Sightings for December 2004


December 31st

On the final day of the year, the area received only patchy coverage. Firstly, there is not much to remark upon the weather, as it remained near identical to yesterday. A couple of groups of Redwing were casually observed over the fringes of the harbour this morning, as well as being widespread just north of the area. On this assumption, had there been early coverage, no doubt Redwing would have featured. The early observations come from the sea, where 1 Red-throated Diver, 1 small grebe sp., (is there a lingering bird?) and 6 auk sp. all went west. In the hour before dusk, Stanpit was again quite good, with new birds seeming to have arrived just in time for Sunday's birdrace. The newcomers included 5 Pintail and 5 Shoveler, as well as an extra Ruff, bringing the wintering population to 5; and an adult Mediterranean Gull was seen in Stanpit Bight for the second day running. Another sought after bird for the 2nd will be Chiffchaff, so 1 in Wick Fields today will certainly be looked for again. As in previous day's, Black-tailed Godwit numbers exceeded 100 in Stanpit Bight, with birds frequently arriving, presumably from their newly favoured feeding area on Wick Fields, where they numbered 100 this afternoon.


December 30th

Another fairly mild day, but the wind had increased slightly from the south-west during the night. The unusual presence of winter thrushes so late in the year continued, with at least 7 Redwing north-west over Hengistbury and 1 Fieldfare in Wick Fields. Later in the day and further afield, it was interesting to note lots of Redwing around Studland. Stanpit had most of the interest this morning, an adult Mediterranean Gull off Blackberry Point being the first for a while. The usual 3 Ruff and 1 Knot were seen, and an increase in Grey Plover to 34 and Black-tailed Godwit to 114 was noted. A short seawatch produced 6 Red-throated Diver west and 2 Common Scoter lingering. Diving birds in the harbour included 4 Little Grebe and 1 Great-crested Grebe. Some afternoon news from Wick and Hengistbury. In the flooded, northern end of Wick Fields, 112 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding. These are probably the birds that appear in Stanpit Bight at dusk. A pair of Goldeneye were in Barn Bight, a single had been seen there earlier in the day. On the Sandspit, by the Beach Huts, there were 3 Purple Sandpiper and 1 Grey Plover.


December 29th

Much, much milder today, but only Stanpit was reported. The Common Sandpiper was again on Fisherman's Bank and was aged as an adult bird, making it extremely likely to be last year's individual. On the marsh itself, there were 4 Ruff throughout the day, East Marsh is definitely their favoured spot. To complete the trio of good wintering waders, the Knot was again in Stanpit Bight, seeming to prefer the South Marsh shore. This morning, there were 96 Black-tailed Godwit, but there were well over 100 at dusk. Meanwhile, Lapwing numbers are still impressive, but dynamic, today's maximum being 1750 in the morning.


December 28th

A light, but cold, northerly wind put quite a chill in the air this morning. However, this didn't prevent Stanpit putting out some quality records. Top spot goes to a juvenile female Marsh Harrier which appeared over Stanpit Bight around 9:30 this morning, before being escorted, north, out of the area by several Carrion Crow. Another excellent raptor was a female Merlin that wreaked havoc over most of the marsh late this afternoon; and around lunchtime, a juvenile Peregrine had been over the area. Only 1 Ruff was noted this morning, but as a result of the Merlin disturbance, 4 birds showed themselves in Stanpit Bight this afternoon. Central Marsh is a traditional site for Jack Snipe and 3 birds were recorded this morning. Also this morning, the 2 Knot were seen on East Marsh, a Grey Wagtail was around Purewell Stream and a Kingfisher went from the Bailey Bridge into Central Marsh. At dusk, it was interesting to note the Black-tailed Godwit building up in Stanpit Bight, over 100 birds were present by 4:00. Also there, around 20 Grey Plover and a pair of Shoveler. Today's Brent Goose gaggle comprised 75 birds with just 5 first-winters. The sea wasn't given much attention, a cursory glance from Mudeford Quay mid-morning produced 14 Gannet, while a Red-throated Diver and 3 auk sp.went by the Beach Huts. Purple Sandpiper sightings have declined in the last week, so 1 bird on the Sandspit is very welcome. Inside the harbour, there were 3 Great-crested Grebe on the river and a couple of Dartford Warbler were feeding in brambles on Speller's Point, a most unusual spot for them.


