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Sightings for the current month

April 18th

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull - although they don't breed in the area, there is plenty of evidence of pair-bonding going on – Clinton Whale (upper) & Alan Crockard

‘Hard going,’ was a term used today to describe eking out migrants in a strong north-easterly wind. Consequently, other than a pair of Pochard around Barn Bight, the relative highlights came at sea where a Hobby was watched arriving and an Arctic Tern passed Mudeford Quay. Meanwhile, the effort from the Beach Huts amounted to: 6 Common Tern, 5 Whimbrel, 6 Common Scoter, 4 Fulmar and 7 Guillemot. In addition to the moving terns, there were 2 Little Tern and 44 Sandwich Tern at Stanpit, as well as: 18 Whimbrel, the Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, 2 Grey Plover, 8 Bar-tailed Godwit and 35 Black-tailed Godwit; plus the 2 Brent Goose. The only birds that could be passed-off as migrant passerines were a Reed Warbler singing from brambles on Wick, 4 Willow Warbler there and a Wheatear on the Barn Field. At least 10 Mediterranean Gull passed over, the female Bullfinch was again on Wick and a Raven was noted. 

Tides April 19th: H00:55 | L05:10 | H09:50 | H13:25 | L17:30 | H22:25

April 17th

Other than a Red Kite that approached from the north before leaving to the east, most of the day’s action came very early on. A pair of Garganey headed north; then at the same time as a skein of 23 Greylag Goose circuited the area, a Spoonbill moved very high to the west. The south-easterly wind meant the sea delivered some interest - the best being an Arctic Skua and a nicely-attired Great Northern Diver east, as well as 130 Sandwich Tern, 86 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, a Grey Plover, 12 Whimbrel and 8 Dunlin; while 5 Gannet and 32 Fulmar were a little more aimless. Migrant passerines were sparse, although 4 Yellow Wagtail were seen coming in-off and a Wheatear, 6 Whitethroat and 11 Willow Warbler were logged, along with the pair of Bullfinch still on Wick. Later in the day, the waders at Stanpit included: the Spotted Redshank, 14 Whimbrel, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit and 25 Black-tailed Godwit; plus an overnight doubling of the Brent Goose to two birds.

Tides April 18th: H00:15 | L04:30 | H09:10 | H12:40 | L16:50 | H21:45

April 16th

Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler
Pollen-encrusted Willow Warbler – Chris Dresh

Another glorious day saw one, but quite possibly two, Hoopoe on-site. Birds were seen in flight from the HHC/Barn Field area on three occasions, while one was settled on the Solent Meads driving range for around 30 minutes. However, the timings are such that two birds are not definitely claimable. Other highpoints for early on came courtesy of: 2 Goosander , a Green Sandpiper and an adult Little gull that was involved in an easterly passage through the harbour of 71 Mediterranean Gull, a Little Tern, 2 Common Tern, at least 100 Sandwich Tern, 9 Whimbrel and 25 Dunlin. Meanwhile, a Cuckoo, the first of the year, 7 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit, 75 Meadow Pipit, 170 Swallow and 3 House Martin headed north. Birds on the deck, included 3 Grasshopper Warbler, two around the Barn Field and one in the Bobolink Field, a further Yellow Wagtail, that on the Wick meadows, 7 Whitethroat, 16 Blackcap and 44 Willow Warbler. At Stanpit, there was a Grey Plover along with 5 Bar-tailed Godwit, 85 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Ringed Plover, just 8 Wigeon and now a lone Brent Goose. There was still interest to be had on the marsh late in the afternoon, when a Merlin headed south and a couple of Bearded Tit were around; also 6 Whimbrel.

Additional news: more from Stanpit, where another first for the year, a Lesser Whitethroat was present late in the morning. Also, four settled Little Tern, a couple Greenshank and the Spotted Redshank. Meanwhile, two each of Wigeon, Gadwall and Canada Goose can be added to the day’s wildfowl totals, as well as 4 Wigeon. 

April 15th

Shelduck pair against a backdrop of Black-tailed Godwit – Alan Crockard
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit – Alan Crockard

There was more early fog, but again this swiftly lifted and a glorious day ensued; which saw a nice incoming of common migrants. Perhaps most obvious were Blackcap, with a total of fifty-three across Wick and Stanpit, but also: the year’s first Whinchat and Garden Warbler, those on Crouch Hill and in the North Scrubs respectively, a Redstart in Ashtree Meadows, 12 Willow Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Whitethroat and 5 Wheatear. Meanwhile, a pair of Bullfinch on Wick is an intriguing record. During the morning, it was reckoned that in excess of 100 Mediterranean Gull temporarily joined the large overhead flock of insect-feasting Black-headed Gull at Stanpit; as well as a Little Gull moving through with them. The best of the waders came late in the afternoon, when 5 Ruff arrived at Stanpit in the company of 8 Dunlin; also at least 8 Whimbrel during the day and 4 Grey Plover. 

