Sightings for the December 2013

December 31st

Just after the rain set in at around 9:30 this morning, a young Glaucous Gull was seen from Mudeford Quay and seemed to head towards a gathering of gulls off Steamer Point; however, attempts to re-locate the bird were unsuccessful. In terms of age, the first reaction was perhaps second-winter, but given the distance of the views then it’s probably sensible to leave it undefined. Earlier, Kittiwake and auks, nearly all of them Guillemot, had been prevalent on a westerly heading - in terms of numbers, there were no accurate counts made, but the gulls peaked at 50-per-minute for a short time and the auks were estimated at eighty-five. Additionally, 22 Red-throated Diver and a quantity of Common Gull again moved by, while an adult Mediterranean Gull made it eight species of gull for the day. In similar fashion to yesterday,  Brent Goose arrived from The Solent - two skeins of ten and thirteen respectively, the latter sat on the sea before checking-in - also 27 Black-tailed Godwit and a Shelduck incoming. Most activity at Stanpit this afternoon naturally focussed on the pre-roost of gulls, but an Avocet, up to 200 Dunlin and 17 Shoveler were logged. To round up another year, a single Chiffchaff was seen by the Civic Offices, 10 Purple Sandpiper crossed to the sandspit and a Raven was on Mudeford Quay early on.

December 30th

Skylark – Clinton Whale

The day started with some quite atrocious weather - torrential rain and a southerly wind gusting in excess of 60km/h - conditions that make anywhere on Hengistbury unbirdable. Consequently, some attempts were made from Mudeford Quay, but visibility was so poor that the only records of significance were 100+ Common Gull passing westward very close-in; plus 15 Brent Goose labouring in from The Solent and seemingly relieved to find the sanctuary of Stanpit, ditto a lone Pintail. Otherwise, vague shapes resembling Kittiwake and Guillemot could just be made out in the mirk, while 2 Purple Sandpiper crossed to the sandspit. Then just before lunch, the skies cleared and we were treated to sunshine for the remainder of the daylight hours. Afternoon records included: 3 Water Pipit by the Rusty Boat on Stanpit; at least 3 Chiffchaff by the Civic Offices; and 13 Grey Plover, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 45 Ringed Plover, around 160 Dunlin, 27 Turnstone and 18 Shoveler about Stanpit. 

December 29th

Turnstone – Alan Hayden
Coot – Alan Hayden

Although the CHOG sponsored Holloway’s Dock camera, which sends live video back to the recently opened and very impressive visitor’s centre at Hengistbury, has only been in action for a week or so, it did score with an Avocet this afternoon. Earlier, on the beach in front of hut 467, one of the Black Redstart was seen. At Stanpit, the Spotted Redshank was reported for first time in a while, from Fisherman’s Bank, in addition to 7 Grey Plover and 16 Black-tailed Godwit. Please check back to yesterday for some additional news.

December 28th

The record of the day, without a doubt, goes to a Swallow seen feeding around the buildings on Mudeford Quay at around 11:30 this morning. One hopes the bird has mustered enough energy to make some kind of onward, southbound journey. Otherwise, however, it was very quiet with only 7 Purple Sandpiper at the southern end of the sandspit and 29 Little Egret leaving the Nursery roost to remark upon. 

Additional news: both Black Redstart were seen around groynes S3 and S4 mid-afternoon, when a Raven went over Warren Hill and a Kittiwake passed the Long Groyne. 

December 27th

Oystercatcher – Clinton Whale

After another night of blasting wind, the sea contained fewer birds then expected but nonetheless came up with some interest. A Grey Phalarope fed off the Beach Huts for 10-minutes or so before moving a short distance north and making itself visible from Mudeford Quay. In addition, a couple of female-type Eider settled with the 30 Common Scoter for a brief period this morning; while later in the day, 2 Sandwich Tern moved west past Mudeford Quay. Meanwhile, a steady trickle of Kittiwake headed down-channel, up to 30 Guillemot were milling and 3 Razorbill, 3 Red-throated Diver, a Mediterranean Gull and a Great Crested Grebe were logged. A single Sanderling and 22 Purple Sandpiper were on the sandspit, the latter seen late in the day from the quay. 

December 26th

Unfortunately, there are no reports for today.

Late news: a male Blackcap was on Wick, as was a Red Admiral butterfly.

December 25th

Merry Christmas to all CHOG Members and Website Visitors
From first light until 9:45, a total of 53 Kittiwake and 18 auks passed west off Mudeford Quay; while slightly later, 3 Pintail, 12 Shoveler, 2 Grey Plover and 20 Ringed Plover were seen from Fisherman’s Bank.

