November 2016

Harbour Update - posted 30/11/16
Harbour Update - posted 29/11/16

Today ended with one of those true magical winter sunsets that sets a scene so perfect you just wish it could last forever. A cold stillness froze over the harbour as the tide began to drop just after lunch time and as the sun sunk lower and lower, illuminating all that was blue to pink and orange, the southern shores became a scene of true beauty. Not to mention full of good birds. Off Middle Beach there were 3 Black-necked Grebe with another 9 off Jerry’s Point and 1 in Shell Bay. There were 5 Great Northern Diver, 1 in Brands Bay, 2 off Jerry’s point, 1 in Shell Bay and 1 on the Brownsea south shore. There were also 5 Common Scoter off Jerry’s Point along with 1 Slavonian Grebe, 25 Sanderling and 11 Ringed Plover just round the corner in Bramble bush Bay. Brands Bay was full on commoner species including great views of Pintail, Grey Plover, Avocet and both Black and Bar-tailed Godwit. In Holes Bay NE 12 Spoonbill were roosting on the high tide with 300+ Dunlin flying on the low tide. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was playing hide and seek but eventually showed with a few Snipe and Redshank. Finally there were 4 Goldeneye back on Poole Park Lake.

Harbour Update - posted 28/11/16

The cold NE wind persisted making birding conditions tricky but a Spoonbill was seen briefly in Holes Bay SE and there were 8 Great Crested Grebe there too. Bird totals of commoner wader and wildfowl species are on the up with around 20,000 in total now comprising mostly of Wigeon (3805), Teal (3368), Black-tailed Godwit (1703) and Dunlin (1691) according to the last WeBS count. The next is on Dec 11th and we’re hoping for a full count and looking forward seeing whether this cold snap has drawn in (or forced out) many more birds? At Lytchett Pools 2 Woodcock and a Barn Owl were seen just after dark. 

Harbour Update - posted 27/11/16

We’ve been focusing a lot of time and effort into Woodcock monitoring this autumn/winter with good numbers back now. Tonight was our most productive night of the season so far with a minimum of 30 seen in a particular area along the southern shores of the harbour, near Hartland Moor, with 11 new birds ringed a re-trap from 2014, re-caught last night, again in exactly the same field from where it was first ringed. There was another Barnacle Goose arrival, this time a flock of 22 that flew in over Poole Bay, having passed Hengistbury, before they all pitched down on the main gravel pit at Swineham for a short period of time. Near the harbour entrance there were 2 Great Northern Diver between Goathorn and Redhorn, 11 Black-necked Grebe from Jerry’s Point along with 1 Slavonian Grebe, 3 Common Scoter, 12 Goldeneye, 1 Merlin and 6 Knot. At Lytchett Fields the Curlew Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs remained. 

Barnacle Geese - Swineham GP - Peter Moore

Barnacle Geese - Swineham GP - Peter Moore

Harbour Update - posted 26/11/16

Today was the Dorset Bird Club conference, which was a great event with a really interesting range and variety of talks. We’d also like to thank the DBC for inviting us to come and talk about our night migration work this year. With many of Dorset’s birding community all packed into one room at Bournemouth Uni, sightings were few and far between but we did receive some. At Lytchett Fields there were a nice mix of waders including the Lesser Yellowlegs, a Little Stint, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Greenshank and a female Marsh Harrier to top it off. At the harbour entrance there were singles of Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe with 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Med Gull, 20 Sanderling and 10 Ringed Plover. Birds of the day went to two White-fronted Geese that were seen from the Brands Bay hide in fields to the left, also from the hide 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Common Scoter, 20 Brent Geese, 53+ Lapwing, 3 Avocet, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Knot, 1 Sandwich Tern and a Kingfisher. Finally, the Poole Harbour Spoonbill flock all seemed to be on Brownsea today with 33 present. 

Harbour Update - posted 25/11/16

With a nippy NE wind blowing we thought it would be a good idea to take another boatload of primary school children out to give them a true winter Poole Harbour experience. The chill factor may have been tough going but we and the pupils persevered and were rewarded to another good haul of birds with 13 Black-necked Grebe (Brownsea south shore), 4 Great Northern Diver (2 north channel and 2 off Goat Horn), 3 Common Scoter (South Deep), 15 Spoonbill (Shipstal) and as usual good numbers of Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser. On the sea wall at Poole Quay 10 Ringed Plover were roosting up with c20 Dunlin. Along the Baiter shoreline up to 3 Sandwich Tern could be found feeding still and 4 Rock Pipit were on the beach. Off Arne, 350 Avocet were feeding in the mouth of the Middlebere Channel and 50 Brent Geese were on the Long Island sand bar. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was still present with 194 Dunlin including a summer plumaged bird. 

