May 2014

The Eagle Has Landed - posted 31/05/14

I really don’t know where to start other than wow! Just when you think things can’t get any better a MEGA appears in a tree right next to the group you’re taking out for a field trip. On todays ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ guided walk at Morden Bog, something so incredible happened that I still can’t believe it actually happened. Our group had already been treated to great views of Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, Stonechat along with flyover Crossbill, Siskin and lots of Mistle Thrush when a member of the group (Alan King) spotted a bird of prey sat in a tree further on the other side of the heath. Initially the views weren’t great but the bird was pale, chunky, had a pale eye and seemed Buzzard like. Having experienced and been fooled by many, many pale Buzzards, of which Dorset has plenty I instantly ID’d it an extremely pale morph Buzzard. As we got closer it soon started to become clear that this wasn’t a Common Buzzard, so what was it? A Honey Buzzard was my next logical thought but the head was way too small and tail too short. Then a moment of total and utter madness occurred when the thought of Short-toed Eagle popped into my head, surely not? We opened the Collins Filed Guide and there it was, our bird, the same bird that had been sat in the tree. Almost wanting to faint, we gathered as many photos as we could to help confirm the ID and started breaking the news. What an absolutely AMAZING bird, made even more special by the fact it then returned later in the day for many many more birders to enjoy

 Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog - Clive Hargrave


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  • Sort-toed Eagle - Morden Bog - Paul Morton - Digi-scoped using a Swarovski ATX 85mm
  • Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog -  Roger Starbuck
  • Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog - Martin Wood
Harbour Update - posted 30/05/14

Unsurprisingly the Great White Egret was seen, but yet again by only one observer. I’m thinking of entering this bird into the Guinness book of world records as the world’s most elusive bird. No matter how hard I try it seems impossible to catch just even a glimpse of this bird….hey ho, I’ll persevere. From Soldiers Road there was 1 Hobby, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Woodlark, 2 Dartford Warbler and lots of Swift. In the Frome Valley a pair of Lesser Whitethroat found feeding young and there were a minimum of 10 Gadwall. Up on Hartland Moor another Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing also 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Peregrine, 4 Raven and 8 Mistle Thrush. On Slepe Heath 1 Tree Pipit singing was new for the site and the first for that side of the harbour in a long while. At Lytchett Bay a fist summer Little Gull was still around and a migrant pair of Avocet dropped in briefly, also 120+ Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Redshank, 1 Dunlin and an incredible 32 Gadwall. At Swineham there were 2 Little Gull, 1 Whimbrel and 2 Med Gull. On Brownsea the Yellow-legged Gulls have hatched their chick continuing the run of being Britain’s rarest breeding bird with this pair being the only ones in the country. 

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  • Hobby - Brownsea Island - Peter Moore
  • Black-tailed Godwit - Brownsea Island - Peter Moore
  • Yellow-legged Gull and chick - Brownsea - Peter Moore
Reedbed and Forest Cuckoo's

The below recording is of what we classify as a ‘Reedbed’ Cuckoo recorded up on Hartland Moor this morning. The calls of these birds tend to be a higher pitch to the ‘Forest’ Cuckoo. As expected, ‘Reedbed’ Cuckoo choose to target species such as Reed Warbler, where as a ‘Forest’ Cuckoo may choose to target species like Meadow Pipit or Dunnock. The second recording is taken from the Sound Approach title ‘Catching the Bug' (which is an incredible book about Poole Harbour and its birds if you havn't heard of it), and was recorded by Magnus Robb in Poland May 2005. Listen to the two recordings and see if you can hear the difference in pitch. 


Lesser Whitethroat - Hartland Moor 29/05/14

The below recording is of a male Lesser Whitethroat up on Hartland Moor yesterday morning calling in a somewhat un-typical habitat. The bird was continuously calling from a large area of woodland making me think it was either a newly arrived migrant or an un-paired wandering male still hoping to track down a female. Either way it’s a sound that if you’re unfamiliar with can leave you scratching your head for some time. Luckily its song is very different from its close relative the Common Whitethroat, allowing you to confirm the ID if you only catch a quick glimpse. The annoying hum in the background in the Wytch Oil Farm!

