January 2015

Harbour Update - posted 31/01/15

Today I led our monthly field trip, this month was around Swineham and although windy, the northerly direction of the icy blast meant we were largely sheltered most of the way around. Good numbers of wildfowl out on the pits including Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shoveler and plenty of Greylag and Canada Geese. Marsh Harrier were present most of the way around, with a few over the GP and a few more over the reed beds. Nine Spoonbill (flock of 7 then 2) headed up the Frome Valley at dusk and a few large flocks of Lapwing were spooked by the harriers. A few Cetti’s Warbler were calling and a flock of 8 Fieldfare were near ‘Curlews cottage’. Black-tailed Godwit were also moving up and down the valley in small numbers as were a few Curlew. The sunset was also stunning. There was a great wildfowl count in Brands Bay yesterday with 266 Pintail, 639 Teal and 162 Wigeon, there were also 3 first winter Spoonbill there today, a sub-adult female Marsh Harrier and large numbers of commoner waders. South Haven saw 4 Black-necked Grebe with a few more and a Slavonian Grebe of Middle Beach. Spoonbill were also present in Holes Bay on the low tide today, with the usual Spotted Redshank and yesterday 2 Common Sandpiper were present. 

Harbour Update - posted 29/01/15

The Smew is still spending most of its time hanging around the railway bridge that splits Holes Bay north and south often in the company of a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser. Also in Holes Bay today were 278 Avocet, 2 Spoonbill, 1 Common Sandpiper and good numbers of common waders. A Red-necked Grebe was off South/Middle Beach yesterday afternoon.

Thanks Ian Ballam for this photo of a colour-ringed Avocet from Holes Bay recently. The information has come back from the original scheme stating this bird was ringed as a chick in Suffolk in 2011, and this is actually its second appearance in Holes Bay in consecutive winters. 


UP AND COMING TALKS - posted 28/01/15


Disturbance and Estuary Birds

Presentation by Catherine Collop from Bournemouth University about her research into the effects of disturbance on wintering birds in the local area.

Tuesday 10 February  at 7.30pm

Venue - Carter Community School, Blandford Close, Hamworthy, BH15 4BQ


 Viewing the Future - RSPB and Biotope

Booking essential, only a handful of places left.....

To book, click here –

For more info, click here -

Harbour Update - posted 27/01/15

This morning I was lucky enough to catch and ring a Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff, a rare relative of our Common (collybita) Chiffchaff. Although they are often much paler, this is not a diagnostic characteristic of a Siberian Chiffchaff as some Common Chiffchaff can be just as pale. The only true way to ID a Siberian Chiffchaff is through its call, which this bird kindly did for me whilst it was in my hand, and then repeated when I turned my sound recording gear on. You can see in the sonagram the downward (sad sounding) inflection of the call, where as a Common Chiffchaff call would have an upward rising inflection of its call. 

During the same ringing session I was also fortunate enough to re-trap a Common Chiffchaff that through our ringing data shows it has returned for its third winter in a row having originally been caught and ringed in January 2013. Proving winter site fidelity in winter Chiffchaff is an interesting and fairly new phenomenon, however knowing where these birds breed would be the icing on the cake. Are they local breeders or like our over-wintering Blackcap, visitors from much further afield? Also ringed was a new female Firecrest and a male and female Goldcrest. In Holes Bay the Smew was again present just south of the railway bridge and the counties tamest Spoonbill and Spotted Redshank continued to feed in the Holes Bay outflow on the low tide.

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  • Common Chiffchaff back for its 3rd winter in Poole
  • Firecrest - Holes Bay
  • Spoonbill - Holes Bay outflow - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 26/01/15

The Smew was again in Holes Bay today, this time just south of the railway bridge next to the Holes Bay dual carriage way. It was feeding with 2 Goldeneye on the low tide and was constricted to the narrow, shallow channel, which made it easy to find.