Harbour Update - posted 24/11/16

Apart from Brent Geese, Poole Harbour rarely sees any other species of true wild geese during the winter so it was a welcome surprise when a flock of 24 Barnacle Geese turned up and settled in Lytchett Bay early morning. However, with a number of feral populations of this species dotted around the UK and mainland Europe its hard to confirm whether these are true wild Barnacles all the way from Svalbard or Greenland but given the time of year and their very brief stop before moving quickly on SW onto Exminster Marshes it’s likely these could be true wild birds. Just as surprising was the discovery of a Great White Egret at the very urban Hatch Pond. It was seen lumbering in over the traffic lights before settling in the reedbed at the back for an hour or so before lifting off and making its way NE towards Longham Lakes. At Middlebere on the rising tide late afternoon c200 Avocet were feeding with c200 Dunlin and c20 Grey Plover with 2 Marsh Harrier passing by. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was on Sherford Pools and a Marsh Harrier went over the Bay. 

Barnacle Geese - Lytchett Bay - Ian Ballam

Harbour Update - posted 23/11/16

On Shipstal the whole Poole Harbour Spoonbill flock of 34 were gathered and a Great Northern Diver was off Shipstal Beach. 4 of the Spoonbill were in Middlebere mid-morning and a male Merlin put on a good show. Off Hamworthy Beach there was a single Great Northern Diver. From Slepe Heath, looking out across the Moors, 7 Marsh Harrier criss-crossed over the flooded meadows where Wigeon, Pintail and Gadwall were all feeding, all three of which are rare occurrences out on Arne Moors. Off Middle Beach, Studland 9 Black-necked Grebe were feeding and another Great Northern Diver was off Jerry’s Point. The Frome and Piddle River Valley’s were extremely flooded playing host to good numbers of Mute Swan but no Bewick’s as far as we could see. The flood meadows between Holmebridge and the Wareham bypass used to be a strong hold for Bewick’s Swan back in the 80’s with between 20-40 often present, however today they are a much rarer and only visit the valley every once in a while but its but if lots of Mutes are visible its well worth checking through them for a yellow bill hiding in amongst them. Talking of flooding, the marsh between Wareham and Stoborough was also knee-deep which played host to c1500 Black-tailed Godwit, 300 Lapwing, 6 Snipe, 150 Curlew, 1 Water Pipit and 2 Stonechat.

Pintail - Upton CP - Ian Ballam

Harbour Update - posted 22/11/16

In partnership with the Stour Ringing Group we’ve been out lamping Woodcock for most of November with good numbers of birds now arriving back from Russia and north eastern Europe. During the winter only 1 in 5 Woodcock in Britain are British birds, the rest are winter visitors, which return to the same feeding sites year after year. Tonight, we managed to prove winter site fidelity for the first time at Holton Lee with a bird that was first ringed there on Jan 15th 2015 and re-caught again tonight in exactly the same field no more than 20m away from where it was originally caught. Quite amazing to think it’s probably been to Russia and back in-between its encounters with us. We also ringed 3 new Woodcock and saw at least 5 at Arne Farm too. To see Woodcock the best place to look is a woodland edge at dusk and watch them as they fly out to go and feed in farm fields. The view will often be short but really exciting at the same time. There were also 2 Barn Owl at Arne Farm and 3 Tawny Owl. At Lytchett Bay 6 Spoonbill landed in the Bay and the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the fields. 

Returning Woodcock - First ringed at Holton Lee, January 15th 2016 and caught again tonight


Harbour Update - posted 21/11/16

The wind blew strong this morning from the east pushing a large feeding flock of likely sinensis (continental) Cormorants into Parkstone Bay which brought with it a big flock of Black-headed Gulls which brought with them, a group of 11 Sandwich Tern. This is a decent early winter count with normally only twos and threes seen in the colder months. Later in the day as the weather deteriorated 4 Sandwich Tern could be found hunkering down out on the playing fields of Baiter with 42 Brent Geese and 4 Rock Pipit. At Littlesea, Studland the Great White Egret was seen briefly and at Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowleg a sub-adulat Hen Harrier and 2 Water Pipit were the highlights.  

