October 2014

Yellow-browed Warbler - posted 31/10/14

I mentioned yesterday that by learning the calls of Yellow-browed Warbler it will certainly increase your chance of finding one, well that’s exactly what happened this morning only I didn’t find just one, I found two. They were tucked up in the corner of the Knoll Beach car park Studland, at the boat park end, and one of them was really vocal. Typically by the time I had run back to my car to get my recording gear and back to the bird it had quieted down, however it still called infrequently enough for me to get some semi-decent recordings to highlight what you should listen out for.

To me the call is a high-pitched, sweet sounding whistle for attention, that has a clear rising inflection at the very start of the call. The rise isn’t always easy to hear but is very clear on the sonagrams. 

Yellow-browed Warbler (bird 1) - Knoll Beach, Studland 31/10/14


Yellow-browed Warbler (bird 2) - Knoll Beach, Studland 31/10/14

Harbour Update - posted 30/10/14

Its well worth continuing to check tit flocks at the moment as the Yellow-browed Warbler wave continues with one arriving on Brownsea today, another at Studland yesterday and at-least another five or six elsewhere in the county. I still haven’t managed to sound record one yet, but learning their call is one of the best ways to track them down. Firecrest are also very prominent at the moment with a minimum of 13 reported yesterday with 3 at Hatch Pond, 9 in and around the Studland Peninsular and 1 at Lytchett Bay. A Brambling was feeding near Middle Beach, Studland. At Holes Bay there were 320+ Black-tailed Godwit, 600+ Wigeon, 150+ Redshank and 2 Stonechat. A Ring Ouzel was at Middlebere briefly. A flock of 40 Spoonbill were on Brownsea with the usual good numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Redshank. Apparently, big numbers of thrushes entered the UK this AM further north, meaning we could potentially see the first big arrivals of Fieldfare tomorrow morning and over the coming days with more Redwing too. 

Harbour Update - posted 28/10/14

News from yesterday where a Yellow-browed Warbler was at Lytchett Bay in the scrub around the Waterworks on Slough Lane. Today a Grey Phalarope was found near the harbour mouth sat on the water, which then upped and left intermittently as it would take off and then land again every 50m or so which it repeated several times before eventually being lost to view. Also a Black-necked Grebe at South Haven with another 18 off Middle Beach along with 4 Common Scoter and a Slavonian Grebe. There was a Firecrest at Sea View point in Parkstone whilst a Wood Pigeon vigil took place, however a meagre 450 were noted. Potentially the big main push of Wood Pigeon will occur next week.

Harbour Update - posted 26/10/14

There was a bit more coverage from around the harbour today resulting in some nice finds. Starting off at South Haven where a dark phase Arctic Skua was sat on the water before heading off south with both Ring Ouzel and Brambling overhead. A Yellow-browed Warbler was in the woodland above South Beach with a mixed tit flock and out off Middle Beach the first Slavonian Grebe of the winter was found along with 12 Common Scoter and 9 Black-necked Grebe.  A Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was seen at Upton CP in the piece of woodland next to where the old bird hide used to be. Marsh Harriers were seen at both Swineham and Middlebere with 3 and 2 respectively. Finally there was an un-confirmed report of a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Arne yesterday afternoon.

Harbour Update - posted 25/10/14

Despite some decent Saturday weather not many sightings came my way unfortunately. I guess the best news is that there is now a third Hen Harrier in the harbour this time an adult female which means it now joins the younger female and male as they dash around the Wareham Channel and Hartland Moor. There are also currently 8 different Marsh Harrier in the harbour. Today we attended the Arne Forage Festival, which was really well received. Our ringing demo that we hosted with the Stour Ringing Group was also a big hit with an incredible 95 birds ringed including 5 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 13 Chaffinch, 8 Greenfinch plus numerous Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch and a Blackcap. Before the event I arrived at Arne around 6am to do some sound recording and was treated to several Tawny Owls all calling, along with a handful of Redwing a nice Bullfinch flock of around 10 birds flying over. At dawn there were also plenty of Robins calling and singing and this is a species I’m going to be taking a deeper look at regarding its vocal arrangements over the coming months so decided to make a recording of a typical song. Below is the recording I made plus six very different looking sonograms. Amazingly all these sonograms are from the same bird and from the same 56 second recording, highlighting how varied their repertoires are.

