Sightings for October 2008


October 31st

In a bitterly cold north-westerly wind, it was variety of species rather than any large numbers that made the morning. The main vantage point was from the south-easterly lee of the Coastguards building, which probably meant the coasting passerine counts are low, but did provide an excellent lookout for birds arriving in off the sea from the south. The best was a ringtail Hen Harrier, which instead of coming directly in, veered over to Poole Bay where it gained a great deal of height before presumably spotting the heathland borders of Poole Harbour. A couple of Peregrine hunted as a pack over the water, pursuing one desperate passerine that seemed to evade capture by plunging into the cliff base. The most numerous arrivees from the continent were Starling, 530 in all, but also 35 Skylark, 35 Blackbird, 19 Redwing, a Fieldfare and 17 Song Thrush; one of the latter pausing briefly on the cliff top after finally making landfall. Grounded migrants were few and far between, but a Firecrest was in the Wood with up to 40 Goldcrest scattered more widely. There were a good deal of wildfowl on the move, mainly at sea, with a Velvet Scoter west the pick, plus 2 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, these over the harbour itself, 7 Common Scoter, 2 Shelduck, 36 Wigeon and 34 Brent Goose. There also seemed to be more 'brents' settled on South Marsh, Stanpit, than for the rest of the autumn; as well as some evidence of a wader arrival, including 35 Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover and 2 Lapwing inbound, while 3 Curlew passed westward. The wind seemed to keep Wood Pigeon movement to a minimum; nevertheless, 2300 were logged with the biggest flock being around 700 birds, also 65 Stock Dove mixed in with them. In addition to the identified harrier, a further bird was seen distantly over Mudeford, as was a Merlin and 3 Buzzard that were all thought to be movers. Most of the small bird movement was to the east and included: 540 Goldfinch, 470 Linnet, 185 Chaffinch, 80 Redpoll, 67 Siskin, 3 Brambling, 3 Reed Bunting, 3 late Swallow and a Yellowhammer. Finally, a total of 85 Common Gull, along with uncounted parties of Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull, moved west at sea.


October 30th

A Yellow-browed Warbler was with a party of Goldcrest by the HHC gate just after 7:00 this morning. This is still a rare species in the harbour and yet this is the ninth individual of the autumn. In all, 60 Goldcrest were scattered around the head, also a Firecrest and 3 Chiffchaff. Thrushes, probably grounded by last night's inclement weather, were present in good numbers with 160 Blackbird, 86 Song Thrush and 31 Redwing logged. Overhead counts included: 570 Wood Pigeon, 375 Starling and 211 Jackdaw moving west, while heading south were 235 Linnet, 63 Chaffinch, 45 Skylark, 35 Siskin, 14 Brambling, 9 Redpoll, 2 Bullfinch and a Swallow. In total 9 Mediterranean Gull, including one group of 7, and 33 Common Gull passed through the harbour in a south-westerly direction. In the strong north-easterlies the sea was worth a look, but 5 Eider east was the only highlight; also seen were 7 Common Scoter, 3 Razorbill and a Kittiwake. Finally, 23 Snipe arrived in the harbour and the local Peregrine was over Hengistbury.


October 29th

The biggest day of the autumn so far for Wood Pigeon movement with 32,500 birds heading west, also noteworthy were 6 Brambling and 2 late Swallow. There were still 2 Black Redstart around the head, one near the Coastguards and one halfway down the sandspit. A small passage of Common Gull also occurred with 73 birds logged from the cliff top moving west at sea, plus 3 Mediterranean Gull and a single Red-breasted Merganser. The rest of the migration numbers are probably a little on the low side as the 'watchers' had to shelter behind the Coastguards from the keen westerly wind; the numbers were 135 Chaffinch, 125 Starling, 75 Goldfinch, 67 Skylark, 52 Redpoll, 23 Siskin and 12 Redwing. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the Barn and 3 Kingfisher were seen today, 2 around Barn Bight and 1 from Fisherman's Bank. The latter vantage point also produced 2 Spotted Redshank, 4 Grey Plover and 40 Dunlin. There was however precious little reward from this morning's ringing effort with just 10 birds in three hours.


October 28th

On a fine and clear but very cold morning, the highlight was a party of 4 Bearded Tit that came in high from the east and dropped into the HHC reedbed and then perched in the sun for a couple of minutes before moving on. Despite the conditions, the Wood Pigeon movement is struggling to gain momentum with just 1685 birds logged this morning; also on the move were 313 Jackdaw, 60 Linnet, 25 Skylark, 2 Brambling and small numbers of Siskin, Redpoll and Reed Bunting. All the birds were moving west. No reports have been received from Stanpit today.


October 27th

Bird of the day was a Marsh Tit, seen to arrive and land in the Wood - were it not for the long-staying bird first seen in June, this would be a good candidate for sighting of the month. A reasonable overhead passage this morning included a Snow Bunting as its highlight, with a Yellowhammer also notable, while 6 Brambling comprised the highest count of this species so far this autumn. Also passing to the west were: 175 Chaffinch, 220 Goldfinch, 140 Linnet, 58 Redpoll, 36 Siskin, 95 Meadow Pipit, 38 Reed Bunting, 28 Skylark, 195 Jackdaw and 32 alba Wagtail, with 14 Song Thrush heading inland and a Ring Ouzel leaving the head towards Wick Fields. A Bullfinch was around the Batters and a Wheatear (a different bird to yesterday) was on the head, with another on the beach behind the Black House. There was also a good count of Ringed Plover from the beach roost, with 46 birds noted.


