Sightings for December 2010


December 31st

The best, truly wild record of the day concerns a gaggle of 3 first calendar-year (just!) White-fronted Goose that was on Wick until the early afternoon at least. The birds can be quite skulking and get right in amongst the vegetation, but favour the field immediately east of the horse paddock that is accessed from Wick village. However, the most spectacular record was undoubtedly a Great Bustard in flight over Stanpit golf course being mobbed by gulls. Of course, the origin of the bird is the Salisbury Plain re-introduction project, as confirmed by its 'Red 28' identity tag; but that aside, it made an awesome sight, as it later did for many passers-by whilst happily feeding with 2 Mute Swan in a field, outside of the recording area, just off the Stony Lane roundabout. The Red-throated Diver situation was rather confusing this morning - an early watch saw 47 east and 6 west, but an hour or so later 27 went west with 5 east - so we're not really sure what to make of that. Also, a Black-throated diver west, 2 Velvet Scoter and 2 Eider east, 2 Gadwall west and 3 Common Scoter on the water. Meanwhile, duck interest inside the harbour comprised: the Scaup in Barn Bight, a drake Goosander over Two Riversmeet early on and 9 Pochard through, plus 2 Pintail and 3 Shoveler coming in from the valley. At least 50 Redwing remained around Stanpit golf course, with smaller numbers scatted elsewhere; also 4 Fieldfare and a Linnet over Wick, a constant movement of small flocks of Skylark from the south and west, 6 Redpoll by the Stanpit visitor's centre, and 2 Kingfisher and several Water Rail reported from both sides of the river. Refreshingly, as the weather stays warm, Dartford Warbler are starting to re-appear, with two at Whitepits and one at Stanpit, where a female Stonechat is perhaps the only one in the area. To finish, up to 4 Purple Sandpiper, plus 6 Turnstone, were in the general area of Mudeford Quay and at least 3 Avocet were in Stanpit Creek, while 8 Knot, 11 Grey Plover and 5 Bar-tailed Godwit were in Stanpit Bight. Now, to break open a fresh set of tide-tables - Happy New Year!

Omission: single Water Pipit were on Priory Marsh and North Marsh.


December 30th

Once again, the early part of the day experienced a dense mist; but mercifully, by late morning, things had cleared up nicely. Waxwing were back on site briefly - a couple of single birds - one in the North Scrubs at Stanpit and the other by the Solent Meads café. Meanwhile, a juvenile White-fronted Goose was seen at Stanpit, as well as a Water Pipit by the Visitor's Centre and 12 Avocet, with a further five of the latter seen in Holloway's Dock. Redwing continue to be all over the area, not least a flock of 60 on Stanpit golf course; and throughout the day there was a conspicuous easterly movement of Skylark, presumably birds returning after their cold-driven excursion to the west. Although no real counts were made, 135 and a single Woodlark went past Hengistbury in the 2.5-hours after midday. That period also saw a dramatic movement of diver, which could conceivably have been going on all day, so who knows what the totals might have been if the sea was given some attention earlier? In all, 138 Red-throated Diver, including 41 birds that were mixed in with 50 Wigeon, moved west, plus 4 east and 6 on the water, while 5 Black-throated Diver headed west. Also on or over the waves, 2 Velvet Scoter, 17 Eider east, 7 Common Scoter settled, a further 110 Wigeon west and 6 Gannet. To finish up on Hengistbury, the Scaup remains in Barn Bight, a Dartford Warbler was on top of the head and a Kingfisher was in the Wick channel. Conditions also allowed Stanpit to be well looked at, where the tally came to: 14 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstone, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Ringed Plover, 249 Dunlin, a Shoveler and 59 Brent Goose.


December 29th

The area was enveloped in yet more fog and, at times, it was difficult to see more than 30-metres. Consequently, other than the almost constant calls of presumably disoriented Redwing, the only news comes courtesy of a Greenshank on Priory Marsh, which is actually a very good winter record for Christchurch.


December 28th

The harbour was shrouded in a variation of mist and light rain for the entire day, during which the calls of Redwing and, to a lesser degree, Skylark were almost constant. Sightings of birds, however, were sparse and involve just 6 Avocet, a Spotted Redshank and a Water Pipit at Stanpit, while a flock of 75 Cormorant headed purposefully out to sea over Whitepits in the morning. An omission from yesterday's post was an impressive figure of 275 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on South Marsh and in Stanpit Bight late in the afternoon.

Additional news: at Wick in the afternoon, a Shoveler, 8 Fieldfare and a Siskin were logged.