December 27th

Dawn on Hengistbury was well worth the effort, a frosted harbour changing through various shades of colour as the sun rose. In fact, the day was glorious throughout, with little or no wind to chill the air. In the half-light, 3 Redwing came out of Double Dykes and headed characteristically north-west. Wildfowl variety was up today, possibly due to the cold weather, but equally possibly due to wildfowling in the harbour making birds more obvious. Wildfowling is permitted, but only from boats and during the dawn or dusk periods. Today's activity was around the Mother Siller's Channel area. The airborne duck included, 7 Shoveler, 4 Pochard and 1 Pintail. Later, small groups of dabbling duck could be seen on the sea, waiting until it was safe to return. A seawatch only really took place to absorb some winter sun, a 45 minute spell producing just a single Red-throated Diver west. Only other bird interest on Hengistbury was a Kingfisher across Barn Bight and a Coal Tit in the Nursery, but a Mink on the HHC slipway provided an unwanted mammal record. So far this winter, Goldeneye have only put in cameo appearances, and today was no different as a lone drake fished in the main channel, also there were 2 Great-crested Grebe. A cold Priory Marsh, this morning, held 1 Jack Snipe and 19 Snipe, as well as 4 Chiffchaff around the periphery and a Grey Wagtail on the river bank. Also during the morning, Stanpit held around 2000 Lapwing, but most had left by lunchtime; with just a single Ruff being seen with them today. The 2 wintering Knot were again seen around Stanpit Bight, as well as 20+ Grey Plover, 50 Ringed Plover, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 13 Common Gull and 8 Shelduck, while the Brent Goose hit a respectable maximum of 105.


December 26th

Despite a heavy overnight frost, it was remarkably pleasant early on, due, in the main, to the lack of wind. However, as the day progressed a chilly north wind made things less pleasant. The harbour Raven record was smashed this morning with an unkindness of 8 birds tumbling about over the Coastguards at Hengistbury, before they leaving north towards the Avon Valley. Shortly later, a ninth bird appeared from the same area and headed the same way. Following yesterday's record, it seems Blackcap may be moving into the harbour, as today saw a male bird by the HHC. The sea was very quiet, which was surprising given its performance over the last few days, the only sighting of note being a pair of Red-breasted Merganser west. There were 2 Knot at Stanpit this afternoon, 85 or so Brent Goose and 5 Shelduck. Throughout the day, a hatrick of Great-crested Grebe were in the harbour, Little Grebe numbered 3 and a Kingfisher was seen from the HHC slip. Around Christmas it used to be children with bicycles, now it seems to be adults with digital cameras! The harbour landscapes must have been snapped many hundreds of times today as people tested their newly acquired toys.


December 25th

A light, but surprisingly cold, north wind meant an early morning beach walk at Hengistbury was the warmest option. From there, another westerly movement of seabirds was noted. This included 8 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great-northern Diver, 5 diver sp., over 100 auk sp., 36 Gannet and 11 Kittiwake and another infuriating small grebe sp. flying into the sun! Winter thrushes are rare outside of the autumn passage period, so 7 Fieldfare and 3 Redwing in the Nursery were not expected. Inside the harbour, a Great-crested Grebe was in Stanpit Bight, a Gadwall was in Barn Bight and 2 Little Grebe were on the river. There was good coverage of the area throughout the day, and Stanpit this morning held 2 Ruff on East Marsh, where the Lapwing again numbered at least 2000 birds, a marked increase over the last few days. The other common seasonal species also seemed more numerous and were counted at 475 Dunlin, 111 Black-tailed Godwit, 77 Brent Goose and 22 Grey Plover. Wintering warblers were represented by a Chiffchaff in the scrub by the Warden's Caravan on Stanpit and a male Blackcap in gardens around Stanpit village. In the afternoon, the quantity was pretty much the same, but additional quality came with a Golden Plover and now 3 Ruff on East Marsh, and a Knot off South Marsh. From Mudeford Quay, a group of 29 Turnstone was seen.