October 26th

Black Redstart have become a difficult bird to connect with in recent years, so the presence of three birds today - one on the cliff-edge by the Ironstone Quarry and two amongst the Beach Huts - came as a welcome surprise, and enlivened a dull, mostly wet day. A late Wheatear was also noted on the head, with Sandwich Tern and Purple Sandpiper along the shoreline and 2 Firecrest in the Wood. A couple of Turnstone were seen on the groynes by Whitepits early this afternoon. Today was also the monthly WeBS count and figures just in for Priory Marsh and Stanpit included: Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and 2 Knot as highlights, with specimen counts of 41 Black-tailed Godwit, 210 Lapwing, 3 Shoveler, 24 Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover, 110 Wigeon, 39 Teal, 10 Brent Geese and a single Bar-tailed Godwit.


October 25th

Continuing the recent run of records, a Yellow-browed Warbler was the reward for early arrival this morning, being seen by the Barn in the company of around 100 Goldcrest streaming off the head towards Wick Fields. A further 25 Goldcrest were seen in the Wood, with two Firecrest and a couple of Chiffchaff being the only other grounded migrants, while 44 Little Egret were counted leaving their roost. Overhead, two Tree Sparrow headed low to the west mid-morning, a very late Common Tern left the harbour over the HHC at first light and a reasonable visible migration, mostly to the east, comprised: 28 Redpoll, 310 Goldfinch, 300 Meadow Pipit, 530 Linnet, 45 Chaffinch, 65 Siskin, 115 alba Wagtail, 33 Skylark, 4 Yellowhammer (a good total for this species) and 2 Swallow, with 1000 Wood Pigeon and 270 Jackdaw heading in the opposite direction, plus a single Fieldfare and 15 Redwing moving north. Both Peregrine and Merlin were noted patrolling the skies for unwary migrants. An hour or so watching the sea from the Beach Huts yielded just 2 Red-breasted Merganser west, with single Turnstone and Sanderling, plus a couple of Purple Sandpiper, along the beach. Finally, both Grey Plover and Golden Plover were associating with the harbour wader flock, with 4 of the former and 2 of the latter.

It is interesting to compare "our" sightings with those at Durlston, which is close enough to be visible from the head. The Durlston birds were mostly moving in a south or south-west direction, rather than to the east, presumably due to the geography of the area. Numbers of most of the common migrants were similar at both sites, with the notable exception of the hirundines. All we could muster were 2 Swallow - Durlston managed 250+ Swallow and 40+ House Martin!

Additional news: the Pale-bellied Brent Goose was on Stanpit this evening.


October 24th

It was early to the Beach Huts this morning, with the walk made in the dark. However, it wasn't soon enough to beat the calming of the wind, meaning the sea was not quite as exciting as hoped for. Nevertheless, a single Balearic Shearwater, 2 Great-northern Diver, both still in breeding-plumage, and a Red-throated Diver, all west, were good value. A Sandwich Tern in the same direction could be the last of the year - surely that's a comment made to be broken - while a Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Common Scoter, 9 Razorbill and 2 unidentified auk completed the marine list. After an hour or so of watching the water, a decision was made to relocate to the end of the head, from where seawatching could be combined with overhead movement, but this wasn't before 2 Purple Sandpiper and 38 Ringed Plover had moved past. In the event, finch numbers were actually small, with 158 Goldfinch and 57 Siskin being the most notable, as well as 105 Meadow Pipit, all mainly east. The late morning served up some excitement though, as a Spoonbill circled the harbour before seeming to prefer Poole. The Stanpit reports come from mid-afternoon, when a Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 24 Dunlin and 2 Black-tailed Godwit were the best of the waders. In fact, it was so quiet that time was spent counting 112 Redshank. To wrap up the day's account, a couple of Mistle Thrush, 3 Chiffchaff and a Blackcap were on Wick tonight.


October 23rd

The wind really got up in the early hours and because the blow had not been going on too long, it was thought the sea was barely worth a look. However, the hour between 9:00 and 10:00 produced 6 shearwaters west past the Beach Huts. Of these, 4 were certain Balearic Shearwater, with the other 2 initially thought to be sooties, but subsequent observer 'discussion' means they really have to go into the sp. category. Three of the four balearics moved together and for a while were harried by a juvenile Peregrine that spent the next a quarter-of-an-hour patrolling the seas. Also, 3 Kittiwake, a Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Common Scoter, a Razorbill and 2 auk sp. into the south-westerly wind. In the conditions, although not counted, there were several parties of Linnet and Goldfinch apparently trying to move, as well as 10-12 Swallow east. On Stanpit, the pale-bellied Brent Goose is still hanging around with 6 regulation birds in Stanpit Bight. Also the Spotted Redshank, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Grey Plover, 35 Dunlin and 27 Black-tailed Godwit, all these from Fisherman's Bank. Right now, there is a real hooley going, so it's early at the huts tomorrow, no doubt.