December 27th

There was a definite break in the weather overnight, as temperatures rose to a few degrees above freezing, but with a brisk wind that veered south-east to south-west throughout the day there was still plenty of chill! The change in conditions certainly made for a different feel bird-wise; for example, Redwing at 82 outnumbered the 18 Fieldfare, which all moved east over Wick, for the first time since the winter thrushes became obvious. After a few days of eluding detection, the lone Scaup could once again be seen off Rushy Piece, from where 4 Goosander were seen heading south through the harbour late in the morning, while a total of 4 birds were seen coming into roost this evening. Continuing with the duck, 11 Tufted Duck left north early on, the Goldeneye have now reduced to 2 brownhead birds and a Shoveler was on Wick. The best of the waders were 4 Ruff that have recently arrived at Stanpit, but up to 12 Avocet are still on-site, including 7 birds that were most obliging in Holloway's Dock, Hengistbury. A Purple Sandpiper was on the end of the sandspit, viewable from Mudeford Quay, and other stuff at Stanpit included: a Spotted Redshank, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 14 Grey Plover, the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit and an adult Mediterranean Gull. Any attempt to improve on the recent interest at sea was thwarted by rough waters, but 7 Gannet were good for the month and a couple of Raven moved east past Whitepits. At dusk, looking from Crouch Hill, a locally impressive Starling roost of a few thousand birds could be seen 'balling' somewhere west of The Priory, with other miscellany for the day involving a Redpoll over Wick and a Kingfisher close to the Wooden Bridge.


December 26th

Overnight the temperature plummeted to -8C on the northern fringes of the recording area, but the lack of wind and some morning sun meant it didn't feel quite as cold as the thermometer suggested it might. Once again, there was a good deal to be seen and this post will attempt to deal with things in a mostly chronological order. Just after dawn, a Barn Owl was over Wick before appearing to head off towards Stanpit and the 2 Woodlark were on Solent Meads, where they remained for the rest of the day. At sea, a Sandwich Tern drifted by slowly east and the 4 Velvet Scoter, plus 202 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Red-throated Diver and 3 Razorbill, were on the water, visible from the old Point House Café building. Also from the western end of Hengistbury, a further 8 Red-throated Diver were logged moving into Christchurch Bay. A couple of Woodcock were in the North Scrubs, while another was on Wick Fields, and other bits-and-pieces at Stanpit early on included 2 Water Pipit, one by Stanpit Scrubs, the other by the Rusty Boat, and 4 Linnet. Overhead, at least 150 Fieldfare and 15 Redwing passed through, as well as 26 Pochard and a single Tufted Duck coming in from the south. Moving to the late afternoon, when a Marsh Harrier was seen on two occasions from Wick, perhaps even coming down into one of the larger reedbeds; also 8 Tufted Duck downriver. At dusk, over Priory Marsh, a total of 8 Goosander, 2+1+3+2, arrived from the north to apparently roost in the harbour, as did around 20 other fast-moving blobs that were most likely Tufted Duck.


December 25th

Given the date, there was a good deal of field activity and some pretty decent records during which was an incredibly cold 8-hours of daylight. Firstly the sea, which was bit of a surprise, with 4 Velvet Scoter from the former Point House Café, as well as up to 250 Great Crested Grebe and 25 Shag on the calm waters off there. The grebe number, in particular, represents a major influx, as until a week ago barely 20 birds had been noted. At Solent Meads, the 2 Woodlark had relocated slightly to the garden lawns of Rolls Drive, but were still viewable from within the recording area. Also from that spot, a Marsh Harrier was seen patrolling the river and up to 200 Fieldfare moved over generally to the east, as did 40 Redwing. Inside the harbour, a Scaup was again off Rushy Piece, likewise 3 Goldeneye (minus the drake), 2 Shoveler and 2 Pintail, but 15 Pochard and 2 Tufted Duck chose not to settle. At Stanpit, on North Marsh, there were 2 Water Pipit; while the waders, mostly from Fisherman's Bank, included: a Ruff, 2 Spotted Redshank, 7 Avocet, a Knot, 8 Grey Plover, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 66 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Ringed Plover. The remaining interest comes from 2 Raven over and a Kingfisher around Stanpit Creek.


December 24th

Once again, one could do worse than loiter around the immediate vicinity of the Solent Meads golf course café, where there was even some shelter from a biting northerly wind. A minimum of 22 Waxing were seen: two groups of 6 and 7 respectively that headed east during the morning; then, in the middle of the afternoon, a party of at least 15 circled above the adjacent mobile home park and seemed to eventually come down in Wick Village, but a good deal of subsequent kerb-crawling failed to relocate them. Just before 11:00, a Bittern appeared from the channel that runs under the Wooden Bridge, but soon went back in; however, around 45-minutes later, the bird came back up, toured high over Whitepits and Double Dykes, and ultimately came down into Wick Hams. A short while later, an immature Marsh Harrier, probably a male, was seen flying north along the river and the timing of a couple more sightings suggested there could well have been a second bird. Both Fieldfare and Redwing moved steadily east throughout the day, the final totals being 150 and 160 of each, as well as 3 Mistle Thrush. Meanwhile, the 2 Woodlark were omni-present on the deck and again quite confiding despite the steady flow of people, and 2 Raven and a Peregrine were seen overhead. From Fisherman's Bank, the Avocet maxima was 11 birds, along with 6 Knot, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 39 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 of yesterday's 5 duck Pintail. Finally, Kingfisher were along Fisherman's Bank and in the Wick channel.


