham - posted 26/01/14

You'll have to excuse the awful title pun but the Bestwall/Swineham area received quite a bit of coverage yesterday as Mistle and Song Thrush were both in full voice, and the hedges jumping with tits and finches feeding and fighting. The GP were packed with ducks mainly Shoveler but also 3 drake Pintail, an increase in Pochard, Teal, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Coot all in good numbers. 2 Bearded Tit were calling near Swineham Point and 4 Chiffchaff fed together in the early morning warmth from the sun. A hansom Kingfisher fed from one of the submerged gate posts and the flooded fields of Bestwall were packed with Lapwing, Curlew, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gull also a small flock of 8 Snipe and 2 Spotted Redshank feeding in amongst them was a bit different. Cetti's Warbler were everywhere and a female Sparrowhawk was flushed with a prey item. A redhead Smew was located on the pits too plus flyover Siskin, Skylark, Grey Wagtail, Raven, Reed Bunting and Rock Pipit All added to the bounty. Lytchett Bay was quiet with just a Green Sandpiper and Hen Harrier being the highlight. The Poole Harbour Harrier count consisted of 6 Marsh and 4 Hen Harrier, 1 female and 3 male, one of which is a new individual.

Spring is in the air (through the gloom) – posted 24/01/14

Amazingly a Chiffchaff was heard singing at Lytchett Bay on Wednesday afternoon in the glorious sunshine. Now look at it! More rain and gloom. Not much else to report unfortunately other than the Poole Park Scaup has relocated to Hatch Pond. At Lytchett Bay the Smew was still present yesterday, also there 1 Jack Snipe, 2 Skylark, 4 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Little Grebe. I also received some great counts from a birder who was visiting from Gillingham whom reported at Middlebere 1030 Avocets, 468 Black tailed Godwits, 825 Brent Geese (rose to 1000+ in the afternoon), 4 Ravens, 851 Lapwings, 250+ Teal, 4 Dartford Warblers (Coombe Heath) and at Shipstal 27 Spoonbills, 1 Great White Egret (roosting with the Spoonbills), 57 Red Breasted Mergansers, 4 Goldeneye, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 613 Oystercatchers. 2 Black Swan were on the Wareham/Stoborough flood and a Golden Plover was seen in amongst a Lapwing flock near Swineham.

Barn Owls Move In – posted 22/01/14

Back in December last year we reported that the funds raised from our monthly field trips had been spent on trying to boost the harbour population of Barn Owl. The donations raised from our walks allowed us to buy two Barn Owl boxes and a Kestrel to be put up at Lakeside B&B at Swineham, Wareham. There are currently only two, possibly three pairs of Barn Owl in the harbour so trying to encourage them to nest at new locations is of great importance for the species.

Today, January 22nd 2014 we went and checked the boxes to make sure they were still in place and not leaking and were thrilled to find that two Barn Owl have already moved in. This is an exceptional result considering the boxes were only put up a few weeks before Christmas.

This is also a great example of how people power can help frontline conservation, as we would never have been able to get this project up and running without the public kindly attending our walks and donating towards our cause. A huge thank-you goes out to everyone who has attended and contributed towards this project, the Barn Owls very much appreciate it.

Our next plan is to try and bring you live footage of our new tenants, but again this will need money! If you’ve never attended one of our walks before, why not check out our EVENTS PAGE and book onto one of our monthly trips. Or simply donate by texting the number at the top of the screen.

In the meantime CLICK HERE to watch the short piece of footage Wildlife Windows filmed for us today of the new couple. Lets hope they stay to breed.



More Merlin Magic - posted 22/01/14

A school boat trip around the harbour yesterday was treated to another Merlin spectacle as a female chased and harassed the 800+ Dunlin back and forth across the lagoon, twice splitting a single bird away from the main flock but failing to see the kill through. Brownsea opens to the public again for weekends only on Saturday the 8th of February, so if you get the chance get over there then I can’t encourage it enough. Also present on the lagoon yesterday 1 Peregrine, 1 Sparrowhawk, 150 Avocet, 30+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 500+ Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Greenshank plus the usual Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck and Great Black-backed Gull. A single flock of 12 Woodlark in a field on the Frome Valley was a great winter record. The Smew was at Lytchett Bay again, also there 5 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 3 Little Grebe. Off Baiter 3 Razorbill, 1 Guillemot and 1 Great Northern Diver. At Sandbanks there was just 1 Purple Sandpiper and 4 Sanderling on the Groynes and 4 Eider still in Shell Bay. Off Hamworthy Beach this morning 2 Great Northern Diver, 92 Red-breasted Merganser, 28 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Goldeneye, 21 Spoonbill off Shipstal and 4 Turnstone on the beach.