October 22nd

In clear skies and a light south-westerly breeze, things were a little livelier this morning. In terms of visible migrants, Jackdaw headed the numbers with a total of 690 taking a strict, westerly inland track over the centre of Christchurch. Also 19 Rook taking pretty much the same line, although one of these did pass the head itself; as did around 140 Wood Pigeon in groups of varying size. The best of the smaller stuff were a couple of Bullfinch and 4 Fieldfare over the HHC at very first light, while the commoner species throughout the morning numbered: 28 Skylark, 7 Song Thrush, 85 alba Wagtail, 125 Meadow Pipit, 2 Swallow, 180 Chaffinch, 130 Goldfinch, 92 Linnet, 80 Greenfinch, 38 Siskin, 35 Redpoll and 42 Reed Bunting. At least 2 Merlin were attracted by this parade and a local Peregrine came for a late breakfast at Stanpit. A Golden Plover is still in the area, being seen in flight over the harbour this morning, when a Greenshank was heard. Also, now 3 Grey Plover on South Marsh, along with 35 Black-tailed Godwit and 8 Brent Goose. More interesting waterfowl during the day included a Great-crested Grebe in the harbour, as well as 3 Pintail, a Shoveler and a Shelduck all passing through. Ringing on Hengistbury produced 20 birds, the pick being 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff and 6 Goldcrest. Please check back to yesterday for some additional news.


October 21st

In mid-October, a westerly breeze is not the most inspiring; so, not surprisingly, the migration at Hengistbury this morning was pretty dire. In fact, a single Brambling over Wick was the highlight of the passage, which otherwise consisted of token numbers of the commoner finches, alba Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting. A tea break trip to Fisherman's Bank showed a Curlew Sandpiper to still be present, along with a Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 34 Dunlin and 23 Black-tailed Godwit. There were slightly more godwit tonight, perhaps up to 35 birds spread around, as well as roosting singles of Grey Plover, the same bird as Sunday, and Golden Plover on South Marsh. Also at Stanpit, at least 5 Brent Goose that now appear to be settled, but 12 more passed through. On Hengistbury, the customary pair of Raven were croaking around, while a Great Spotted Woodpecker headed off.

Additional news: the winter's first Purple Sandpiper was on the sandspit in the morning, as were 17 Turnstone and over 30 Ringed Plover. Later, evening ringing at the HHC Pied Wagtail roost saw 11 birds caught.


October 20th

A day of almost constant drizzle and westerly wind, which looks set to strengthen and carry a bit of south as the week progresses. With this in mind, it looks like the sea is going to receive the most focus, but let's hope it can throw up more than it did this morning, when a Kittiwake, a Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Common Scoter and 10 Gannet were scant reward for a trip to the Beach Huts. That's about it, I'm afraid, other than 3 Little Grebe on the river behind the HHC.


October 19th

A south-westerly varying between forces 4 and 5, plus some fairly foreboding cloud that seemed to delay dawn for at least an hour, killed any hopes of a good return in the nationwide visible migration survey this morning. In fact, the small passerines recorded could well have been lingering locals; however, up to 50 Jackdaw west over Wick Fields can only have been migrants. Actually, It was Wick that served up the bird of the day - as a Woodlark moved from there in the direction of Stanpit; also a Dartford Warbler in the Bobolink Field, away from the main Hengistbury concentration. On Stanpit, at least one Spotted Redshank is still present, as are lone Knot, Grey Plover, this still with remnants of breeding plumage, and Bar-tailed Godwit. Over 40 Black-tailed Godwit are now in the area, along with 40 Dunlin, 31 Ringed Plover, 400 Lapwing, 160 Redshank 65 Oystercatcher and 30 Curlew. Meanwhile, the Brent Goose have crept up to 12. Now, an update on the colour-ringed Greenshank from 9th October - the bird was ringed at Thorney Island, Sussex, in August 2006 and, since then, seems to be reasonably faithful to the Keyhaven area, although there have also been sightings at Farlington Marshes. More information about this bird and, indeed, the whole project can be found by clicking here


October 18th

The best bird of the day came late into it, as a Short-eared Owl flew north across Stanpit, attracting a good deal of attention as it did so. Also seen from the golf course during an hour or so of skywatching were: 10 Raven, 16+ Buzzard, 10+ Sparrowhawk and 7 Kestrel. The north of the country has seen a large arrival of thrushes in the last couple of days, so a party of 5 Redwing over the HHC at dawn was no real surprise; then, slightly later, a further bird accompanied a Fieldfare off the head. A Ring Ouzel flew the length of the Batters towards the Barn Field, while 23 Song Thrush and the same number of Starling also moved through. The biggest movers, in terms of numbers and size, were Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw with 365 of each heading west. It was interesting to note that nearly all the Jackdaw were following a line over 1km inland. For the first time this season, Chaffinch headed the finch numbers with 165 logged, also a lone Brambling over the HHC first thing, as well as 160 Goldfinch, 65 Linnet, 65 Greenfinch, 32 Siskin and 25 Redpoll. Of the other movers, Skylark were again notable, as 86 moved west mostly over the sea, but also 85 alba Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail, 75 Meadow Pipit and 7 Swallow. Of the smaller migrants, direction was difficult to assess, so 'mixed' is probably a good catchall. Inside the harbour, a pale-bellied Brent Goose was on Blackberry Point this morning; however, by lunchtime, 11 of the more conventional type had arrived. No real wader counts have been received, although singles of Grey Plover and Golden Plover were about, as were a few Black-tailed Godwit. A couple of Raven, presumably a pair, made a quite dreadful din in the Nursery for up to an hour this morning, when 2 Gadwall and a Pochard toured the area.

Additional news: ringing around the HHC and the Barn produced 21 birds, with 5 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest and a Lesser Redpoll being the most notable.

Omissions: a single Wheatear was on the top of the head, while 48 Goldcrest moved off to Wick to join at least 25 Chiffchaff there.