Harbour Update - posted 24/10/14

Was out on a school bird boat yesterday morning and didn’t fail to impress (as usual). The Spoonbill flock was split between Brownsea and Arne. The lagoon on Brownsea was teaming with Avocet, along with Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Teal, Wigeon the odd Greenshank, Turnstone and Spotted Redshank. A Great White Egret was off the Ower shoreline and a handful of Great Crested Grebe were in Brands Bay. This morning a Firecrest was along the lane leading down to the waterworks at Lytchett Bay. 

Harbour Update - posted 22/10/14

Well the wind blew, blew again and then blew some more until finally by around 9pm last night it had run out of puff! The dreams of Sabine’s Gulls and Little Auks undoubtedly didn’t come to fruition but it was still exciting nonetheless. A sea-watch from Poole Quay (never usually a focus area during strong wind) came up trumps with 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Common Tern, 8 Sandwich Tern, 1 Great Northern Diver, 18 Ringed Plover, 230 Dunlin, 1 Peregrine, 1 Kingfisher, and a handful of Pied Wagtails heading west. Off Shipsatl Point this morning an Arctic Tern (probably the same as yesterdays bird) was hawking over a feeding raft of around 200 Cormorant in central harbour, along side several Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe. Also on Shipstal 3 Dartford Warbler and a large Long-tailed Tit flock. The whole flock of 49 Spoonbill were on Brownsea this morning which was good news as Chris Packham and the AutumnWatch team were over there filming for the coming series of  AutumnWatch which starts next week. At South Haven a Golden Plover went over and 2 Firecrest were grounded.

This Saturday also sees the Arne Forage Festival takes place for its 5th Year. Birds of Poole Harbour will have a marquee there telling people about our work, plus we’ll be hosting a ringing demo with the Stour Ringing Group from 11am to 2pm. Come and say hello!

I’ve been trying to record the Ringed Plover flock down on Baiter for a few weeks now, but boats, road works and very loud Herring Gulls have prevented me from doing so so far. However I managed to nip down there on my lunch break today with the falling tide and managed to locate a small flock of 8 birds feeding with 5 Dunlin. Typically they were mostly silent, but as they flew I managed to get a flight call type from 2-3 of the Plover and a from one of the Dunlin highlighting the rise in pitch of the Plover call…’rising inflection’

Harbour Update - posted 20/10/14

Is this the calm before the storm? Strong winds are predicted for tomorrow, coming in off the Atlantic and thoughts of all sorts of goodies are being conjured up in my mind….Sabine’s Gull, Grey Phalarope, Little Auk, Leach's Storm Petrel……hmmmmm, and now back to reality. Highlights from the last few days included another Ring Ouzel, this time at Arne Farm. One of the Great White Egrets was again out in front of the Brands Bay hide along with a Marsh Harrier, 11 Red-breasted Merganser, 28 Great Crested Grebe and a Peregrine. Off Middle Beach, Studland 2 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Razorbill and 10 Med Gulls were present. The whole Poole Harbour Spoonbill flock was on Brownsea which consisted of 49 birds….where is number 50? A Firecrest was in North Bestwall Wood, near Swineham. Around the Hartland/Middlebere area there were 3 Marsh Harrier, 1 ringtail Hen Harrier and an adult male, 1 Merlin, 1 Yellow-legged Gull, 6 Greenshank also plenty of Dartford Warbler and Stonechat. At Holton Lee a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier and adult female Hen Harrier were present along with 18 Bearded Tit and 2 Swallow.

