June 2015

Harbour Update - posted 29/06/15

NIGHTJAR WALK - THIS SATURDAY AT ARNE RSPB RESERVE - TO BOOK CLICK HERE - Last satursdays was an absolute belter with plenty of Nightjar activity, also Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Spoonbill, Dartford WArbler, Glow Worms, Foxes and several bat species were encountered so come and get involved.

The Wood Sandpiper remained at Lytchett Fields and it was joined by 3 Little Ringed Plover. Out in Lytchett Bay there were 23 Curlew, 1 Great Crested Grebe and a Kingfisher, possibly one of this years juveniles having already moved down river from its natal grounds. A night recording session from the Lower Frome Valley last night produced a number of Curlew moving overhead, plenty of calling Redshank, Oystercatcher and Black-headed Gulls. A likely Little Egret flew over the mic at around 12:45am, also a Med Gull, juvenile Tawny Owls calling from nearby woodland and several Water Rail were noted. 

Possible Little Egret - Lower Frome Valley 

Harbour Update - posted 28/06/15

Last night was our first Nightjar walk of two this summer (the second being July 4th so get booking now) which was incredible and packed with all kinds of wildlife goodies. The tame Arne car park Fox at the start was a treat if not a little disconcerting that it quite happily feeds out of people’s hands. Up on Middlebere a Barn Owl was hunting back and fourth across the channel, at one point hunting just below us from the viewpoint. In the Middlebere Channel 2 Spoonbill were roosting and Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew and a Green Sandpiper were all present. Then the Nightjar spectacle began with birds calling all around and we even got some nice scope views in between birds flying past us. Two Glow Worms were found in the heather on the way back and the icing on the cake was seeing Saturn's rings really clearly through the scope, something I've never seen or done before and made me feel like a real kid. Juvenile Tawny Owl were calling in the car park upon our return too. There was some early signs of wader movement over the last 24 hours too with a Wood Sandpiper and 2 Little Ringed Plover on RSPB Lytchett Fields, along with 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 15+ Redshank and 15+ Lapwing. Out in the bay 23 Curlew was a big increase from the last few days and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was present. On the Brownsea lagoon 4 Knot, including a summer plumaged bird dropped in for a short time along with a Common Sandpiper. A Marsh Harrier was seen out hunting across Hartland/Middlebere.


Nightjar Walk - Arne RSPB Reserve - Nick Mudge

Click To Enlarge
  • Wood Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields - Ian Ballam
  • Little Ringed Plover - Lytchett Fields - Ian Ballam
  • Stonechat - Holmebridge - David Whalley
Harbour Update - posted 26/06/15

There was certainly plenty of wildlife at Arne yesterday evening with both the Middlebere Barn Owls hunting out over the reed beds of Middlebere, 2 Spoonbill were out in the channel with 30_+ Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Redshank, 4 Curlew and 2 two broods of Shelduck. There was an abundance of Nightjar song, with a good deal of visual activity too. In the Arne car park there were juvenile Tawny Owls calling and several bat species doing laps around our head, most likely Natterer’s Bat. At RSPB Lytchett Fields numbers of Redshank and Lapwing have swelled slightly with 35 and 27 present yesterday evening along with 5 Green Sandpiper at the western end of the site. 


Harbour Update - posted 24/06/15

It seems a few passage waders are turning up elsewhere in the country/county with Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank all reported from various locations. Last year, Lytchett Fields first Spotted Redshank of the autumn appeared on June 22nd, so any day now. I’ve heard on the grapevine from a few friends that much further north this year spring arrived around three weeks late, and as far up as Iceland neither spring nor summer has arrived at all. So I’m assuming that if in the areas where spring arrived late we could see a delay in some returning species, and whether some of the returning birds we’re seeing now are failed breeders from the far north.  Sightings are still pretty thin on the ground with 2 Spoonbill on the Brownsea Lagoon today, at Lytchett Fields there was 1 Green Sandpiper and the usual Lapwing and Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit

Harbour Update - posted 23/06/15

A highlight certainly compared to the last couple of weeks came in the form of an Osprey over Poole town centre this afternoon, being harassed by gulls. We often see June and July Ospreys as failed breeders return south and first or second year birds wander the countryside looking for suitable breeding sites. It’s possible this bird could stay within the harbour for a few days, so worth keeping an eye out if at Arne or in the Wareham Channel. At RSPB Lytchett Fields there was 21 Redshank, 24 Lapwing, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Teal, 5 Gadwall, 18 Shelduck and 5 Curlew in the Bay. A Cuckoo was still calling up on Slepe Heath and the adult female Marsh Harrier was out on Arne Moors getting harassed by a Grey Heron.

Harbour Update - posted 22/06/15

It was a pretty quiet affair this weekend with just a few odds and ends reported. In Brands Bay there were 2 Lapwing, 10 Bar-tailed Godwit and 26 Black-tailed Godwit. At RSPB Lytchett Fields there were 22 Lapwing, 7 Curlew in the Bay, 1 Green Sandpiper, 14 Redshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and a good mix of newly fledged common bird species. There were large gatherings of Swift over Swineham GP and a Cuckoo still on Slepe Heath.  A rave/festival in a field near Soldiers Road hampered any sound recording efforts in the lower Frome Valley on Saturday night, so not many birds around unfortunately. However, if anyone wants any clips of load drum and base beating out across the heathland at 3am then let me know!

Harbour Update - posted 19/06/15

There is some sad news to start with unfortunately. It seems the third pair (the original alpha female) of Marsh Harriers have also failed to raise young this year. You may remember a few weeks ago that we stated the male that was servicing two of the three nesting females had disappeared which resulted in the beta female abandoning her nestlings. Well it seems the alpha female also found it too much of a struggle to raise the young on her own, and hasn’t been seen visiting the nest site for many many hours of observing. This year held so much promise with what looked like another record year panning out. We’re also hoping there is nothing suspicious in the disappearance of the male, and that it was just one of those things, but we’ll be keep everything crossed that next year another male arrives, settles and successfully raises young with one or a number of females. Both the alpha and beta females can still be found hunting in the harbour, commuting between Hartland, Swineham and Lytchett Bay. Talking of Lytchett Bay, a large gathering of Redshank has been congregating over the last few days with one or two juvenile birds among them. We’re not 100% sure, but it could be that these young were raised on site, proving how productive the area has become over the last few years. Also present 12 Teal, 9 Gadwall and 6 Black-tailed Godwit. There were still at least 2 Cuckoo on Slepe Heath along with plenty of Nightjar at dusk at a Hobby. There were 2 Spotted Flycatcher along Soldiers Road and a two family parties of Woodlark along there too.

My night recording work in the lower Frome Valley has been steady with no obvious signs of movement or migration yet. I’m expecting to record both Common and Green Sandpiper any night now, but so far the only moving waders I’ve experienced are Curlew moving up and down the Valley. There is still the occasional calling/displaying Lapwing and Redshank throughout the night and a nice host of regulars. Below are two recordings that have actually been very regular on all the nights I’ve set my gear up. The first is contact calls of Nightjar. Its well documented that Nightjar can often feed up to 5-15 km away from their nesting sites to go and feed, with river valleys, open meadows and even farmland selected as their favoured sites. Whilst feeding over these areas they produce a distinctive croaking co-ick call, which can be heard as they make their way up and down the habitat feeding. The other call is a fly over Water Rail, which produces a fairly high-pitched trill that starts high and descends ever so slightly towards the end.