October 17th

Wood Pigeon showed their famed liking for moving in clear, still skies, as the first hint of frost inspired a small, early passage of 165 birds to the west. Skylark were also prevalent and travelling in the same direction, even outnumbering some of the commoner finches. In total, 186 birds passed through, including two flocks in excess of 30. It was a 6-corvid day: with 28 Jackdaw west and singles of Rook and Raven east adding to the expected Crow, Magpie and Jay. The blue skies made the smaller overflying passerines difficult to see, but 320 Goldfinch, 88 Redpoll, 78 Siskin, 62 Chaffinch, 47 Linnet, 38 Greenfinch, 290 Meadow Pipit, 112 alba Wagtail and 1 Grey Wagtail were picked out, randomly coasting. Hirundines were almost non-existent, however, just 6 Swallow for the day. Likewise thrushes, with a trio of Mistle Thrush providing the only real interest. In contrast, there were at least 5 Great-spotted Woodpecker behaving as if they had only recently arrived. There were no Brent Goose settled in the harbour, but at least 11 moved through or past to the west, while 7 airborne Snipe could well have newcomers. To wrap up for Hengistbury, a Kingfisher was around Barn Bight. The day's only news from Stanpit concerns the lingering Knot.

Additional news: for the first time in a few years, ringing took place in the Long Field/Nursery area, where 9 Goldcrest, 8 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap and 2 Lesser Redpoll were among 27 birds caught. Then, for the first time in probably 20-years, an evening session took place and netted 18 Pied Wagtail going to roost by the HHC, along with a juvenile male Sparrowhawk.


October 16th

In the last two or three years, Black Redstart has taken on a premium species status within the recording area, so a fleeting bird on the beach at the end of the head certainly heads the post. In fact, while the 'black-red' records have diminished, those of Woodlark have increased, including one over the top of the head this morning. The visible migration was probably better than the figures suggest, but it wasn't hard-core stuff today. Nonetheless, 430 Linnet, 320 Goldfinch, 165 Chaffinch, these are building now, 115 Siskin, 107 Redpoll, 75 Reed Bunting, 220 alba Wagtail and 345 Meadow Pipit make the books, as do a couple of Yellowhammer. Much smaller numbers of finches were over Stanpit early on, but a lone Brambling traversed the golf course. Back to the head, where the Double Dykes to Wick Ditch conduit produced a quick rush of 30 Goldcrest, with the overall day total being in the order of 85, plus a Firecrest on the Batters. At sea, a large fishing flock of Gannet attracted an adult Little Gull and a dark Arctic Skua, while 2 Sandwich Tern and 2 Common Scoter moved past. On the falling afternoon tide at Stanpit, waders were sparse but did include 2 Golden Plover - one on East Marsh and one on South Marsh - each roosting with Lapwing. Also, a Knot, 1 Spotted Redshank and 33 Black-tailed Godwit. A fish shoal in Stanpit Bight inspired some Cormorant and gull excitement, which also saw a female-type Red-breasted Merganser getting involved; and, for completeness, there was a further Sandwich Tern off South Marsh.

News just in, some of which would have made the headlines; namely a pale-bellied Brent Goose at Stanpit around lunchtime, along with a late Common Tern through the harbour. On Hengistbury, a couple of young Rook moved through, as did a Great-spotted Woodpecker. An evening wader count at Fisherman's Bank saw a Curlew Sandpiper in with 46 Dunlin.


October 15th

Perhaps the rarities update should have waited until today, when early rain scuppered plans for another Hengistbury onslaught. As it was, the only records come from Fisherman's Bank late this afternoon, when a Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Black-tailed Godwit and 41 Dunlin could be seen, as well as a count of 125 Redshank.


October 14th

There was another Yellow-browed Warbler sighting from Hengistbury this morning, this time from the Barred Warbler Bush. However, in typical fashion, the bird moved through very quickly. In support, a Firecrest was seen along Wick Ditch, as were 15+ Goldcrest, while a couple of Wheatear were on the head itself. In a light south-westerly, visible migration was not the best, but did include: 195 Goldfinch, 158 Linnet, 55 Siskin, 15 Chaffinch, just 1 Redpoll, 135 Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, 35 alba Wagtail, 7 Swallow, 17 Jackdaw, 8 Starling and 4 Song Thrush - the passage being mainly west over a 90-minute spell to 9:00. There is little else to report, other than a Great-crested Grebe on the river and 3 Brent Goose at Stanpit. Finally, while it's a relatively quiet day, some news. The 2 Mealy Redpoll from February this year have now been accepted by the Dorset Rarities Panel and bring the Harbour List to 320. Meanwhile, the BBRC have placed the autumn 2006 Marbled Duck into Category D, which means the bird is considered to have been perhaps of captive origin.

News just in from Fisherman's Bank this evening, where the 2 Spotted Redshank, 10 Black-tailed Godwit and around 20 Dunlin could be seen.

Additional news: the drake Gadwall was by Mudeford Quay.


October 13th

A light south-westerly hardly seemed ideal for a good autumn ringing day, but rules are there to be broken. Just before 10:00, a wave of Chiffchaff hit a net by the HHC and included a Yellow-browed Warbler, considered to be a young female and only CHOG's second ever in the hand. However, given the date, an adult Garden Warbler is probably rarer and is particularly bizarre as it came from a reedbed net! In total, 54 birds were processed, including 13 Redpoll, 12 Chiffchaff, 8 Goldcrest, a Song Thrush and a Chaffinch. Just after the first Yellow-browed Warbler was netted, another was seen by the Barn, as was a Firecrest, and a Reed Warbler was by the HHC. The best overhead was a Snow Bunting west over the Barn Field, but also 2 Yellowhammer, 3 Brambling and 4 Crossbill, while a Ring Ouzel was about the top of the head. For a short period, there was a pretty reasonable passage, but drizzle around 9:00 largely put a stop to it. However, there was time to note: 28 Song Thrush, 4 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 230 Goldfinch, 212 Chaffinch, 185 Siskin, 130 Linnet, 78 Redpoll, 42 Reed Bunting, 135 alba Wagtail, 200 Meadow Pipit, 195 Swallow and 100 House Martin, nearly all of these west. Curlew Sandpiper were at Stanpit throughout the day and peaked a 3 this evening, also: a Knot, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Grey Plover, the 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Brent Goose, 26 Ringed Plover, 11 Black-tailed Godwit and 50ish Dunlin. To conclude, at sea, a couple of Kittiwake, 14 Common Gull and a Red-breasted Merganser passed by.


