Sightings for November 2003.
The monthly census of water birds, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) count, took place today with 4 observers covering all parts of the harbour. Counting on Stanpit was made all the more difficult by a Peregrine hunting and constantly flushing most of the birds; the falcon actually caught a Wigeon and a Teal, but failed to hold onto either. A Merlin was also reported from Crouch Hill. The best record from the count was a single Common Sandpiper, flushed from Fisherman's Bank before heading towards Grimmery Bank. Also recorded was 1 Jack Snipe, but there are undoubtedly more lurking in Central Marsh. There was a high count of 108 Black-tailed Godwit, and Wigeon at 551 is also above average. The Brent Goose are in two distinct gaggles of 56 and 31 respectively, but there is a very low incidence of first-winter birds. Other counts included 179 Teal, 84 Dunlin, 66 Redshank, 24 Ringed Plover, 16 Grey Plover, 10 Little Egret, 5 Water Rail, but just 1 Little Grebe.
By the time the Beach Huts were reached, just after dawn, the rain had set in and the south-easterly wind direction made shelter almost impossible to find. The highlight of a 2 hour watch was 1 Great Skua west early on, otherwise just 4 Kittiwake and 1 Razorbill to break the Herring Gull tedium. A single Little Grebe was in Barn Bight.
Only reports are from Stanpit, where the Little Owl was again in its hawthorn roost in the North Scrubs, while a Great-spotted Woodpecker was heard and over 60 Greenfinch were in the same area. Parky Meade Rail held a couple of Shoveler and a Little Grebe.
Today saw a nice collection of local records with the best being a Woodlark off the Common and then over the HHC towards Wick. That was just after dawn when a small Wood Pigeon movement to the west was also noted. In typical November fashion, a flock of 17 Golden Plover arrived in off and headed north, and 3 Bar-tailed Godwit circled the harbour. Double Dykes held 1 Firecrest and 2 Chiffchaff; while a small north-westerly thrush passage included 10 Song Thrush, 6 Fieldfare and 3 Redwing. A small, late finch movement totalled 60 Chaffinch, 4 Brambling, 3 Redpoll and 2 Siskin. Finally, the monstrous juvenile Peregrine was also over the area.
Back to the rain of late this morning, meaning, unfortunately, nothing to report. I am hopeful the harbour will be watched tomorrow.
Just a few reports today. 1 Snow Bunting was on Hengistbury by groyne 63, 350 Wood Pigeon moved west, and 2 Little Grebe and 1 Kingfisher were in Barn Bight.
At last, a respite from the rain. The highlight of a seawatch from the Beach Huts was a westerly moving Arctic Skua, also seen were 2 Red-throated Diver and 2 Razorbill. The conditions made venturing around the head a viable option and this proved the 2 Snow Bunting were still present, today by groyne 64, and later 65. In the 15 minutes after 8:00 this morning, 1300 Wood Pigeon passed west over the harbour, as did 3 Fieldfare. At least 3 Chiffchaff were noted in Wick and the Common, the single Little Grebe is still in Barn Bight, this species seems to be scarce so far this winter; while 32 Black-tailed Godwit were seen in the same area. There were a couple of high counts of commoner species today: firstly, a flock of 150 Greenfinch feeding in Whitepits Rough; secondly, a murder of 28 Carrion Crow on the top of the head.
Common sense failed to prevail as far as 3 sea-watchers were concerned this morning; the spectacle even involved Graham Armstrong comfortably controlling an umbrella while picking out distant auks. We left Graham at the Beach Huts, saying he would walk back when the weather eased, I wonder if he's still waiting! Before the conditions drenched the optics, the best birds were 5 Golden Plover heading west. In addition, over 50 Auk went mainly east, 2 Red-throated Diver were seen, 1 west and 1 east, also 4 Kittiwake west and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. 25+ Gannet were feeding close offshore.
A night and day of appalling weather, plus the small matter of a rugby match, left the harbour devoid of eyes for most of the day. Only reports are from a wet, post-game Hengistbury, where a Great-northern Diver was fishing off the Beach Huts, the Treecreeper was heard in the Nursery and a Little Grebe was in Barn Bight. Swing low .
After a still, cloudy night of constant rain, new arrivals were never likely; although a single Fieldfare north over the HHC at dawn defied the odds. Best bird though, was a probable Black-necked, as opposed to Slavonian, Grebe that flew east into the Solent. Both these species are very rare birds in the recording area, hence the excitement amongst the year listers. The 2 Snow Bunting are still in the groyne 63-65 area, but little else to report: just 10 Common Scoter and 1 Red-throated Diver at sea, along with 4 Razorbill; the Treecreeper was again in the Wood; and a Peregrine was over the Barn Field. Slightly later, an excursion down the sandspit produced another Peregrine, a Merlin and 2 Purple Sandpiper.