Smew - Holes Bay (south) - 26/01/15 - To watch in HD press play and then click on cog shaped symbol at the bottom of the video screen and click on 1080 HD

Whilst watching the Smew I was also treated to a whole host of other species including a Spoonbill near the outflow, 40+ Avocet, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Gadwall, Little Egret, Red-breasted Merganser, Brent Goose, Cormorant and Mute Swan….it really is a great urban birding spot. 

Harbour Update - posted 25/01/2015

Today saw Birds of Poole Harbour host an RSPB bird boat which left Poole Quay at 10:30am and over 100 keen members of the public enjoyed the trip. Before I talk about that, I’ll just mention two other good birds found in the harbour today. Firstly, the Great Grey Shrike (that was originally found yesterday) was again on Godlingston Heath but was also seen right on the boarder of Greenlands too. Potentially, this bird may have been around all winter as this is a largely under-watched area of the harbour, and well done to the people that found it.  Secondly, the redhead Smew that was found in Holes Bay a few weeks ago was back again today and spent most of the day hanging around the railway bridge the separates Holes Bay north and south. Back to todays boat trip where we started off by landing on Brownsea then followed by a tour of the harbour. The lagoon was looking great (as usual) with 3 Spoonbill, 3 Spotted Redshank, 10+ Greenshank, 200+ Avocet, 100+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 100+ Black-tailed Godwit, plus numerous Dunlin, Grey Plover and the odd Turnstone, Knot and Snipe. Out on the water Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe were plentiful and a Marsh Harrier spooked a couple of hundred Brent Geese in Middlebere. A Kingfisher also welcomed us on the Brownsea Quay. If you want to witness the winter spectacle of the Brownsea Lagoon, then the National Trust open the island at weekends starting from February 7th 2015Marsh and Hen Harriers were noted in Middlebere and Brands Bay. Off the Houseboats in Bramble Bush Bay 5 Black-necked Grebe were feeding and a Slavonian Grebe was feeding in the Brownsea Channel yesterday. 


Harbour Update - posted 23/01/2015

Today we were lucky to have David Lindo (aka the Urban Birder) join us on our school bird boat trip where we were treated to some of the flattest water I have ever seen in Poole Harbour. From the boat we saw 30+ Spoonbill, 3 Great Northern Diver, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 100+ Red-breasted Merganser, 20+ Goldeneye, 100 Avocet, 200 Brent Geese and 3 Common Seals. David and I then did a whistle stop tour of some of the urban birding areas of Poole Harbour where we managed to tick off 1 Spoonbill, 2 Spotted Redshank, 50 Avocet, 300 Wigeon and a Med Gull in Holes Bay, 10 Sanderling, 2 Sandwich Tern, 100+ Bar-tailed Godwit and 5 Med Gull at Shore Road Sandbanks, 200 Brent Geese at Baiter and several Chiffchaff at the Fleets Corner outflow.

Yesterday, I also took a short recording of the singing Woodlark I mentioned in yesterdays blog post. 

The first sonagram below shows the full recording and each of the four series of calls the bird made. The below sonagram is an enlargement of the fourth series of calls in the recording





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  • Great Northern Diver - Brownsea north shore - Ian Ballam
  • Shag - North Channel - Ian Ballam
  • Red-breasted Merganser - central harbour - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 22/01/2015

Firstly, there is a talk I would like to promote that is taking place on Monday 9th February 2015 at 19:30 in the Poole Museum.

The talk is titled ‘Viewing the Future’ and focuses on how interaction between people, wildlife and the natural world can be managed in such a way, creating a totally new experience for visitors to a nature reserve or to the public in an urban area. The presentation will be spit into two parts, the first being presented by the RSPBs senior wetland ecologist, Graham White who will talk about how to maximise nature reserve design for both people and wildlife. The second half will be hosted by Tormod Amundsen from Biotope, the worlds first (and only) Ornithological Architects. Biotope are a Norwegian based company that specialises in 'thinking outside the box' when it comes to interpreting the natural world. Biotopes concepts and bird hide ideas have become widely talked about across the country over the last few years, prompting Tormod to host his second tour here in the UK (last one was in 2013) and sharing some of their ideas and visions. 