December 23rd

The night saw the first frost for a few days and this prompted the reappearance of what surely must be the same Black-necked Grebe as was present a little earlier in the month - the bird spending most of the morning off South Marsh towards Blackberry Point. Meanwhile, over at Solent Meads, both Woodlark were again present, dividing their time between the peace of the locked-up driving range or the slightly more disturbed ground around the café. There has been a clear arrival of winter thrushes into Christchurch as a whole, with most residential areas now holding birds, and this was reflected on Wick where 45 Redwing and 20 Fieldfare seemed to have roosted, while 6 more of the larger headed south-east. On Stanpit, there were 3 Water Pipit by the Rusty Boat, along with a influx of Knot, which have risen to a total of 10. Also, the Spotted Redshank, 10 Avocet, 25 Grey Plover, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 19 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Ringed Plover about the marsh, plus a Purple Sandpiper on the extremity of the sandspit. To complement the regular 4 Goldeneye, a group of 5 Pintail, all females, were inside the harbour, as were 4 Pochard, 6 Tufted Duck and a single Shelduck. Once more, 3 Raven were seen from various points, 2 Kingfisher were logged and the cold seems to have pushed Water Rail out from the reeds, as birds were seen darting out from beneath three of the small footbridges on Stanpit.

Omission: a Woodcock was on Wick in the half-light this morning.


December 22nd

December has so far seen seven species added to the year-list, a quite remarkable figure for the month, and a skein of 5 White-fronted Goose that circled Stanpit a few times this morning, before heading off generally north, added yet another. The Solent Meads Woodlark, which at times was coming to bread, was joined by another for the morning, when one of the photographers was able to enjoy a flock of 7 Waxwing flying towards Wick village. Interestingly, an identically sized flock was seen from Stanpit on Monday heading to the same area, so is there a lingering presence that is so far undetected? Also from Solent Meads, 4 Redwing and 3 Raven, the first of those for at least a couple of weeks, while a Dartford Warbler was close by in the Bobolink Field. Once again, Stanpit returned a good list of birds, headed by: now 13 Avocet, 2 Spotted Redshank and 3 Knot around Stanpit Bight; 2 Water Pipit about the marsh; and a Chiffchaff along Fisherman's Bank. In addition, 18 Grey Plover, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 75 Black-tailed Godwit, the 4 Goldeneye and a Kingfisher were logged.


December 21st

The shortest day of the year was actually the warmest for quite some time, despite the sun never penetrating the thick, grey cloud. When all the various reports are brought together, it has been quite a good day for the area. So, starting with the highlights: a family party of 6 Bewick's Swan headed upriver but then veered west and left over Southbourne around midday; a Sandwich Tern, which is an excellent December record, was off Mudeford Quay for a short time mid-morning; a Scaup was in the harbour at lunchtime; a Woodlark spent all day grubbing around by the Solent Meads golf course café, and another was on East and South Marshes with Skylark; Spotted Redshank were seen on Priory Marsh and from Fisherman's Bank; and a Water Pipit was around North Marsh. Additionally, the Avocet were confirmed to number 9 for the first time, 3 Golden Plover were settled on the West Field and the 4 Goldeneye were still in their favoured patch. For most of the day, airborne Lapwing and Snipe were very obvious, perhaps birds re-orientating themselves after the cold, while a couple each of Fieldfare and Redwing also moved through, and a single Grey Wagtail at Stanpit was the first since the start of the recent chill. In Stanpit Bight at dusk, there was an exceptional presence of Great Black-backed Gull, as 400 adult birds were counted; as well as 35 Lesser Black-backed Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull. Others worthy of mention comprise: a Mistle Thrush, a Pochard, 3 Shoveler, 77 Brent Goose, 12 Grey Plover, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 21 Black-tailed Godwit, 300 or so Dunlin and 11 Ringed Plover at Stanpit; 12 Turnstone around Mudeford Quay; and Kingfisher in Mother Siller's Channel and by the Wooden Bridge on Wick.


December 20th

There were blizzard conditions for a short time after dawn, but these soon gave way to heavy rain that largely cleared the area of lying snow. The best record of the day was the year's first Barn Owl, which was hunting over Priory Marsh at 10:10 this morning! Also over that area early on, a total of 12 Waxwing, four north, a single bird perched briefly but then east and then a further seven likewise. Meanwhile, diving duck were reasonably plentiful, including 36 Pochard and 17 Tufted Duck, as well as the four incumbent Goldeneye, while their dabbling cousins turned in 4 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and 2 Shelduck. Other records related to the conditions involved a steady trickle of small flocks of Skylark east over the area for most of the day, but nothing dramatic, plus a Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff around the fringes of Stanpit golf course and 2 adult Mediterranean Gull over Mudeford Quay. On Stanpit itself, a Water Pipit was again logged, as were the 8 Avocet, the Spotted Redshank, 2 Knot, a Grey Plover, 200 Lapwing and 2 Ringed Plover.