December 24th

In a west-south-westerly breeze, the sea again produced most interest with good numbers of birds moving into the wind. A total of 33 Kittiwake were counted, including an extremely close, mixed age, group of 11. Red-throated Diver were not as plentiful as yesterday, nevertheless, a count of 12 makes it into the records. Auks were only slightly down, 160 seen today, again, the vast majority considered to be Razorbill. Also seen moving were 8 Brent Goose and 1 Great-crested Grebe. Of lesser interest on Hengistbury were 2 pair of Gadwall in Barn Bight, the Great-spotted Woodpecker in the Wood and a Kingfisher by the HHC. Wick was visited and provided a Chiffchaff in a tit flock, right on the north-western extremity of the recording area, also 5 hen Pheasant seen in Wick Fields. Stanpit ticks over with 8 Shelduck off Fisherman's Bank, 81 Brent Goose on South Marsh, the reduced number of Lapwing and a few Grey Plover. Dunlin were well dispersed across the harbour this afternoon, and a group of 40 feeding on the inner shore at Mudeford Quay reflects the lack of general leisure activity on a wet, December 24th afternoon.


December 23rd

The sea produced some good numbers of birds this morning, all during a 1 hour watch from the Beach Huts. If more time had been available, who knows how much more would have been seen. As it was, a total of 23 Red-throated Diver, including a flock of 11 birds, is a very good December tally. All were moving west, except a single bird which went in the opposite direction. Prior to today, it had been remarked that divers had been, so far, scarce this winter. An equally impressive number of auks, 180 in all, also went west; of those identified, 80% were Razorbill. Also west were 55 Gannet and 3 Common Scoter, while a Red-breasted Merganser headed east. Only other report from Hengistbury is an interesting 3 Gadwall in Barn Bight. Over on Stanpit, bird numbers seem to be reducing: today saw Brent Goose at 55 and Black-tailed Godwit at 50; Lapwing were estimated in the hundreds, rather than the recent thousands, and Grey Plover were just 12 birds.

22nd December

Despite last night's early frost, even as the clock struck twelve it was already turning mild, and, by dawn, heavy rain had set in. There seems to have been a notable influx of Great-crested Grebe. In the early afternoon, a high total of 11 birds were counted on the sea looking north from Mudeford Quay. Due to lack of consistent coverage in that area, it's not clear if they arrived today or some other juncture since the weekend. Other records are just miscellaneous counts from Stanpit, although a Chiffchaff in reeds by Parky Meade Rail and the wintering Knot do warrant slightly more merit. Forming the bread and butter are: 6 Shoveler, 50 Brent Goose, 40 Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Grey Plover, the latter dropping significantly since the early part of the week.

21st December

Another morning of frost and a very cold day. In fact, at 5:00 this evening, ice has already formed. The best report comes from Fisherman's Bank this afternoon, where a Common Sandpiper was feeding around the small jetties. This just has to be the same bird as last year. Also seen from there were a Knot and 22 Black-tailed Godwit. A total of 9 Shelduck are now in the area, 5 seen to arrive over Hengistbury this morning; while the Shoveler have moved up to 6, including 2 drakes.


December 20th

The expected heavy frost was moderated by arriving cloud just before dawn; nevertheless, the east wind kept temperatures low. Wildfowl interest was provided by the first drake Goldeneye of the winter, a lone bird seen beyond Blackberry Point from Crouch Hill, also new in was a drake Gadwall and more Shelduck, with 7 present today; also the 4 Shoveler still. Only other counts from Stanpit involve 31 Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Common Gull, the latter noteworthy as it was zero at the same time yesterday. On Hengistbury, there was a Purple Sandpiper and 27 Ringed Plover on the Sandspit; and a Turnstone along the harbour shore by the Salt Hurns. The Wood produced just a single Great-spotted Woodpecker. Check back to yesterday for more late news.