April 14th

Greenfinch at Hengistbury, one place in the country
that hasn't been affected by the trichomonosis disease – Alan Hayden

Dense, early fog soon burnt away and it was subsequently a day of clear blue sky. This encouraged some raptors to move: namely, a Marsh Harrier over Stanpit and a Buzzard directly above Wick. Inside the harbour, the year’s first 2 Little Tern were resting with the ever-increasing Sandwich Tern, while the Spotted Redshank, a Whimbrel, 2 Sanderling, 81 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Dunlin and 110 Redshank were still present; and a further Whimbrel headed east at sea. Moving to passerines and a male Bullfinch, this on Wick, as well as a Reed Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 16 Willow Warbler and 24 Blackcap spread across there and some of the head. Meanwhile, a couple of Coal Tit were in the Wood and up to 25 Sand Martin were around the cliffs. As expected for the date, wildfowl numbers are dwindling: for example, just 29 Brent Goose remaining, along with 2 Wigeon, 2 Pintail and 13 Teal. 

April 13th

Song Thrush
There are more than expected numbers of Song Thrush
currently holding territory around the area – Alan Crockard
Linnet, another species that is very conspicuous right now – Leo Pyke
...while there must be a record number of Pheasant on-site – Clinton Whale

As seems so often the case, a relatively quiet weekend gave rise to an extraordinary start to the working week. The overnight dropping of the wind and cloud saw an awful lot of birds around Hengistbury this morning, including 2 Great White Egret high and west over the end of the head, while the first Common Sandpiper of the year was on a groyne at the southern end of the sandspit. In addition to over 300 Willow Warbler, most of them seen very early on crossing to Wick, a male Pied Flycatcher did the same thing, while 7 Grasshopper Warbler were reckoned, including 4 birds interacting for a short time in the No Dogs Field before they fell frustratingly silent. Elsewhere, a Ring Ouzel was on the top of the head and a Black Redstart was on the groynes. Meanwhile, other combined totals for Wick and the head came to: 7 Redstart, 65 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Sedge Warbler and 85 Wheatear, those peaking at forty on the Barn Field; as well as 4 Tree Pipit and around 100 Swallow over. At sea, a total of 53 Common Scoter passing east carried a Velvet Scoter in one of the flocks, a Great Northern Diver travelled in the same direction and 2 Great Crested Grebe were settled. It was also a fair day for waders, with the most Purple Sandpiper on the Long Groyne being nine, while Stanpit provided: 3 Whimbrel, 3 Sanderling and 5 Ringed Plover, which stayed for only a few minutes, the Spotted Redshank, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 41 Black-tailed Godwit, plus seventeen of those on the HHC mudbar, 27 Dunlin and a Snipe. To wrap up this post, a Raven was scavenging a washed-up fish on the Beach, a pair of Pintail remain at Stanpit and the Sand Martin estimate around the cliffs was of c.20 birds.

April 12th

Sandwich Tern
Sandwich Tern – Alan Crockard
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler – Alan Hayden

Clear skies and an uncomfortable southerly wind resulted in very little today. A Redstart was on Wick Fields during the morning, but the Willow Warbler total on Hengistbury struggled to make double figures, while Wheatear came to just 4 birds. This afternoon, of the ten presumed migrant phylloscs seen around Wick, it was a clean sweep for Chiffchaff - which was rather surprising given the expected mix on this date. The only other news involves 14 Purple Sandpiper on the Long Groyne, 10 Ringed Plover on the sandspit, 15 Sandwich Tern fishing the river and a Raven over.

Additional news: at sea, from Mudeford Quay, there were 2 Fulmar, an unidentified diver and a drake Common Scoter.