Our Birds of Poole Harbour charity have liaised with Biotope over the last 3 years looking at possible projects around the local area, for which their ideas and designs (I think) are perfectly suited for this location.

Why not join us to find out what the RSPB have been doing at other reserves around the country to bring people closer to nature.

There are only 50 places available and the talk is free of charge. To book your place just follow this link and enter your name and email address.

This promises to be a highly informative talk so don’t miss out and book on now!

Today at Ballard Down there was 16 Fulmar, 1 Peregrine, 7 Red-legged Partridge 35+ Skylark, 3 Stonechat and 24 Yellowhammer (superb count). Studland
saw 1 Firecrest in the churchyard and 28
Redwing. At South Beach
3 Slavonian Grebe, 8+ Black-necked Grebe and 7 Common Scoter were noted. Godlingston saw 
3 Snipe. Brands Bay hosted 4
Spoonbill and 59 Avocet. In Lytchett Bay this evening on the falling tide 2 Spoonbill were in the outflow and the bay was full of Avocet, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher whilst a Golden Plover on one of the fields was a welcome surprise.  Up on Slepe Heath this morning 2 Woodlark were in song…..not quite full song but giving it a good go and several Dartford Warbler made the most of the morning sun. 


Harbour Update - posted 21/01/15

A smattering of sightings from today. Middle Beach saw 12 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 10 Common Scoter and 19+ Med Gulls. In Brands Bay
there were 3 Spoonbill 46 Avocet 76 Grey Plover, 24 Knot and a whopping 1010+ Dunlin. Yesterday 3 Great Northern Diver were off the Brownsea north shore and 30+ Spoonbill were on Shipstal Point, Arne.

Harbour Update - posted 19/01/14

There were 2 Red-necked Grebe off North Haven this morning and 22 Black-necked Grebe off Middle Beach with another 11 in Brands Bay. Also off Middle Beach 1 Slavonian Grebe and 10 Common Scoter. There was a Great Northern Diver off South Haven and 3 Spoonbill in Brands Bay with 69 Red-breasted Merganser and 4 Goldeneye. 3 Purple Sandpiper were still at North Haven. There was a massive count of Common Snipe at Hatch Pond of 100+ but still no Bittern.  I’ve also been sent some great photos of the Black Guillemot taken from a boat trip that went out at the weekend.

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  • Black Guillemot - Brownsea Shoreline - Peter Hancock
  • Black Guillemot - Brownsea Shoreline - Peter Hancock
  • Black Guillemot - Brownsea Shoreline - Peter Hancock

The Black Guillemot was again off the south-eastern end of Brownsea, which with a scope would be viewable from the Studland Peninsular and possibly North Haven, especially in calm water. Off Middle Beach there was 1 Red-necked Grebe, 2 Slavonian Grebe and 10 Common Scoter. The Great White Egret was again at Eastern Lake, Littlesea.  At Lytchett Bay 2 Spotted Redshank were on the wet Fields with 1 Water Pipit, 1 Greenshank, 100+ Dunlin, 200+ Lapwing and several Snipe. There were still 32 Spoonbill at Shipstal Point and 1 Hen Harrier over Coombe Heath.

Harbour Update - posted 15/01/15

Most of the reports again came from the Studland area where a female Long-tailed Duck was found off Middle Beach, which later joined the 13 strong flock of Common Scoter. Also off Middle Beach 2 Great Northern Diver, 3 Slavonian Grebe, and numerous Black-necked Grebe.