Harbour Update - posted 18/10/14

Today was a classic autumnal day, which wasn’t as much of a right off as predicted. The day started off with our monthly ‘BoPH’ field trip, which this month was focused around the Studland area. Heavy rain was forecast all day, yet the minute I arrived at Greenland’s Farm at 7:45am, the rain stopped and it didn’t start again all day. For the brave souls that did brave it first thing this morning we were treated to a great variety of birds. Starting at Brands Bay where one of the Great White Egret showed perfectly for us, along with plenty of Great Crested Grebe, the first 2 Red-breasted Merganser of the winter, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and fly over Redwing, Skylark, Grey Wagtail and Meadow Pipit. A Merlin showed very briefly over Greenland’s Farm and a few Dartford Warbler stayed low in the gorse. On to Middle Beach, Studland where out in the Bay 2 Black-necked Grebe (and another 2 later) were present also 1 Common Scoter, 2 Gannet, several Med Gull, 10+ Brent Geese, 1 Common Tern and 1 Sandwich Tern. A check along the woodland in-between Middle Beach and Knoll Beach found us a nice mixed-tit flock with plenty of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, and then just as I was explaining that if we were really lucky we may find a Yellow-browed Warbler, group member Liz said “do they have an obvious wing bar?” to which I replied…’yes’, to which Liz replied ”is that one there?”. And low and behold, there in the holly was a stunning Yellow-browed Warbler which had the courtesy to come and land in the bush right next to us giving great views, if only for ten seconds or so. Unfortunately, one of the target species of the day was Ring Ouzel which I did manage to find, but not until after the walk and on my way home! It was feeding in the field below the main viewpoint along the Studland Road, luckily a walk attendee drove past and I managed to flag him down, getting him on to the bird before it flew off. Phew! Elsewhere in the harbour, Brownsea saw ONLY 41 Spoonbill, a whopping 27 Greenshank, 17 Spotted Redshank and 1 Firecrest. Harbour raptors now consist of 7 Marsh Harrier, 2 ringtail Hen Harrier and 4 Merlin (2 Hartland, 1 Arne moors, 1 Greenlands).

Continuing with the sound theme. Although the ‘vis-mig’ wasn’t as productive this morning as I was hoping it was going to be, birds were still on the move, and I want to provide you with two recordings I made only this week of species you may not think to listen out for, but well worth it.

Bullfinch – Social calls - flock of 9 birds migrating over Glebelands

Bullfinch aren’t perhaps a species you would think move around that much, but right the way through October and in to November flocks of Bullfinch, varying in size pass overhead, giving their presence away by the soft piping ‘fuu’ they produce. This recording is of a flock of 9 Bullfinch passing over Glebelands.


Raven – Familiar ‘cronk’ of several birds. Flock contained 15 individuals flying over Glebeland’s

The status of Raven in Dorset over the last decade has increased dramatically. When I heard one ‘cronking’ over Glebelands the other morning I wasn’t quite expecting to see flock of 15 birds passing overhead…..quite a sight. This recording is of a few of the birds contact calling with their iconic ‘cronk’

Harbour Update - posted 16/1014

This morning the 47 Spoonbills location of choice was Brownsea having spent all day yesterday roosting on Shipstal Point at Arne. I’d like to get my head around what forces them to make their choice between Arne and Brownsea, could it be disturbance, state of the tide, wind direction (shelter) or quite simply scenery!  Also on Brownsea the 2 Great White Egret made an appearance mid afternoon and joined the 7 Knot, 51 Dunlin, 13 Greenshank, 18 Bar-tailed Godwit, numerous Spotted Redshank as well as increased numbers of Avocet and Teal.  Out off Middle Beach there are now 5 Black-necked Grebe along with 1 Razorbill, also at Studland 2 Firecrest at Middle Beach and 1 at South Beach.  Up on Hartland 1 ringtail Hen Harrier was present along with 8 Woodlark, 6 Dartford Warbler, 4 Raven and plenty of Meadow Pipit. Lytchett Bay had 2 Woodcock and a Woodlark.

Two species that are most definitely on the move at the moment are Skylark and Woodlark, and both can be identified by call as they fly over. Although Woodlark is a scarcer migrant, October is a great time to listen for one out on the heaths around Hartland and Soldiers Road and even Ballard. Skylark is far more prominent and can be heard passing overhead in twos and threes around the harbour. Below are two recordings I made recently of Skylark and Woodlark passing overhead.