Tides April 13th: H02:50 | H07:20 | L11:50 | H12:40 | H20:30

April 11th

Some of the dozen or so Turnstone
that are still hanging around the sandspit – Clinton Whale
Sand Martin
Some of the very few, perhaps less than ten,
Sand Martin that are currently frequenting the Hengistbury cliffs – Clinton Whale

The forecast south-westerly wind developed overnight and the early arrivers headed straight for the Beach Huts. When, in the first few minutes of the watch, a Manx Shearwater was picked up heading into Poole Bay, hopes rose for something of a morning. However, over the next  three hours, other than the year’s first 3 Common Tern, it it turned out to be something of an anticlimax, with just: 2 Whimbrel, 18 Common Scoter and an unidentified diver east; 5 Fulmar, 11 Gannet, 31 Common Gull, 4 Guillemot and 7 Mediterranean Gull west; and a settled Great Crested Grebe in breeding plumage to add to the notebook. Meanwhile, a total of 51 Sandwich Tern, made up of birds heading in various directions, probably suggests these are now ‘in’.  Also from the huts, a lingering flock of 16 Purple Sandpiper, while 78 Black-tailed Godwit were in the Barn Bight area. The only passerine migrants of note seen during the morning were a Redstart on the Batters and a Willow Warbler in the Wood. By the afternoon, however, a Ring Ouzel and 3 Wheatear had decided to show themselves on the Barn Field. A Raven was again on the cliffs and, from Wick, a Sparrowhawk with prey was watched being pursued by Kestrel. 

April 10th

Ring Ouzel
Male Ring Ouzel on the Barn Field today – Alan Hayden
Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting in chorus by the Priory (also shown on the BBC tonight) – Alan Crockard

It wasn’t as busy as yesterday, but the mist that persisted into the night did hold 2 Ring Ouzel, both males, on the Barn Field for their second day. The fact that less than 10 Wheatear were seen all day suggests there was little in the way of overnight arrivers. There was also a Firecrest on the Long Field, but commoner grounded migrants weighed in with just a Redstart on Wick, 25 Willow Warbler, 10 Chiffchaff and 15 Blackcap. Around 300 Meadow Pipit checked-in, but the majority of these were within a 15-minute spell when it rained; also 3 Yellow Wagtail, 60 Linnet and a few Swallow inbound. A drake Garganey was again on-site, this time in Stanpit Creek early in the day, with other interest around the marsh coming from: the Ruff, the Spotted Redshank, which if it’s true to form will leave around two weeks from now, 2 Greenshank, 21 Dunlin, some now in breeding plumage, 104 Redshank, a Shoveler, 4 Pintail, 5 Gadwall and 32 Shelduck. Most of the Black-tailed Godwit were on the Hengistbury side, however - ninety-four being the highest return; while 2 Grey Plover arrived over Warren Hill. The south-easterly wind gave rise to the best count of Sandwich Tern so far for the season - thirty-three east at sea and up to ten inside the harbour - as well as fifteen each of Gannet and 15 Mediterranean Gull into the Solent, plus three settled Common Scoter. Finally, a Peregrine spent some time patrolling far offshore, a Raven frequented the area and three first-summer Rook left the Nursery roost. 

April 9th

It was a glorious morning, but by lunchtime the south-easterly breeze had brought in a dense sea fret, which was probably the reason that 4 Ring Ouzel, 3 males and a female, elected to hang around in the Barn Field until at least 4:30 this afternoon. Other highlights for the day came from: a Chiffchaff on the Stanpit golf course embankment that exhibited all the plumage traits of a Siberian bird, but it wasn’t heard to call; a male Pied Flycatcher on a bush briefly by the Hiker cafe; a Tree Pipit, the first of the year, over Stanpit; a Red Kite soaring over the northern fringe of the area; and a Little Gull that arrived over the Barn Field. In addition to these individual records, there were decent numbers of commoner migrants, including 5 Redstart, all but one on Hengistbury, as well as: a flyover Yellow Wagtail, up to 80 Wheatear, 150 Willow Warbler on the head plus 30 birds lingering on Wick late in the day, 32 Chiffchaff and 15 or so Blackcap. Meanwhile, others overhead were logged as: 320 Linnet, 63 Goldfinch, 270 Meadow Pipit, 20 Swallow, 93 Woodpigeon, 7 Stock Dove, all north, as well as 10 Mediterranean Gull coasting. A male Dartford Warbler on the Bobolink Field was presumably a bird displaced by last week’s fire, while the tame Tufted Duck was sat in the heather on the cliff top by the Gully! The only wader news concerns 72 Black-tailed Godwit in Barn Bight and 2 Shoveler were about the area. 

