Sightings for October 2004


October 31st

All shrikes are rare birds in the harbour, so a Great Grey Shrike on Wick Fields this afternoon created massive local interest as it constituted only the second harbour record. The bird was found by Laurie Chappell, who, coincidentally, had found the only other. Within minutes of the headliner being located, it became obvious that Wick Fields were full of interest. At one point the shrike could be watched with a Short-eared Owl behind it over Stanpit, while the berry laden bushes hosted 1 Ring Ouzel, 9 Fieldfare and at least 6 Redwing. Hengistbury produced another Lapland Bunting this morning, calling as it passed low over the Ranger's Cottage. Other quality from there included, a female Merlin over the HHC, 3 Black Redstart on fence posts around the Common, a Firecrest in the Wood, a Peregrine overhead, a Bullfinch on the Batters and an airborne Yellowhammer . There seems to have been a small Bearded Tit arrival, theHHC reeds held at least 5 birds this morning and 2 were at the entrance to Priory Marsh at Stanpit. Highlights from that side of the harbour were a single Garganey in Stanpit Bight, a Bullfinch in the North Scrubs and a Merlin. A five hour migration watch on Hengistbury was fruitful in the light easterly wind with most birds moving into it, including: 620 Linnet, 560 Chaffinch, 380 Goldfinch, 300 Wood Pigeon, 200 Meadow Pipit, 150 Greenfinch, 90 Reed Bunting, 80 alba Wagtail, 32 Brambling, 28 Siskin, 25 Skylark, 24 Jackdaw, 18 Redpoll and 15 Stock Dove. Thrushes numbered 40 Blackbird, 20 Song Thrush, 7 Fieldfare, 5 Mistle Thrush and 4 Redwing, presumably north. A late Sandwich Tern was at sea, around 230 Goldcrest were estimated, and 6 Pochard and 4 Grey Plover were seen in flight. Stanpit was also accurately censored as part of the WeBS count. Selected totals are: 773 Lapwing, 351 Wigeon, 162 Dunlin, 126 Black-tailed Godwit, 264 Coot, 70 Teal, 53 Snipe, 32 Shoveler, 2 Greenshank, 2 Knot, 1 Sanderling and 1 Pintail. From Mudeford Quay, a total of 35 Turnstone could be seen on the Sandspit. At least 4 Kingfisher were around the marsh today. A small roost of 40 Pied Wagtail was observed by Parky Meade Rail tonight. Check to yesterday for some late news.


October 30th

After the recent poor weather, much was expected of today. However, the forecast mist and cloud didn't materialise, instead clear skies kept moving birds high and difficult to notice. The light north-easterly wind is in the right direction to bring in something good though. This morning, a dark juvenile Marsh Harrier moved purposefully high south over the Barn Field and out to sea; while the record of the day came from Stanpit in the form of 4 Garganey in Stanpit Bight. This many so late is noteworthy indeed. Other quality was provided by a Tree Sparrow in the Barn Field this morning and a Goshawk over the Wood around midday. Also seen this morning were Firecrest by the Lily Pond and the eastern section of the Wood, a flyover Yellowhammer and an adult Mediterranean Gull in the harbour around Blackberry Point. Early afternoon, a second-winter Little Gull was hawking insects over Priory Marsh. A couple of Golden Plover arrived over the HHC just after dawn and more were heard later in the day, also heard were Bearded Tit in the HHC reeds. Stanpit held an impressive volume of birds this morning, but a combination of a rowing boat in Stanpit Bight and the rising tide encouraged many wildfowl to leave. Most were Wigeon, but 21 Shoveler, 9 Pintail and 3 Pochard were also noted. Visible migration totals are: 460 Linnet, 350 Goldfinch, 270 Skylark, 217 Reed Bunting, 180 Chaffinch, 31 Redpoll, 12 Swallow, 12 Siskin, 4 House Martin and 2 Brambling, most in an easterly direction. Movement to the north-west included a vanguard of 280 Wood Pigeon, surely many more to come in the next fortnight, 90 Blackbird and 72 Song Thrush. There are still around 150 Black-tailed Godwit on Stanpit, also 9 Grey Plover.

Late news: a Short-eared Owl and Ring Ouzel were on Wick Fields around 6:00 this evening and, slightly earlier, 2 Red-breasted Merganser went west past Mudeford Quay.


October 29th

Stanpit again spent most of the day underwater, not doubt helped by the south-easterly preventing water from leaving the harbour. This morning, a Garganey was still on Stanpit along with a Kittiwake and 16 Pintail. The very high water levels mean the birds are well dispersed and difficult to count, but even more difficult is accessing the marsh, unless in boots. From Hengistbury, a party of 5 Goosander leaving south over the Common is an excellent record, also 2 Redwing over there. The Wood held 2 Firecrest, but the sea was dismal. Mudeford Quay again played host to an adult Mediterranean Gull. A brief visit to Stanpit this afternoon added Tufted Duck in Mother Siller's Channel and a Kingfisher over the Recreation Ground to the day's tally. Check back to yesterday for some late seabird reports.


October 28th

The advent of spring tides combined with strong south/south-easterly winds and the recent heavy rain meant that most of Stanpit was under water this morning. These conditions resulted in a small influx of wildfowl to the Harbour; the highlight being a Garganey, which was on the flooded area adjacent to the main path between Stanpit Scrubs and the caravan. There were also noteworthy counts of 55 Pintail and 45 Shoveler in Stanpit Bight. Waders on Stanpit included well over 100 Snipe, 150 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Grey Plover and 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, one of the latter being in full summer plumage! Yesterday's count of Turnstone from Mudeford Quay was bettered today with 45 birds commuting between Avon Beach and the sandspit. At sea very little was happening although 42 Wigeon and 1 Shoveler moved west. A Peregrine flew over Barn Bight and the Kingfisher was on its usual perch near the HHC reedbed.