Skylark – Ballard Down - Two birds passing overhead

Skylark calls can be interpreted as a trilling ‘chirrup’ ranging slightly in pitch and quite dry sounding. 


Woodlark – Hartland Moor - One bird passing overhead.

Woodlark calls are far more musical and tuneful. Smoother sounding, they always remind me of someone saying ‘too-da-loo’ as they fly off!

Harbour Update - posted 15/10/14

Not many sightings from today other than an Arctic Tern at Lytchett Bay, 42 Spoonbill at Arne and 2 Hen Harrier again out over Hartland.  To make up for a lack of sightings then here are a few sound recordings I've made from recent outings from around the harbour.

European Golden Plover

This recording was of two birds flying over Glebelands early yesterday morning having alighted from a recently ploughed field. 



This is an interesting recording as it’s of a call I’m quite un-familiar with. It’s of two Yellowhammer flying up the south side of Ballard having just crossed Swanage Bay, one of them omitting short rapid bursts of notes with a higher pitched  ‘p-lick’ every half a second or so.

Harbour Upgrade - posted 14/10/14

Today saw big movements of birds right across the country, from thousands off Goldcrests arriving at various coastal sites to a whopping 550 Ring Ouzel at Dungeness in one morning! Well, my dawn watch on top of Glebelands and Ballard managed just 1 Ring Ouzel, which was enough to satisfy me, along with 2 Golden Plover, 1 Merlin, along with flocks of Bullfinch (9, 2, 2, 4) Yellowhammer (2, 1, 2) Siskin (2) Skylark (2, 2, 1) as well as regular flocks of Meadow Pipit, Alba Wagtails, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Linnet all in regular loose flocks of 5-10 birds. At Arne the record Spoonbill flock of 47 were all hanging out on Shipstal point which is quite a sight if you can make it down there. Both Great White Egrets were out in Brands Bay for a short time, with one venturing over to Brownsea in the afternoon. Also on Brownsea 10 Spotted Redshank, 1 Turnstone, 1 Lapwing (scarce on Brownsea) 2 Spoonbill, 8 Greenshank, 20 Curlew, 20 Brent Geese and Goldcrest everywhere! In Middlebere a Red Kite drifted over early morning. 

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  • Common Buzzard - Wareham - Peter Moore
  • Red Kite - Middlebere - Clive
  • Marsh Harrier - Swineham - Peter Moore
Harbour Update - posted 13/10/14

Today saw the Poole Harbour Spoonbill flock total rise to 49 with 45 at Arne and 4 on Brownsea, will the big 50 be reached by the end of the week or we will start to see numbers drop off as birds move further south west? Interestingly we have had some information back about four of the six colour-ringed Spoonbill, with data showing that two were ringed in the Netherlands as chicks, one in 2013 and the other in 2006. The other two were ringed in Germany and Denmark but no further information was given. Also out in the harbour today was the winters first Goldeneye, which flew from Arne Bay towards central harbour, also 30+ Great Crested Grebe dotted about and 7 Sandwich Tern. On Baiter Beach 12 Ringed Plover and 11 Turnstone were feeding. Out on Hartland another Merlin was spotted and the now regular ringtail male Hen Harrier was active between Hartland Middlebere. There are also at least 5 different Marsh Harrier in the harbour at the moment. 

October is a great time of year for listening to birds as well as looking for them so below are a selection of recordings made recently up on Glebelands, near Ballard by local birder Nick Hopper, highlighting some of the sounds made by some of our less common migrants. 