Tawny Owl - juv begging call - Lytchett Matravers

The below recording is of juvenile Tawny Owls in Lytchett Minster producing a classic begging call to the parents. This is a fairly common sound in any woodland this time of year as chicks start fledging the nest. Its well worth familiarising yourself with sound as it allows you to not only confirm breeding success but you can also visit the same site in daylight hours to see if you can spot the chicks huddled together as they roost on a branch or in the fork of a tree trunk. 

Harbour Update - posted 27/04/14

The on off rain over the bank holiday weekend didn’t make it easy to get out and cover much of the harbour, but still plenty on offer to keep hearts and minds at bay. The 3 Black-winged Stilts remained for a couple of days before departing on Sunday. The Great White Egret was spotted today flying over Wareham Quay heading up the Frome Valley. There was confirmed breeding success of some of the harbour’s scarcest species as Lapwing, Redshank and Yellow-legged Gull chicks were all noted. At Lytchett Bay the flock of 160 strong Black-tailed Godwit remain faithful to one muddy area of the site as a Little Gull and single Turnstone joined them. On Brownsea there was a colour-ringed Spoonbill, 2 drake Shoveler, 1 poor Avocet with a broken leg, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin and good numbers of Sandwich and Common Tern on the nesting islands. At Swineham a first summer Little Gull was over the gravel pits and the male Marsh Harrier was out feeding, also plenty of Swift about too and 3 healthy looking Great Crested Grebe chicks. Finally a Garden Warbler was heard singing up in the Corfe River Meadows.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Harbour Update - posted 24/05/14

There’s been a nice SSE wind blowing, looking like it has the potential to deliver something a bit different. Although no concentrated efforts were made to sea watch Poole Bay a Manx Shearwater that passed mid afternoon yesterday highlighted the opportunity for sea birds to be picked up off the Poole Harbour shorelines. Elsewhere a Common Sandpiper, 120+ Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 4 Redshank 3 Lapwing and 2 Common Tern were at Lytchett Bay. At Swineham 1 Little Gull was on the flooded Pool, 1 Little Ringed Plover on the ‘Stilt Pools’, 100+ Swift, 4 Cetti’s Warbler and a strange record of a summer plumaged Turnstone in a flooded field. Up on Hartland last night only a couple of Nightjar were churring, also 2 Cuckoo. Finally, there was a strange record of a male and female Goldeneye courting off Shipstal, Arne this afternoon. Although going by today’s weather I wouldn’t blame the Goldeneye for still thinking its winter!

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  • Turnstone - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • Little Gull - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • Common Swift - Swineham - Peter Moore
Harbour Update - posted 22/05/14

It was good see us get plugged on BBC South Today this evening with a lovely full screen shot of our website on the program. Hopefully the website will cope with the billions of people rushing to view the Brownsea webcam! Back to the sightings, there was a stunning but brief encounter of 3 Black-winged Stilts on private land in the harbour. It’s amazing to think that before this year the last record was on one in 1961 and now there has been 5 in less than two months! There was a sighting of Hobby on Upton heath, along with plenty of Dartford Warbler a Cuckoo, Tawny Owl and churring Nightjar. At Swineham two Marsh Harrier were active, 3-4 Bearded Tit, 2 Cuckoo and a Little Gull were present. At Lytchett Bay 100+ Black-tailed Godwit, 3-4 Redshank, 1 Whimbrel and 1 Cuckoo. At Middlebere 2 sleeping Spoonbill, 1 Marsh Harrier, 3 Hobby and 1 Yellow-legged Gull. Pilots Point, Studland saw 51 Sanderling, which is a great spring count. On Hartland Moor no less than 8 Nightjar were extremely active chasing one another and calling, a Hobby and 2 Cuckoo were also present. 

Nightjar - Hartland Moor - 21/05/14

The recording below is of a male Nightjar on Hartland Moor last night. On heathland all over Dorset Nightjar are becoming really active as they start to defend their territories and try to attract a mate. This bird was one of 8 vigorously flying about calling and churring. At the end of the recording you’ll hear the strange bubbling sound and numerous wing claps that the bird makes as it leaves its churring post, a sound seldom heard unless close to the bird. The sonagram shows the moment the Nightjar stops churring and starts wing clapping, with the sharp spike in the graph depicting each wing clap.