April 8th

Jackdaw gathering nest material – Alan Crockard
..and there are currently plenty of Skylark in song about Hengistbury – Clinton Whale

The day saw more fine weather, although after a clear night there was the merest hint of a dawn frost. Early on, a drake Garganey was in Parky Meade Rail, but as the tide rose the bird disappeared; also a Greylag Goose there, plus six passing Tufted Duck as well as 2 Pintail and 2 Gadwall elsewhere on Stanpit. Waders were again well represented, today on both sides of the harbour, the pick being: a Green Sandpiper high over, a Little Ringed Plover north, the year’s first Whimbrel past at sea, the Ruff, 2 Avocet and a Greenshank around Stanpit Bight and 12 Sanderling seen to leave; along with a Grey Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 70 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Ringed Plover and 15 Dunlin, all settled. Meanwhile, a Firecrest, 33 Willow Warbler, 21 Chiffchaff, 9 Blackcap and 17 Wheatear were spread across the area, but mostly on Hengistbury, and 68 Swallow, 33 Sand Martin, 220 Meadow Pipit, 73 Linnet and 65 Woodpigeon were logged arriving over the head. The day’s total for Mediterranean Gull comes to thirty-six and there was a maximum of 7 Sandwich Tern on-site; while 10 Buzzard north of the area and a Rook were turned in from Stanpit. 

April 7th

Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit
Bearded Tit – Alan Crockard
Buzzard over Ashtree Meadows – John Harding

Another day, another Osprey. This time, over Hengistbury at around 12:20. Otherwise, however, it wasn’t a spectacular arrival of birds, although the season’s first Reed Warbler was in the Wick reeds, but other number were relatively low - 2 Willow Warbler, 17 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler and 4 Blackcap - and no wheatear. Stanpit produced a good wader list, the best a heard-only Green Sandpiper, as well as a Little Ringed Plover briefly on Priory Marsh, the Ruff, the Spotted Redshank, 2 Grey Plover, 91 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Dunlin and c.110 Redshank. Overhead, Swallow and Sand Martin trickled through, along with frequent Mediterranean Gull, the largest flock being 10 birds. A quiet sea was remarkable only for 7 Common Scoter east and a single Greylag Goose west, while at least 5 Sandwich Tern were about the area. To round up, a couple of Pintail remain at Stanpit, a Buzzard was low over the northern part of the area and a lone Raven was seen on two occasions.

April 6th

Grass Snake
This Grass Snake was one of over 100 reptiles rescued
on St. Catherine's Hill today – Chris Chapleo
Male Wheatear on the sandspit – Clinton Whale

The day started to a thick mist that only really burnt away by 8:30. After that, there was steady arrival of Meadow Pipit and Linnet, but most were only heard rather than seen against the clear blue sky, so putting a number to the birds would be far from accurate. Also only heard, were the year’s firsts of Sedge Warbler and Yellow Wagtail - the former in sub-song in Ashtree Meadows and three of the latter over Crouch Hill. Seen, however, was an Osprey, that high over the northern part of the area at just after 11:00, and a Red Kite that drifted through to the east a couple of hours earlier. Meanwhile, several Willow Warbler were spread across the site, as were Wheatear - at least 30 birds - with the peak being fifteen on the Barn Field during the afternoon; an area that was devoid of such birds late morning, so suggesting an all-day arrival. It was the best day so far for Sand Martin, as thirty or so fed up over Priory Marsh and four are now on territory around the cliffs. Other moving birds included: a Fieldfare on Wick, at least 35 Mediterranean Gull, a Little Egret and a Rook in-off the sea, fifteen or so Swallow, a House Martin and 4 Sandwich Tern. Birds more settled, all at Stanpit, were singles of Avocet, Grey Plover and Raven, 2 Pintail, 30 Wigeon and around 50 Black-tailed Godwit. 

Additional news: visible-migration numbers from Stanpit, all northbound, came to: 470 Meadow Pipit, 125 Linnet, 230 Woodpigeon and 11 Stock Dove.

April 5th

Sand Lizard
Sand Lizard rising from the ashes on St. Catherine's Hill today - Chris Dresh
There is a Reptile Rescue taking place from 9:30 tomorrow.
Please see ARC Facebook or call
07810 770561 for details.
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit, some colouring nicely, at Stanpit today – Clinton Whale

A still, cloudy morning gave rise to some kind of migrant arrival today, including the first Whitethroat of the season - that, on Crouch Hill, Stanpit. Also on-site, at least 4 Willow Warbler and 20 Wheatear, while a steady immigration of Meadow Pipit was reckoned to be just under 400 birds, all prior to 10:00; also a Merlin, 4 Swallow and 3 Sand Martin seen to head north, with a Mistle Thrush travelling in roughly the opposite direction. Mediterranean Gull were also on the move, mostly to the east, with the peak period being late morning - in total, around seventy passed over in various flock sizes, the largest numbering 8 birds. Stanpit provided the wader interest, not least a Greenshank, but also the Ruff, the Spotted Redshank and 25 Black-tailed Godwit. Although most duck are now thinning out in numbers, there are still 125 Teal on the marsh, along with 6 Pintail and 2 Gadwall. Other wildfowl miscellany, albeit far from truly wild, came from a skein of 9 Greylag Goose west and 2 Canada Goose in-off.