Harbour Update - posted 14/01/15

Today wad the third and final day of our first Dorset Discovery Tour, in partnership with the RSPB Dorset team. I’ll write trip report in the coming days but today saw us visiting the Studland Peninsular and Brownsea.  At South Beach Studland there was Red-necked Grebe x 1,
Slavonian Grebe x 2,
Black-necked Grebe x 6,
Great Northern Diver x 2,
Common Scoter x 10,
Velvet Scoter x 1 likely 1st year bird with Common Scoter,
Chiffchaff x 1. Brownsea saw 3 Spotted Redshank, 4 Greenshank, a Peregrine chase,
Avocet 300+,
Pintail x 2,
Turnstone x 3,
Sandwich Tern x 2,
Kingfisher x 1,
Bar-tailed Godwit 100+,
Buzzard x 1 very pale bird,
Marsh Harrier x 1 hunting over lagoon. Yesterday there was an incredible 7 Great Northern Diver off Middle Beach, including a raft of 6! There have been some pretty impressive Black-tailed Godwit flocks recently too with 1352 in Holes Bay yesterday.

Harbour Update - posted 12/01/15

Today was the first day of new DORSET DISCOVERY Winter tour, in partnership with the RSPB, and what a start to our three day tour. Around 20 Spoonbill were out on Shipstal point, Studland and 200 Avocet were in Middlebere. Dartford Warbler were up on Shipstal viewpoint and out on the water Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe and a Common Scoter were off Shipstal Point.  Elsewhere the Black Guillemot was off the Brownsea Quay today proving its still around despite long absences.  A Velvet Scoter was seen at the harbour mouth along with a Great Northern Diver and 5 Black-necked Grebe. Off Middle Beach were 4 Slavonian Grebe, 8 Common Scoter, 1 Red-necked Grebe and plenty of Black-necked Grebe

Harbour Update - posted 11/01/15

A single Long-tailed Duck was seen Studland Bay yesterday (which didn’t reappear today unfortunately), Studland had another surprise up its sleeve today. One Red-necked Grebe in Poole Harbour is a real treat, two is being spoilt but three… we’re just being greedy, but today saw two off South Beach, whilst another was in Shell Bay at the same time. Today also saw a Brownsea landing RSPB bird boat trip take place. As usual we were treated to a whole host of waders out on the Brownsea Lagoon including 10+ Spotted Redshank, 20+ Greenshank, 400 Avocet, 300 Black-tailed Godwit, 150 Bar-tailed Godwit, 20+ Knot, 100 Grey Plover, 200 Dunlin, 1 Turnstone plus Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, 2 Pintail, Redshank, Oystercatcher and plenty of Cormorant. 36 Spoonbill were out on Shipstal Point again and the main body of the harbour saw 200+ Red-breasted Merganser dotted around and 80+ Goldeneye. There was a Great Northern Diver off Shell Beach and 3 off Middle Beach plus 11 Black-necked Grebe and 11 Common Scoter there too.  2 Purple Sandpiper were in front of the Haven Hotel and 40 Sanderling moved between North and South Haven. The Great White Egret was seen again at Eastern Lake, Studland and 7 Sandwich Tern were in Brands Bay.

An update regarding the ringed Hen Harrier that was photographed at Middlebere about a week ago, it looks like it is part of a Scottish scheme, I’ll provide some more info when I get it. 


Harbour Update - posted 10/01/15

An interesting report of 9 Long-tailed Duck out in Studland Bay today including a single male and 8 females…..a sight I would certainly like to see. Also out in Studland Bay 4 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Common Scoter and several Great Crested Grebe.  Today was also the Arne Raptor weekend where good views of male and female Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier and Peregrine were all had.  34 Spoonbill were out on Shipstal for most of the day and there were over 1000 Brent Geese down near Middlebere. 

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  • Nuthatch - Upton CP - Sarah Isherwood-Harris
  • Treecreeper - Upton CP - Sarah Isherwood-Harris
  • Chaffinch - Bestwall
Harbour Update - posted 08/01/15

Firstly, we’ve recently been sent some information from Natural England regarding the Poole Harbour SPA (Special Protection Area) and a developing initiative looking at bait digging and other recreational activities in the harbour. To read about this please click HERE.