Harbour Update - posted 20/05/14

A few areas saw some coverage today, starting with Swineham where an early watch to see if the Great White Egret emerged from the Arne heronry proved fruitless in one aspect, however compensation for the Egret no show came in the shape of 6 Spoonbill, 1 Little Gull, 2 Bearded Tit, 5 Common Tern, 4 Redshank, 1 Lapwing, 2 Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe with chicks, 2 Little Grebe and a Cuckoo. A Lytchett Bay 124 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Redshank, 1 Peregrine, 1 Cuckoo, 3 Lapwing, 3 Gadwall and a Whimbrel. On Brownsea 3 Nightjar were active near the Lake Hide last night and on the lagoon today 2 summer plumage Knot, 200+ Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Grey Plover, 3 Dunlin, 1 Brent Goose, 1 Avocet and 1 Spoonbill.

Finally, what ever your views are on the Navitus Bay Wind Farm Development, you can have your say for the very last time by registering as an ‘Interested Party’ HERE where your view and opinion will be taken into account by the Planning Inspectorate later in the year. Please take the time to voice your opinions, it only takes 5 minutes to fill out the form.

Harbour Update - posted 19/05/14

The harbour was somewhat under-watched yesterday and today despite the promising conditions although the re-appearance of the Great White Egret in the Frome Valley almost confirms that it’s (currently) over-summering in the harbour. Although being super elusive it was witnessed flying towards Arne at 20:25 last night as it headed into roost. Its probably doing this every evening so there’s a chance if you watch from Swineham or elsewhere with a good view of the Wareham Channel that you’ll pick it up flying down the channel. At Swineham there were 2 first summer Little Gulls, 1 Cuckoo, 11 Cetti’s Warbler, 1 Marsh Harrier, 4 Sedge Warbler and many Reed Warbler. On Brownsea the Nightjars provided a great view sat on the post in front of the Lake Hide. Also on the lagoon 1 Brent Goose, 3 Avocet, 5 Turnstone, 1 Dunlin, 3 Bar-tailed godwit, 257 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Wheatear. The male Marsh Harrier continues to feed both females quite happily suggesting everything is going smoothly with both nests at the moment. At Lytchett Bay there was 1 (possibly 2) Spotted Flycatcher, 140+ Black-tailed Godwit, including 2 colour ringed birds, 3 Lapwing and 1 Whimbrel.

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  • Spotted flycatcher - Upton - Ian Ballam
  • Reed Warbler - Holton Lee - Ian Ballam
  • Black-tailed Godwit - Lytchett Bay - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 17/05/14

The weather over the last 48 hours seemed favorable for some new arrivals, perhaps something a bit different? South easterlies in mid May are always a good sign and today proved that theory correct. May is a great time for passage waders making their way north so its well worth checking muddy pools and scrapes for a stop over bird looking for a quick feed. At Lytchett Bay this week, the private fields to the north had already recorded 2 Knot, numerous Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Redshank so it looked as if some other waders were on the cards. Well yesterday 2 Ringed Plover arrived and this morning a Wood Sandpiper was discovered and then totally out of the blue whilst watching the latter Poole Harbours 4thTemminck’s Stint was found. Also present was 1 Greenshank, 2 Lapwing and 128 Black-tailed Godwit. At Swineham today 1 Cuckoo, 1 Greenshank, 17 Cetti’s Warbler, 8 Sedge Warbler, 21 Reed Warbler, 1 Marsh Harrier, 2 Swift and 2 Bearded Tit. A Red Kite and Peregrine drifted over Stoborough. 

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  • Temminck's Stint - Lytchett Bay
  • Wood Sandpiper - Lytchett Bay - Ian Ballam
  • Sandwich Tern - Brownsea Lagoon
Woodlark, Meadow Pipit and Great Spotted Woodpecker

In the recording below you can hear three main species, Woodlark, Meadow Pipit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. The Woodpecker call is the short sharp ‘yip’ that appears on the sonagram as the singular, thick vertical line, reaching around 5kHz. The Meadow Pipit is the continuous ascending call that levels at 7kHz all the way through the recording, which is clear to see on the sonagram. You can also see that the pipit is evenly producing roughly 4 notes per second. Finally, the Woodlark song is the mournful, lower pitched descending sound that can be seen in the sonagram starting slowly at first but gaining pace towards the end of its song. This was recorded up on Slepe Heath (near Arne) this morning, 16/05/14.