The reason we get up in the morning – posted 19/01/14

Today was one of those days that make’s us understand why we choose to pursue such a hobby.  Whether you enjoy birds for their beauty, their presence or their character, the fact you get to be outside whilst doing it makes it even more satisfying. The good weather got people out in their droves and sightings poured in from around the harbour as a consequence. So much was reported that I’m just going to write a list!

Amazingly the Great White Egret that was reported last week seems to be hanging around as it was sighted today over Swineham. From the RSPB Birdboat the following birds were seen out on the water Surf Scoter, 7+ Great Northern Diver, 2 Black-throated Diver, 6+ Black-necked Grebe, 20+ Goldeneye, 80+ Red-breasted Merganser, 30+ Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe and a Guillemot. On the Brownsea Lagoon a Merlin took a Dunlin, also present 30 Knot, 800 Black-tailed Godwit, 100+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 300+ Avocet, 800+ Dunlin, 7 Spotted Redshank, 8 Greenshank, 100+ Grey Plover, 12 Turnstone, 1 Spoonbill, 5 Snipe and 100 Oystercatcher. A Firecrest was near the church and Siskin were present in the Alders that lead down to the Mac Hide. At Arne 22 Spoonbill were at Shipstal, 4 Sandwich Tern were in Arne Bay, 2 Hen Harrier and 3 Marsh Harrier were in Middlebere.  At Lytchett Bay the Smew was still present along with 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Goldeneye, 1 Cetti’s Warbler and 2 Little Grebe. 2 Chiffchaff were caught at a ringing site, one a new individual, the other a pre-ringed bird from January 2013 proving winter site fidelity. A Guillemot was off Poole Quay. The harbours supporting cast of Brent Geese, Teal, Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Cormorant and Shelduck were all out in force too.

Click To Enlarge
  • Smew - Lytchett Bay, Ian Ballam
  • Water Vole - private Garden - Poole!
  • Guillemot - Poole Quay, Mike Millard
Harbour Round Up - 18/01/14

Two separate boat trips have been out over the last two days with another venturing out tomorrow. Bird species out on the water have produced no major surprises other than a Slavonian Grebe near Goathorn. Other species recorded were 6+ Great Northern Diver, 2 Black-throated Diver, several Black-necked Grebe, 1 Scaup, 20+ Spoonbill off Shipstal, 20+ Goldeneye and a Razorbill off Green Island. At Shell Bay 14 Sanderling and 15 Ringed Plover were on the Beach and 3 Eider were in the Shell Bay. In Studland Bay 2 Common Scoter were present. At Middlebere 410 Avocet, 200+ Black-tailed Godwit plus 30 Dunlin, 20 Curlew, Redshank, Teal and Wigeon were chasing the tideline. At Lytchett Bay the Smew was still present also 5 Greenshank, 1 Peregrine, both male and female Hen Harrier and 6 Greylag Geese. The Brownsea Lagoon was looking spectacular with many, many hundreds of birds including the usual Avocet, Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Shoveler, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Common Redshank.

Harbour Update - posted 16/01/14

Quite quiet on the bird front these last few days. The only new and significant sighting was of a Great White Egret on the 14th seen flying east down the Wareham Channel towards Arne. There was a recent report of a Barn Owl at Swineham, which means our new Barn Owl boxes could already be occupied, we’ll be going down to check them soon. The Scaup is still present in Poole Park. 8 Marsh Harrier and 3 Hen Harrier continue to frequent between the Wareham Channel and Middlebere. The Yellow-browed Warbler is still present at Knoll Beach. From Middle Beach 3 Med Gull, 4 Common Scoter and 1 Black-necked Grebe were seen. The Smew was again out at Lytchett Bay and 3 Greylag Geese on Shell Beach was a strange record.