Sightings wise, there was a bit to report including news from Middlebere of 3 adult Yellow-legged Gull, 768 Avocet, 684 Black-tailed Godwit, 427 Dunlin, 96 Redshank, 2 Spotted Redshank, 300+ Lapwing, 176 Wigeon, Teal c.250, Brent Goose c.600 and a female Hen Harrier. There was a Scaup off Redhorn Quay and the Great White Egret was still in the Littlesea, Studland area. A Merlin was chasing Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot over the Brownsea Lagoon and 25+ Spoonbill were still present at Shipstal.

Talking of Spoonbill, I’ve had information back from a colour-ringed individual that I photographed at Lytchett Bay on 30/12/14.

It was ringed as a chick at Markiezaat, Spuitkop, The Netherlands on 2nd June 2014 at has been seen subsequently at the following sites……

30-7-2014 Scherpenisse, Scherpenissepold Kees Vliet Vlieland 51,53N  4,10E The Netherlands 15 km

12-11-2014 Grevelingen, Kabbelaarsbank Mark Hoekstein 51,75N  3,87E The Netherlands 43 km

30-12-2014  Dorset, Poole Harbour, 446 km away nesting ground -  Paul Morton

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  • Black-necked Grebe - Shell Bay, Keith Rawling
  • Shag - Harbour Mouth - Keith Rawling
  • Purple Sandpiper - North Haven - Keith Rawling
Harbour Update - posted 07/01/15

Firstly, I have recently uploaded some more up and coming field trips on our events page. To book on to one of our trips just email us at or phone on us 01202 641003. To view the events click HERE.

Sightings wise, the 3 Purple Sandpiper continue to feed on the sea wall at North Haven, Sandbanks. A Barnacle Goose of un-known origin was in Poole Park with Canada Geese. Turnstone, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit are easy to see off the cycle/foot path at Shore Road/Whitley Lake.  At Middlebere Creek there were 8 Spotted Redshank, 781 Avocet, 331 Black-tailed Godwit, 75 Redshank, 423 Lapwing, 2 ad Yellow-legged Gull, Marsh Harrier juv and also a male on Wytch Creek side of peninsula. First winter Spoonbill in front and at Arne 1 Firecrest in the car park. From Old Harry there was 1 Slavonian Grebe and 1 Red-necked Grebe off South Beach, 10 Razorbill in Studland Bay and 2 Guillemot. From Middle Beach 1 Red-throated Diver, 10 Black-necked Grebe, 14 Common Scoter and several auks. There were 3 Great Northern Diver together off the Brownsea north shore and 20+ Spoonbill on Shipsatl Point. There were plenty of Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser out on the open water and 500 Brent Geese on the marsh at Shipstal Beach. There is also currently a ringed Hen Harrier in the harbour that we’re trying to get the details of. As soon as we hear anything we’ll post the info asap. 

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  • Ringed Hen Harrier - Middlebere - Mark Wright
  • Linnet - Ridge
  • Black-tailed Godwit - Shore Road - Keith Rawling
Harbour Update - posted 05/01/15

Today was a quieter day today with everyone back at work, but still some nice finds. A Bearded Tit at Hatch Pond was a good find, as records of this species here aren’t too frequent.  At Holes Bay NE there was still 1 Goldeneye, 1 Spoonbill, 2 Common Sandpiper and a Peregrine as well as a Red-throated Diver just south of the railway bridge. Off Middle Beach 1 Red-necked Grebe, 27 Black-necked Grebe, 3 Slavonian Grebe, 2 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 Black-throated Diver, 14 Common Scoter, 15 Gannet and 8 Auk sp. At Manor Farm there were 17 Yellowhammer, which is a good count and there was 1 Great Northern Diver off Baiter. I have also uploaded a new video, this time of Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit feeding at Shore Road, Sandbanks. You can watch the video HERE