December 24th

Priory Marsh
Priory Marsh – Clinton Whale
The condition of this part of the area has been greatly enhanced by the careful grazing management administered by Christchurch Borough Council during the summer and autumn

In not dissimilar conditions to yesterday, it was again the sea that hogged the attention. From the Beach Huts, a Little Auk was seen to head into The Solent, which was behaviour common to most of day’s 100 or so Guillemot, while a lone Razorbill headed west. A presence of auks is now expected in late December and the recent years have seen Razorbill dominate the numbers, but seemingly not so this season. The other seabird totals for the post are combined with the Mudeford Quay returns and comprise: 28 Red-throated Diver seen moving east and twenty-two going west, meaning the true number of individuals is open to some debate but does suggest a feeding gathering rather than travelling birds; also over 100 Kittiwake, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 4 Gannet, all west; plus 3 Shelduck seen to arrive. To finish with the water, a Peregrine was watched crossing from the island. Also logged from Hengistbury, a single Purple Sandpiper in front of the huts and a Treecreeper in the Wood. Later in the day, a total of 4 Sanderling were at Stanpit, along with 4 Pintail and 21 Shoveler. 

December 23rd

Ahead of the main downpour a trip was made to the Beach Huts, from where the best were 2 Velvet Scoter west; but also 370 Kittiwake in just over an hour, 14 Red-throated Diver, including a flock of nine, 50+ Guillemot and 2 Gannet. Meanwhile, 5 Purple Sandpiper and 3 Sanderling were on the adjacent sand. The swollen Avon and Stour rivers, in combination with low air pressure and a strong wind that conspired to prevent water from leaving the harbour, meant that Stanpit was submerged for the greater part of the day, regardless of when low tide was meant to occur - however, a pair of Pintail and 4 Black-tailed Godwit were noted.

December 22nd

The wind was a little lighter today and the early rain gave itself up just prior to 9:00. Seawatching from the Beach Huts was fairly uneventful, but did include: up to 30 Kittiwake, a Black-throated Diver, 8 Red-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, around 20 Guillemot, a Razorbill and 2 Gannet; with the exception of two of the Red-throated Diver, all direction of travel was west. The seaweed in front of the huts held 7 Purple Sandpiper and 2 Sanderling, while a definite 2 Black Redstart were present and 22 Ringed Plover were slightly further along the spit.

Additional news: a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull was on Mudeford Quay during the afternoon.

December 21st

The weather was indeed as foul as the forecast suggested it might be - a blasting south-south-westerly and almost incessant rain. As a result, seawatches were undertaken from the Beach Huts and Mudeford Quay. From the former site, a Storm Petrel could be seen lingering around the 80-100 bird strong Common Scoter flock until late morning at least, while a Little Auk arrived and spent a brief period on the water before continuing on into Poole Bay. An hour or so later, a further Little Auk was seen from the quay - also moving down-channel. Meanwhile, the combined totals of other seabirds from both spots came to: 5 Fulmar, these are really notable here in mid-winter, around 20 Red-throated Diver, up to 200 Kittiwake, all but one adults, 30 Guillemot and 2 Great Crested Grebe. The choppy seas must have made groyne feeding too hazardous for even Purple Sandpiper, as thirteen spent their time rummaging in the seaweed on the strand line between S2 and S3, where they were joined by a single Sanderling and, at times, the Black Redstart. An additional 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen from the quay, so giving a day minimum of eighteen. With the heavy cloud rolling in unabated right through until dusk, the shortest day of the year was certainly that. 

December 20th

Purple Sandpiper
Some of the 15 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit today – Clinton Whale
Purple Sandpiper & Turnstone
...and the lone bird cosying up with some Turnstone – Clinton Whale

Today’s Red-throated Diver seemed to be mostly birds settled in Christchurch Bay, rather than on those on a direct westward heading. This deduction is based on the majority of the sightings involving low-flying birds in a real mixture of directions, which made estimation of actual numbers a bit of a lottery, but around twenty-five was the overall consensus from those present at the Beach Huts. In addition, a Great Northern Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, a single Kittiwake and 5 Guillemot passed by the huts, while the Common Scoter gathering was split into two flocks but seemed to be holding steady in terms of quantity. Also, the Black Redstart with no hint of white in the wing was around the southern end of the spit and at least 15 Purple Sandpiper were again present. An early walk through the Wood found 6 Pheasant roosting in trees by the Nursery. 