Nightjar – contact call whilst feeding – Lower Frome Valley 


Water Rail – Flight call of a bird moving at night – Lower Frome Valley

Harbour Update - posted 18/06/15

Summer continues to lumber on, and the heat is not only making me sluggish but the birding too. Heat haze and hay fever is deterring me from venturing out at the moment apart from to set my recording gear late at night, but with most birds busy raising young there has been some interesting local observations that have been made. Firstly, there has been a first successful breeding attempt of Tufted Duck at Hatch Pond which may not sound like a land mark event, but any first breeding attempt of any species at this very urban site is well worth noting. Secondly, it seems that the Brownsea Terns feeding productivity is on the up. They can often struggle depending on how numerous and how far away their favored food (Sand Eels) is from the colony. Its been stated that some of the Brownsea terns travel as far as Weymouth Bay to feed if no food is available closer to home. However, both Sandwich and Common Terns have been observed this summer, bringing back catches of one, two and sometimes even three eels at a time to their chicks. Even more, they aren’t traveling very far either with many birds fishing just of the training bank in Studland Bay. There was some shocking Common Tern behavior noted on the Brownsea webcam this morning too, with an adult bird that was incubating its eggs getting so stroppy with its neighbors newly hatched chick that it picked it up by the head and flew off with it! Only to return about 15 seconds later empty beaked. This was sad to watch, and the neighbor had no idea what had happened as it was out fishing. When it did finally return it was quite distressed that it was one chick down. Some other interesting news is that two Siberian Chiffchaff types that were ringed in Poole Harbour this winter have been confirmed by DNA analysis as definite Siberian Chiffchaffs. There wasn’t much doubt about one of the birds as it looked like a ‘classic’ Sibe and a diagnostic sound recording was also obtained. However, the other bird didn’t look like a ‘classic’ specimen with pale lower parts, but very olive green upper parts. This just goes to show the variation in plumage of this (sub) species and that to confirm its ID you either need to analyse its DNA or even simpler…hear it call. Bird news from today included 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Wigeon, 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Redshank, 11 Lapwing and 3 separate broods of Shelduck

Siberian Chiffchaffs phylloscopus collybita tristis - Recently confirmed by DNA analysis 


Harbour Update - posted 17/06/15

There was another early returner today with a drake Wigeon at Lytchett Bay along with another Green Sandpiper, 4 Curlew, 10 Teal 5 Redshank, 1 Marsh Harrier and 2 broods of Shelduck. The Grey Plover on Brownsea was still present, doing its best to masquerade as something rare in its funny transitional plumage. Also a Hobby over the reedbed on Brownsea and 130+ Black-tailed Godwit on the Lagoon. I was also lucky enough to spend a few hours on Brownsea last week for the National Trusts Bio Blitz. Whilst in one of the Dorset Wildlife Trust hides that looks out across the lagoon I took the opportunity to take some footage of the Sandwich Terns that were coming and going, as well as some of the newly fledged chicks. If you’ve never been to Brownsea to experience this, I highly recommend it. The nesting islands are just feet away from the hide and the sight (and smells) are just incredible.

Sandwich Tern – Brownsea Lagoon 12/06/15 – To watch in HD press play, hover the curser over the cogged shaped symbol and select 1080

Sandwich Tern with chick – Brownsea Lagoon 12/06/15 – To watch in HD press play, hover the curser over the cogged shaped symbol and select 1080


Harbour Update - posted 16/06/15

There were more signs of autumn yesterday with the seasons first juvenile Willow Warblers along the Arne Road. Two lovely lemon yellow individuals calling from the roadside in the company of several juvenile Chiffchaff. Another Green Sandpiper was at RSPB Lytchett Fields with 11 Teal and 2 Curlew were out in Lytchett Bay. On Brownsea a Grey Plover was present with 8 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Hobby were feeding over the reed bed on the DWT managed part of the reserve. After analysing a few nights worth of recording from the lower Frome Valley (Swineham area). A selection of highlights included a fly over Little Grebe (thanks Nick Hopper for ID), a few parties of Curlew heading up/down the Frome Valley, more hunting Nightjar and several displaying Redshank and Lapwing.