Additional news: a single Purple Sandpiper was seen from Mudeford Quay and a flock of over 50 Skylark were on South Marsh.


December 19th

The overnight temperature didn't sink as low as expected, but an easterly wind certainly made up for that! During the only snow of the day, an hour's flurry around lunchtime, 450 Skylark moved east over the area, while 95 had earlier been settled around Stanpit with at least 100 Meadow Pipit. The best for this post, however, is a challenge between 6 Waxwing north over the marsh late in the afternoon or a Woodlark settled on South Marsh for some time around midday. Also of note, a Short-eared Owl early in the morning that came down on the Salt Hurns, before leaving north over Mudeford village, and 2 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh. Other bits-and-pieces affected by the cold were up to 40 each of Redwing and Song Thrush in the Wood on Hengistbury, plus 8 further Redwing and an increase of Lapwing to 390 on Stanpit, as well as 150 more and 3 Golden Plover seemingly southbound. Meanwhile, Mediterranean Gull came in at four birds, which is a good mid-winter total for the harbour and follows a slight westerly movement noted by 'the BOG' yesterday. Disappointingly, the sea could only muster a Black-throated Diver on the water off the head, 4 Red-throated Diver west and up to 20 settled Great Crested Grebe. Despite the snow, four hardy souls braved the walk at Stanpit, and they, plus the WeBS counters, turned in: the 8 Avocet, 4 around Stanpit and 4 in Holloway's Dock, the Spotted Redshank in Stanpit Creek, a Knot, 15 Grey Plover, 18 Bar-tailed Godwit, 23 Turnstone, 48 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Ringed Plover, up to 300 Dunlin, 6 Goldeneye, the regular four and a newly-arrived pair, a Pochard, 6 Gadwall, 299 Wigeon, 97 Teal, 23 Little Grebe and 428 Coot. Additionally, an adult female Peregrine put on a spectacular show along Fisherman's Bank as she hunted for her main course, after a starter of Dunlin, and 186 Canada Goose roosted overnight just off the formerly named Avonmouth Hotel.


December 18th

With the recording area coated in light snow this morning and an even deeper covering all around, there was an expectation of some cold weather movement. However, none of this seemed severe enough to make the birds travel en masse, with the Skylark figure being just shy of 300 east over Stanpit during the afternoon. Small numbers of other species were likewise displaced, including: a newly arrived Scaup in Barn Bight, 14 Golden Plover over Stanpit and 9 more settled off East Marsh; a Green Sandpiper on Priory Marsh; a couple of Linnet on Central Marsh; 22 Fieldfare and 2 Mistle Thrush around the recreation ground; and 2 further Fieldfare and 19 Redwing spread about elsewhere. Up to 8 Avocet remain at Stanpit, where the other waders were described as being similar in numbers to the last few days; also an adult Mediterranean Gull on the marsh, as well as a Pintail, 2 Gadwall and a Kingfisher. To conclude, a party of 4 Purple Sandpiper flew past Mudeford Quay, the 4 Goldeneye were in the usual area off Rushy Piece, a couple of Chiffchaff were around the Barn and the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit is still on-site.


December 17th

Until a northerly wind got up halfway through the morning, it wasn't anywhere near as cold as had been expected; and, in what seems to be continual theme, it was Stanpit that received all the coverage. Early on, a Yellowhammer, 2 Golden Plover, 2 Fieldfare and 16 Redwing moved over, while there were 36 Rock Pipit and at least 100 Meadow Pipit settled all over the marsh. Wader-wise, one Spotted Redshank and 8 Avocet were again logged, as well as 10 Grey Plover, 45 Black-tailed Godwit, around 220 Dunlin and 12 Ringed Plover. Inside the harbour, there were 27 Little Grebe and 2 Great Crested Grebe, with a further six of these on the sea off Mudeford Quay, where 3 Turnstone could be seen on the sandspit. Interestingly, this winter has seen a few very approachable Turnstone that have a tendency to grub around the quay with the more expected gulls and Starling.


December 16th

It was actually surprisingly mild for most of the day, but by all accounts that is soon set to change. Again Stanpit provides the news, with the best being a Lapland Bunting over South Marsh, a couple of Chiffchaff around the golf course and Parky Meade Rail, 2 Water Pipit and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Meanwhile, most of the waders were present and correct, including the 8 Avocet and 2 Spotted Redshank, but some lunchtime rain put paid to a full count - although 17 Grey Plover, 35 Black-tailed Godwit and 80 Dunlin, the latter being undoubtedly low, were managed. Otherwise, it's just 5 Pintail and 2 Shelduck that get a mention.