Late news: A morning seawatch from Mudeford Quay was particularly productive, with a Great Skua, Little Gull, Red-throated Diver and 30 Scoter being noted.


October 27th

Although the forecast rain held off until just after lunch the strengthening south-easterly winds made for very unpleasant conditions this morning. Hence there was precious little evidence of visible migration although a count of 80 Goldcrest on the lower Batters and in the woodland plus the presence of 3 Redwing indicated some movement. Another Little Auk flew west past Mudeford Quay this morning; the fourth record in the past week. There were also 6 Little Gull lingering off there and a Mediterranean Gull. At least 34 Turnstone were commuting between the Mudeford Sandspit and Avon Beach. On Stanpit another Mediterranean Gull, a 1st winter, was present plus 14 Shoveler and a single Knot.


October 26th

A Gull-billed Tern was seen off Fisherman's Bank this afternoon. Frustratingly the bird only lingered for a couple of minutes before heading off towards Hengistbury and possibly out to sea. The second highlight of the day involved a Little Auk off the beach huts this morning; the bird was on the sea drifting slowly west. Overhead finches and thrushes were on the move albeit in small numbers - 175 Goldfinch, 125 Linnet, 25 Reed Bunting, 11 Song Thrush, 2 Mistle Thrush, and 2 Redpoll while Brambling and Siskin were heard. 2 Firecrest were recorded, one in the woodland and one on the Batters. In the flooded field adjacent to the HHC reedbed both Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail were present. In the reedbed itself Bearded Tit could be heard but only one bird was actually seen. A Jack Snipe was seen dropping into the Barn Field and a Greenshank was a new arrival on Stanpit. Around lunchtime a Goshawk flew high over Wick Fields east towards the Head. On Stanpit there were 62 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Golden Plover and 1 Knot. Finally there was no sign of the Great Skua today much to the relief of the resident Coot population.


October 25th

Another morning of very strong westerly/south-westerly winds again failed to produce the mega sea watch but at least it stayed dry! The Lapland Bunting was heard over the beach huts and then a little later was found feeding on the Harbour shore adjacent to the Salt Hurns. At times the bird showed down to a few feet but also proved elusive when it sought cover in the Spartina grass. The Great Skua was still present, mainly resting on the tip of South Marsh but occasionally it took to the air and put all the birds to flight. This afternoon it killed another Coot so it does appear to be feeding well. The sea watch yielded just 6 Little Gull, 3 Razorbill, 3 Common Scoter and a few Gannet. Another Little Gull passed Mudeford Quay and the information services reported 6 from Stanpit. Visible migration produced 150 Goldfinch, 100 Linnet and 12 Siskin south-east while 3 Redpoll headed west.


October 24th

Much, much drier than yesterday, but still a brisk south-westerly wind. Star bird of a varied day was an adult male Lapland Bunting, which showed well on the harbour shore by Holloway's Dock. Earlier, a bird had been heard over the Wood and, later, more calls were heard from the top of the head. The resident thug, aka Great Skua, was again on Stanpit throughout the day, despite being disturbed by dogs and windsurfers. This afternoon, it provided entertainment as it hunted for Coot. Firstly, over Stanpit Bight, where, after forcing the would be victims into a tight raft, it proceeded to hover and attempt to pluck individuals from the water, without success. A brief sit on the water and a change of tactic - find birds on the mud! This it quickly did, the unfortunate being run up against the bank of South Marsh and swiftly despatched. A quick feast ensued, despite a Carrion Crow continually pulling the feeding bird's tail in an effort to get it to desert its prey. Some of this was captured in a series of exciting photos, click here to view. The morning at Hengistbury provided some interesting highlights: a Black Redstart was on the roof of the HHC early on; a Merlin went over the Wood pursued by a Crow; and a Firecrest was in the Wood. A couple of Raven were again in the area, as yesterday, seen over the Common. The sea remained quiet, just 1 Little Gull, 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Sandwich Tern and 4 Common Scoter, the result of a short watch. Overhead, in a 2 hour period, 500 Linnet, 400 Goldfinch, 50 alba Wagtail and 40 Siskin were counted; all were travelling west, except 200 of the Linnet. Before lunch at Stanpit also had its moments: a late Lesser Whitethroat was recorded and a Ring Ouzel was heard in the North Scrubs. Also noted were 120 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. This afternoon, the Yellow-legged Gull was in Stanpit Bight, the bird is remarkably faithful to that area. After last week's Brent Goose episode, it's concerning to report that another large quantity of fishing line was found discarded by Holloway's Dock today.


October 23rd

Today's scheduled birdrace was called off even before first light. The south-west gale and almost constant rain an effective deterrent against standing on the top of the head! The Great Skua was still on Stanpit, looking rather forlorn on South Marsh, from where it appears reluctant to move; although it has been seen flying a short distance. Click here for photos. Also around the same area were 2 Little Gull, 1 Arctic Tern and the well-known Yellow-legged Gull. Other goodies around the marsh were a Ring Ouzel in the North Scrubs, 2 Jack Snipe and a late Whimbrel. The Brent Goose juvenile ratio seems pleasingly high, with 13 in a gaggle of around 40 birds. There were still plenty of Black-tailed Godwit around, but just 2 Grey Plover. After the abandonment of the race, the Saturday morning Hengistbury crowd rushed to the sea, full of expectation, but were sorely let down given the effort put in. Only 5 Little Gull today, 2 of which were first-winter birds; also 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 in each direction, 1 skua sp., suspected to be a Pomarine, 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Sandwich Tern, 12 Razorbill, 3 Guillemot, 4 Gannet, 1 Great-crested Grebe and a single Red-breasted Merganser. At least 13 Common Scoter were seen milling around, including, on several occasions, a group of 5 which had a Teal hitching along. The Wood held a Firecrest, and Redwing and Redpoll were heard on the walk to the Beach Huts. At the extreme of the sandspit there was a Wheatear and a Sanderling mixed in with a small party of Dunlin, while 2 Raven were over the Common. There were also 2 Little Gull seen from Mudeford Quay, as well as 10 Turnstone.