December 19th

The rain eventually stopped just after dawn, but a north-easterly wind continued to make WeBS counting more of a chore than a pleasure. Highlights were provided by 3 Ruff and 2 Knot in the Stanpit Bight area. Also of note was a high area total of 33 Grey Plover, while yesterday's 4 Shoveler remained to break the Wigeon monopoly, which, today, totalled 470 birds. Brent Goose, however, were well down, only 33 counted. Some birds obviously preferring to remain in the Poole area today. Shelduck were just 2 and the mobile Black-tailed Godwit were estimated to be around 50 individuals. Other figures included 1355 Lapwing, 270 Coot, 133 Teal and 119 Redshank. At the northern end of Wick fields, there were 147 Black-tailed Godwit and a Ruff. Stop Press: news just in. This afternoon, there was a female Marsh Harrier at Stanpit, also 3 Water Pipit. A quality end to the day.

Late news: a Common Sandpiper was seen on the Sandspit, from Mudeford Quay, in the morning. It seems, for the second year running, there may be an over-wintering bird.


December 18th

Rain at dawn soon cleared, but by mid-afternoon had returned with a vengeance. It's going to be a wet night. A light south-westerly wind was surprisingly cold, so, this morning, comfort was sought in the shelter of the Beach Huts. The best bird, frustratingly, couldn't be assigned to a species; as a small grebe that headed west could only be called as a probable Slavonian. It's a shame, as it would actually have been a personal harbour life-bird, as well as a year-bird for others! Other than that, Red-throated Diver provided the only real marine interest. A total of 6 were recorded, including a couple together on the water. Some of the passing birds were very close, giving good views of the characteristic head pumping flight action. A drake Common Scoter was also close in as it fed and a Great-crested Grebe was off Mudeford Quay. For those more hardy, Stanpit was visited, where 2 Ruff were seen before they left north. Wildfowl variety has been poor of late, so a group of 4 Shoveler around Stanpit Bight was welcome, while a good seasonal total of 10 Shelduck were seen around the area today. Only other interest was at least 4 Black-tailed Godwit. This afternoon, the high tide pushed 65 Ringed Plover and 58 Dunlin onto the Sandspit, and a Kingfisher was around Barn Bight.

Late news: on the 10th, a Common Sandpiper was off Fisherman's Bank.


December 17th

Lashing, diagonal rain in the face a cold north wind meant birding activity was something of a rarity this morning. As a consequence, there is, unfortunately, nothing to report.


December 16th

After 24 hours' delay, the south-westerly weather arrived in the small hours. Prior to that, a few passing Redwing had been heard . This morning, diurnally moving thrushes were noted as 3 Fieldfare north over Holloway's Dock. As would be expected in these conditions, the sea was given focus, but failed to impress. Single Guillemot and Razorbill west, 2 Gannet east and 2 Common Scoter on the water is all that could be mustered. The last couple of winters have seen quite a sizeable scoter flock, it's now looking unlikely this season. After lunch, the weather got rather more pleasant and Hengistbury received another visit. Best record is of 2 Chiffchaff in brambles around Barn Bight, also a Little Grebe in that area. From the Sandspit, a Great-crested Grebe was off groyne S3 and a lone Purple Sandpiper was on S8. A Kingfisher was seen fishing in the pools on Wick Hams.


December 15th

The weather couldn't have been further from the forecast with the predicted rain and wind failing to materialise. There was an excellent count of Purple Sandpiper from Hengistbury today: on rocks by the harbour entrance there was a group of 9 birds, while a solitary bird was by Double Dykes. Strangely enough, a single bird has often been seen in that area, perhaps unaware of the gathering further along. There was also a Great-crested Grebe off the Sandspit and a Kingfisher around Barn Bight. Numbers of birds on Stanpit are creeping up. This morning 70 Black-tailed Godwit were spread across the marsh. A similar sized group was just north of the area at Coward's Marsh yesterday, so it seems both sites are being alternately favoured. There were a definite 2 Ruff today, birds on East Marsh and South Marsh being watched simultaneously. Also all slightly up are 115 Brent Goose, 335 Dunlin and 25 Grey Plover. Lapwing are still estimated to be about 2000.