Greenshank - Holton Lee - Richard Stephenson 

Harbour Update - posted 20/11/16

Storm Angus looked as if it could put a stop to any decent birding opportunities today but instead, gave way to an excellent days birding with near flat calm conditions and no wind by mid-afternoon. As luck would have it we had been invited by the RSPB to do the commentary on the Poole Harbour Bird Boat trip that also landed on Brownsea Island where 80 members of the public joined us on what turned out to be a very productive day out on the water. Highlights from the boat included 3 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red-throated Diver, 12 Common Scoter, 8 Black-necked Grebe, 10 Goldeneye, 50+ Red-breasted Merganser, 30+ Great Crested Grebe, 2 Sandwich TernBrent Geese, 20 Ringed Plover on the sea wall at Poole Quay and a Kingfisher on Poole Docks. Whilst our two hour stop off at Brownsea produced not one, not two but three dramatic Merlin chases as a female harassed the snoozing c500 Avocet, 12 Spotted Redshank, 10 Greenshank, c60 Grey Plover, c200 Dunlin, c100 Black-tailed Godwit, 24 Bar-tailed GodwitTurnstones, Redshank, Oystercatchers and Curlew. In total our group saw 66 species (that I’m aware of), which for 4 hours out on a boat isn’t bad at all! The full species list can be READ HERE. A truly excellent trip. This evening from Middle Beach, Studland the grebe roost contained 11 Black-necked Grebe, 7 Great Crested Grebe and 10 Common Scoter whilst earlier in the afternoon a Slavonian Grebe and 2 Great Northern Diver were in Shell Bay. The raptor numbers are staying very impressive with now 11 different Marsh Harrier exiting the west Poole Harbour roost this morning with sighting from Arne, Middlebere, Lytchett Bay and Swineham throughout the day. There were also 3 Hen Harrier in Poole Harbour south, between Arne and the Wareham Channel along with 2 Merlin. At Lytchett Fields, the site was massively flooded, so the newly created islands which were put in place to cater for these floods paid dividends as big numbers of Dunlin and Redshank were using them on todays high tide.  The Lesser Yellowlegs was still on site today for its 3rd month and it looks as if we may have an over-wintering Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper, both now very rare occurrences in the harbour during the winter with both being seen on the fields again today. Also around Lytchett Bay were 2 Water Pipit on the polls field, 2 Firecrest in Slough Lane, 3 Spoonbill out in the bay with 35 Brent Geese and 13 Red-breasted Merganser. There was also some late news of a Short-eared Owl at Holton lee back on November 2nd.

Great Northern Diver - Poole Harbour Bird Boat - Stephanie Murphy


Red-throated Diver - Poole Harbour Bird Boat - Paul Treen


Spotted Redshank - Poole Harbour Bird Boat - Stephanie Murphy


Short-eared Owl - Holton Lee - Richard Stephenson (Nov 2nd)

Harbour Update - posted 19/11/16

With Storm Angus on the way, any birding had to be carried out ‘early doors’, although wind stayed light until dusk. Highlights from today included 4 Black-necked Grebe, 7 Common Scoter, 63 Red-breasted Merganser, 20 Turnstone and 1 Kingfisher from Jerry’s point/The Houseboats at Studland. In Brands Bay the Great White Egret flew from Littlesea and headed towards Arne. From Middle Beach, Studland 9 Black-necked Grebe and 2 Common Scoter were counted. At Lytchett Fields the Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lesser Yellowlegs and Greenshank were still on Lytchett Fields. At Arne up to 20 Spoonbill could be seen out on Shipstal Point. 

Harbour Update - posted 18/11/16

Tough, cold, windy conditions prevailed, as our school bird boat trip did its best to freeze 70 helpless primary school children. Still, kids being kids, they still loved it and got to see some wonderful scenery and great birds including 15 Spoonbill on Brownsea along with all the usual Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover etc. A dawn count near the harbour entrance saw 2 Great Northern Diver, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 82 Shag fly in, 13 Red-breasted Merganser fly in, 2 Common Scoter fly in, 1 Sandwich Tern and a single Purple Sandpiper and 17 Ringed Plover on the groynes. In Old Town Poole, another Black Redstart was seen on the roofs of Market Street. The Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Ruff, 300+ Dunlin, 1 Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Greenshank were at Lytchett Fields whilst at Holes Bay NE a decent sized Avocet flock were feeding near the cycle path. 

harbour Update - posted 17/11/16

Todays blustery and pretty grim conditions didn’t produce the hoped for ‘wreck’ of birds in the harbour, although an adult Little Gull that went west through the harbour was good to see. The Great Grey Shrike was seen again on Canford Heath (Grid Ref SZ03309595). Other than that, the Lesser Yellowlegs at Lytchett Fields was seen with the Ruff, 300+ Dunlin, 1 Peregrine and 2 Marsh Harrier and 2 new Woodcock were ringed during a night ringing session. 