October 12th

At one point, it looked as if the Moorhen doing an impression of a large sylvia warbler was going to be the high point for the day, as thick fog blanketed Hengistbury until at least 10:30. Thankfully, a calling Yellow-browed Warbler on the golf course embankment at Stanpit livened things up a little. Then, as most deserted Wick, a Richard's Pipit headed north over the ditch closely followed by a Ring Ouzel. Around Stanpit Bight, the 2 Spotted Redshank were still present this afternoon, along with a Grey Plover, a Sanderling, 2 Knot, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 8 Snipe, 21 Ringed Plover up to 30 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 or so Dunlin and 2 Brent Goose. Most of these, as well as a couple of hundred Lapwing, were then harangued by a male Peregrine that spent a fair deal of time pursuing a Dunlin skywards, before giving up and settling briefly on South Marsh. Since the Dartford Warbler decline of two or three winters ago, prior to which a pair had bred on Crouch Hill, the species has been rarely recorded on Stanpit - so one on there tonight was nice. The fog almost completely eliminated movement over Hengistbury, save for a handful of the expected finches, wagtails, pipits and buntings.


October 11th

Disappointingly, despite the turn out of the Saturday regulars, there isn't too much excitement that can be drawn from this morning. Although, the major visible migration numbers are not yet available and they could hold a surprise or two. Among the moving finches and buntings, were a Brambling, at least 2 Yellowhammer, a House Sparrow and a Tree Pipit. The best on the deck was a Ring Ouzel in the Barred Warbler Bush, while Goldcrest were again about most of Hengistbury, as were Blackcap and Chiffchaff. However, the only formal count came from Wick, which held 8 and 15 of the warblers respectively. A Merlin was over the top of Hengistbury and Bearded Tit were heard in the reeds by Barn Bight. Also, a Common Sandpiper, a pair of Gadwall and 5 Little Grebe in that area, with a Great-crested Grebe was further out in the harbour. Late in the morning, something disturbed Wick Hams and resulted in impressive 25 Snipe taking flight. The only news from the sea involves a Red-throated Diver, a Mediterranean Gull, 2 Brent Goose and a Pintail, all west. Just for the records, around 50 Canada Goose still appear to be using the harbour as an overnight roost. Ringing at Solent Meads produced 9 Lesser Redpoll, 7 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and a Blackcap, out of a total of 32 birds.

The visible migration numbers are now in and comprise: 260 Goldfinch, 190 Linnet, 105 Siskin, 95 Chaffinch, 41 Redpoll, 21 Reed Bunting, 95 Meadow Pipit, 75 alba Wagtail, 220 Swallow, 56 House Martin and 8 Song Thrush. With the exception of the thrushes, the movement was almost entirely east, even though there was no wind to dictate the direction.


October 10th

In a southerly breeze, it was the quietest day for movement in over a week. In fact, the visible migration highlight was 22, or possibly 41, Jackdaw west. In explanation of the vagueness of that figure, there is some confusion as to whether double counting took place on either end of the head. A Pochard that circled the harbour a few times also provided some interest, as did a Common Sandpiper in Barn Bight and 2 Red-breasted Merganser, a Kittiwake and 14 Common Scoter at sea. Again, the HHC gate was the place to see mobile Goldcrest, as around 80 piled off into Wick Ditch, but Chiffchaff numbers were generally down. The overhead totals were led by finches, with 320 Linnet, 290 Goldfinch, 132 Siskin, 112 Greenfinch, 32 Chaffinch and 21 Redpoll on the go, mainly west; while also travelling were 145 Swallow, 118 alba Wagtail, 4 Grey Wagtail, 240 Meadow Pipit and 32 Reed Bunting. To finish on Hengistbury, a couple of Raven were around and the Kingfisher was in Brewer's Creek. The information services reported a Ring Ouzel, a Common Sandpiper and the 2 Spotted Redshank at Stanpit in the morning, but direct reports involve: just one Spotted Redshank, 2 Sanderling, 10 Ringed Plover, a Grey Plover, 34 Black-tailed Godwit and 43 Dunlin, as well as 3 Brent Goose, 5 Sandwich Tern and a Wheatear.