December 19th

Last night’s storm blew itself out well before midnight, so the morning gathering at the quay was a rather sedate affair. While not a single ‘kwake’ was logged, there was again an early movement of divers to the west comprising: a Black-throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver and 39 Red-throated Diver; as well as a Red-breasted Merganser and around 60 Brent Goose into The Solent. To round up the sea observations, the Common Scoter flock was estimated at just over 70 birds and Shag were counted at seventy-seven. On Hengistbury, 2 Black Redstart were present - one in the normal spot and the other by the Ironstone Quarry - a Firecrest was at the end of the head and 3 Purple Sandpiper, plus a Sanderling, were on the spit. A Sparrowhawk that went through the Wood gave rise to the bizarre sight of 6 hen Pheasant taking noisy refuge in the tree-tops.

December 18th

In an onshore wind, it was another day for Kittiwake - 420 birds being recorded moving west past Mudeford Quay during the first couple of hours of daylight, as well as 55 auks, a Black-throated Diver and 2 Great Northern Diver. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the period’s 30 Red-throated Diver were seen passing west from the Beach Huts, where the Black Redstart was again present-and-correct. Seabird of the day, however, was a Red-necked Grebe that arrived and sat on the water just beyond The Run for an hour or so, before presumably drifting out of view. A couple of Firecrest were on-site - one in the Wood and one by the Civic Offices - the latter in the company of 5 Chiffchaff. By mid-afternoon, the forecast storm had arrived and it will be interesting to see what the quay yields tomorrow. 

December 17th

It was much drier and calmer than the last couple of days, but if the forecast is to be believed than its all just about to change dramatically. From Double Dykes, a Great Northern Diver and 26 Red-throated Diver, including a flock of eighteen, headed into Poole Bay, while a further three birds were settled on the water, as were 8 Guillemot and 9 Great Crested Grebe. On the land, the Black Redstart was again present, a Treecreeper and a Redwing were in the Wood, and a Grey Wagtail was elsewhere on Hengistbury. Only one Purple Sandpiper was seen today and it’s thought this may be a singleton that keeps away from the rest.

December 16th

Yesterday’s wet weather continued pretty much throughout the entirety of today, but that didn’t prevent a decent Mudeford Quay seawatch. The best was a Great Skua west, presumably tailing the 150 Gannet that moved in the same direction, along with 170 Kittiwake, a Great Northern Diver, 32 Red-throated Diver and 20 auks; while 3 Eider and 45 Brent Goose headed the opposite way. A walk along the sandspit saw 16 Purple Sandpiper, 40 or so Ringed Plover, 6 Dunlin and 2 Turnstone. Meanwhile, the offshore Common Scoter flock of 80 birds was riding out the weather in the shelter of Christchurch Bay.

December 15th

The only dry part of the day was the period prior to 9:00 this morning, but after that the area was pretty much unbirdable. A half-hour period at Mudeford Quay just ahead of the rain produced a Black-throated Diver, 2 Great Northern Diver, 17 Red-throated Diver and a single auk, the latter only being mentioned to provide stark contrast to yesterday. Slightly later, a further seven ‘red-throats’ were logged, with singles of Peregrine and Raven, plus 6 Common Scoter, also seen over the water. For the records, all travel was westward. The sandspit contained an impressive 21 Purple Sandpiper, eighteen of them together on groyne S9, as well as a high tide roost of 62 Ringed Plover and a lone Sanderling. At Stanpit, an Avocet was on the tip of East Marsh, while the remaining figures cover the entire area and come courtesy of the combined efforts of the presumably damp WeBS counters - 14 Grey Plover, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 38 Black-tailed Godwit, 63 Dunlin, 17 Shoveler, 770 Wigeon, 174 Teal and 160 Brent Goose. Finally, a Black Redstart was again at the end of Hengistbury.

December 14th

A brisk south-south-westerly wind brought in an unexpected number of auks and sea-gulls during the first two hours of daylight. In addition to the bonus of a Little Auk, around 3600 other alcids, the majority of them Guillemot, headed out of The Solent; as did 180 Kittiwake and 110 Common Gull - the former number particularly notable, not just in December but at any time of the year. Meanwhile, up 18 Red-throated Diver, all but three west, 4 Great Northern Diver and 2 Mediterranean Gull also passed by. Nearly all of the figures so far come from Mudeford Quay, where 6 Purple Sandpiper and 7 Sanderling were also logged. On Hengistbury, a couple of Firecrest were in the Wood, as was a Treecreeper, and a Black Redstart was at the end of the head. Also, around 50 Common Scoter settled off the eastern end and a Peregrine over the Long Field. Of mammal interest, a Grey Seal was very close in to the sandspit groynes. 