Harbour Update - posted 16/11/16

The big low tides at the moment, thanks to the ‘supermoon’ are providing some quite unique viewing opportunities at the moment. As we’ve explained before the average depth of the entire harbour is only 1m deep, so when we see big low spring tides, areas that aren’t normally exposed become open and fair game for feeding birds. Yesterday evening there was almost a clear walk-way from Hamworthy Beach over towards Shipstal Beach, Arne with just the channel in the mouth of the Wareham Channel blocking the route. With all this exposed mud, there no better time to go and see the thousands of wader and waterfowl species that are taking advantage. In Holes Bay, yet again good numbers of Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Wigeon, Teal and a handful of Pintail and Gadwall can be see at close range with this Sunday (20th) being a good time to look as low-tide is at 8am meaning the sun (if there is any) will be behind you and as the tide rises between 8am and 10am, birds will get pushed closer and closer to the cycle path. The same goes for Baiter park where currently Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit and Meadow Pipit feed on the beaches during the low-tide and Brent Geese are also beginning to start using the playing field. At Shore Road, Sandbanks Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Brent Geese can be found feeding out on the sandier substrate and in Brands and Bramble Bush Bay Grey Plover, Turnstone, Knot, Ringed Plover and Sanderling can be found, with the houseboats at the latter site being a good place to check. Elsewhere around the harbour keep an eye out for Black Redstart as one was present in Old Town Poole, but they could turn up anywhere, the Lesser Yellowlegs was still on Lytchett Fields, the Great White Egret was in Middlebere with 2 Marsh Harrier, 24 Spoonbill were on the Brownsea Lagoon and another 2 Woodcock were ringed, this time in the Hartland Moor area. 

Woodcock - Ringed in Lower Frome Valley on 14/11/16

Harbour Update - posted 15/11/16

We’re getting regular reports now of Black-necked Grebe and a few Slavonian Grebe from the Studland area with Middle Beach probably being the best place to look. Early morning or late afternoon is probably the best time to try and see these birds as they’ll still be in their roosting flocks. Each day they gather before dusk and settle in Studland Bay, with some also forming a roost within the harbour too. Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe can be tricky to tell apart, but the big white cheek patch of Slavonian Grebe can easily be made out if seen well, and if they’re within a mixed roost, the comparison of the duskier cheek and face of Black-necked Grebe should be easy to tell apart. Slavonian Grebe numbers have also fallen within the Studland/harbour area over the last few years with just 1 today but 12 Black-necked Grebe. Today an Eider was in Bramble Bush Bay and a Great Northern Diver was off North Haven. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the fields with the Ruff, 1 Brambling, 15 Skylark and 1 Marsh Harrier. At Shell bay, Studland there were 20+ Dunlin, 20+ Ringed Plover, 16 Sanderling, 1 Black-necked Grebe and 1 Sandwich Tern whilst in Brands Bay there were 2 Med Gulls, 20+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Grey Plover and 1 Knot.

Black-necked Grebe - Shell Bay - Ian Ballam

Sanderling - Shell Bay - Ian Ballam

Harbour Update - posted 14/11/16

For a drab Monday, the harbour certainly shone bird-wise with a good selection from right around the harbour. Starting in Studland bay where totals over-wintering open-water species are building with 3 Slavonian Grebe, 12+ Black-necked Grebe, 1 Great Northern Diver and 12 Common Scoter. Out in central harbour the Scaup was still present along with 4 Common Scoter, 15 Goldeneye, 50+ each of Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe. On Poole Park Lake there were 9 Little Grebe. In Poole harbour west an excellent count of 10 Marsh Harrier came out of the roost and a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen in Middlebere. On the Brownsea Lagoon there were 14 Spoonbill, 400+ Avocet and a Merlin chase. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was still there, a ringtail Hen Harrier went through, a female Red-breasted Merganser was a new species for the fields and the Ruff and 2 Water Pipit were still present.  Both Brands Bay and Holes Bay were reported to be ‘full of birds’ on the low tides, all mostly common species but great to see good numbers of species such as Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwits. 