October 9th

Another day of clear skies, no wind and general pleasantness, made for some more seemingly random migration over Hengistbury. As has recently become the custom, before the numbers, the appetisers. Two parties of Bearded Tit, a 7 and then a 5, appeared over the top of the head mid-morning, the larger of which appeared to go down into the HHC reeds. At least 3 Tree Sparrow moved through, a couple behind the Barn, but one in a flock of Goldfinch over the top; also 2 Yellowhammer recorded and a wave of 'crests jumping into Wick Ditch contained a Firecrest. At sea and through the harbour, there was something of a gull movement, which included: 17 Mediterranean Gull, the largest group being 8, 2 Little Gull, 3 Kittiwake and 78 Common Gull. Song Thrush again moved north-west in good numbers, well locally speaking - 35 being the day-total, also 7 migrant Jackdaw, while 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker could also have been on the move. A Green Sandpiper heard from the head was no doubt lingering from last night at Stanpit, a juvenile Peregrine hunted passerines over the sea, a couple of Raven put in their regular appearance and a Pintail arrived. Now the morning's numbers: 16 Skylark, 103 Swallow, 56 House Martin, 215 alba Wagtail, 3 Grey Wagtail, 330 Meadow Pipit, 430 Goldfinch, 290 Linnet, 270 Chaffinch, 106 Siskin, 93 Redpoll and 2 Brambling. Goldcrest were prevalent and an estimate of 180 on the head is no doubt conservative, as is a Chiffchaff figure of 50. On a fairly static tide this afternoon, the Stanpit wader selection was relatively poor. The brace of Spotted Redshank are still present, along with 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Grey Plover, 4 Ringed Plover and about 30 Dunlin. A single Brent Goose was in Stanpit Bight, but two more had earlier passed through - the main arrival must surely be imminent now. Conversely, a couple of Sandwich Tern were still lingering on. The only Kingfisher report for the day involves one piping across Barn Bight. Finally, the ringing totals: out of 32 birds trapped, there were 4 Lesser Redpoll, 8 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap and a Reed Warbler.

Additional news: late in the afternoon, the wader presence at Stanpit seemed to get a little better, with a Curlew Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, a Knot and an arriving colour-ringed Greenshank. Also, a young Whitethroat in the bushes on Crouch Hill and a Great-crested Grebe in the harbour.


October 8th

A Lapland Bunting, in the company of a couple of Meadow Pipit, overflew the top of the head early this morning. Just before, what was presumably the same bird had been calling from around the Barn; from where 15 minutes later and then on Wick it was subsequently heard, but never seen. Around lunchtime, a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen at Stanpit, by the bridge over Purewell Stream adjacent to the golf course, where it was mixing with a tit flock that actually held a Marsh Tit. Other goodies for the day include: a Tree Sparrow that headed east along Wick Ditch, a couple of Little Gull inside the harbour, a Merlin south over the Barn Field, a Curlew Sandpiper in Holloway's Dock and a Golden Plover watched arriving. During the early part of the morning, the area was virtually windless and this seemed to confuse the overhead migrants, who couldn't really decide on any particular flight line. These numbered: 470 House Martin, 220 Swallow, 320 Meadow Pipit, 4 late Sand Martin, 125 alba Wagtail, 3 Grey Wagtail, 28 Skylark, 29 Song Thrush, all of those north-west, 380 Goldfinch, 250 Linnet, 147 Siskin, 47 Redpoll, 2 Brambling and 67 Reed Bunting. The Wood again held 2 Firecrest, while 160 Goldcrest and 48 Chiffchaff were across Hengistbury, as were a few Coal Tit. On this date, all tern records are worthy of mention and today's comprise: a Common Tern and Sandwich Tern inside the harbour, with 1 and 3 more of each passing at sea. A few wader counts were received from Stanpit, from which it was clear the morning held the most birds, but the respective maximums are: 2 Spotted Redshank, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, a good October record of a Whimbrel, likewise a Greenshank, 60 Black-tailed Godwit and 77 Dunlin. A couple of Wheatear were about Crouch Hill, as were 2 Yellow Wagtail, a Kingfisher hunted Mother Siller's Channel and a Buzzard briefly entered harbour airspace.

A combination of a glaring omission and some late news: this evening, a Wood Sandpiper was heard calling from Crouch Hill, before it eventually showed itself at the tip of South Marsh, but then departed northwards up the Avon Valley. Slightly later, a couple of Green Sandpiper were also turned in.

More omissions: a Redwing went over Hengistbury, as did 2 Raven, while 2 Mediterranean Gull and a Reed Warbler were at Stanpit.


October 7th

A southerly blow, which gradually took on a westerly component, failed to produce significant numbers of seabirds. Nevertheless, there were elements of quality to be had. Pride of place belongs to a juvenile Sabine's Gull off the Beach Huts late in the morning; while earlier, a Leach's Petrel showed reasonably well for a short time, a Great Skua was a little more fleeting and the same could be said of 2 Grey Phalarope that fluttered by westwards. After that excitement, the afternoon was pretty dire, enlivened only by an Arctic Skua. Other figures from a watch that spanned 8:00 to after 4:00, included: 20 each of Gannet and Common Scoter, an adult Kittiwake, 6 Razorbill, 2 Guillemot, a 'commic' Tern, at least 12 Sandwich Tern, 9 Ringed Plover and 1 Sanderling. A further Leach's Petrel was also seen from Mudeford Quay mid-morning. Given the conditions throughout the day, there is little else to report: other than 2 Merlin early on, one over Hengistbury and another from Wick, the 2 Spotted Redshank off Fisherman's Bank and an obligatory Kingfisher in Barn Bight.