October 22nd

More south-westerly wind this morning backing to a southerly gale force with showers during the afternoon. As expected, it was the sea that received the focus and, again, did not disappoint. A single Little Auk was seen briefly from the Beach Huts, very close in, as it disappeared around the end of the head. Little Gull were still around, 59 were at sea this morning with a further 7 in the harbour itself; while, this afternoon, 7 were over the Run. The seawatch this morning lasted from 7:30 to 9:30 and in addition to the aforementioned, included: 3 Arctic Skua, 2 west and 1 east, an unidentified skua, 1 Arctic Tern, 5 Kittiwake, 3 Sandwich Tern, 14 Razorbill, 8 auk sp., 24 Gannet and 7 Common Scoter, all into the wind. Another Arctic Tern was in the harbour. A 1 hour visible migration census from the top of the head yielded: 140 Linnet, 500 Goldfinch, 120 alba Wagtail and 70 Redpoll. There was also a Ring Ouzel settled on the top. In the Wood during the afternoon, a Firecrest and 2 Coal Tit were with a handful of Goldcrest. There is a 3 team birdrace scheduled for tomorrow, but the forecast suggests this could be difficult.

Stop Press: There is an apparently sick and pale looking Great Skua on the South Marsh at Stanpit. Late this afternoon, it allowed approach to 10 metres and attracted the attention of a Peregrine.


October 21st

A strong south-southwesterly wind broke the harbour's Little Gull day record this morning, as an amazing total of 172 moved west passed Hengistbury. At one point, 46 birds were counted in one scan around the seascape. There were a mixture of ages, but adult birds were most numerous. Other quality at sea came in the form of a Long-tailed Duck east into the Solent, with another, presumed to be the same bird, seen entering the harbour over the Run. A couple of Merlin arrived in off and one had passed north over the Common earlier. Also seen during the 2 hour watch were 30 Gannet, 20 Razorbill, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, 12 Sandwich Tern, 3 Arctic Tern, 2 Common Tern and 1 Sanderling. A group of 5 Pintail were also seen to arrive. The sea remained good throughout the day, between 4:00 and 5:30 a further 20 Little Gull were feeding off the Beach Huts, but distantly, again mostly adult birds; meanwhile, the information services reported a Little Auk east past Mudeford Quay at 5:15. Rather surprisingly, given the conditions, overhead migration at Hengistbury this morning numbered 400 each of Linnet and Goldfinch, 150 Meadow Pipit, 15 Swallow, 10 Redpoll, 9 House Martin and 3 Siskin. Afternoon on a windswept Stanpit was similar to yesterday, although Ringed Plover increased to 56 birds. Also counted were 286 Wigeon, 67 Brent Goose, 150 Dunlin and11 Turnstone, which is quite a good number. The gathering of Shoveler on Priory Marsh has risen slightly to 56 in all.


October 20th

The morning drizzle and light southerly wind seemed to favour moving thrushes. Over 200 Blackbird were milling around Hengistbury, before moving on; while, overhead, 130 Song Thrush, 64 Redwing, 11 Fieldfare and 2 Ring Ouzel went north-west. Bird of the day, however, and creeping onto the yearlist, was a Woodlark flushed from the top of the head by a jogger. A seawatch was, again, productive, with a pale phase Pomarine Skua seen in flight and on the sea perhaps topping the bill, although a Black-throated Diver west comes close. Also seen at sea and moving west were: 13 Little Gull, 6 adult and 7 first-winter, 4 Kittiwake, 1 Arctic Tern, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Razorbill and 18 Common Scoter, with a further 4 east and 1 on the sea. There are still 2 Firecrest in the Wood and a Golden Plover arrived from the south. In general, the overhead migration was, by recent standards, relatively poor. The counts are: 130 Linnet, 116 Meadow Pipit, 46 Skylark, 35 Goldfinch, 32 Chaffinch, 28 Swallow and 26 Redpoll, all to the south. Still a good Goldcrest presence, with 65 or so across the head this morning. Stanpit received some afternoon attention and provided a nice selection of waders, over 200 Black-tailed Godwit, 120 Dunlin, 23 Ringed Plover, 8 Grey Plover, 4 Knot, 3 Turnstone and 1 Sanderling. An adult male Peregrine was over the marsh and Priory Pools still hold a good 23 Shoveler. A female Pintail was also seen and the Brent Goose are reasonably stable at 58 birds today. There were 2 Blackcap in Smithy's Field, 2 Dartford Warbler on Crouch Hill and, back to Hengistbury, a Kingfisher in Holloway's Dock.


October 19th

Torrential rain for most of the day is believed to have stopped all play this morning, however, the recent stalwarts seem to have gone absent to actually confirm this. Things dried up around mid-afternoon and Stanpit was visited, was very pleasant and held many birds. Still lots of Black-tailed Godwit, something approaching 200 birds, while Brent Goose have increased to 64. Grey Plover have also risen slightly with up to 7 today. A Greenshank was heard over Central Marsh and a Kingfisher was hunting around Stanpit Bight. Just before 6:00, a Short-eared Owl almost certainly passed over the harbour unseen. An individual had left Coward's Marsh high, in a southerly direction, moments earlier and the harbour gulls were behaving in characteristic fashion. Reduced to reporting virtual birds! Check back to yesterday for some late news.

The guys have re-surfaced and report spending the morning behind the last Beach Hut, as is the norm in a south-easterly. The sea produced some mild interest including the first Diver of the autumn, a Red-throated heading west. Also in that direction were 1 Little Gull, 1 Kittiwake, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 31 Gannet, 10 Common Scoter, 1 Razorbill, 7 Auk sp., 3 Arctic Tern, 6 Sandwich Tern and 1 Great-crested Grebe. A total of 25 Swallow and 19 House Martin were seen attempting a sea crossing, while 100 Skylark went west. The Wood held many Goldcrest, at least 100, but it was too wet to accurately count.