Little Grebe – Flight call of a bird moving at night – Lower Frome Valley 16/06/15 

Harbour Update - posted 15/06/15

A true sign that autumn is coming is when the first Green Sandpipers arrive back, which is exactly what happened today when two were seen at RSPB Lytchett Fields. This may be a sad signal that summer may be over before its even begun, buts let not for get that the autumn migration season can actually last from mid June until mid November, depending on which species you’re looking for, so don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to soak up some sun. Also at Lytchett Fields, another adult Little Ringed Plover, 11 Redshank, 6 Lapwing and 8 Teal now back. On Stoborough Heath still a calling Cuckoo and 1 Willow Warbler on territory. A Cuckoo was still calling at Swineham too. A few waders are still appearing with 7 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Whimbrel in Brands Bay and still good numbers of over-summering Black-tailed Godwit with 139 there too. There were 2 Spoonbill at Arne along with 2 Hobby and a Peregrine. A night recording session in the lower Frome Valley picked up several calling/hunting Nightjar, a flock of Curlew passing overhead, several Water Rail, a passing Coot, a distant Woodlark, night singing Reed Warblers, plus plenty of Grey Heron, Mallard, Gadwall, Marsh Frogs, plus a handful of interesting wader calls that need a bit of following up.

Harbour Update - posted 12/06/15

Lytchett Fields played host to 4 adult Little Ringed Plover today, asking the question….where do they keep coming from? This has been by far the best ever spring for this species at this site. Have they bred locally? on site? or do the adults just see Lytchett Fields as an excellent vacation location which is why birds keep popping up out of nowhere. Also on Lytchett Fields an increase of 12 Redshank, including two mating birds and (filmed by Ian Ballam WATCH HERE) It was busy with the regular species on the Brownsea Lagoon too with many Sandwich Tern chicks now hatched along with plenty of Black-headed Gull chicks too. There doesn’t seem to be any Common Tern chicks just yet, but it’s just a matter of time. Also on the lagoon were 3 Ringed Plover, 1 Avocet, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, several newly hatched Oystercatchers, 5 Med Gulls and 2 broods of newly hatched Shelduck

Harbour Update - posted 10/06/15

Several searches for the elusive eagle were conducted from in and around the harbour but to no avail. Birds encountered in the process though included 2 Crossbill over Slepe Heath, 3 Egyptian Geese in the Wareham Channel, Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Dartford all still vocally active on and around Hartland and plenty of Swift passing through. At RSPB Lytchett Fields 2 adult Little Ringed Plover were back on the fields. We still can’t work out if these are new birds that keep turning up or the same two that are possibly breeding on site. There was a Ringed Plover out in the bay today and a Lesser Whitethroat on territory at Turlin. There were Spoonbill reported in Middlebere today and there are still good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit commuting between various feeding zones in the harbour. A Red Kite was over the Bakers Arms roundabout yesterday which was just one of what seems to be a national influx over the last few days. With these nice clear sky’s keep looking up, as Cornwall had 185+ pass over on Monday alone.

Click To Enlarge
  • Reed Bunting with large dragonfly - Swineham - Keith Rawling
  • Common Whitethroat - Swineham - Keith Rawling
  • Reed Warbler fledgling - Lytchett Fields - Ian Ballam
Harbour Update - posted 08/06/15

Well it looked like the Eagle may well have landed, well not quite…more like flown by when a large bird of prey was seen being harassed by gulls heading west up the Wareham Channel from Stoborough. Now, it’s not uncommon for gulls to mob many species of raptor but according to the eyewitness account, the bird in question dwarfed the Herring Gulls, even stopping to hover over Wareham Water Meadows, a classic type of behavior of Short-toed Eagle. Unfortunately the ID couldn’t be 100% confirmed as it was flying away the whole time, so the ghostly enigma continues to frustrate. Who will finally pin it down, get a photo, find it sat in a tree eating a snake?????

An evening roost watch across the Wareham Channel produced two adult female Marsh Harriers which bizarrely came in high over the channel, flew over Arne, then over Hartland and off towards the Corfe gap. Where were they going, and where had they come from? The heathlands were alive with Nightjars again, as churring males called out from every direction. 