Harbour Sightings - posted 15/05/14

The large high-pressure system and open blue skies over Dorset this morning did little to help bring down any new arrivals. That said, what I assume is the same super elusive Great White Egret was seen flying up the Frome Valley again, this time over Ridge, but yet again was impossible to relocate anywhere in the surrounding area. This could potentially be the same bird that over-wintered in the harbour this year, and it seems to be choosing to roost somewhere on Arne at night and feeding in the Frome Valley during the day. At East Holme a female Whinchat was a minor consolation during the Egret relocation efforts, also a Cuckoo near the Wareham bypass. At Lytchett Bay Black-tailed Godwit numbers rose to 161 and 2 Redshank were also present. 

Common Snipe calling - Hartland

As well as the drumming I uploaded earlier the same Common Snipe was also making this sound a few seconds before taking off to display.....

Yellowhammer song - Corfe

The recording below is of the typical Yellowhammer 'Little bit of bread and no cheese' song. Towards the end you can hear the Nightingale start up and right the way through the recording is the Chiffchaff asending contact call

Harbour Update - posted 14/05/14

The harbour has been really active over the last few days both day and night. To begin with the first Nightjars were heard last night with 2 calling at Arne and another up on Hartland Moor. There was also a Snipe drumming up on Hartland too. At Corfe (Sugar Hill Lane) yesterday and this morning the Nightingale was again in full voice whilst 1 Cuckoo, 2 Spotted flycatcher, 4 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Yellowhammer and the first fledgling Blackcap were present. On Hartland Stud there are still two Wheatear hanging out with the Rabbits. At Lytchett Bay 2 Knot were out feeding on the fields which is a slightly odd record, also a late Snipe flushed, displaying Redshank, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Whimbrel, 4 Lapwing and a Greenshank. At Middlebere yesterday 3 Spoonbill and a Cuckoo. There were 10 Whimbrel in the fields north of Upton CP and 2 Great Crested Grebe out in Holes Bay. There was also a moderate arrival of Swallow this morning as birds pushed through north on quite a broad front across the harbour. A newly arrived Sedge Warbler was singing up on Hartland Moor and a Peregrine was hunting over Arne moors, the latter surely breeding in the harbour somewhere? At Holton Lee Tree Pipit are back on territory. Finally some good news that the male Marsh Harrier seems to be a good provider to BOTH his females at the two different nest sites. He has been busy providing food to both females as they incubate the eggs, which are roughly half way through their incubation period. Keeping fingers crossed everything goes smoothly. 


Below is a recording of the Common Snipe drumming up on Hartland Moor last night

Blackcap young being fed


These two young Blackcap look as if they had literally just fledged the nest this morning. Interestingly the male was the only adult feeding them, so the female had either gone off with another bloke, was on another clutch of eggs or had died!

Tree Pipit - Holton Lee - 13/05/14

Here is another recording taken this morning this time at Holton Lee of a singing Tree Pipit. As a breeding bird in Poole Harbour, Tree Pipit are quite scarce, so it was a privilege to be able to listen to this bird singing away at Holton lee, although the dual carriage way and wind ruin the recording a bit!

Nightingale at Corfe this Morning


To bring Poole Harbour birding a bit more to life, we're going to start posting numerous sound recordings from around the harbour which we hope will act as an aid to helping you with bird identification. After all, how often do you hear a bird rather than see it? Rather like the Nightingale that features in this recording at Corfe this morning. It was belting out its beautiful song not 20m away, but could I see it? Also in the recording is a Common Whitethroat.