October 18th

A Short-eared Owl over the Broadway before first light was a good start to the day. The bird then went down into Wick Hams reedbed. Thanks to our visitor from Germany, the harbour was birded from dawn to dusk and probably will be for the next six days. Firstly the day's other highlights, a Lapland Bunting went east this morning over Hengistbury and, later, presumably the same individual, an immature male, could be seen feeding half way along the Sandspit for most of the afternoon. Another Goshawk sighting with an adult male bird was over the harbour, also a Merlin north. The thrush passage included 8 Ring Ouzel heading north, in groups of 4 and 3 birds plus a singleton; while there were 2 Firecrest in the Wood. An afternoon seawatch proved its worth with an Arctic Skua west, a Long-tailed Duck on the sea, 10 Eider east and an Arctic Tern. Also 3 each of Razorbill and Common Scoter west. Back to the morning and the overhead movement, which included another Yellowhammer. At this point it may be appropriate to welcome back Ian and his continued quest to get this species onto his year list. I think it's 3 in the last week! The general movement of commoner migrants was south and west, and these numbered: 580 Linnet, 520 Greenfinch, 300 Goldfinch, 290 Meadow Pipit, 220 Chaffinch, 102 Swallow, 74 Reed Bunting, 56 Skylark, 38 Redpoll, 28 Jackdaw, 9 House Martin, 6 Brambling, 5 Grey Wagtail and 2 Siskin. The other thrushes comprised 41 Blackbird, 34 Song Thrush, 5 Fieldfare and 1 Mistle Thrush, as always, north. Most of today's visible migration took place between 7:30 and 9:00, when it tends to stop abruptly. Late news: a couple of Bearded Tit were in the HHC reedbed and a first-winter Little Gull was over Barn Bight early afternoon.


October 17th

Cetaceans top the news today. This morning a pod of around 30 animals was seen from Hengistbury and appeared to contain both Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Pilot Whale. The group split up and the smaller parties were seen on multiple occasions into the afternoon. In total, 16 Pilot Whale and 10+ Bottle-nosed Dolphin were thought to be present. The event caused great interest amongst the strollers on the head, with as many as 73 waiting to look through the only telescope on site. This follows on from the dolphins seen earlier in the week. A good indicator for spotting the animals is to look for a gull flock over the water as they try to collect any feeding spoil. Other mammal interest was provided by a squirrel which sat on the Coastguard's Lookout antenna for more than an hour.

Back to the birds and in similar conditions to yesterday, things were, indeed, much the same. Stanpit in the morning held 3 Ring Ouzel at the southern end of the North Scrubs. They seemed to have moved on by mid-afternoon, but a single bird was seen arriving in Wick Fields from over the river. A Short-eared Owl was seen morning and afternoon on Wick Fields. The suspicion is that a bird is lingering. The "funny" Wigeon was seen again today by the original observer, but, frustratingly, couldn't be found by others who looked subsequently. Stars of the overhead movement at Hengistbury were 3 Bullfinch and 1 Yellowhammer, while the rest numbered: 330 Greenfinch, 320 Goldfinch, 310 Meadow Pipit, 270 Linnet, 260 Chaffinch, 240 alba Wagtail, 180 Swallow, 87 Redpoll, 74 Starling, 36 Reed Bunting, 5 Grey Wagtail, 3 Brambling and 2 Siskin; all to the east. Heading north were 38 Song Thrush and 5 Fieldfare. Over 100 Goldcrest were in the Double Dykes with 50 more across the head, also 9 Blackcap including 7 in one bush in the Barn Field. Birds at sea included 1 Eider west, 3 Common Tern, 3 Razorbill and a further dozen auk sp. with the animals. Other interest from Hengistbury was provided by a Jack Snipe over the Barn, a Whimbrel in Barn Bight, a Coal Tit in the Wood, 3 Tufted Duck through the harbour and a Wheatear on the top. Waders at Stanpit are headed by almost 250 Black-tailed Godwit, also 4 Grey Plover, 2 Knot and a Greenshank. There were 23 Shoveler on Priory Marsh this morning and a Pintail was over the harbour. Other interest from Stanpit is courtesy of the resident Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Dartford Warbler and a single Wheatear. Some late news, the Short-eared Owl was hunting over Wick Fields just before 6:00 this evening.


October 16th

A bird resembling a female American Wigeon, first seen last weekend, was again in Stanpit Bight today. The identification is not certain and the original observer would appreciate some further opinion. A good selection of birds were recorded throughout the day, which was mainly clear with a light westerly breeze. This morning, Stanpit held most of the quality with a Garganey on Priory Marsh, along with 22 Shoveler. Also in that area were 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Water Pipit and a late Yellow Wagtail. A couple of Dartford Warbler were seen around Crouch Hill. Beware of the high spring tides, wellington boots are essential during high water as Crouch Hill approaches island status - a few wet feet were seen this morning! Hengistbury responded with a Black Redstart in the same spot as last Saturday, at the western end of the Batters by the sandy escarpment, so presumably the same bird; and a Merlin went west at sea. Migrating birds are led by Jackdaw, with 93 heading west, this species was also recorded moving at other coastal localities today. Other counts were: 400 Linnet, 330 Chaffinch, 230 Greenfinch, 130 Goldfinch, 87 Skylark and 57 Redpoll, the last two are both high counts. Brambling were heard on at least 2 occasions. Hirundines are becoming scarcer, just 61 Swallow this morning; more birds in this category are a Whimbrel over Barn Bight and a Wheatear on the top of the head. Only other movers were a single Mistle Thrush north-west and a Bullfinch heard around the Batters. The day was not over with afternoon visits to Stanpit providing a Firecrest in Smithy's Field and a Goshawk over the North Scrubs. Sightings of this raptor have recently become frequent, suggesting an individual from the New Forest is using the area to hunt. Black-tailed Godwit are piling in, rising from 81 on Stanpit this morning to 175 this afternoon; also increasing are Wigeon with 349 counted today. The only reported waders were 5 Knot and 5 Grey Plover. Finally, a happy tale. This afternoon a Brent Goose was reported hopelessly tangled and floundering in fishing line on South Marsh, the RSPCA were on answer-phone, so the worst was expected. However, thanks to the efforts of life-member, Chris Husband, briefly visiting from Germany, the bird was caught and released.