You can now help us carry out a number of conservation projects across the harbour simply by texting BOPH14£5 to 70070. Thanks so much for your support

Click To Enlarge
  • Eider - Shell Bay, Ian Ballam
  • Goldeneye - Poole Park, Ian Ballam
  • Greylag Geese - Shell Beach, Ian Ballam
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

Bittern and Blue Sky - posted 13/01/14

This winter has certainly been one of the mildest in recent years so it’s no surprise that species like Waxwing and Brambling are no where to be found. The same goes for Bittern, which have annually over wintered at Hatch Pond for as long as I can remember. There has only been one Bittern record this winter in Poole Harbour with a bird seen flying low over Swineham at dusk just before Christmas. This morning another (or possibly the same) was flushed from a drainage ditch near Holton Lee and seen flying towards the reed beds of Lytchett Bay. It’s likely that 1-2 Bittern over winter in the harbour each year, but a combination of their shy nature and the vast expanse of Poole Harbour reedbed makes them quite hard to see. Looking out over a reedbed at dusk from a decent viewpoint will improve your chances of seeing a Bittern as they start flying to their various roosting sites deep within the reeds. Elsewhere around the harbour Firecrests were present at Studland, Swineham and Creekmoor Ponds. The Yellow-browed Warbler is still at Knoll Beach, Studland. A male Bearded Tit was at Upton CP in the reeds near the boardwalk, also there 5 Pintail. The 1st winter Little Gull was seen again at Baiter along with 189 Oystercatcher and 292 Brent Geese. There are still 8 Marsh Harrier roosting in the harbour and at least 2 Hen Harrier still present. At Lytchett Bay the Smewhas taken to feeding out on the water for short periods of time, also present was a Ruff, 5 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Raven, 2 Stonechat and 9 Red-breasted Merganser. At Shore Road Sandbanks 41 Sanderling were present along with 100 Bar-tailed Godwit. At North Haven 4 Purple Sandpiper remain. Spoonbill have been present at Holes Bay, Lytchett Bay, Swineham and Arne. The 1st year Scaup is still at Poole Park with Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye both out on the boating lake.  At Swineham GP 148 Shoveler was a good count but just 1 drake Pintail. Also at Swineham a Bearded Tit, 4 Cetti’s Warbler, c550 Lapwing were present. At Brands Bay a Peregrine was seen hunting and Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser were all present

You can now help us carry out a number of conservation projects across the harbour simply by texting BOPH14£5 to 70070. Thanks so much for your support

Click To Enlarge
  • Scaup - Poole Park, Keith Rawling
  • Bittern, Holton Lee, Ian Ballam
  • Red-breasted Merganser - Poole Park, Keith Rawling
Meet and Greet - posted 09/01/14

As a charity we aim to boost the profile of bird monitoring and conservation out in the harbour, and there’s no better way to do that than by talking to people. Over the Christmas and new year period, and even this morning I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to like minded people, fascinated families, intrigued individuals and curious members of the public. When watching wildlife, it’s so easy to get drawn in to what your doing that you can actually forget that just yards away might be someone who is equally interested or even better just waiting to catch the birding bug. Whenever I’m out surveying or generally out in the harbour, I’ll always invite people to come and ask questions or have a look through our scopes just so they feel they’ve connected with the harbour in a way they weren’t necessarily expecting to. So if your out around the harbour and you see someone watching birds, then speak to them, ask them questions, you’ll be amazed at how much ‘wisdom’ people are willing to part with! The less we keep our eyes down and stuck to our scopes the more we’ll all interact and the more we’ll all learn.

Back to the birds now. At Lytchett Bay the Smew remains on the flooded fields, also there 1 Merlin, 1 Stonechat, 2 Green Sandpiper, 7 Gadwall, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Marsh Harrier and 1 Chiffchaff. Out on the water the Surf Scoter is still present off Jerry’s Point, 5-8 Great Northern Diver mainly around Brands Bay area, 8 Black-necked Grebe and 36 Great Crested Grebe. On Baiter (until yesterday) the Little Gull remained also there a Sandwich Tern. Off Whitecliff a Black-throated Diver was close to the cycle path and a 1st year Scaup is on the small Poole Park Lake. A sea watch from Branksome produced 1 Great Skua, 3 Red-throated Diver, 1 Black-throated Diver, 1 Common Scoter, several Kittiwake and 2 Gannet. There are still 4 Purple Sandpiper at the Sandbanks Ferry slipway. Out in Shell Bay an Eider and 3 Great Northern Diver were present with 40+ Sanderling (including a colour ringed bird) and 6 Rock Pipit. A Marsh Harrier flew over the Wareham bypass. A night survey at Lytchett Bay produced 3 Woodcock, 7 Common Snipe and 5 Jack Snipe.