Harbour Update - posted 07/06/15

Is the Short-toed Eagle getting closer? Today the bird in question was seen hovering at distance in Wareham Forest, but unfortunately too distant to guarantee a confirmed ID. The bird was last seen dropping down in to the Morden Bog area but couldn’t be relocated. However, if history is repeating its self, and this is the returning bird, then its due to pay a little visit to the harbour at some point, like last years bird did when it popped up at Arne for a few minutes. I feel an early morning vigil from a good vantage point is on the cards tomorrow morning. Reported sightings were very low today with the only birds of note being 2 Brent Geese in Brands Bay, a Cuckoo still calling at Arne, 2 Nightjar and a hunting female Marsh Harrier on Hartland and a Hobby over Slepe Heath. Despite the low number of reported sightings, the harbour is still full of ‘the expected’ species with the added bonus that they’re all fledging young at the moment. At Arne this morning it seemed every bush had calling juvenile Blue and Great Tit, there were several Linnet families that had formed one decent sized flock and Starlings were gathering in numbers. Its always nice this time of year to be able to highlight some ID features with some of our comer species through our ringing activities. Today I caught a pair of Goldfinches, which by observing closely you can easily sex this time of year out in the field.

Goldfinch Pair

You can see the over all structure of this male is bulkier with a longer, stronger bill and bigger head. The main features involve the red on the males head extending behind the eye and having an overall glossier look, where as on the female the red is restricted to staying in front of the eye. On closer inspection the males have strong black nasal hairs too, where as females are pale grey.


MALE                                                                         FEMALE

Talking of looking closely, local birder Ian Ballam has been photographing a ringed Reed Warbler at RSPB Lytchett Fields recently and has gathered enough photos to be able to get a full ring number - Y329352. We have managed to trace the ring number as one of ours, showing that this bird was first ringed as an adult in 2012 meaning that this bird is at least 4 years old and has made a minimum of 4 return trips to Sub-Saharan Africa. All being well, it will be off in September making its fifth trip south….what a bird!

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  • Reed Warbler - Lytchett Fields - Ian Ballam
  • Linnet - Fresh juvenile
  • Chiffchaff - Adult female
Harbour Update - posted 06/06/15

The wind kicked in early from the usual south-westerly direction, but with this came news of a potential Short-toed Eagle over towards Hurn/Wimborne area. A few local Poole Harbour birders had their eyes to the sky’s the moment the news came through but unfortunately there was no further information for the rest of the day. This follows reports of a possible Short-toed Eagle in the new Forest two days ago; will we see one arrive in Poole Harbour over the coming days? Last years bird did venture within the harbour boundaries, but for only a few minutes before it ventured back towards Morden Bog. The heaths surrounding the harbour hold plenty of snakes (their main food source) so it’s as good a place as any to support this species. Be aware though, there are also plenty of very pale Buzzards locally too, which can also hover whilst hunting too. Brownsea today had a Great White Egret, 150+ Black-tailed Godwit and good numbers of settled nesting Common Tern and Sandwich Tern. A bit of night listening from Lytchett Fields last night produced nothing much other that some calling/displaying Redshank, a Greenshank and some Lapwing.

To highlight the vibrant sounds of the breeding season, where it seems everything from Blackcaps to Blackbirds, Dabchicks to Dartfords have all fledged young in the harbour, I have included a short recording of one of the true sounds of summer….the chorus of the Skylark. The recording comes from the Frome Valley and the sonagram shows just a 2 second section of the song, highlighting the complexity and beauty of this well know songster. For many reasons this is a sound that is unfortunately disappearing from our countryside, so enjoy!