October 15th

The shortest report for a long time! As a result of this morning's constant rain, nothing went on. This afternoon, a visit to Hengistbury between the showers can only be described as desperate. A Common Tern leaving over the Barn Field is the best offer, while the Wood held a couple of small Goldcrest flocks and a handful of Chiffchaff. Only report from Stanpit is of a Kingfisher mid-afternoon. Tomorrow is, without any doubt, going to be better, as Hengistbury will be birded from dawn, whatever the weather.


October 14th

The overnight downpour that extended until well after dawn prevented any early morning visits to Hengistbury, but as the day cleared up birders did venture out. Bird of the day was a Firecrest, in the Nursery with a few Goldcrest, while there were 5 Blackcap sunning themselves in one small bush just below the Batters. A couple of Arctic Tern were seen heading out to sea from Barn Bight. Stanpit this evening was cold as the wind bit from the north. Just the usual suspects were noted, Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull, sat apart from the other gulls on the edge of South Marsh. There was a single Wheatear towards the end of Mother Siller's Channel and a Greenshank in it. Around 30 Black-tailed Godwit were in Stanpit Bight, along with 3 Knot and a lone Grey Plover was off Speller's Point.

13th October

The south-easterly made finding shelter at the end of the head difficult, nevertheless, seawatching was undertaken and offered real interest. Not least, a school of 6-8 Bottle-nosed Dolphin seen feeding a few hundred yards offshore. Seabirds themselves were moving past with good variety, during a 2 hour watch: 2 Little Gull, 3 Arctic Skua, 1 Great Skua, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2 Shearwater sp., 73 Common Scoter, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Eider, 10 Sandwich Tern, 4 Common Tern, 1 Arctic Tern, 19 Kittiwake, 5 Razorbill, 1 Guillemot and 9 auk sp., all headed west, while 80 or so Gannet were always around. The second sawbill of the morning was a Goosander seen arriving over the Beach Huts. Although the Wood wasn't scoured, it did produce a Firecrest and at least 70 Goldcrest. A couple of Merlin were seen, both heading north-east, an opportunist Peregrine was picking off tired migrants at sea and 2 Raven were over the head. After several days absence, Wheatear were present, with 1 on the rocks by Double Dykes and another by the Coastguards. Overhead passerines, all heading east out to sea directly toward the Isle of Wight, were estimated at: 1000 Linnet, 770 Meadow Pipit, 245 Goldfinch, 148 Swallow, 120 alba Wagtail, 45 Redpoll, 10 Siskin, 3 Grey Wagtail and 1 Tree Pipit. Thrushes paid us their cursory visit, just 10 Song Thrush and 5 Redwing going generally north.


October 12th

A day of constant wet weather which meant the harbour wasn't covered at all this morning. The day was salvaged by a mid-afternoon visit to Wick Fields and superb views of a Short-eared Owl sat on fence posts in the "Bobolink Field". Hirundines have been casually observed feeding, despite the conditions, throughout the day. It's quite amazing there are insects on the wing. The estimate from Wick was 150 House Martin and 50 Swallow. Reporting Pheasant may seem mundane, but they are not easily encountered in the area, so 1 bird wandering across the driving range is certainly worthy of mention, as are 2 Grey Plover seen arriving over there. A small number of passerines were around the Fields, namely 15 Chiffchaff and 10 Goldcrest. From the approach road to Mudeford Quay at 6:00 this evening, presumably the same Short-eared Owl was seen alarming the gulls over the Stanpit, before appearing to descend into the Holloway's Dock area. Also a single Knot feeding with a small group of Dunlin just inside the harbour.


October 11th

The wind changed slightly towards the east and seemed to contain more of a chill. The skies just north of the harbour were clear, but a cloud belt just offshore kept birds to the coast. It was definite case of Monday morning blues for those of us working, as some big birds hit the list today. Firstly, a Dusky Warbler was watched at the base of the elderberry bush in the HHC car park for around 30 seconds at 7:30, before being spooked into the reeds by a Sparrowhawk. The bird could then be heard "tacking" its way along the hedge. This is the second harbour record. Slightly later, a Stone Curlew was seen in flight going west over the Common and a Snow Bunting moved the opposite way over the top of the head. At around 11:00, a Richard's Pipit was heard and seen well as it flew low over Holloway's Dock towards the Salt Hurns. After a slow day yesterday, finches were back with a vengeance: 3500 Linnet, 1350 Goldfinch, 650 Greenfinch, 460 Chaffinch, 48 Siskin, 14 Redpoll and 2 Brambling moved east over Hengistbury. Equally spectacular and approaching the uncountable were House Martin, the estimate is 12-15000 birds east this morning, however, very large groups have been over the area all day; a couple of thousand Swallow were also estimated. Other passerine movement included 1 Yellowhammer, 720 Meadow Pipit, 520 alba Wagtail and 62 Reed Bunting, again, all to the east. In view of some large movements closeby, thrush numbers were relatively disappointing and comprised 111 Song Thrush, 6 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare and 3 Mistle Thrush, all these north, plus 320 Starling. There was evidence of raptors on the move, a Buzzard went north, 2 Kestrel came in off the sea and a group of 6 Sparrowhawk suggests more than just resident birds. Wildfowl continue to add interest, 9 Pochard and 4 Gadwall were over the harbour and, at sea, 73 Teal, 52 Pintail, 32 Brent Goose, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Great-crested Grebe went west. Is the latter wildfowl? A Green Sandpiper north was the best of the waders, with others including 10 Grey Plover and 2 Golden Plover arriving; while, to the east went, 62 Dunlin, 26 Ringed Plover and a lone Purple Sandpiper. The sole record of interest from Wick this afternoon was a Peregrine. At dawn, 52 Little Egret left the Nursery roost, an extremely high number for October. An excellent day, but one which reflects the nature of birding in the harbour - it's mostly early and overhead.