Ring Ouzel - Flight Call - Glebelands 12/10/14


Ring Ouzel Call - Glebelands 21/09/14




Harbour Update - posted 12/10/14

Today saw a classic mid autumn arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers with no less than 3 dotted around various places. The first was located up on top of Ballard whilst a ‘vis-mig’ watch was being carried out, the second was later found by the restaurant next to the chain ferry at South Haven, and the third was found at Swineham by the entrance of the B&B. You would never believe that this bird was once a national rarity with only a handful of records across the whole country each autumn, but now Poole Harbour can rock up three in a day! The vis-mig’ watch up on Ballard also produced 5 Ring Ouzel, as well as small numbers of Linnet, Goldfinch, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Swallow and Chaffinch. Out in the Wareham Channel there were 3 different Marsh Harrier and a Peregrine.  Along the footpath leading from South Beach to Old Harry a decent sized Chiffchaff and Goldcrest flock were in a row of Sycamores, which I can’t believe didn’t have a Yellow-browed Warbler in it, but hey, you can’t find them all!

Harbour Update - posted 11/10/14

Quite a bit of birding went on in the harbour today. Starting with Brownsea where you could have been mistaken for being in another country when all 47 Spoonbill and 2 Great White Egret were quite happily feeding/snoozing just left of the Mac Hide, and in one special moment on the webcam we had Spoonbill, Great White Egret, Little Egret and Grey Heron all in one view.  Also on Brownsea 400+ Avocet, 5 Knot, 31 Curlew, 30 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Greenshank and a Kingfisher.  At Studland another/the same Yellow-browed Warbler was present, this time down the beach side of the nature trail at Knoll Beach, leading to Littlesea in a Long-tailed Tit flock, also present a few Chiffchaff and a Firecrest. A concentrated effort was made at Lytchett Bay where a Jack Snipe, a late Spotted flycatcher, 2 Firecrest, 2 Barnacle Goose, 2 Rock Pipit, 1 Spotted Redshank and 1 Ruff were all recorded. Up around Soldiers Road/Hartland a Wheatear was still hopping around in search of food, 1 Woodlark in sub-song, 9 Dartford Warbler, 12 Stonechat, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Peregrine and 6 Snipe.

Harbour Update - posted 10/10/14

Today saw the harbours first (and hopefully not last) Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn, at the south end of Knoll Beach, Studland.  Sea-watched at Branksome have been fairly quiet, but an Arctic Skua was a nice welcome, along with more and more Brent Geese arriving in small groups. Lytchett Bay has seen a nice mix of birds on the new scrape that’s been created along the lane to the water works, including 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Ruff, 7 Greenshank, 132 Redshank, big numbers of Teal and Wigeon. There were 2 Sandwich Tern out on Baiter during the recent windy weather.  Brownsea Avocet numbers are growing day by day with around 400+ now present, and at least 32 Spoonbill were still on the lagoon. Down at Baiter a nice flock of 25 Turnstone were giving exceptionally close views down to a couple of feet!


Harbour Update - posted 07/10/14

During the gales of yesterday morning a sea watch at Branksom Chine came up trumps with 10 Arctic Skua and 2 Pomarine Skua, as well as 2 Arctic Terns, 4 Dunlin and 2 Mediterranean Gull. Great White Egrets were seen in Brands Bay, Lytchett Bay and this morning on the Brownsea Lagoon, all sightings most likely consisting of 2 birds. Also on Brownsea just 16 Spoonbill, a very poor show indeed compared to recent events! The ringtail male Hen Harrier was again over Hartland Moor, this time with a Hobby in tow and a Hobby was over Arne Moors again. Out on Baiter an Arctic Tern was seen hunkering down out of the rain with 2 Common Tern and a Sandwich Tern, along with 26 Ringed Plover, 50+ Dunlin, 10+ Turnstone and 200+ Oystercatcher. Brent Geese are arriving day by day at the moment with around 50 in the harbour so far, with birds gathering in Studland Bay and a few smaller groups venturing into the harbour. There was also a report of a possible Rose Coloured Starling just outside the harbour, around the back of Sandford on the edge of Wareham Forest.

