Harbour Update – posted 21/04/24

The undoubted highlight and most unusual bird seen on this morning’s jam packed Spring Safari Cruise was an Arctic Skua… the first we’ve ever seen inside the harbour on a public cruise! We amazed to meet it racing up the Wareham Channel being mobbed by Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls, before it quickly peeled off towards the open heathlands at the top of the channel and circling high before it was lost to view. Arctic Skua are a frequent passage species on the Dorset coast at this time of year but very rarely come into the harbour, instead passing along the coast often at considerable distance from the shore. However unusual detours into the harbour like this one have been recorded before, and we think it’s due to confused individuals entering the harbour thinking its an archipelago which they can take a shortcut through and exit back onto the coast on the other side, only to find themselves in dead-end inlets, and having no choice than to cross the land to rejoin the coast once again. Fascinating behaviour and a real privilege to witness first hand!

Also on the boat trip, a Little Gull was once again present at the top of the Wareham Channel, sat on the water with a group of Black-headed Gull at the mouth of the River Piddle. Here we also had several high soaring raptors over the boat, including an Osprey with a fish, a Red Kite and a White-tailed Eagle which all headed north-west towards Wareham Forest. Marsh Harrier and Peregrine were both also hunting nearby, and up the River Frome we were treated to the songs of Reed Warbler and Cetti’s Warber. Overhead throughout was a strong passage of around 40 Swallows, plus 2 House Martin and 1 Sand Martin, and for many of us onboard our first 5 Swift of the year off Hamworthy. With the northerly wind Brownsea Lagoon was fairly quiet for waders but there was a single Whimbrel, along with around 30 Bar-tailed Godwit, 50 Sandwich Tern and 3 Common Tern. A Wheatear was also seen briefly over Poole Quay at the start of the boat.

Elsewhere an Osprey caught a fish in the Middlebere Channel and another two were seen over Lytchett Bay, and at 2:22pm breeding female also laid her 3rd (an most likely final) egg of the season! Nearby on Wareham Common the Bonaparte’s Gull was also reported once again around midday, on it’s own to the right hand side of the railway bridge.

1st Winter Little Gull – Wareham Channel, Spring Safari Cruise – Alison Copland

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