October 10th

After a night of rain, during which Redwing were heard moving, the wind strengthened to around a force 6. Stanpit took most of the day's honours in a frenzied spell between 8:00 and 9:00, when a large number of birds seemed to descend on the area. Best was a Serin, heard and glimpsed as it quickly moved over Crouch Hill. Seen better, were a group of 5 Garganey sheltering in Stanpit Bight, a flock of 4 Jack Snipe arriving and a single Artic Tern passing through. An Osprey toured over Barn Bight before turning back and heading north up the river. A fisherman and his dog carelessly flushed the resting birds from East Marsh and in the ensuing disturbance, 60 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Snipe, 4 Knot, 4 Grey Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Curlew Sandpiper were seen. There were also lots of wildfowl around, the Brent Goose now number 46, at least 25 of them seen from Hengistbury arriving, with the first 4 juveniles in the gaggle, and 3 each of Pintail, Pochard and Tufted Duck were recorded in the harbour. Other duck seen moving from Hengistbury at sea were headed by a female Scaup east in a group of 4 Teal, also 45 Wigeon arriving, 2 Pintail with 5 Teal west and 16 Common Scoter east. A Knot arrived in a group of Wigeon and a further bird west east, also observed coming in were 1 Golden Plover and 4 Sanderling. A group of 5 Purple Sandpiper flying along the beach at Whitepits could be the start of a winter gathering. There was another large hirundine movement with House Martin dominating. It was interesting to note that the waves of House Martin and Swallow seemed to alternate, rarely mixing. In a couple of hours this morning, around 1250 of the former and 350 of the latter were estimated moving over the top of the head, most at knee height, making quite a spectacle. The day total must be many thousands of birds, as they were prevalent moving eastwards over the entire area all day. Passerine passage was greatly reduced from yesterday; in fact, finches were nearly all Linnet, a total 550 moving east with just 45 Goldfinch and 20 Chaffinch. Meadow Pipit numbered only 60 and alba Wagtail 70. In the Wood, crests and phylloscs seem to have largely cleared out. Despite the nocturnal movement, only 2 Redwing were noted and 8 Song Thrush; however, 2 Rook west is a good record. Despite the offshore wind, Gannet were coming in close, around 30 estimated, also 5 Razorbill on the sea. This afternoon, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was on the HHC sandbar; while a patrol of Priory Marsh produced a single Garganey, an excellent record of 3 Water Pipit, 7 Shoveler, 132 Teal, also 52 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe. These easterlies have certainly accelerated the presence of the winter visitors. Apologies for the increasing length of the reports, but there's so much going on it's difficult to leave things out! Late news, a Whinchat was on the Common during the morning.


October 9th

A force 4 to 5 north-easterly made for some cold weather this morning, but for those in the field it was time well spent. Best was undoubtedly 1, but probably 2, Common Rosefinch moving east over Hengistbury. A bird was heard, then seen and then joined another bird with identical jizz. Frustratingly, a large pipit came over the Nursery and headed over towards Stanpit, but refused to call. Raptors were certainly mobile today: when it was still half-light a Marsh Harrier appeared over Stanpit and then left the harbour to the east; a total of 3 Merlin were also seen; as well as a Hobby chasing hirundines over Double Dykes late morning and a Kestrel arriving off the sea in the early afternoon. A Black Redstart was on the sandy escarpment towards the top of the head early morning and, later, a single Firecrest was seen briefly in the Wood. A short seawatch just after lunch was particularly rewarding, with a Long-tailed Duck and 4 Eider heading east together, and a passing Red-breasted Merganser, all in just a fifteen minute spell. Not to be outdone, Stanpit also held some quality, with Jack Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper and Ring Ouzel reported. No locations were given, but it is assumed the latter was in the North Scrubs, a favourite haunt for this species. A first-winter Mediterranean Gull was seen to arrive in the harbour over the Beach Huts and head towards Stanpit Bight and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was present during the afternoon. The overhead passerine passage at Hengistbury contained a Yellowhammer and 5 House Sparrow as highlights, also: 630 alba Wagtail, 570 Goldfinch, 450 Linnet, 290 Meadow Pipit, 230 Greenfinch, 210 Chaffinch, 80 Skylark, 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Tree Pipit and 2 Redpoll, with some Siskin heard; most birds were going east. House Martin were prolific with over 3000 counted until late morning, but birds continued moving right through the afternoon, also 220 Swallow recorded. There was a real influx of Common Gull with 60+ moving west over the harbour, some lingering all day. Quite a few wader were seen arriving, including 21 Snipe and 7 Grey Plover. Also incoming were wildfowl, the already present Brent Goose were joined by birds throughout the morning, a total of 15 newcomers. Duck, meanwhile, were represented by 8 Shelduck, 6 Pintail, 3 Wigeon and 3 Pochard. Finally, thrushes were sparse given the wind direction, with only 12 Song Thrush and 1 Mistle Thrush seen, but the first 5 Redwing of the autumn were flushed from halfway up the head. With the wind continuing from the east overnight, more of the same is hoped for tomorrow, assuming the rain holds off.