Great Crested Grebe - Holes Bay - Keith Rawling

Pintail - Holes Bay - Keith Rawling

Gadwall - Holes Bay - Keith Rawling

Harbour Update - posted 13/11/16

Today was the Poole Harbour WeBS count and counts returned via the survey included 34 Spoonbill past the west arm of Arne, a Whooper Swan briefly in the Middlebere Channel, 15 Black-necked Grebe off Middle Beach and 1 at South Haven, 1 Slavonian Grebe off Middle Beach, 5 Goosander in Brands Bay with another 3 in Lytchett Bay, 1 Eider in Brands Bay and excellent totals of commoner harbour species. At Lytchett Bay the Lesser Yellowlegs was seen with the Ruff, 3 Water Pipit, 1 Jack Snipe, and the long staying colour-ringed Greenshank. The Great White Egret was feeding off the end of Goathorn, near Brands Bay. On the southern shores near Fitzworth a single Whimbrel was odd, also there 1 Spoonbill, 1 Common Scoter, 17 Goldeneye, 1 Merlin and 1 dead Water Pipit! In Holes bay north there were 500+ Widgeon, 6 Pintail, 4 Gadwall and a Kingfisher

Harbour Update - posted 13/11/16

Today was the Poole Harbour WeBS count which meant almost all of the harbour was watched from somewhere at 3pm. As a result a whole suit of birds were found, starting at Brands Bay where a Great White Egret was off Goathorn and in the bay its self was 1 Eider, 5 Goosander, several Black-necked Grebe and good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser. In the Middlebere Channel a single Whooper Swan was in one of the low-tide channels late afternoon before upping and headed towards Hartland along with a ringtail Hen Harrier. At Lytchett Bay/Fields another good haul as the Goosander theme continued with 3 ‘redheads’ and 34 Brent Geese in the Bay along with the Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Ruff and 1 Jack Snipe on the fields. At Arne 24 Spoonbill were feeding on the western shoreline. Last night a Woodcock ringing session resulted in 6 new Woodcock being ringed in the Lower Frome Valley with a single Common Snipe and a Fieldfare. Off Middle Beach at Studland the first Slavonian Grebe of the winter was found with 15 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Razorbill and a single pale-bellied Brent Goose and from South Haven, Studland a Black-necked Grebe, 3 Chiffchaff and 13 Sanderling.

Shag - Brownsea north shore 

Harbour Update - posted 12/11/16

This morning was definitely one of those ‘ergh’ mornings until around midday when things brightened up the sun even tried to come out. Sightings-wise it was rather quiet with a ringtail Hen Harrier over Hartland, a good arrival/passage of thrushes, mainly Blackbird and Redwing around the Middlebere area with a male marsh Harrier near the channel too. The Lesser Yellowlegs was on Lytchett Fields with a single Water Pipit.

harbour Update - posted 11/11/16

Every winter we see a handful of dates when the open areas of the harbour look like glass and not a breath of wind stirs amongst the marker buoys. Today was one of those days and we were lucky enough to be hosting a school bird boat too. This made seeing open-water species so much easier with the highlights being 1 Scaup off Arne, 7 Common Scoter, 3 Goldeneye, 50+ Red-breasted Merganser, 50+ Great Crested Grebe, 1 Sandwich Tern, a feeding flock of 120 Cormorant, 20 Spoonbill on the Brownsea Lagoon and 20 Sanderling that flew past the boat. Talking of boats, we’ll soon be launching two public ‘Harbour Cruise’ trips that will place early next year, so keep an eye out. Off Middle Beach, Studland 3 Goosander were feeding. A round up of raptor news from Poole Harbour south now sees up to 7 different Marsh Harrier and 4 Hen Harrier with 2 Merlin still active on Hartland Moor. In Whitley Lake, Sandbanks and all along Baiter Beach on low tides, Turnstone can be found feeding with 12 Ringed Plover at the latter site too. At Arne the Great White Egret was seen again and in the lower Frome Valley the seasons first Woodcock was ringed. At Lytchett Fields the yesterdays Ruff was again present along with the Lesser Yellowlegs. A late Swallow passed over Ridge late afternoon.

Common Scoter - South Deep (near harbour entrance) 


Red-breasted Merganser - South Deep (near harbour entrance) 

Spoonbill - Brownsea Lagoon

Harbour Update - posted 10/11/16

Very few reports today, although what is great is that there are obvious opportunities to see great birds around the harbour, with a little bit of ‘scouting out’ and exploring. The inner, sheltered bays in the south of the harbour such as Brands and Bramble Bush Bay are holding Grey Plover, Turnstone, Ringed Plover (on low tides) and on the water, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Brent Geese, all of which offer great, close viewing opportunities with a bit of field craft. The Studland Beaches will now hold Black-necked Grebe right the way through to March whilst other species such as divers and sea-ducks will come and go like the days, so you just never know what you’ll see on any given visit.  Lytchett Bay/Fields still hosts the Lesser Yellowlegs, along with a newly arrived Ruff but the whole Lytchett Bay area can be good right the way through the winter waders, wildfowl and birds of prey. And, although they’re not back yet, it won’t be long until our small over-wintering Purple Sandpiper flock comes back to North Haven, Sandbanks. 