December 15th

Some quite heavy fog hampered viewing conditions today, so all the reports come from late morning onwards, when a Marsh Harrier circled the harbour a couple of times before heading north towards the Avon Valley. Again, there was a nice selection of waders inside the harbour, nearly all seen from Fisherman's Bank and made up of: 2 Spotted Redshank, 8 Avocet, 3 Knot, 14 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstone, 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, 27 Black-tailed Godwit, an impressive 400 or so Dunlin and 45 Ringed Plover. From Hengistbury, the Little Grebe count came to 24 and the 4 Goldeneye hugged Rushy Piece, while a lone Shelduck was on Stanpit. Finally, Kingfisher were seen at Wick Hams and from Fisherman's Bank, the latter bird having its lunch pirated by a couple of Black-headed Gull.


December 14th

Another damp and cold day, but the temperature did stay just above freezing, during which Stanpit once again saw all the activity. In fact, when all's said and done, there was a pretty decent selection of birds to be seen out there. A flock of Redpoll and Siskin in the North Scrubs this morning was significant enough, but a single Mealy Redpoll contained within made it all the more noteworthy. Unfortunately, by lunchtime, save for a single Redwing, the spot was largely birdless, but singles of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were sniffing around. Since the thaw, there have been a good number of Rock Pipit on the marsh, 19 today, as well as some uncharacteristically confiding Water Pipit, 3 in all, the most reliable being on North Marsh just beyond the Stanpit Scrubs. There is still also a good miscellany of waders inside the harbour, including: a Ruff, 2 Spotted Redshank, 8 or maybe 9 Avocet, 3 Knot, 16 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstone, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 43 Black-tailed Godwit, 262 Dunlin and 48 Ringed Plover. Meanwhile, the 4 Goldeneye, 18 Little Grebe, two pairs of Pintail and 3 Kingfisher were also on-site.


December 13th

The harbour was covered in a cold and relatively dense fog for much of the morning, and it was only really Stanpit that got any attention. However, there was a chance encounter with a pair of Goosander on Waterloo Stream by the Civic Offices, before they headed off downriver deeper into the recording area, where the Black-necked Grebe was again in its favoured section of the river and the 4 Goldeneye remain. From Fisherman's Bank, the seven associating Avocet could be seen, while the apparent outcast was in Holloway's Dock; also, the Spotted Redshank, 3 Knot, 14 Grey Plover, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, around 330 Dunlin and 40 Ringed Plover. The cold seems to pushing Buzzard closer to the coast than they might otherwise prefer; for example, one low over Stanpit Creek this morning getting a torrid time from the many, self-righteous Carrion Crow.


December 12th

The gauntlet was thrown down to some of the photographers last night to 'go-out-and-get-that-grebe' and at least one got a good set of results, as the bird was once again on the river off the northern end of Grimmery Bank. It favours the middle part of the channel, although quickly heads for the Wick reeds when a boat comes past, but it doesn't take long to re-emerge. To put this record into perspective, for nearly all the regulars it's the first individual that has not been a distant dot on the sea. Meanwhile, a Goosander headed over Wick and the female Scaup remains on-site with the 4 Goldeneye. On Wick, a couple of Chiffchaff were again logged, while a Fieldfare, 8 Redwing and 7 Siskin passed over. It seems Buzzard may have been wandering around, as single birds were noted over Stanpit and Wick, where there was also a Kingfisher. Stanpit, however, has reported relatively little, just the Spotted Redshank and 2 Pintail, in fact.


December 11th

The Black-necked Grebe was relocated mid-morning as it fed with Little Grebe on the river just south of Parky Meade Rail. At times, the bird was getting quite close to Grimmery Bank and could well be photographed, which, along with the Scaup that was 'captured' today, would be another new species for the area's .jpeg list. Also inside the harbour, the 4 Goldeneye, with the drake even putting on a display in the mild weather, 6 Pintail, 4 Great Crested Grebe and 16 Little Grebe. Over the top of Hengistbury, there was a light finch movement as 6 Redpoll, 5 Siskin and up to ten each of Linnet and Goldfinch were logged, while at least 20 Skylark were heard passing high. Inside the harbour, Stanpit Creek held 8 Avocet and there was an excellent winter figure of 350+ Dunlin, along with 10 Grey Plover and 3 Bar-tailed Godwit. As many as 30 Redwing were about Wick, where the Wooden Bridge area held a Chiffchaff and 3 obvious Water Rail, and a Kingfisher was on the hams. To conclude, the sea was quiet, turning in just 2 Red-throated Diver, and the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit was again on the Salt Hurns.