October 6th

Rather than going straight for the migration figures, some of which are quite impressive, here's a rundown of some of the less common species. On Crouch Hill this afternoon, a flock of at least 300 Meadow Pipit were alarmed and took flight - as this happened, calls of Lapland Bunting could be heard for the subsequent minute or so. Eventually, at least 2 birds were picked up heading across the harbour towards the Salt Hurns. Earlier, a Little Stint and Arctic Tern had been on Stanpit, and there were 2 Spotted Redshank present throughout the later period. From Hengistbury, an immature Spoonbill was seen heading west directly towards Poole Harbour this morning, while other interest there included: a Ring Ouzel on the Long Field, a first-winter Little Gull over Holloway's Dock, a latish Common Sandpiper in the dock, single Eider, Red-throated Diver and Great-crested Grebe on the sea, a Red-breasted Merganser west and a Golden Plover arriving that was later seen on Stanpit. As threatened, now the numbers, all east into the light wind: 3470 Meadow Pipit, the biggest count so far, 2 Tree Pipit, 1120 Linnet, 410 Goldfinch, 310 Chaffinch, 220 Greenfinch, 145 Siskin, 63 Redpoll, 56 Reed Bunting, 2 Yellowhammer, 190 alba Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 330 Swallow, 92 House Martin and 3 Skylark. The best of the grounded birds were 3 Mistle Thrush at the end of the head, but also 2 Wheatear, 2 Coal Tit, 70 Goldcrest and 30 Chiffchaff. Some of the sea interest has already been mentioned, so 4 Mediterranean Gull west, 9 Common Scoter and 2 Sanderling east merely complete the picture. Back to Stanpit, where a Redstart on Crouch Hill was a good record for the month, also 2 Wheatear there, with peak waders numbers comprising: 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, a Grey Plover, 18 Ringed Plover, 2 Sanderling, 50 Black-tailed Godwit and 60 Dunlin. As always, Kingfisher get a mention - one by the HHC at dawn and a further bird around Stanpit.

Additional news: a Curlew Sandpiper was at Stanpit.


October 5th

Firstly, a few words about the incredible events of the previous 24-hours. After consulting some of the longer-standing regulars, there is general consensus that yesterday was probably the best ever seawatch experienced by the group. In total, over 30 skuas of 4 species, not to mention 3 species of shearwater, were recorded - a truly memorable day for all involved and one that will keep us going through those mid-winter sessions at the Beach Huts. Next, the outcome of the bird-race that was somewhat hijacked by the events at sea and the late afternoon weather. The winning total was 95 species, out of around 105 recorded in total. Not surprisingly, but possibly for the first time ever, there was a constant and massed presence at the Beach Huts for the entirety of a Sunday. However, Stanpit briefly served up the best views of Long-tailed Skua, when a juvenile was discovered sitting on Crouch Hill! Unfortunately, it could only be enjoyed for 30 minutes or so before a dog-walker, rather than his dog, flushed it high and west. That wasn't it for Stanpit though, as a Richard's Pipit went over west and a Pectoral Sandpiper secreted itself within the roosting Redshank as the tide rose on East Marsh. The early attendees at the huts were treated to a couple more Long-tailed Skua, an adult and dark juvenile west, also a Grey Phalarope briefly on the sea off the groynes. This afternoon, a further 2 Grey Phalarope entered the harbour over the Beach Huts and a hoped-for Leach's Petrel made it onto the year-list. Also at sea throughout the day, all west, 4 Arctic Skua, a Great Skua, 5 Arctic Tern, 3 Common Tern, a Pintail, 15 Sandwich Tern, 100+ Common Scoter, including a flock of 48, 2 Razorbill and a Guillemot. As the weather improved around 2:00, there was a 15-minute spell of southbound Swallow movement, with 250 birds involved; also at that time, a Merlin over and a Wheatear on the beach, plus a Firecrest in the Wood. Later, 128 Ringed Plover headed generally east, while a Little Stint, 14 Turnstone and 5 Sanderling were also on the sandspit. To wrap up a fine weekend, further interest on Stanpit came from a couple of Arctic Tern, the Spotted Redshank, a Knot, a Grey Plover and 24 Black-tailed Godwit.

Additional news: a juvenile Pomarine Skua headed west late this afternoon, as did a similarly aged Arctic Skua and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull. Omitted from the main post, was a Red-throated Diver fishing just inches off the beach.


October 4th

A strong south-westerly blow combined with increasingly frequent heavy showers throughout the day is not, on the face of it, ideal for bird racing. In fact, visible migration was almost at a standstill with just small numbers of Meadow Pipit, alba Wagtail, Siskin, Linnet, Redpoll, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting on the move. However, the sea, which was watched for most of the day, yielded untold dividends and produced probably the best day's seawatching for many years. All four species of skua were recorded, the highlight being a party of 3 Long-tailed Skua that passed over the Beach Huts heading towards Mudeford; then, some time later, another three individuals were seen, two of which were adults, possibly making 6 birds in all. An impressive 21 Arctic Skua, plus 4 Great Skua and 2 Pomarine Skua, moved mainly west although 5 of the Arctic Skua did linger in The Solent for a brief spell. Singles of Sooty Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater and Manx Shearwater led the supporting cast, together with a Grey Phalarope that entered the harbour over the Beach Huts. Also a juvenile Arctic Tern, 30 Common Scoter, 28 Kittiwake, 12 Sandwich Tern, 6 Brent Geese, 5 each of Razorbill and Guillemot, 3 Fulmar and 2 Tufted Duck, all west. Another Little Gull, which arrived in the harbour via The Run, may have been one of a group of 11 birds that left over the Barn Field a little later. A round-up of other noteworthy sightings includes: a Tawny Owl seen by the Civic Offices at first light, up to 4 Merlin, 3 Mediterranean Gull and 2 Raven. Turning to Stanpit and the day's wader numbers, the Spotted Redshank was present, also 15 Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Ringed Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Grey Plover and a Knot, while the Mudeford Sandspit held at least 30 Turnstone. Just 3 Yellow Wagtail and 1 Wheatear were seen today; and, in the Wood, a Firecrest and 2 Coal Tit were amongst the mixed flocks of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.