October 8th

There was a definite nip in the air this morning, a couple of degrees lower and we would have seen a frost. What wind there was, came from the north. The best bird was a Firecrest in the Wood on Hengistbury, while a group of 7 Fieldfare passing north-west over Wick Fields were the first of the season. Early on, a Tufted Duck and Shoveler were seen flying upriver, as well as a flock of 10 Black-tailed Godwit which headed towards the Avon Valley. Overhead passage was to the east, excepting wagtails and pipits which tended westward. Totals until 9:00 were: 340 Linnet, 200 Goldfinch, 160 alba Wagtail, 140 Meadow Pipit, 25 Greenfinch, 8 Reed Bunting and 1 Grey Wagtail. Two each of Song Thrush and Skylark went north-west and, as yesterday, a vee of 25 Great Black-backed Gull were seen moving high to the south. An estimated 55 Swallow were also very high, but heading into the wind. Stanpit late morning held 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Knot and a Sanderling. Also from there, 4 Golden Plover over Crouch Hill, but still only 6 Brent Goose. A couple of Treecreeper seen to have returned to the tree around the Civic Offices.


October 7th

For once, no cloud and a much lighter south-westerly wind, which made for another good day of passage birds. Most interesting was a northern form Willow Warbler, a very grey and white bird, which caused some initial consternation when it was first seen on the Batters at Hengistbury this morning. After a careful grilling, the rarer species were eliminated, but, in reality, this type of bird is even rarer. Some interesting movements of common species were noted just after dawn, a total of 62 Curlew in 3 flocks arrived high from the east, while 245 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 128 Greater Black-backed Gull moved over high south. Before light, a Grasshopper Warbler was flushed by dogs from the old pitch and putt course and caught in headlights before settling, dazzled, on the edge of the track; another was seen later in the morning. Other less common migrants included a Tree Sparrow over Double Dykes, 7 Crossbill south-west, and Ring Ouzel and Redstart on Wick Fields late morning. A single Brambling was the first of the autumn, as was a small thrush movement of 14 Song Thrush and 3 Mistle Thrush north-west. Finches were again numerous overhead, with 535 Goldfinch, 440 Linnet, 420 Chaffinch, 31 Siskin and 2 Redpoll travelling south-west. Also moving in that direction were 860 Meadow Pipit, 338 alba Wagtail, 175 Swallow, 118 Skylark, 96 Reed Bunting, 78 House Martin, 21 Jackdaw, 9 Rook, 3 Grey Wagtail, 2 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Tree Pipit. There was an increased presence of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, over 300 for the former and 160 for the latter. Late warblers were 2 Reed Warbler and 1 Whitethroat. Two groups of Magpie, totalling 17 birds, apparently moving south-east is interesting; and a Raven was again around the top of the head. Linking in with yesterday's sighting, there were 5 Coal Tit on the Batters, a definite sign of this species migrating. From Wick late morning, 6 Golden Plover and 2 Ruff were seen to arrive in the area; while, earlier, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Shelduck and 4 Pintail had passed west. Stanpit this evening was busy with birds, but low on interest, just 5 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Knot to report.


October 6th

In near identical conditions to yesterday, the commoner migrants were still on the move, but in reduced numbers. Before getting into the mathematics, lets deal with the out of the ordinary records. A single Lapland Bunting was heard and seen around Hengistbury this morning by a couple of recently joined members. Birds of prey provided other highlights: a Goshawk was watched from the Batters as it drifted north-west over Mudeford; and a Short-eared Owl arrived in the area and started to quarter Stanpit. Now the totals, all birds were heading south: 720 Linnet, 650 Meadow Pipit, 560 Goldfinch, 320 Greenfinch, remarkably there were none yesterday, 180 Swallow, 148 alba Wagtail, 119 Chaffinch, another bird well up on yesterday, 38 Reed Bunting, 4 Redpoll, 3 Siskin, 1 Yellow Wagtail and an unspecified number of Jackdaw. A high-flying Coal Tit was probably a migrant, while arriving waders included 1 Golden Plover and 3 Grey Plover. An Arctic Tern passed through the harbour, but the sea itself was very poor - just 4 Guillemot, 3 Razorbill and 3 Common Scoter noted from the Beach Huts. Brent Goose are very slowly increasing, with 8 birds on Stanpit this morning. Also from there, 40+ Dunlin, 30+ Ringed Plover, 8 Sanderling, 5 Knot, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank and 1 Black-tailed Godwit. A Kingfisher was seen across on the Wick side of the river.


October 5th

In spite of the blustery south-west wind, today saw a spectacular visible migration. The best of the year by far and, anecdotally, one of the best ever. From the shelter of the Batters the following were all recorded moving south-east prior to 9:15: 3400 Linnet, including a single flock estimated at 500 birds, 3000 Swallow, 1800 Meadow Pipit, 1370 Goldfinch, 620 alba Wagtail, 250 House Martin, 48 Chaffinch, 42 Skylark, 27 Siskin, 26 Reed Bunting, 24 Jackdaw, 8 Redpoll, 7 Rook, 3 Grey Wagtail, 2 Yellow Wagtail and a Yellowhammer. These are thought to be birds held up on their travels by the inclement weather of the last few days. A couple of Lapland Bunting also moved over, but appeared to linger, as two birds were sighted again 15 minutes later. Other good birds were an immature Spoonbill that approached from the east, soared over the harbour, then left to the west, also 6 Pochard over the harbour, a Merlin and an adult Mediterranean Gull, the latter over the HHC early on. There was also a notable influx of grounded migrants with Goldcrest estimated at 180 and Chiffchaff at over 40. The sea produced over 200 Gannet and 2 Great Skua, one of these almost overhead the Beach Huts; also 3 Razorbill and 3 Common Scoter. A count of 31 Shag off the sandspit was a very good local figure. Other records include a skein of 19 Brent Goose passing through the harbour and a Greenshank in Barn Bight. In the last week, a Little Owl has been heard a few times around the old Council Depot site at Stanpit, the bird is probably attracted by the clearance work taking place ahead of the new development there. It's worth checking back to Sunday and Monday for some interesting wader sightings. One, possibly two, Tawny Owl could be heard on the northern periphery of the recording area at 9:45 this evening.