December 10th

The night saw another frost, but by midday a thaw was well underway and the temperature had reached several degrees above zero. It's amazing how quickly birds return to their regular feeding areas, as Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail were once again commonplace around Stanpit. Of slightly more interest, was one, but probably two, Water Pipit on North Marsh, as well as several Rock Pipit, one of them looking quite grey and perhaps edging towards a 'Scandinavian' bird. The more interesting wildfowl seem to have mostly drifted away, but there was still a female-type Scaup, a fly-through Goosander, 4 Goldeneye and 3 Shoveler to be seen; while the waders around Stanpit were topped by the 7 Avocet, the Spotted Redshank, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Grey Plover, 4 Turnstone, 57 Black-tailed Godwit, 200+ Dunlin and 25 Ringed Plover. No doubt due to icing of their preferred roosting lake inland, 68 Canada Goose spent the night in Stanpit Creek and, during the day, of 100 or so Brent Goose an encouraging 21 were birds of the year. Other bits-and-pieces included: a Mistle Thrush and a Coal Tit on Fisherman's Bank, 2 Redwing in Stanpit car park and a count of 17 Moorhen around Parky Meade Rail. The latter may seem incredibly mundane, but as a result of its habits the species is grossly under-recorded in the area, with typical WeBS figures being less than five.


December 9th

There was little change in the conditions, but far less field activity, hence a reduced variety of species for the day. Nevertheless, the Black-necked Grebe was again inside the harbour, loitering between South Marsh and Fisherman's Bank; as were 3 Scaup, a pair and a single female-type, an Eider, which had earlier been on the sea, and 4 Goldeneye. Additionally, 2 Pochard, 15 Tufted Duck, a Pintail and 21 Gadwall were counted at Stanpit, while a Red-breasted Merganser passed west at sea. From Fisherman's Bank at lunchtime, the Avocet numbered 7, with other wader totals throughout the day coming in at: the Spotted Redshank, 6 Grey Plover, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Black-tailed Godwit, 124 Dunlin and 25 Ringed Plover. A Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff on Wick have survived the cold so far, but Lapwing are becoming more and more confiding, with birds now on lawns that border the recording area on both sides of the harbour. At Stanpit, a single Water Pipit hangs on, a Peregrine spent some time resting on East Marsh and Kingfisher seemed to be constantly piping up and down Stanpit Creek. Elsewhere, 4 Great Crested Grebe were off the quay and three more were inside the harbour.

Additional news: a party of 6 Goosander flew upriver at first light, while 38 Magpie left the recently discovered roost site on Wick, where a Redpoll, a Fieldfare and 6 Redwing were also logged.


December 8th

More of the same weather-wise and more decent birds. The medium-sized grebes are both ridiculously rare in the area, so to get a Black-necked Grebe, inside the harbour, and a Slavonian Grebe, on the sea by the Long Groyne, at exactly the same time is nothing short of incredible. Meanwhile, the aggregate count from all around the harbour for Little Grebe comes to 32, and at least 21 Great Crested Grebe, most of them on the sea, were also logged. A male Marsh Harrier was seen over Wick, before gaining height where it was briefly joined by another bird, with both eventually seeming to head off north; also a female Merlin over Hengistbury. As could be expected in the continuing cold, diving duck were again well represented and numbered a pair of Scaup in Barn Bight, 5 Goldeneye, including a drake, over 60 Tufted Duck, but most of them passing straight through later in the morning, and 8 Pochard. Before dropping down into the detail, some of the greater interest came from: a Firecrest and 7 Redwing in the Wood; a Water Pipit at Stanpit; 3 Brambling, 7 Redpoll and 11 Fieldfare off the head; a Golden Plover settled at Whitepits and an Eider west at sea. Also over the water, 38 Red-throated Diver, 23 east and 15 west in varying flock sizes, a couple of Great Northern Diver, 9 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Guillemot and 5 auk sp. Now to the waders at Stanpit, where 7 Avocet remain, as well as the Spotted Redshank, 16 Grey Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 26 Black-tailed Godwit and 60 Dunlin.


December 7th

After another sub-zero night, the only reason that Stanpit remains ice-free is probably down to the spring tide, which, coupled with the water pouring down the Avon and Stour, is literally drowning the place for much of the day. Consequently, records are few, but do include a Spotted Redshank and 3 Avocet, while the only other meaningful wader figure is an estimate of 300 Dunlin. Over on Hengistbury, the best was a Scaup and 3 Tufted Duck in Barn Bight, along with the ringed Black-tailed Godwit again on the Salt Hurns. Mudeford Quay was also hard work, with just a drake Red-breasted Merganser through The Run and 5 Great Crested Grebe in it. Kingfisher were seen in Brewer's Creek and along Fisherman's Bank.