November 20t h
There were two accommodating Snow Bunting on Hengistbury today. The birds, both adults, spent most of the morning between groynes 63 and 65. These are to the right of groyne S1; do not go towards S2, instead go around the head and look on the lower cliff slopes. Photographers could be in for a treat if the birds stick around. Just after dawn, a Merlin was seen briefly over the Salt Hurns and, a little later, a Peregrine soared over the Coastguards. The sea was very quiet, but a group of 4 Red-throated Diver did cross the harbour as the headed west; other than that, just 4 Common Scoter, a Razorbill and a Guillemot. A couple of Purple Sandpiper were seen towards the end of the sandspit. Finally, thanks to James Lidster and his sarong for a great talk last night.
Best birds of a fairly quiet day were a confiding Snow Bunting feeding on the cliffs between the Beach Huts and the Long Groyne; also a first-year Swallow perched above the Warden's caravan on Stanpit before leaving over the North Scrubs. The more interesting waders on Stanpit were 22 Black-tailed Godwit and 8 Grey Plover, while the Brent Goose gaggle was around 75 birds. Other records from Hengistbury were 8 Common Scoter and 1 Red-throated Diver west and 4 Redwing in the Wood. The Saker was again in the area, as was a very large juvenile Peregrine which could easily cause confusion. The information services reported a Roseate Tern off the Beach Huts.
A damp and drizzly start with few numbers of birds to report, but some quality nevertheless. A couple of Snow Bunting were on the sandspit this morning, but despite further searching couldn't be refound. A Firecrest was in the Wood and a Yellowhammer went over Holloway's Dock. The sea was largely quiet, but Diver were conspicuous with 7 Red-throated and 1 Black-throated west. Other than that, the only notables were a single Brambling over, and 30 Redwing and 9 Fieldfare feeding in the Nursery. The Great-spotted Woodpecker is still making regular sorties between Hengistbury and Wick.
A windy, south-westerly Hengistbury could hardly be expected to match the excitement of yesterday. Overhead passage was almost non-existent, just a handful of finches and 550 Wood Pigeon west. The sea held the most interest: highlights were a Black-throated Diver on the water before moving west, an Eider was also settled, as were 5 Razorbill. Moving birds included 8 Common Scoter, 6 Red-brested Merganser and 4 Common Gull west. 3 Purple Sandpiper were on the groynes and a Golden Plover arrived over the harbour. Late morning, there were both Redwing and Fieldfare around the Nursery; and there are still 800 or so skittish Lapwing on Stanpit. The numbers of this species will start to reduce as the winter comes on, presumably as the Avon Valley starts to flood. 2 hen Pheasant were seen around the Nursery.
"One of the best days for visible migration I have ever witnessed," was the summary of this morning from the area's longest serving observer. When one considers all observations were from Stanpit Golf Course, as opposed to the traditional Hengistbury hotspots, then how good was the head this morning? Starting with the highlights: the best record and the first for many years was 2 Hawfinch, heard calling and eventually seen sitting in the tops of the North Scrub windbreak trees; this was followed up by Snow Bunting, again heard several times, but not seen, the bird may well be settled. 2 small flocks, 4 and 2, of Crossbill headed north and 3 Bearded Tit were around Priory Reeds. Wood Pigeon again featured, with 15000 east and 9500 north-west; Stock Dove were also heading west in small flocks right through until mid-afternoon, the total being 250 birds. Thrush movement was significant by harbour standards, over 375 Fieldfare, 150 Redwing and 25 Song Thrush passed over north-west. Finches were also going in the same direction, 650 Chaffinch and 75 Brambling being the estimate. The Saker spent a while terrorising the Stanpit waders and actually sat on the ground for 20 minutes or so. More expected falcons included 1 Peregrine and a northerly moving Merlin. After this, an enforced return home for the rugby, but it was straight back out again to be greeted by a Red Kite high over Smithy's Field, putting on an aerial show in the now windier conditions. 20 Goldcrest were down in that area and 3 Redpoll and 2 Siskin went overhead. Around the same time, Stanpit Bight held 19 Grey Plover, 11 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall, 1 Knot and similar numbers of Dunlin as yesterday. There are currently around 750 Lapwing that regularly commute between the harbour and the valley, and the Knot was also seen to arrive and depart with them; also flighty, presumably due to the presence of a large falcon, are 100 or so Snipe. Flyover wildfowl numbered 6 Gadwall and 2 Shoveler, and a Kingfisher was by the Bailey Bridge. The Little Owl was in its favoured hawthorn roost in the North Scrubs this afternoon.