December 13th

Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover and a single Dunlin sitting out the high tide on the sandspit – Clinton Whale

There was a suspicion yesterday of 2 Black Redstart at the eastern end of Hengistbury and that was confirmed today when they were both together by the southern Beach Huts. At the other end of the sandspit, a total of 18 Purple Sandpiper were on view from Mudeford Quay, while a Great Northern Diver and 2 Razorbill were settled on the water off the quay. In addition, a steady trickle of distant auks moved by throughout the day, 5 Shelduck passed east and a Red-throated Diver pitched in during the afternoon. During the morning, two counts of 56 Black-tailed Godwit were received - from Wick Hams and Holloway’s Dock - so presumably were representing the same flock. Meanwhile, an adult Mediterranean Gull, these are now scarce here, was on East Marsh, a couple of Peregrine terrified the 175 Lapwing on-site and the resident pair of Raven was again on show. 

December 12th

The only news for the day is from Hengistbury, where the Black Redstart was towards the end of the head and a Coal Tit was in the Wood. Until recent years, the latter species was thought of as something of a scarcity on the southern side of the area, but now in those parts it seemingly has the status of winter resident at least.

December 11th

Thick fog and almost freezing temperatures ruined most of the morning, but there were some later reports from both sides of the area. On Hengistbury, the Black Redstart was at the end of the head, while 2 Redpoll and a Treecreeper were in the Wood. At Stanpit, a single Water Pipit was turned in from Priory Marsh and 3 Chiffchaff were again by the Civic Offices. As the month progresses, so does the Little Grebe count - today’s maximum being 36 birds, which is pretty impressive for the area; also 2 Shoveler, a Kingfisher, 2 Raven and 7 Rook, the latter heading to roost in the Nursery, to remark upon. 

December 10th

There were 2 Firecrest in the Wood by the Double Bends this morning, while the Black Redstart was still below the cliffs at the eastern end of the head; also there were 2 Redpoll.  The Lapwing flock was airborne for much of the time possibly due to the presence of a Merlin, which dashed over the river from Grimmery Bank towards the HHC. Wader totals from both sides of the harbour and Mudeford Quay were 230 Dunlin, 39 Black-tailed Godwit, 34 Ringed Plover, 10 Turnstone, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Grey Plover and the Spotted Redshank; also 7 Purple Sandpiper on groyne S5. A couple of locally significant counts this afternoon were 56 Common Gull on Stanpit and 32 Little Grebe on the river between Parky Meade Rail and Barn Bight. The raft of 75 Common Scoter was still offshore, 5 Shoveler were in Barn Bight and 91 Teal were logged on Stanpit. Finally, an adult Mediterranean Gull was on Stanpit, where 6 Skylark were noted, 2 Raven moved over the head and 3 Chiffchaff were by the Civic Offices.

December 9th

The only reports for today are of 40 Black-tailed Godwit and 70 Dunlin at Stanpit.

December 8th

There was not so much field activity as yesterday, so fewer reports have been received. Of them, the pick of the records are 4 Purple Sandpiper on groyne 64 and the Spotted Redshank in Stanpit Creek. Other waders around the area included: 21 Grey Plover, 5 Turnstone, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 30 Ringed Plover and 210 Dunlin; while the offshore Common Scoter came to seventy-five birds and 4 Shoveler were inside the harbour. 

December 7th

There was plenty to be seen this morning, but the bird-of-the-day was unfortunately only heard - a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Wood mid-morning, around 100m east of the Double Bends. Also in that area, a couple of Firecrest, probably 2 Treecreeper and up to 3 Coal Tit, while the Black Redstart was about the southern end of the sandspit. At sea, a Velvet Scoter was settled for an hour or so, when for a few minutes it joined the Common Scoter flock before heading off into Poole Bay. Interestingly, the 85-strong gathering of scoter contained not a single adult drake, all being brown, pale-faced birds. Meanwhile, a Black-throated Diver and 3 Red-throated Diver headed into The Solent, 16 Purple Sandpiper were on the spit and a Great Crested Grebe was offshore. At Stanpit, at least two, but perhaps three, Water Pipit were on Priory Marsh, as were 5 Shoveler; with the Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 23 Grey Plover, 2 Turnstone, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 18 Ringed Plover, around 190 Dunlin and a Shelduck being logged from Fisherman’s Bank. Of mammal interest, during the middle of the morning, at least 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were seen from Mudeford Quay.