December 14th

A mild and cloudy morning, but, despite the favourable conditions, there's not too much to report. A single Purple Sandpiper was in front of the Beach Huts this morning, while a high tide gathering of 60 Ringed Plover on the tip of the Sandspit totalled 60 birds. A seawatch produced some modest counts of 3 Common Scoter, 4 Razorbill, 3 Guillemot, 2 Brent Goose and 3 auk sp., all west; also 1 Gannet noted. A Coal Tit provided the only interest in the Wood.


December 13th

Another cold day with the only reports coming from Stanpit, where a morning visit was shortened by the flooding spring tide and the lack of wellington boots. In the time available, Ringed Plover were counted at 40 birds, Grey Plover at 21 and Black-tailed Godwit at 22. The Lapwing still exceed 2000, with estimating made easier by a Sparrowhawk keeping them constantly airborne. Another big tide is expected tomorrow morning.


December 12th

A very cold easterly wind, which had developed overnight, brought about the best day for a number of weeks. A Black-necked Grebe seen briefly from Mudeford Quay this morning before heading off east was the first record for the year, a fact which underlines the species' status as a local rarity. Another excellent record was a ringtail Hen Harrier seen heading north, low along the western side of the river at around 10:30. The sea was remarkably good with 3 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great-northern Diver and 5 unidentified diver passing in a variety of directions. Also seen were over 70 auk sp., 86 Brent Goose and 3 Kittiwake east, and 4 Red-breasted Merganser west. A drake Red-breasted Merganser could also be seen fishing in the harbour's main navigation channel. On Stanpit this morning, there was a Ruff with the Lapwing flock on South Marsh. The Lapwing themselves were estimated at over 2000 birds as they were flushed by a Police helicopter which spent some time around the area, while a couple of Jack Snipe came up out of the Salt Hurns on Hengistbury for the same reason. There were an estimated 20 Grey Plover around Stanpit Bight, a Dartford Warbler in the gorse on South Marsh and a Kingfisher was seen a couple of times on the edge of the path to Crouch Hill. Finally, 4 Purple Sandpiper were seen from Mudeford Quay on the Sandspit and a Fieldfare was in the Wood.


December 11th

A very cold and clear start, however, a thick fog quickly descended onto the area and, in the still air, The Needles foghorn could be clearly heard all day. Hengistbury this morning was abysmal, 2 Little Grebe on the river being the only worthwhile report. Stanpit was almost as uneventful this afternoon, with 25 Black-tailed Godwit being the only highlight. .

Late news: during the morning, 2 Jack Snipe were flushed from South Marsh and a Ruff was on East Marsh.


December 10th

There was still a settled feel to the weather this morning with very little wind and an overcast sky hence there's very little to report. A single Ruff was on East Marsh and there were 9 Black-tailed Godwit present.

Late News: 7 Purple Sandpiper were on the wall at the eastern end of Mudeford Quay yesterday.


December 9th

The Lapwing flock on Stanpit this morning showed a marked increase with at least 2200 birds being present. Dunlin were counted at 250, Ringed Plover 35, Grey Plover 21, Black-tailed Godwit 4 and Ruff 2. The wintering Dartford Warbler was on Crouch Hill and 2 Chiffchaff were seen, 1 in Stanpit Scrubs and 1 towards Priory Marsh.


December 8th

For the first time for a few days it was quite breezy on Hengistbury this morning. The direction, however, was south-easterly so the weather remained mild and it brought very little in the way of new birds. The most interesting sighting was of a pair of Raven displaying over the head - were they 'sussing out' potential breeding sites? There was a lone Purple Sandpiper on the groynes and a half hour seawatch produced just 3 Gannet, 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 Common Scoter, all moving east. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the Nursery and there was a Coal Tit with the Long-tailed Tit flock in the woodland. Just after dawn 3 Fieldfare were in the first field on Wick. At lunchtime the Kingfisher was behind the HHC again.


December 7th

Today the HHC sandbar held 31Common Gull whilst 3 more were off Blackberry Point making a total of 34, a noteworthy count for a species that belies its name, well locally at least! A Kingfisher was also off the HHC and 5 Little Grebe were on the river towards Parky Meade. The Brent Goose flock numbered 101 otherwise the selection of wintering birds on Stanpit showed very little change.