December 6th

The cold set in again overnight with ice and frost covering much of the area, and once more it was good for the rarer ducks. Since their controversial demise, Ruddy Duck have become a real premium bird around Christchurch, so one passing through Stanpit this morning was the first for several years. Also two more sightings of redhead Smew over Stanpit this morning, both heading north, but with the timings uncertain it's difficult to say if there was more than one individual involved. Meanwhile, a single Scaup was inside the harbour and a couple more were off Mudeford Quay, as was a Great Northern Diver; and 4 Goldeneye, one of them a drake, were in Barn Bight late morning. From Stanpit golf course, a Short-eared Owl was seen heading inland and 78 Redwing moved west; while after becoming absent in the cold, Water Pipit were back on-site, a lone bird on North Marsh. A high tide again pushed the waders into areas where they may not prefer - for example, the two Spotted Redshank decamped to Wick Hams and Priory Marsh respectively, with the latter site also holding a Ruff. Avocet numbers notched up further, the best count being nine from Fisherman's Bank at lunch, with other totals, all on Stanpit unless stated, coming to: 2 Purple Sandpiper by the Black House, a Knot, 14 Grey Plover, 11 Black-tailed Godwit, the colour-ringed bird being on the Salt Hurns, 295 Dunlin and 16 Ringed Plover. To wrap up, bits-and-bobs around the place included: 5 Pochard, 9 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall and 5 Shelduck on or over Stanpit; a couple of Buzzard, one seemingly quite weak and vulnerable to corvids over Wick Fields; 7 Great Crested Grebe, five on the sea and two in the harbour; 10 Little Grebe in Barn Bight; and 2 Kingfisher about Hengistbury.


December 5th

After another reasonably mild night, there were a couple of Waxwing sightings on Wick this morning. Firstly, a single bird was heard from the western edge of the Driving Range, before it took flight and headed towards The Broadway; then secondly, a party of three birds came up from the central path and moved off towards Hengistbury. Also over the fields, a Woodlark, 7 Brambling, a Redpoll, 8 Fieldfare, a Redwing and a Greylag Goose, while a Blackcap and 3 Goldcrest were by the central path and a Kingfisher was seen from the Wooden Bridge. Stanpit was very much an anticlimax after yesterday, with the 2 Spotted Redshank being the highlight. Otherwise, a very high tide made the rest of the wader difficult to get to grips with, but there were 3 Shoveler and a Pintail.

Omissions: a Great Northern Diver was off Mudeford Quay in the morning, while singles of Mistle Thrush and Pochard were seen from Wick later in the day.

From a good few degrees below zero as it got dark last night, the temperature rose sufficiently to, with the help of some overnight rain, largely clear the area of snow. 'Duck-fest' has to be the word of the day, with the highlight being a couple of redhead Smew that settled in centre of the harbour briefly, before one left to the west, but the other ended up in Stanpit Bight where it fed for around 30-minutes this morning. This is the first record of settled birds since 1998 - the intervening period having seen just a single fly-through. In fact, it was a three-sawbill-day, as a total of 3 Goosander headed north upriver and 3 Red-breasted Merganser went east at sea. Stanpit Bight also hosted 3 female-type Scaup, while a drake was seen in flight over the harbour, and other small waterfowl included: 2 Goldeneye, 9 Pochard and 2 Tufted Duck about the area, 44 Shelduck west, plus a further five of these, 35 Pintail and 26 Gadwall east, and a Shoveler west. Including Teal, Wigeon and Mallard, the duck total for the day therefore comes to 14 species. There was also some goose interest, as a pair of pale-bellied Brent Goose spent most of the day at Stanpit, where 82 Canada Goose had roosted overnight. At sea, an adult Little Gull was off the Coastguards and a Black-throated Diver passed close by as it headed into Poole Bay; also a total of 18 Red-throated Diver and 4 Great Crested Grebe. Meanwhile, inside the harbour, the Stanpit waders again provided quite a selection, the best being: a Ruff, 2 Spotted Redshank, 4 Avocet, 2 Jack Snipe, good counts of 31 Grey Plover and 29 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Knot and 46 Black-tailed Godwit. To round up an absolutely cracking day, at least 3 Chiffchaff and 2 Redwing were evident on Hengistbury, as was a light finch passage, which involved 15 Brambling, 13 west and 2 east, 45 Chaffinch, all but 7 east, and 130 Linnet, all east.