Harbour Update - posted 04/06/15

The White-winged Black Tern stayed for its third day today at Swineham GP, right up until dusk, which may suggest it could be there tomorrow, however I was told by local birder Nick Hopper the other day that they often tend to migrate at night so we’ll wait and see. Thanks too to Brett Spencer for aging the bird for us as a 2nd summer.  Also at Swineham a Little Gull, and 1 Grey Plover. Highlights from Studland included 6 Sanderling and a Wheatear and Lytchett Bay saw its first Hobby of the year. Some sad news today in that the ‘beta’ Marsh Harrier nest, i.e the new female that arrived last year and successfully raised 3 young has abandoned her nest, despite the chicks having hatched. This was due to the fact the male who was feeding her and the chicks has definitely disappeared. The same male was also providing to the ‘alpha’ nest where the female (who is possibly more experienced) is currently doing a good job of feeding herself and her chicks, lets just hope she can keep it up. It was a magical night on Slepe Heath last night when a GIANT moon raised its sleepy head from behind Corfe Castle as no less than 7 Nightjar were churring all around me. The recording below was taken just as the moon was fully visible above the Purbecks, and was originally just supposed to be a Nightjar recording but a Common Buzzard and a Cuckoo had other ideas! The sonagram shows the last seven seconds of the recording highlighting the churring of the male Nightjar, its wing claps as it flies off and the calling Buzzard

European Nightjar, Common Buzzard, Common Cuckoo – Slepe Heath 03/06/15

Harbour Update - posted 02/06/15

On a day that looked like it was going to be a complete right off, actually ended up being very productive, even producing a rarity amongst the crowd. At around 1pm we received a phone call from Ian Alexander saying he was sure he had found an adult White-winged Black Tern on the main pit at Swineham. The description sounded spot on so we shot down there, and upon arrival we were indeed treated to stunning adult White-winged Black Tern. This is a remarkable find in as much as this is the third record of this species in as many years at the same site, where previously, the only other records ever for this species in the harbour was of one on Brownsea Island 49 years ago. Also noted over the gravel pits whilst watching the Tern was 1 Hobby, 20+ Swift, numerous Swallow, House and Sand Martin, a few singing Cetti’s Warbler and one of the Marsh Harriers. A sea watch from Branksome Chine this morning produced 1 Great Skua, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2 summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, 1 Kittiwake, 2 Fulmar, 10+ Gannet and 4 Sandwich Tern. At Poole Harbour mouth a whopping 123 Sanderling were on Shell Beach along with 5 Turnstone, 3 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plover. Also in the harbour entrance were 4 Little Tern and possibly another 2 on Shell Beach, and 2 Brent Geese on Pilots Point. On Lytchett Fields today were 80 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ringed Plover, 3 Redshank, 3 Lapwing, 8 Swift and 1 Peregrine.

White-winged Black Tern at Swineham 02/06/15 

To watch in HD click play and hover the curser over the cog shaped symbol and select 1080

Click To Enlarge
  • White-winged Black Tern - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • White-winged Black Tern - Swineham - Peter Moore
  • White-winged Black Tern - Swineham - Peter Moore
Harbour Update - posted 01/06/15

Waders continue to be the staple at present with a few odds and ends still dripping through. In Brands Bay yesterday 3 Ringed Plover, 199 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Knot and 5 Little Egret were counted along with 30+ House Martin and 30+ Swift, including one with a white rump patch. Semi-decent views were obtained and it seems to have been nothing more than just a Common Swift sporting a dashing white rump….enough to get the heart racing for a few short moments though. At Lytchett Bay a single Little Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, 3 Greenshank and 33 Black-tailed Godwit were noted.

Little Owl information

With your great feedback to our request for Swift sightings last week, I’d like to put out another request for information if I may. Little Owl has been absent (as far as we know) from the Poole Harbour basin for around 10-15 years. They used to breed at places like Arne, Middlebere, Lytchett Bay and Upton CP but with the increase in Tawny Owl and Barn Owl number’s, the Little Owls have been ‘forced out’. However, with so much suitable habitat, its beyond belief that Little Owl is totally absent within the Poole Harbour area. We have been working with Dr Emily Joachim who recently set up the new UK Little Owls group (and soon to be live website), which seeks to report and gather information on Little Owl sightings from across the UK. Although not classed as native, their drastic decline nationally over the last 20 years has highlighted the fact that something is going seriously wrong within their environment, and we’d like to get to grips with what that is locally. Is it just an increase in numbers of other owl species, or is there something much more complex going on?

We would like to put out a request for anyone that has found/knows about any Little Owls within the areas of the attached map so we can share it with Dr Emily Joachim for her research.  Any information would be gratefully received.

To report any sightings please email us at

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