Harbour Update - posted 04/01/15

Holes Bay NE continues to be flavour of the month as not only are the 2 Spoonbill, 4 Spotted Redshank and vast numbers of Wigeon Teal, Avocet, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Common Sandpiper still putting on a good show, but they were joined by a redhead Smew today too, until it was flushed by a canoeist. The Black Guillemot spent most of the day sitting off the Brownsea southern shore, obliging at times, and not at others.  A Bittern was again at Swineham GP, which flew east along the pits. At least 8 Marsh Harrier were present there too along with 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel and 1 Peregrine. 16 of the Poole harbour Spoonbill flock were in the Wareham Channel, an area that has also seen a big rise in gulls coming into roost in the last few days. A Red-necked Grebe was out in Shell Bay with 4 Black-necked Grebe and a single Purple Sandpiper was in-front of the haven. Off Middle Beach there were 13 Common Scoter, 1 Red-necked Grebe, 1 Slavonian Grebe and 20 Black-necked Grebe.

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  • Smew - Holes Bay NE - Keith Rawling
  • Red-necked Grebe - Shell Bay - Peter Moore
  • Black-necked Grebe - Shell Bay - Peter Moore
Harbur Update - posted 02/01/15

The Black Guillemot was located off Brownsea again during the morning and was then later found near the harbour entrance. My prediction is this general area is where it will hopefully now settle for a period of time, but given its previous behaviour it could well go missing again for a few weeks! The 2 Red-necked Grebe where off South Beach with one later moving to Shell Bay. With a Slavonian Grebe there too.  At Lytchett Bay a male Merlin, ringtail Hen Harrier a Marsh Harrier were all noted. A flock of 8 Pintail on Brownsea was the second highest total ever-recorded on Brownsea with 11 in January 1986 being the highest. This is pretty remarkable considering there are often 50+ in Brands Bay less than half a mile away and a couple of hundred in the harbour each winter. Black-necked Grebe were spread right along Studland Bay with 7 just inside the harbour mouth and off Middle Beach 13 Common Scoter, 1 Great Northern Diver, 5 Great Crested Grebe and 3 Sandwich Tern were counted.  A Little Gull was in Brands Bay. In Holes Bay there were 2 Spoonbill, 176 Avocet, 420 Black-tailed Godwit, 188 Teal, 396Wigeon, 127 Shelduck, 1 Peregrine and a Firecrest along back drive.  Swineham GP still holds Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall and plenty of Greylag and Canada Geese. I’ve also uploaded some new videos of the Spoonbills in Holes Bay and Fieldfare in Wareham which you can watch HERE

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  • Spoonbill - Holes Bay outflow channel
  • Sanderling - Shore Road
  • Purple Sandpipers - Haven Hotel, Sandbanks
Harbour Update 01/01/15

Happy New Year everyone! The Poole Harbour birding year started off with a bang today with several good species recorded. The Black Guillemot has finally entered the harbour and was seen feeding of the SE corner of Brownsea. The Great White Egret was seen again on Littlesea at dusk. It was confirmed that there are indeed 2 Red-necked Grebe in the Studland area as one was feeding off Shell Bay whilst another was off South Beach. There were also 6 Black-necked Grebe and 10 Common Scoter off Middle Beach and a Slavonian Grebe 3 Black-necked Grebe and 2 Sandwich Tern off Shell Beach. A group of 3 Great Northern Diver were off the Brownsea north shore. A Little gull was seen over Furzey Island and then later seen at Lytchett Bay. An impressive 5 Hen Harrier were noted going into roost and Marsh Harrier were seen at several sites around the harbour.  There was a Merlin at Middlebere along with the usual channel species. Spoonbills were seen in Brands Bay, Lytchett Bay, Arne Bay and Brownsea Lagoon. Today’s video is of the Spotted Redshank flock that’s been choosing to feed at the mouth of the outflow of Holes Bay over the last few days.....

TIP: To watch in HD, when watching the video, hover your curser over the screen so the panel at the bottom of the video screen appears. Click on the cog shaped symbol and then click on 1080HD. This will turn the video into HD after a few seconds


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  • Black Guillemot - Brownsea Shoreline - Joe Mitchell
  • Bearded Tit - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • Jack Snipe - Swineham - Peter Moore
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