Additional news: 5 Sanderling had been in the harbour during the morning.

Omission: a Puffin that moved east during the morning was an excellent record.


October 3rd

Another chilly morning in a north-westerly wind saw a large, but silent, pipit pick up off the old pitch and putt course adjacent to the HHC and head off towards Wick. A few minutes later, a Richard's Pipit, presumably the same bird, flushed up out of the No Dogs Field, calling as it did so. On Hengistbury itself, despite every 'crest and tit flock being carefully examined, the best was a couple of Firecrest between the Double Bends, while the Goldcrest and Chiffchaff in the Wood and Barn Field numbered 30 and 66 respectively. Most of yesterday's Coal Tit had moved on, but of two birds today, one, in the Barn garden, was 'continental'. The visible migration specialists were a little late on parade, something to do with red wine I'm told. However, the following totals were still notched up: 375 Meadow Pipit, 280 Linnet, 120 Siskin, 100+ Goldfinch, 92 alba Wagtail, 62 Chaffinch, 28 Skylark, 21 Reed Bunting, these down on yesterday, 12 Redpoll, 5 Song Thrush and 2 Grey Wagtail. Interestingly, the hirundine count was absolute zero! There should still be plenty to come through though and the next few weeks will also see the finch numbers peaking into four figures daily. A small group of 3 Common Tern west over the Barn Field was a good record for the month and a short seawatch yielded: 40 or so Gannet, 14 Common Gull west, 3 Mediterranean Gull and 3 Razorbill. Waders from Hengistbury included a strange pairing of Golden Plover and Redshank arriving together, but also 2 Grey Plover leaving and a couple of Snipe. Wheatear are starting to dwindle, just 9 in the area today, along with a handful of Blackcap, but 2 Whinchat were notable on Stanpit. Tomorrow sees a three-team bird race and species such as those could be something of a premium. On Stanpit, the Spotted Redshank remains, as do 3 Knot, 1 Greenshank and 2 Bar-tailed. Meanwhile, 94 Dunlin and 40 Black-tailed Godwit could well be settling in for the winter. For those so inclined, yesterday's migration numbers have now been appended to that report.


October 2nd

A Yellow-browed Warbler was on site today. This morning, it was seen briefly on a couple of occasions by the Double Bends; but, this evening, it performed slightly better in the midst of a tit flock on the Batters. In spite of a north-westerly breeze and early rain that made it feel very chilly indeed early on, there was good coverage on Hengistbury until at least 11:00. There are no exact numbers available for the visible migration, but Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, over 4 Tree Pipit, alba Wagtail, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Siskin, in excess of 8 Redpoll and a few Skylark were all recorded moving through. On the deck, a Firecrest was by Holloway's Dock, around 25 each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were dotted about and a Wheatear spent a short time by the HHC, but most noteworthy was a Coal Tit count of at least 6 birds, one of them confirmed as 'continental'. The travelling pipits attracted the attention of a Merlin that hunted briefly, but unsuccessfully, by the Coastguards, where a couple of Raven were also hanging around. To conclude the reports for the southern section, a Golden Plover was seen incoming and north, likewise a group of 3 Pintail. Moving to Stanpit, where there was another good wader selection, with all numbers coming from a couple of afternoon visits as the tide fell. A single Curlew Sandpiper was again present, as was the Spotted Redshank, 3 Greenshank, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 juvenile Ringed Plover for barely 5 minutes, 4 Knot, 2 Grey Plover, 58 Dunlin and 43 Black-tailed Godwit. The Redshank count of 74 reduced by one when a female Sparrowhawk took a roosting bird from South Marsh; however, the captor could not carry the weight of the corpse against the wind and dropped it on to South Marsh. Then, as the hawk tried to retrieve its prey, the Black-tailed Godwit ganged up and saw it off, leaving the Redshank to the local scavengers. Also, a male Peregrine about the marsh.

Visible migration numbers update: Meadow Pipit 520, Linnet 220, Goldfinch 180, Siskin 125, Reed Bunting 70, alba Wagtail 52, Skylark 42, Chaffinch 25, Swallow 22, Redpoll 18, Song Thrush 8 and Redwing 1, plus a late Sedge Warbler in the bushes.


October 1st

The start of what some consider to be the highlight month of the year, although the last 30 days are going to take some beating. With the wind still blowing from the south-west, it was again a fairly quiet start - the exception perhaps being the first five minutes of a seawatch, which saw a juvenile Pomarine Skua and Great Skua heading east. After that, however, only 135 Gannet, 3 Sandwich Tern and 2 auk sp. are worth a mention. Of the aerial migrants, the pick was a high-flying Bullfinch eastwards, but also 125 Meadow Pipit, 105 alba Wagtail, 72 Linnet, 62 Siskin, 2 Grey Wagtail and 1 Yellow Wagtail on the move. The best of the 'crests was a single Firecrest, along with 25 Goldcrest, while 15 Chiffchaff and 2 Wheatear were also recorded. Raven were again about the Nursery and the Coastguards area, with the certain maximum being 5 birds. Stanpit was checked-out at least three times and returned wader totals of: 43 Black-tailed Godwit, which is something of an increase, 3 Greenshank, 4 Grey Plover, 3 Knot, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Common Sandpiper and 73 Dunlin.

Additional news: a Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank were off Fisherman's Bank in the evening, as were over 118 Redshank, which constitutes a good count.

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