Another significant of Wood Pigeon passed the harbour this morning. An estimated 18000 birds moved north or north-east on a line a couple of miles inland. In addition, 1000 arrived off the sea and headed north-east, 2000 went west just after first light and roosting birds in the Nursery numbered over 1000, a far larger figure than normal. Other highlights for the morning were a Tree Sparrow which circled high over the HHC and a Firecrest in the Wood. Visible migration noted during a 3 hour loiter around the HHC included 15 Redpoll, 9 Brambling, 9 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing and 1 Mistle Thrush, also 150 Chaffinch with lesser numbers of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. A diver species came over the harbour, 2 Shoveler went up river and a Kingfisher flew towards Barn Bight. Of note, were constant, small flocks of Snipe circling the harbour, perhaps indicating a influx with birds assessing the area. Those who ventured further around the area recorded 4 Brambling on Wick Fields and a Sanderling by the Beach Huts. Counts from Stanpit, which was well covered this morning, total: 650 Lapwing, 259 Dunlin, 51 Black-tailed Godwit, 40 Ringed Plover, 13 Grey Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Sanderling and 1 Knot, also 80 Brent Geese, 11 Shoveler and 1 Brambling over.
A wet start to the day, but the early seawatcher was rewarded with a Grey Phalarope west off the Beach Huts. The later arriving birders had to content themselves with hearing Crossbill and Redpoll on the walk through the Wood. The subsequent couple of hours seawatch yielded 1 Eider and 2 Common Scoter settled on the sea, around 20 Razorbill moving locally in mixed directions, 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 Golden Plover west, as well as 30 Brent Goose going east. A Merlin was a good record, while Peregrine and 1 Purple Sandpiper were also noted.
Hengistbury was visited this morning as vestigial autumn migration trickles on. Just 40 Linnet, 25 Goldfinch, 3 Brambling and 1 Fieldfare were overhead, while 4 Chiffchaff were around the Common. It is interesting to note, this time last year Swallow were still being seen almost daily. The sandspit provided more interest in the form of 3 Purple Sandpiper on the groynes. Moving past, were 1 Red-throated Diver west and 11 Common Scoter, 10 east and 1 west.
Once more the morning started with mild temperatures. Most surprising bird today was a Saker watched over the harbour between 10:00 and 11:00 this morning, as it caused pandemonium amongst the birds on Stanpit. While most likely of captive origin, the bird was nevertheless an impressive sight. One of the birds flushed by the alien marauder was a Golden Plover, which had earlier been seen on East Marsh from Fisherman's Bank. It avoided the attentions of the predator by mingling with the estimated 1000 or so Lapwing on the marsh. Migration over Hengistbury is expectedly slowing, today's counts were 50 Linnet, 15 Siskin, 12 Redpoll, 8 Brambling and 8 Redwing, all going west. Grounded were an estimated 30 Goldcrest and 2 Chiffchaff. Wintering woodland species included 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker and, still, the Treecreeper.
Hengistbury was shrouded in mist this morning, which seemingly confused some moving Wood Pigeon. At least 375 dropped into the Nursery, before heading off west. Other movement was noted as 65 Linnet and 28 Goldfinch south-east, and 14 Redwing overflew the Batters towards the head. Heard records with no direction noted included Brambling, Redpoll, Siskin and Reed Bunting.
There was an ill-founded anticipation about Hengistbury this morning. During a 3 hour tour of duty the only overhead migrants were 50 Chaffinch, 50 Linnet, 25 Goldfinch and a dozen Reed Bunting. On the ground around 25 Goldcrest were estimated, along with 5 Chiffchaff, one of them singing in the mild conditions. There was also a drake Gadwall in the harbour. A lunchtime visit to Mudeford Quay was just moments too late as 5 grey goose headed east into the distance. This evening, just before dusk, there were 53 Black-tailed Godwit in Barn Bight and 5 more around Salt Hurns. After dark, Redwing could be heard moving over Stanpit recreation ground.