Grey Plover - Jerry's point, Brands Bay - Simon Kidner 


Turnstone - Jerry's point, Brands Bay - Simon Kidner 

Harbour Update - posted 09/11/16

Highlights from today included 14 Common Scoter off Middle Beach, Studland with 3 Black-necked Grebe. At Arne the Great White Egret was present with 15 Spoonbill on Shipstal. 

Harbour Update - posted 08/11/16

Again, today the conditions proved excellent watching conditions out in the harbour as wind fell silent and grey sky offered “squintless” viewing opportunities. There was a good variety of species out in central harbour, viewed from Hamworthy Beach which included 1 Scaup off Arne, 1 Eider off Green Island, 1 Great White Egret feeding on the beach at Shipstal, 9 Common Scoter out in central harbour with the first 11 Goldeneye of the winter, 48 Red-breasted Merganser, 54 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Spoonbill were feeding on the southern shores of Rempstone. There was no question as to the birds of the day as 4 Common Crane flew over Ower on the Rempstone Estate along the southern shores which unfortunately didn’t stay long and ended up over at the Fleet, Portland by early afternoon. In Holes Bay NE a handful of birders were eagerly awaiting the arrival of some Spoonbill with the rising tide, and they were rewarded with 4 coming in to feed around 10am with 85 Avocet, 500+ Wigeon, 2 Pintail and good numbers of common wader species. There was another Spoonbill on the Upton CP side of Holes Bay too. Out off Middle Beach, Studland, there were 23 Black-necked Grebe feeding.

We also have an update regarding Lytchett Fields which is that we’re pleased to state that it now re-opened again. Many thanks for your patients. Today the Lesser Yellowlegs was still on site and 8 Spoonbill were on the fields too. 

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times this week, Holes Bay NE can offer a great viewing experience and opportunity to get close to some of the harbour’s most familiar over-wintering species. We hope you enjoy this sequence of photos taken by local birder Ian Ballam, all of which were taken from the main cycle path along Holes Bay and just meters away from the birds in shot!

Curlew - Holes Bay NE

Little Egret - Holes Bay NE

Spoonbill - Holes Bay NE

Wigeon - Holes Bay NE

Teal - Holes Bay NE 

Harbour Update - posted 07/11/16

One of the great things about Poole Harbour is the numerous urban birding opportunities it provides during the winter. The whole of the northern shore of Poole Harbour is an urbanised and developed environment, which conveniently provides close access to shorelines, sheltered bays, freshwater bodies and great views out across central harbour. One of the real delights is Holes Bay, which starts to provide a true winter spectacle in early November and especially when colder weather sets in. This morning, true to form, just as the wind became a cold, biting inconvenience Holes Bay filled up with birds with the highlight being 7 Spoonbill that fed just meters off the cycle path in the NE corner of the bay, close to the outflow that channels down from behind PC World. This location has to be one of the best in the country to watch and observe Spoonbill at close quarters as they feed without fear as amazed birders and non-observant cycles stand and pass at times just meters away. Spoonbill aren’t the only show offs in Holes Bay north, there were around 50 Avocet feeding on the falling tide with, 50+ Dunlin, 200+ Redshank, 200+ Black-tailed Godwit, 700+ Wigeon, 200+ Teal and 3 Great Crested Grebe. All viewable within the center of town! Another great place to get close to harbour species is ‘the stone bench’ at Upton Country Park which is just on the NW outskirts of the park at the beginning of the cycle path which leads you around Holes Bay. This morning big numbers of Wigeon, Teal, a handful of Pintail, 110 Avocet, 97 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover and 50 Curlew. At Middlebere a ringtail Hen Harrier passed the NT hide and out in Middlebere there is still a decent Avocet flock roosting at the top end on the high tide. 