October 4th

Yesterday's wet and stormy weather continued right through until late morning. During these conditions, there is always a slightly misplaced notion that Hengistbury is going to resemble Cape Clear, hence 3 observers making it to the Beach Huts this morning. During a 3 hour watch, there were two short periods which contained all the highlights. Just after dawn, a Long-tailed Duck passed by west in the company of 2 Common Scoter, and a young Little Gull was also seen. It was then fairly quiet until around 9:30, then in a 15 minute purple patch a Grey Phalarope, 3 Great Skua and 1 Arctic Skua were all seen heading west. Other birds counted were 77 Gannet, 26 Sandwich Tern, 14 more Common Scoter, 9 Razorbill, 3 Common Tern and 2 Arctic Tern. It has to be mentioned that one of this morning's observers was heard, on Saturday, stressing the fact that he was so busy with work he couldn't possibly be in the field until next weekend. Cometh a strong, autumn south-westerly! For those that couldn't manage to alter the Monday morning schedule, half an hour at Mudeford Quay was scant reward - just 4 Common Tern entering the harbour and 3 Turnstone. Another conscientious individual resisted the morning temptation and saved his efforts for Wick Fields this evening, where 10 Chiffchaff, 10 Goldcrest, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Blackcap and 1 Grey Wagtail were noted, also a seemingly recent influx of Stonechat with around 10 birds present. Late news from Stanpit: a Purple Sandpiper inside the harbour is an exceptional record, the bird no doubt discouraged from the groynes by the waves. There were also 2 Curlew Sandpiper.


October 3rd

The expected overnight weather never really happened. Skies were mainly clear and the wind had died to not much more than a brisk south-westerly breeze, so the time at the Beach Huts early this morning could have been better spent elsewhere. A couple of juvenile Arctic Tern were the highlight, but other birds were sparse. Yesterday's Gannet flock had moved on, less than 10 birds this morning, also similar numbers of Common Scoter. A hatrick of Razorbill were the only other seabirds of note. Land migrants were also few and far between, Goldcrest being the most obvious, but also a few Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Winter duck continue to arrive, a total of 14 Pintail were seen this morning over Hengistbury. A Kingfisher around Barn Bight, 3 Black-tailed Godwit in Holloway's Dock and a hen Pheasant on Wick Fields are the only other reports from a poor morning. Fortunes changed at lunchtime, the wind increased significantly and the rain descended. During a break in the conditions, a walk along the beach at Hengistbury produced 3 Arctic Skua, 1 Great Skua, 4 Arctic Tern, 9 Common Tern and 25 Sandwich Tern. Meanwhile, waders sitting out the high tide on the sandspit included: 32 Dunlin, 12 Ringed Plover, 11 Sanderling and 6 Turnstone. Late afternoon at Mudeford Quay was interesting, 1 juvenile Arctic Tern, and 2 juvenile and 1 adult Common Tern were feeding in The Run with the gulls, giving very close-up views and ideal comparison opportunities. Late news from Stanpit: a Little Ringed Plover is a very good October record.


October 2nd

The Beach Huts must surely make for some of the most comfortable sea-watching in region, particularly on occasions such as today, when a strong south-westerly brings in frequent bands of heavy rain. The drawback is, however, the birds never quite match the comfort! Best from this morning's nine-strong vigil were 4 Great Skua seen briefly among a feeding flock of 70 Gannet, which was present throughout the three hour period. Good numbers of Common Scoter, tying in with larger down-channel movements, were recorded, 31 birds in all. Commic tern are still around, 1 Arctic Tern and 3 Common Tern moved along the surfline, all juvenile birds, also 8 Sandwich Tern. Further out, 3 distant Kittiwake went west. Also heading in that direction were 300+ Swallow, many at wave top level far offshore. A group of birds comprising 8 Snipe and 2 Dunlin were seen to arrive from the east and seemed to head for sanctuary in the harbour. Other waders were 1 Greenshank and 4 Black-tailed Godwit in Barn Bight, and a party of 9 Sanderling and 7 Turnstone on the beach. Flyover passerines were logged as a mere 47 alba Wagtail, 4 Skylark and 3 Grey Wagtail, while grounded birds were noted at 50+ Goldcrest, 5 Blackcap and 2 Reed Warbler. An early evening visit to Stanpit, as the tide was dropping, produced 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Knot, 1 Greenshank and 8 Black-tailed Godwit. Common Gull seem to be checking-in for the winter, with 3 birds today, but still only 4 Brent Goose; 5 Shoveler, single Great-crested Grebe and the Yellow-legged Gull were also around. Hopefully, the conditions will persist throughout the night - all the talk is of a good seawatch tomorrow...


October 1st

There was a good visible migration at Hengistbury this morning, including an easterly finch movement, despite the westerly nature of the wind. To the east went: 325 Goldfinch, 125 Greenfinch, 100 Linnet, 85 Siskin and 25 Chaffinch; while, 450 House Martin, 400 Swallow, 150 Meadow Pipit and 12 alba Wagtail went to the west. There was also a feeding flock of 250 or so House Martin over the calm waters of Barn Bight. Skylark are becoming slightly more obvious than of late, presumably migrant birds, with 8 recorded in the air today. Settled birds numbered 40+ Chiffchaff over only a portion of the head, so there must have been far more, likewise, 25 Goldcrest. Other movers recorded were 7 Knot east, and 6 Dunlin and a Grey Plover leaving south-west. The Stanpit Brent Goose have doubled to 4 birds, while the waders today totalled just 11 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot and 1 Greenshank, however, the marsh was not visited during ideal tidal conditions. There is certainly a better selection out there. A couple of Yellow Wagtail were also noted from Stanpit. By the evening a strong south-westerly with some heavy rain had whipped up.

Archives
Return to the Sightings Archive Index

View the full archive of photographs, which now contains over 250 species.

Here is the full archive of features that have previously appeared on the CHOG website.