Harbour Update - posted 12/05/14

Numerous reports came in from different areas of the harbour today starting with Swineham where the Barnacle Goose was again with Canada Geese, also at Swineham a late female Wigeon, 1 Cuckoo, 1 male Marsh Harrier, 3 Sedge Warbler, 4 Cetti’s Warbler, 2 Redshank, 1 Whitethroat and 100+ Swift. Up on Hartland Stud 2 female Wheatear were feeding. At Middlebere 1 Spoonbill, 40+ Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin and 60 Swift. At Lytchett Bay there was 1 male Whinchat, 1 Wheatear, 1 Common Sandpiper, 5 Whimbrel, 1 Cuckoo, 15 Gadwall, 1 Lapwing, 2 Redshank, 44 Black-tailed Godwit, 70+ Shelduck, 9 Reed Warbler, 1 Peregrine and 6 Med Gull. A Little Gull was still present at Swineham yesterday.

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  • Barnacle Goose - Swineham
  • Whinchat - Lytchett Bay - Shaun Robson
  • Lapwing - French's Farm - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 10/05/14

The rain eased off pretty quickly this morning but the strong west, south-westerly breeze held steady all day. A sea watch from Branksome produced 3 Common Scoter, 1 Kittiwake, 8 Fulmar, 10 Gannet, 50+ Swift in off the sea and 6 Common Tern. At Swineham at least 1 Garganey is still present out on the main pit, also 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Whimbrel, 200+ Swift, 1 Whitethroat, 11 Reed Warbler and 6 Cetti’s Warbler.  On Brownsea there are already 90 sitting Sandwich Tern, also 265 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Avocet, 1 Spoonbill, 3 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover and a Peregrine. At Lytchett Bay 1 Hobby, 4 Raven, 7 Whimbrel, 2 Lapwing and 7 Black-tailed Godwit.

Wind and Rain Set In - posted 09/05/14

With all this grotty weather we’ve been experiencing, its beginning to bring back bad memories of this winter when numerous events and trips had to be cancelled and rescheduled which is unfortunately what we’ve had to do with tomorrows trip to Morden Bog. News from around the harbour has been very sparse too with the only real highlight being a singing Firecrest at Arne, suggesting they are breeding there again this year. A sea watch from Branksome produced only 8 Gannet, 2 Fulmar, 3 Whimbrel, plenty of Sandwich and Common Tern, 1 Auk sp and a handful of Swift and Swallow coming in off the sea. At Lytchett Bay 1 Lesser Whitethroat on territory, 3 Greenshank, 85 Shelduck, 1 Cuckoo, 8 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Lapwing and 1 Redshank


Unfortunately, due to tomorrows forecast we will be canceling tomorrows walk at Morden Bog. We will try to re-schedule a bit later in the month weather permitting! Who would have thought it was May!

Sorry for any inconvenience.


May Bank Holiday Catch Up – posted 06/05/14

Sorry for the lack of updates so far this month, we’ll do a round up in this post from over the bank holiday weekend. Starting off with the discovery of a Spotted Crake out on Bestwall meadow. The bird was heard calling last night and the night before and could possibly stay for a number of days. Below is a sound recording of the bird by Nick Hopper...


There was another sighting of the/a Great White Egret near the Stoborough causeway.  Swineham area has seen a maximum of 5 drake Garganey along with 3 Egyptian Geese, 7 Spoonbill, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Hobby, 1 Marsh Harrier, 3 Bearded Tit, 3 Little Gull and stunning warbler number with 47 Reed Warbler, 20 Cetti’s Warbler, 11 Sedge Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Willow Warbler. At Upton CP 22+ Whimbrel were dotted around and a handful of Swift were noted. The Sandwich Terns on Brownsea have now started nest building on the breeding islands so make sure you watch the Brownsea webcam for all the drama ( At Lytchett Bay 1 Whinchat, 4 Wheatear, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing are all still prominent as are a few Gadwall and good numbers of Shelduck. Also noted at Lytchett Bay was a real mega in the shape of a Coot, which was then seen feeding two young! At Holes Bay 1 Wheatear and 5 Whimbrel. A Nightingale was in song very briefly on Stoborough heath. Hobby were also noted over Soldiers Road and Hartland Moor. Off Branksome Chine 4 Great Northern Diver were still around, also several Gannet, 4 Fulmar, 3 Auk sp and 30+ Common Tern. There was a big arrival of Swift over the bank holiday weekend and other common migrants continued to arrive in small numbers such as Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat and hirundines.

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  • Sedge Warbler - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • Egyptian Geese - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • Fledged Long-tailed Tit - Swineham - Peter Moore
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