Ahead of the mid-morning rain Hengistbury and Wick were covered. Initially, there was some easterly passage, but as the weather closed in the birds stopped moving. Before getting into detail however, a group of 9 Pochard on the river by the HHC was something of a harbour highlight. The overhead counts were: 200 Goldfinch, 150 Meadow Pipit, 100 Linnet, 50 Chaffinch, 50 Greenfinch, 40 alba Wagtail, 10 Redpoll, 2 Brambling and 1 Grey Wagtail. Presumably on a northerly bearing, 20 Redwing and 3 Fieldfare were recorded; while settled birds included 20 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap. Out to sea, 2 Red-throated Diver went west and 2 easterly heading Common Scoter settled on the sea. A brief lunchtime time visit to Stanpit produced 35 Black-tailed Godwit on the grassland adjacent to the warden's caravan, these were accompanied by an uncharacteristic Knot and 1 Dunlin. Later on at Stanpit the Little Owl was again in its favoured hawthorn bush; and 4 Gadwall, 2 pairs, and 5 Shoveler, 3 drakes and 2 duck, were seen.
Cloudy skies and a bracing easterly didn't suggest a good day ahead, but those out were justifiably rewarded. Hengistbury was comprehensively covered by at least 10 observers, producing the following highlights. 1 Snow Bunting heard in flight heading east over the Barn Field; 2 Twite, heard then seen, east over the top of the head then along the sandspit; 2 Crossbill from the west then settling in the Nursery; 1 Woodcock flushed from bushes adjacent to Holloway's Dock; and finally, at least 5 Firecrest - 1 in the cottage garden and a couple in the Nursery. Also noticeable was a strong Fieldfare passage with over 200 birds estimated from Wick and the head, this included some large flocks, over 40 birds for example. Other thrushes were counted as 50 Redwing and 20 Song Thrush, all moving north-west. Small passerine migration headed into the wind with 600 Goldfinch, 400 Linnet, 350 Chaffinch, 100 Meadow Pipit, 47 Brambling, 23 Redpoll, 5 Siskin and 1 Grey Wagtail. Also travelling in the same direction during the seawatch were 34 Lapwing and a steady trickle of Dunlin, around 40 per hour. Other birds during the watch, all east unless stated, numbered well over 40 auks, including 5 Razorbill fishing close inshore, 40 Wigeon, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Kittiwake, 4 Common Scoter, 2 west, 3 Red-throated Diver, 1 west, 2 Eider, 1 Great-northern Diver and 1adult Mediterranean Gull over the beach. Shelduck are starting to return from their moult with 2 seen today, 9 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 1 Pintail and a Pochard were also seen; while a brace of Snipe arrived off the sea and a skein of 15 Grey-lag Goose circled high over the harbour. Stanpit, not to be outdone, produced a Ring Ouzel and 2 Avocet in the morning.
We were not disappointed. A presumed 20000+ Wood Pigeon were seen over the harbour this morning. Between dawn and 7:20, just over 12000 were counted from Stanpit golf course as they headed west; slightly later, between 7:35 and 8:30, around 4000 were seen from Hengistbury. Allowing for the gap in observation, the total must top the score thousand. Initially the birds appeared in small groups of 100 or so, one of which included thrushes; however, in the ensuing few minutes the flock sizes increased with a maximum of 2000. The local birds of the same species seemed strangely bemused as they sat in trees gazing skywards. Aside from all this, a true harbour rarity, in the shape of a Slavonian Grebe was off the Beach Huts mid-morning. A good selection of thrushes were seen early on from Stanpit golf course: a male Ring Ouzel was at the southern end of Smithy's Field, while 8 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush and 1 Mistle Thrush went north; also seen were 7 Redpoll and a low flying Brambling was heard. On Hengistbury, finches were noted as 125 Goldfinch and 75 Linnet, along with 75 Meadow Pipit and 35 Skylark. Redpoll and Brambling were also heard. A glance over to Stanpit yielded 150 Dunlin, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, 32 Ringed Plover and 5 Grey Plover.
Hengistbury was again quiet. A mid-morning hour's stand on the Batters produced 150 Goldfinch, 125 Linnet, 100 Meadow Pipit, 10 Reed Bunting and 7 Redpoll, all moving south-east., Slightly earlier, a Redwing was settled on the Common with a few Song Thrush went overhead. Only other sightings of note were a Great-spotted Woodpecker in trees on the Batters and a Little Grebe in Barn Bight. Skylark were airborne, but it was difficult to separate local birds from migrants. The sea was given a cursory inspection, but was devoid of anything of interest. As I write this, the clear skies are giving hope for a pigeon passage - the obsessed will be out at first light.
Something of an anticlimax today, particularly on the sea where only 3 Razorbill west and a single Gannet could be mustered. Highlights were 2 Firecrest around the Lily Pond on Hengistbury, a female Blackcap, 2 arriving Golden Plover and single Pochard and Pintail. The numbers of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were estimated to be well down on yesterday. Overhead passage to the south was counted as 80 Meadow Pipit, 17 Redpoll and 13 Brambling. A total of 95 Stock Dove moved west, including a group of 40 which left the Nursery just after dawn.