Harbour Update - posted 05/10/14

A great day in the harbour today with a whole suit of nice birds to feast your eyes on. Starting off with the two Great White Egrets are still present, and choosing to do mini tours of the southern bays before meeting up at the end of the day to settle down in the Little Egret roost on Littlesea. One was on the Brownsea Lagoon first thing, whilst another was viewable from the Triangle Hide at Littlesea, and then one was feeding out in Brands Bay for a bit around midday. The Spoonbill flock on Brownsea continues to rise with 47 birds now present…will we make 50 this week? The Pectoral Sandpiper was also still at Lytchett Bay on and off throughout the day despite going missing for periods of time. Also at Lytchett Bay were 2 Ruff, 1 Firecrest and a juvenile Garganey.  There were also 2 Firecrest on Brownsea too. The Osprey was active in Brands Bay where a Golden Plover (rare for here) was also found during the WeBS count. On Brownsea lagoon also 373 Avocet, 14 Spotted Redshank, 220 Black-tailed Godwit and 60 Little Egret


Great White Egret - Brands Bay - David Whalley

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  • Pectoral Sandpiper - Lytchett Bay - Ian Ballam
  • Ruff - Lytchett Bay - Shaun Robson
  • Osprey - Brands Bay - Steve Smith
Harbour Update - posted 03/10/14

The harbour is buzzing at the moment with three exciting bits of news. Firstly from early this evening when the discovery of Lytchett Bays only second ever Pectoral Sandpiper was found (the last being 22 years ago), which was only just viewable in the darky gloom but still an excellent record. Secondly, one of the recent Great White Egrets found its way on to the Brownsea Lagoon, which meant we could pick it up on the webcam, allowing people at home, work, school to watch the Great White monster! What was even nicer is that for some of the time it chose to hang out with part of the Spoonbill mega flock, which currently consists of 40 birds! This is one of, if not the largest gathering of Spoonbill ever recorded in Britain, so if you get the chance to head out to Brownsea soon, then please do. Elsewhere the ringtail Hen Harrier was up on Hartland Moor and a Hobby was hunting Hirundines over Arne moors. There are currently 5 Brent Geese out in Studland Bay along with 2 Black-necked Grebe still. The Brands Bay Osprey was still present today too.  The Holes Bay winter gang continues to increase with now 514 Wigeon present and 247 Black-tailed Godwit, also 123 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Kingfisher and 31 Curlew there. Forgot to mention that Lytchett Bay also had 3 Ruff yesterday.


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  • Osprey - Brands Bay - Simon Kidner
  • Great White Egret (with Little Egret) on Brownsea webcam
  • Pectoral Sandpiper - Lytchett Bay - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 01/10/14

With October now upon us it won’t be long before flocks of Redwing can be heard overhead on cold autumn nights and Fieldfare break the morning silence with mischievous chuckling as they arrive from the north. Talking of visitors from the north, the harbour saw a whacky if not slightly dubious arrival on Monday when a dead Red Grouse was washed up on the beach in front of the cottages on Brownsea! Where it came from is anyone’s guess, but the bird was relatively ‘fresh’ and easily identifiable so perhaps an unwanted bird from a local estate? The ringtail Hen Harrier was again present around the Middlebere/Hartland area. Brownsea is holding some really nice totals at the moment including a whopping flock of 39 Spoonbill which can be viewed on our Brownsea webcam. I’m pretty sure we’ll break the 40 mark this week, and who knows…could we possibly even see 50 by mid October? Also on Brownsea 17 Spotted Redshank, 3 Grey Plover, 4 Knot but only 150 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Avocet, indicating that a number of the new arrivals have already moved on to their Middlebere wintering area as there were 1029 Black-tailed Godwit and 354 Avocet at Middlebere yesterday. Also at Middlebere 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Greenshank, 7 Spotted Redshank, 15 Redshank, 1 Yellow-legged Gull, 6 Med Gull, 3 Marsh Harrier and a Peregrine. Out in Brands Bay one of the Great White Egrets was present, also 34 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Osprey, 2 Grey Plover, 210 Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Redshank, 10 Pintail, 4 Whimbrel and 1 Kingfisher. In Holes Bay 5 Ringed Plover and 10 Turnstone were good records, also there 3 Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtail and a Common Buzzard

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  • Red Grouse - washed up dead on Brownsea!
  • Great White Egret - Brands Bay - Simon Kidner
  • 30 of the 39 Spoonbill on Brownsea Lagoon
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