December 3rd

Temperatures plummeted overnight and remained at least three below for almost the entire day, despite the site's proximity to the sea. With this came a blanket of low cloud that persisted throughout and meant that little could be picked out on the move. A pair of Bewick's Swan, the first record for the year, were settled off the tip of South Marsh this morning, where they spent some time sleeping; meanwhile a Golden Plover, 15 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 9 Shelduck moved through. Some portions of the Purewell Stream remain unfrozen and these hosted Snipe, Teal and Water Rail, as well as a Green Sandpiper, at least 3 Jack Snipe and a Woodcock, while further singles of the latter two were seen from the Mudeford Quay approach road and on Wick respectively. Also around the north of Stanpit, a couple of Kingfisher doing the best they could in the little open water available and a Bullfinch in the scrubs. In stark contrast to yesterday, there was little to be seen from the quay, other than a briefly settled Goosander and a Mediterraean Gull. With the visibility being so poor at times, it was difficult to census the waders; nonetheless, mainly from Fisherman's Bank, 4 Avocet, 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Grey Plover, 24 Black-tailed Godwit, 133 Dunlin and 3 Ringed Plover were logged. Many of the birds that remain on site, in particular the few Lapwing, are becoming very approachable - no doubt being too weak to worry. Please do try and give them a wide berth and the best possible chance of conserving what little energy, hence warmth, they may have left. As I write this at 6:00, just 4-miles inland from Christchurch, it is already -7C!

Additional news: a further Jack Snipe was seen from the Wooden Bridge on Wick, as were a few Snipe and Water Rail. Also on the fields, a Brambling and 5 Fieldfare, while a Red-throated Diver went east at sea and 5 Great Crested Grebe were settled offshore, and a Peregrine hunted over Stanpit.


December 2nd

Around 75-100mm of snow fell on the recording area overnight, the deepest covering for many, many years. Not surprisingly, this gave rise to an excellent cold weather movement of birds, on a day that saw the northern side of the harbour receive almost complete coverage. My apologies if this post rapidly descends into a series of long lists of numbers, but given what happened it's effectively unavoidable. The first three hours of daylight at Stanpit produced an incredible Woodlark spectacle, 110 birds in all, including a flock of over 60, as well as one of 30! Also moving with them, to the west: 600 Skylark, with a flock of 100 containing a Lapland Bunting, 200+ Meadow Pipit, 600 Lapwing, 6 Golden Plover, 75 Pochard, 23 Tufted Duck, 37 Gadwall, 9 Pintail, 3 Shoveler, 150 Teal and 450 Wigeon. Also conspicuous were over 200 flighty Snipe, which judging by their rather uncertain behaviour could well have been new arrivals checking out the area. Meanwhile, around the marsh, the respective wader numbers peaked at: 6 Ruff, 4 Avocet, a Jack Snipe, 20 resting Golden Plover, 'hundreds' of Lapwing at lunchtime, these certainly new-in, 6 Grey Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 210 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plover. Additionally, 5 Purple Sandpiper, a Knot and at least 6 Turnstone were on the sandspit. Around 11:45, a well attended four hour watch commenced at Mudeford Quay, during which the following were counted, pretty much all moving west: a ring-tailed Hen Harrier, 1344 Skylark, 2 Woodlark, 88 Meadow Pipit, 179 Lapwing, 5 Golden Plover, 10 Knot, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Curlew, 7 Snipe, 22 Scaup, 19 of these in a single flock that also contained a drake Pochard, 3 Goosander, a Velvet Scoter, 42 further Pochard, 56 Tufted Duck, 14 Gadwall, 21 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, 16 Teal, 422 Wigeon, 12 Brent Goose and 10 Canada Goose. Strangely, during both sessions, thrushes were largely absent, the exception being 60 Redwing south-west over Fisherman's Bank early this afternoon; while around the same time, Hengistbury chipped in with a Woodcock. If you're still with us, the remainder of the interest comes from 3 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Raven, a Gannet and 3 Great Crested Grebe, all from the quay.

Additional news: at least 15 Fieldfare passed west over The Hiker café.


December 1st

Needless to say, it was more than a little 'brass-monkeys' this morning; although this is really down to an easterly wind chill, rather than extreme air temperatures, which sat around zero for most of the day. Nevertheless, in addition to a Little Gull and 5 Water Pipit by the Rusty Boat, Stanpit/Fisherman's Bank once again produced a veritable crop of waders, including: a Green Sandpiper in the Purewell Stream, 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Spotted Redshank, 17 Grey Plover, a Knot, 10 Bar-tailed Godwit, 85 Black-tailed Godwit, 240 Dunlin and 4 Ringed Plover. Meanwhile, 10 Avocet were turned in from the greater part of the marsh, but the three birds were still in Stanpit Creek, so a day-total of 13 is a possibility. Also from that side of the harbour, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Peregrine and a single Canada Goose. Over on Hengistbury, a couple of Lapland Bunting seemed to come off the top of the head just after first light, raising suggestions that they may have roosted there. Otherwise, it was mainly about the sea and moving ducks and divers. The best being 3 Scaup, a drake and two female-types west, but also 5 Eider, 2 Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver (plus one on the water) and 9 Common Scoter east, as well as 2 Tufted Duck and a flock of 40 birds, which comprised 39 Mallard and a single Gadwall, moving down-channel. Lapwing were also seen on the move, but mostly southbound, 235 in all, along with 80 west. Conversely, however, a brace of Fieldfare were seen to arrive.

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