Despite the still, early conditions, seawatching was relatively fruitful as the morning wore on. Highlight was a Grey Phalarope seen distantly in flight twice from the Beach Huts. Also out to sea and moving west was a single, adult Mediterranean Gull, 37 Kittiwake, 6 Gannet and a couple of Razorbill. While just after first light, a tight flock of 12 Little Gull passed west over the harbour, and 3 birds later went by at sea. The first hour of light also saw a small Wood Pigeon movement involving around 2000 birds to the west, this soon petered out though as the wind got up. Early on also saw a good thrush passage with 150 Redwing, 80 Blackbird, 31 Fieldfare and 20 Song Thrush moving north-west, there were also 80 or so Blackbird scattered around the Wick area. Smaller passerines were moving south in numbers, amongst them a Yellowhammer, while others noted included: 700 Goldfinch, 350 Chaffinch, 300 Linnet, 250 Meadow Pipit, a good count for November, 120 Redpoll, 70 Reed Bunting, 55 Brambling, 20 Siskin and 2 late House Martin. More Bearded Tit were seen today with 2 birds around the HHC. Duck in the harbour included 6 Gadwall and 1 Pintail. Birds in the Wood increased with 60 Goldcrest and 20 Chiffchaff estimated. Finally, some corvid interest, in addition to 2 Jackdaw, a possible Hooded Crow was briefly seen which, if confirmed, would constitute the first harbour record since becoming a species in its own right. There was an excellent record of 3 Bearded Tit by the girder bridge on Stanpit, one was actually on the mud, the other 2 were hanging in the reeds.
The conditions were ripe for a monumental seawatch, but alas! The highlights occurred prior to 8:20am when an upturned boat, a broken canoe and an unmanned surfboard all headed west. Around the same time, 4 Eider and 1Razorbill went past the Beach Huts and, a little later, a single Common Scoter. From Mudeford Quay seabirds were largely absent, although a Tufted Duck "in off" and a male Peregrine taking a Dunlin provided some interest. The woodland on Hengistbury seemed to hold an increased number of Goldcrest, while a Great-crested Grebe was seen in the harbour. In the afternoon, Stanpit golf course played host to a descent of 3 Green Woodpecker and another Peregrine was seen overhead.
A genuine south-westerly blow today with some accompanying deluges. Both Mudeford Quay and the Beach Huts were used for seawatching: the former producing an information services report of 2 Little Auk between 8:00 and 9:30, while the observer at the latter site recorded one bird west during a 2 hour watch. Also noted from there was a Velvet Scoter, along with 5 Common Scoter, 3 Kittiwake, 1 Guillemot, 1 Razorbill, 1 Purple Sandpiper and several Gannet. The extremity of the sandspit also held up to 17 Turnstone throughout the day. A high tide, afternoon visit to Stanpit produced: 190 Wigeon, 85 Brent Goose, a good count of 68 Black-tailed Godwit, 23 Ringed Plover, 19 Dunlin and 4 Shoveler.
The first day of November and, right on cue, the pigeons appeared. An estimated 3500 Wood Pigeon were seen up to a mile north of the harbour as they moved west. Initially the flocks seemed uncertain of their heading, some of them circling several times before finding their bearings. Perhaps they had roosted locally. Around 9:30am, a male Serin was seen a couple of times around Crouch Hill, but could not be located later. Around the same time, a Short-eared Owl was over Hengistbury being mobbed by a Crow before eventually heading high north over the harbour. Other highlights for Hengistbury included a very late Whimbrel south past the HHC just after dawn, a Firecrest in the Wood and a Bearded Tit calling from the Salterns. Just off Double Dykes, 2 first-winter Little Gull were feeding with the Black-headed Gull, and a first winter Mediterranean Gull also joined the gathering. Overhead passage was light, but did comprise 15+ Redpoll, 10 Brambling and many heard, but not seen, Chaffinch. Moving north-west were 19 Fieldfare, 8 having roosted in the Nursery overnight, 15 Song Thrush, 10 Redwing, some stopping to feed, and 3 Mistle Thrush. Also over the harbour was a single, calling Golden Plover and the Treecreeper was seen again in the Wood. Waders on Stanpit were counted as 135 Dunlin, 40 Ringed Plover, 25 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Grey Plover; there were also 2 Dartford Warbler on Crouch Hill. Addendum: 1 Water Pipit was around Holloway's Dock and 7 Grey-lag Goose arrived from the west and headed north.