Spoonbill feeding in Holes Bay NE - Filmed from the cycle path

Harbour Update - posted 06/11/16

We’re currently waiting for Wood Pigeons here in Poole harbour, an odd thing to be waiting thing I’m sure you’ll agree and you may be thinking why not just look out in our gardens? There are plenty there? Well, that is true, but what we’re actually waiting for is the big Wood Pigeon migration that takes place every year in early to mid November when tens of thousands pass along the south coast but mostly concentrated over the Poole and Christchurch Harbour area. To give you an example on November 7th 2010 a whopping 160,000+ Wood Pigeon migrated over Poole Harbour in a single morning! So as you can understand, although this is a very common species to witness this type of migration is quite something. There has already been some big passage in central England as birds move south and we’re hoping that they get to us over the coming days. When they do start moving in big numbers they pass high over the Sandbanks peninsular across over Brownsea and carry on west. At Arne today there were 28 Spoonbill out on Shipstal and both Lesser Redpoll and Brambling in the Arne car park. In Middlebere two late Curlew Sandpiper were with Dunlin along with 700+ Avocet and 600+ Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Green Sandpiper and several passes of ringtail Hen Harriers from the National Trust hide and along the approach lane Redwing, Fieldfare, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were seen. Up on Hartland a Merlin was seen dashing across the heath. At Holes Bay a late Wheatear was on the cycle path near the PC World outflow along with a Kingfisher there too and in Lytchett Bay 2 Spoonbill were feeding on the low tide. There was still a late bit of passage with a Woodlark over a view point in Poole Harbour north. 

IMPORTANT Lytchett Fields temporary closure notice –

RSPB is suspending public access to the Lytchett Fields Reserve due to the risks present from unauthorised cattle being present. RSPB regrets any inconvenience caused and access will be re-opened as soon as the unauthorised trespass has been removed. Access to other areas of Lytchett Bay remain open.

Spoonbill - Lytchett Bay - Shaun Robson


Little Egret - Middlebere - Keith Rawling

Harbour Update - posted 05/11/16

Winter is really taking grip now with wind chills forcing hands into gloves and faces into scarfs but don’t let that put you off heading out around the harbour as the birds will be there to find. Starting off at Shipstal (now Autumn Watch have gone) 30 Spoonbill are back on the spit and a Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff was in the Arne car park. A ringtail Hen Harrier was on Hartland mid-morning and in Middlebere the Great White Egret showed briefly and 300+ Avocet were in the Middlebere Channel. If you’re around the Sandbanks area then keep in eye out in Whitley Lake/Shore Road on a high tide as Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye numbers begin to rise and on low-tides Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling and Turnstone can all be seen at closeat close quarters.Doing a sea-watch from Branksome Chine or the harbour mouth should produce Red-throated Diver with 2 passing early morning and Gannet and Kittiwake are present too. 

IMPORTANT Lytchett Fields temporary closure notice –

RSPB is suspending public access to the Lytchett Fields Reserve due to the risks present from unauthorised cattle being present. RSPB regrets any inconvenience caused and access will be re-opened as soon as the unauthorised trespass has been removed. Access to other areas of Lytchett Bay remain open.

Harbour Update - posted 04/11/16

Although the rain set in and stayed set in for most of the day, there was still a nice selection of birds to be seen starting out in the harbour where there was a imm/female type Eider out in central harbour along with 3 Common Scoter off Goathorn Point and a marked increase in Red-breasted Merganser with around c50 in total, most in or around the Brands Bay area. At dusk a Red-throated Diver flew out of the Wareham Channel and headed towards the harbour mouth. The Great White Egret seen in Middlebere along with 250+ Avocet. At Lytchett Bay a Water Pipit was caught and ringed, a first for the site. The Brownsea Lagoon had plenty of bird on it including 200+ Cormorant, 28 Spoonbill, 300+ Avocet and 13 Spotted Redshank. The raptor numbers keep on building with now 4 different Hen Harrier in Poole Harbour south with two adult males, a juv ringtail male and a female, also at least 5 different Marsh Harrier  and 2 Merlin have been recorded. Finally, there was a report of a Red-breasted Flycatcher on Brownsea Island, near the Mac Hide which is annoying for two reasons, firstly the island is closed for the season and secondly, if accepted then it would constitute the first ever Poole Harbour record for this species. 

IMPORTANT Lytchett Fields temporary closure notice –

RSPB is suspending public access to the Lytchett Fields Reserve due to the risks present from unauthorised cattle being present. RSPB regrets any inconvenience caused and access will be re-opened as soon as the unauthorised trespass has been removed. Access to other areas of Lytchett Bay remain open.

Common Scoter - Goathorn, nr Brands Bay




Harbour Update - posted 03/11/16

The harbour is getting better and better by the day at present with winter species building in numbers and getting easier to see. On low tides at Baiter, Turnstones and Ringed Plover can be found feeding along the shorelines whilst in Holes Bay the first Avocets (for this part of the harbour) were feeding fairly close to the cycle path in Holes Bay north along with big numbers of Wigeon and Teal still. Brent Geese numbers are still building with 100+ along the Studland Beaches and Red-breasted Merganser numbers are building nicely out in Bramble Bush Bay, Brands Bay and near the harbour mouth. In Middlebere the Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit flocks are something you should try and get to see either from Arne or from the Middlebere Hide as frequent visits from Marsh Harriers and Peregrines turn lazy autumn afternoons into a portrait of excitement and panic.  The 3 Hen Harrier were still present in Poole Harbour south today with a single Merlin. At Lytchett Fields, counts included 271 Dunlin, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Grey Plover, the Lesser Yellowlegs and 2 Water pipit.