Click To Enlarge
  • Scaup - Poole Park
  • Sandwich Tern - Baiter Park
  • Smew - Lytchett Bay, Ian Ballam
Little Change Brings Little Gulls – posted 06/01/14

There’s been little change in the weather, which in turn has produced a handful of Little Gulls. There was one out in Lytchett Bay and another present on the Baiter playing fields, both 1st winter birds. Little Gulls of this age have to be some of my favourite birds, so dainty, elegant and well presented. Click HERE for some video footage of the bird at Baiter today. Also present for it’s sixth day was the Smew at Lytchett Bay. Although the land the bird is on is private, it is viewable from a gate at the end of Slough Lane, next to the waterworks. At North Haven 4 Purple Sandpiper were feeding on the steps next to the chain ferry and 2 Sandwich Tern were feeding out in Shell Bay. A handful of Kittiwake passed out at sea and a Great Northern Diver was just inside the harbour mouth. The Yellow-browed Warbler is still present at Knoll Beach, Studland and the Poole Harbour Harrier count seems to have increased even more with now 8 Marsh Harrier present and an absolute minimum of 4 Hen Harrier.  On the Brownsea Lagoon today 8 Spotted Redshank and 12 Greenshank. Due to the flooding 30 Shelduck had moved up the Frome Valley to Holme Bridge and a huge gull roost of around 2000 birds cam into roost on to Brownsea this evening, mostly Herring Gulls.

Click To Enlarge
  • Little Gull - Baiter Park
  • Purple Sandpipers - North Haven
  • Greenshank on Brownsea Webcam
Not a bad list - posted 04/01/14

Just a quick run down this evening of some of the excellent birds in and around Poole Harbour today. Definite highlights included a Bittern over the mouth of the Frome, the 2 Bewick’s Swans still in the Frome Valley, a Smew at Lytchett Bay, the Surf Scoter in Brands Bay, Great Skua, 5 Little Gull and all 3 diver species out in Poole Bay, 8 Marsh Harrier and 4 Hen Harrier around the Wareham Channel/Middlebere area, 30+ Black-necked Grebe and 4 Great Northern Diver in Brands Bay and off Middle Beach.

Great Start to the New Year - posted 03/01/14

Well we’re only on January 3rd and some great birds are being found. The highlight from the last couple of days have included the discovery of two Bewick’s Swans in the Frome Valley, best viewed from the Wareham bypass bridge heading up stream towards East Holm. Bewick’s Swan are very in scarce in Dorset nowadays, let alone Poole Harbour. A redhead Smew was found on a flooded back-water at Lytchett Bay today proving that these birds will venture this far south-west in non bitterly cold winters. The bays in the south-west of the harbour are filled with all the usual species, but Brands Bay and Jerry’s point were particularly busy yesterday morning with the Surf Scoter, 8 Great Northern Diver, 11 Black-necked Grebe, 12 Goldeneye, 50+ each of both Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe. Off Middle Beach 11 Common Scoter, 26 Black-necked Grebe and an Eider were present. A Common Sandpiper was found at Holes Bay and at North Haven 3 Purple Sandpiper, 9 Ringed Plover and 10 Dunlin were roosting. Birds of prey continue to impress with 3 Hen Harrier over Hartland and 6 Marsh Harrier still present around the Wareham Channel. Merlin have been sighted at Hartland and Middlebere and Barn Owl also at the latter site. At least 4 Peregrine are present around the harbour and can be seen harassing waders at Brownsea, Arne and Holes Bay. A sea-watch off Ballard produced Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar, Red-throated Diver, Razorbill and Guillemot. On many of the heathlands Dartford Warbler and Stonechat are very active and Woodlark have been reported singing elsewhere in Dorset so keep an ear out at Arne.


I’ve recently uploaded some new video taken from around the harbour over the last few days. They are of Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Peregrine and Bewick’s Swan. To view them click HERE


Click To Enlarge
  • Bewick's Swan - Frome Valley - Digi-scoped using a Swarovski ATX 85
  • Grey Heron - Frome Valley - Digi-scoped using a Swarovski ATX 85
  • Smew - Lytchett Bay, Ian Ballam
The Best of a Very Grim Day – posted 01/01/14

Not much news due to the horrendous weather but highlights included the Long-tailed Duck still on Swineham GP, a Little Gull on Poole Quay and an adult Kittiwake riding out the storm on Baiter Park. The Goldeneye flock in Poole Park is now at 6.

Click To Enlarge
  • Kittiwake - Baiter Park, Ian Ballam
  • Goldeneye - Poole Park - Ian Ballam
  • Long-tailed Duck - Swineham GP, Ian Ballam
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