December 6th

Today's highlight was the presence of 3 adult Mediterranean Gull roosting on the HHC sandbar around lunchtime. On Stanpit this morning a Peregrine spent a few minutes terrorising the waders and wildfowl just after 10am . Waders counted prior to that were 261 Dunlin, 37 Ringed Plover, 20 Grey Plover and 2 Turnstone.


December 5th

Another mild day produced very little change in the harbour. On Stanpit the numbers of Dunlin, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover were similar to yesterday; also present were 13 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Ruff and 3 Turnstone. The 2 Goldeneye were still on the Hengistbury side of the harbour just off the Nursery. On Wick 2 Chiffchaff were present, 1 by the HHC and 1 at the far end towards Wick village.


December 4th

This morning saw a complete change in the weather with an overcast sky leading to much milder conditions. On Hengistbury the Saturday morning regulars had very little to show for their early start; just 2 Fieldfare headed north-west out of Double Dykes. There was also a Chiffchaff on the Batters, unusual at this time of year on Hengistbury. The 2 Goldeneye, which were in the harbour during the last brief cold spell a couple of weeks ago, reappeared and were just off the Nursery. On the sea 10 Razorbill were seen including a flock of 5 feeding closely together. A Peregrine over the harbour flushed most of the birds and although many Lapwing headed north up the valley there were still about 800 remaining on Stanpit later in the morning. A good selection of waders on Stanpit included at least 400 Dunlin, 28 Grey Plover, 25 Ringed Plover, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Turnstone, 2 Ruff, 1 Golden Plover and 1 Knot, the latter being a good late autumn record.


December 3rd

A similar start to yesterday but without the mid-morning cloud, making for a glorious day in the harbour. The birds didn't quite match the conditions, but, right now, we're kind of used to that. A couple of Shelduck at Stanpit were new birds, as were some Dunlin, the flock now numbering 425. A group of 12 Black-tailed Godwit lifted off Wick Fields and headed north, while a single bird remained around Stanpit Bight. A Dartford Warbler was again in the gorse on Crouch Hill, along with a Green Woodpecker, not a usual haunt for the latter. The Brent Goose gaggle was hanging around the north of Central Marsh and had increased slightly to 105 individuals. Finally, for the morning, there were still 20 or so Grey Plover. Just before dusk, a Ruff was with the Lapwing returning to roost at Stanpit from the Burton fields.


December 2nd

An overnight frost coated the harbour and the early clear skies promised a crisp day, however, mid-morning cloud kept things on the cold side. Hengistbury provided some snippets of interest, the best an Avocet in Holloway's Dock sometime during the morning; while a couple of Goldeneye could be seen distantly inside the harbour. Also in the confines were the 4 Gadwall in Barn Bight, along with a Little Grebe. The Goldcrest seem to have increased in the last day or so, and a Coal Tit in the Wood may well have arrived with them. Otherwise, the only pickings on the sea were 2 Razorbill and an auk sp. off the Beach Huts. At Stanpit, the Brent Goose were counted at 95 birds.


December 1st

A new month and let's hope for a change in the weather. Another cold day, but the chill is from damp rather than extreme temperature. Stanpit was well visited this morning and reports include a Golden Plover circling over Crouch Hill before seeming to come down on East Marsh; and a Chiffchaff feeding at the western end of the North Scrubs. Brent Goose crept up to 99 birds, Grey Plover were pretty much as yesterday, but Wigeon and Dunlin counts were greatly reduced. There is a small and consistent Chaffinch flock around the Warden's caravan, a bird which is not always easy to find at this time of year, and a Dartford Warbler was on Crouch Hill. Finally from the marsh, a Kingfisher was seen by Purewell Stream. This is one of the most consistent areas in the harbour to catch up with this species. Kingfisher also feature from Hengistbury, with one around Holloway's Dock, which also contained 3 Dunlin, not a regular spot for them. At lunchtime, the 4 Gadwall were again seen in Barn Bight, and single Razorbill and Great-crested Grebe were noted on the sea.

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