IMPORTANT Lytchett Fields temporary closure notice –

RSPB is suspending public access to the Reserve due to the risks present from unauthorised cattle being present. RSPB regrets any inconvenience caused and access will be re-opened as soon as the unauthorised trespass has been removed

Brent Geese - Studland - Phyl England

Wigeon - Holes Bay - Ian Ballam

Water Pipit - Lytchett Fields - Ian Ballam

Harbour Update - posted 02/11/16

Another lamping session in the Lower Frome Valley saw at least 6 Jack Snipe (but none ringed) and c30 Common Snipe (with 1 ringed). The Great Grey Shrike was seen again on Canford Heath early doors. In Poole Harbour west there are now 3 different Hen Harrier, 2 males and a female with at least 1 Merlin on Hartland.  At Lytchett Fields, there were 2 Jack Snipe, 1 Water Pipit, 1 Grey Plover and the Lesser Yellowlegs. On the Brownsea Lagoon the Spoonbill count today was 35 along with 3 Firecrest in the woods near the Mac Hide. During our night recording sessions the rate of thrush passage continued to be strong with Redwing, Blackbirds, Fieldfare and Song Thrush still passing right the way through the night and surprise sounds included a late Common Sandpiper (or over-winterer)? and our first night recorded Lapwing from our listening station with one flying over and around Poole Town centre for several minuets.  Holes Bay north, which has to be one of the best urban birding sites around looked incredible on both the low and high tides today with a whopping count of around 1200 Wigeon and only slightly fewer Teal whilst up to 10 Great Crested Grebe and a single Red-breasted Merganser were feeding in Holes Bay south. 

Common Snipe - Lower Frome Valley - Paul Morton

Harbour Update - posted 01/11/16

The fine still weather continues and what better way to enjoy a crisp autumn morning than to find a Great Grey Shrike on top of a pine tree which is what happened for a local birder on Canford Heath this morning. On the Brownsea Lagoon there were 23 Spoonbill, c400 Avocet and 200+ Cormorant along with good totals of Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was still present as was the Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Water Pipit. In Middlebere the wader spectacle remains as fantastic as ever as nearing 1000 Avocet were constantly being put up by several passing Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine and an occasional female Merlin. At South Haven a female/immature type Black Redstart was in Bramble Bush Bay. 

Avocets - Middlebere - Simon Kidner

Harbour Update - posted 31/10/16

It was a quieter day today which was to be expected for a foggy Monday morning, although 3 Firecrest in a private north Poole garden was a nice start to the day. In Middlebere a ringtail Hen Harrier passed by the NT hide and an adult male was on Hartland plus the Great White Egret was in the channel too. At Lytchett Fields the Lesser Yellowlegs was still present, another Jack Snipe was flushed, 2 Water Pipit was on the fields and a Marsh Harrier passed over. There were also good totals of comer species such as Snipe, Redshank, Dunlin, Greenshank, Lapwing and Teal. From Hamworthy Beach a small Red-breasted Merganser roost formed out in central harbour at dusk and on Brownsea 30 Spoonbill were roosting.

Finally, our night sound recording gear was out again last night in Old Town Poole and although the night was a clear night, there was still a decent passage of thrushes, again mainly Redwing, Blackbird and Song Thrush with a few Fieldfare thrown in for good measure, but due to the clear conditions call frequency and regularity was far less intense compared to Friday and Saturday night when thick, low cloud cover dominated the night sky. However, the undoubted highlight was a Firecrest that passed right over our microphone at 1:49am giving two different call types that we’d expect for Firecrest. From carrying out our night migration work for a couple of years now, we’ve been able to obtain the equivalent set of calls for night migrating Goldcrest too and can show you below the difference between the two. We’re learning so much about night migration using this monitoring technique that even in the last year we’ve unearthed some pretty incredible discoveries. You may remember back in August and September we began encountering Ortolan Buntings in many of our night recordings, well, in partnership with the Sound Approach you can now read a recently published article which discusses in detail how we came to our conclusion that Ortolan Buntings were passing over Poole during their peak migration time.

 Firecrest 31/10/16 @ 01: 49 Old Town Poole - Call of a night time migrant



Goldcrest 09/10/16 @ 2:29am Calls of a night time migrant - Old Town Poole listening station


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