December 6th

Intent Kestrel – Clinton Whale
Curlew & Black-tailed Godwit
..and Black-tailed Godwit & Curlew – Clinton Whale

A crisp morning saw some more interest on the sea, when a Little Gull headed west and a pair of Eider settled on the water off Mudeford Quay. In addition, 20 Kittiwake, in excess of 80 Common Gull and 2 Red-throated Diver also moved down-channel. Meanwhile, at least one Purple Sandpiper and 4 Sanderling were on the sandspit; around 120 Common Scoter were on the water close-in to the Long Groyne; the Black Redstart was at the end of the head; and a Redpoll, 3 Siskin, a Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail were also on Hengistbury. At Stanpit, before a massive spring tide swamped the area, a single Water Pipit was on Priory Marsh; while elsewhere, the pair of Raven again rampaged around Mudeford Quay. Incredibly, there were two Red Admiral butterfly on the wing at Hengistbury.

December 5th

A cold westerly wind and full cloud cover made for a slightly uncomfortable day, but nevertheless more than a couple of forays were made into the field. Priory Marsh turned up 3 Water Pipit this morning, while a Firecrest was on the Batters, a Chiffchaff was in Wick Ditch and 6 Purple Sandpiper were seen from Mudeford Quay, from where 25 Common Scoter were logged heading west. On the mud at Stanpit, a healthy winter population of Grey Plover - 32 birds - remains, along with 4 Bar-tailed Godwit and a rise in Black-tailed Godwit to one-hundred-and-ten. To conclude, a Peregrine passed over the Barn Field. 

December 4th

A Long-tailed Duck passed by Mudeford Quay and the Beach Huts this morning, before settling on the water west of the Long Groyne. Slightly later, a rather unexpected Little Auk and a Ruff headed straight through to the west, seen from the huts, as well as 3 Red-throated Diver. The Black Redstart was in its favoured spot, but a Redpoll feeding in the marram grass at the cliff base was more uncharacteristic and at first glance was hoped to be a finch species more associated with seashore feeding. To finish on Hengistbury, 7 Purple Sandpiper were about the sandspit and up to 80 Common Scoter were offshore. Other than a Shoveler on Central Marsh, there is only one other piece of news from Stanpit, but it's reasonably impressive - in the shape of 5 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh.

December 3rd

A Woodlark south over Hengistbury was reasonably unexpected for the date, but the Black Redstart was less of a surprise - likewise a single Redpoll, which is a species that sometimes spends the winter on the head. The female-type Marsh Harrier was seen on a number of occasions, including a period spent perched on posts around Wick Hams; while the Spotted Redshank was still at Stanpit, where 34 Grey Plover, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 41 Ringed Plover and 80 Dunlin were counted. The marsh also turned in an impressive 28 Little Grebe, but although the same number of Canada Goose were present a different adjective is probably more appropriate. Also around were 4 Shoveler - one of them in the newly-fenced Holloway’s Dock and potentially a first for that small part of the recording area - and the resident, drake Tufted Duck. 

December 2nd

There were certainly some new birds on-site today, not least 7 Avocet and 2 Knot at Stanpit, where the female-type Marsh Harrier was seen at both ends of the day and singles of Water Pipit and Jack Snipe were also present. On Hengistbury, there are now 4 Firecrest in the bushes at the end of the head and the Black Redstart remains on the adjacent cliffs. The sea off there and Mudeford Quay produced combined totals of: 4 Eider and 24 Common Scoter east; 2 Great Northern Diver, 7 Red-throated Diver, 7 Red-breasted Merganser and 6 Kittiwake west; and a further seventy-five settled Common Scoter. At lunchtime, there were 7 Purple Sandpiper visible from the quay, while some earlier, light movement over Hengistbury included: 3 Brambling, a Redpoll, 2 Siskin, 49 Goldfinch, 36 Linnet and 17 Redwing. In addition to those already mentioned, waders at Stanpit comprised: the Spotted Redshank, 31 Grey Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 45 Black-tailed Godwit, 38 Ringed Plover, 180 Dunlin and an increase of Lapwing to 591 birds. To finish off, 25 Common Gull and 2 Shoveler were on-site, at least 3 Raven visited, a Peregrine was perched on Wick Hams and a Tufted Duck was in Barn Bight. 

December 1st

It’s a pretty similar story to yesterday, although the grand total of 16 Great Crested Grebe off Mudeford Quay is suggestive of an influx, while 2 Great Northern Diver were also on the water off there and the Sandwich Tern was fishing. On Hengistbury, a single Firecrest was in the Wood and a the Black Redstart was at the end of the head. Inside the harbour, the Spotted Redshank again frequented Stanpit Creek and 8 Little Grebe were in Barn Bight. 

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