Amendment: new information suggests the Wheatear total was more likely in excess of 30 birds.

Additional news: a Red-legged Partridge was on Priory Marsh.

April 4th

Yesterday was being heralded as the real start of the spring and hopes were very high for this morning - however, it was a real, real disappointment as a cold north-westerly wind and patchy cloud curtailed all but the slightest of passerine movement. For example, a 90-minute spell at Coastguards resulted in one(!) Meadow Pipit in-off the sea and efforts were quickly abandoned. This may have been a little too soon, however, as a brief lunchtime visit produced 69 birds arriving. The maximum Wheatear return was seven on the Barn Field, but four had earlier pitched onto the cliff top by Coastguards; also a single Sand Martin seen from there. Most of the other interest came from birds more associated with autumn: a female Bullfinch and a Redwing were in Wick Ditch, 3 Siskin overflew Double Dykes and 4 Golden Plover arrived over the end of the head. Actually, there was hint of some wader passage, with 2 Grey Plover west across Poole Bay and 2 Dunlin in Warren Hill. Meanwhile, around 10 Mediterranean Gull were logged and a Buzzard soared over the Barn Field. To finish up with the morning, a Firecrest was again in the Wood, 4 Teal and 3 Raven headed west, and there was the rather strange sight of a Brent Goose and a Cormorant travelling east together. Later, at Stanpit, the now very dark Spotted Redshank was present, along with the Ruff, a Snipe, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 37 Shelduck and 133 Brent Goose. 

April 3rd

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper – Clinton Whale

The bird of the day, in terms of both scarcity and looks, was an immaculately breeding-plumaged Slavonian Grebe on the sea just off the sandspit for much of the morning; also a party of 3 Red-breasted Merganser on the water there before they ultimately appeared to enter the harbour. In low cloud, drizzle and sometimes rain, expectations for visible, diurnal migrants were low, but there must have been favourable conditions over the northern French coast for birds to depart and then have to keep going once they hit our weather mid-Channel. Although impossible to accurately quantify, there was a significant arrival of Meadow Pipit - the low cloud that enveloped the head, even at lunchtime, producing almost constant calls of unseen birds. Given that, over a two hour period, 122 were logged from the terribly disadvantaged of a beach hut veranda, as well as 520 in an hour over Stanpit; then high hundreds, but quite conceivably thousands, must have traversed the area on a broad front. This afternoon, there were still birds trickling through. Also moving overhead were the year’s first Swallow and House Martin, six and two respectively - it’s not often the latter is recorded almost before the former - and at least 35 Mediterranean Gull, nearly all travelling as pairs. There weren’t quite so many grounded birds, but Wheatear totalled twenty-one - the Barn Field peaking with eight late in the day and two in-off at Mudeford Quay in heavy rain - while Wick held a smattering of Chiffchaff. There was movement at sea, the most notable being 9 Kittiwake east, including a tight group of six, but also 52 Common Scoter in varying flock sizes into the Solent, plus 2 Fulmar and 3 Gannet west. In addition to 22 Purple Sandpiper on the Long Groyne, there was a nice selection of waders at Stanpit: including the moulting Spotted Redshank, 2 Avocet, the Ruff, c.40 Black-tailed Godwit and 10 Dunlin; earlier a mixed flock of twelve, containing Ringed Plover and Dunlin, had left over the HHC. At least 2 Bearded Tit were in Wick Hams and further birds were heard from Priory Marsh, 2 Gadwall were in Barn Bight, 2 Pintail were on the marsh and a Great Crested Grebe was on the river, with a further five on the sea off Avon Beach. 

Omission: up to 6 Sandwich Tern were lingering offshore.

Additional news: a dusk visit to Stanpit produced a further 2 Pintail and 3 Mediterranean Gull, but the Brent Goose count was just 139, while only 13 Wigeon remained on-site.

April 2nd

It was a still, windless day dominated by a light drizzle. The bird news received comes from Hengistbury, where a female Wheatear and eight eastbound adult Mediterranean Gull were the only clear-cut travelling birds. In addition, a Blackcap and 8 Chiffchaff were in song, but it's possible these are now individuals on territory.

St. Catherine’s Hill / Town Common Fire Update
Chris Dresh of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) has provided us with the following information.

It would seem that all the Dartford Warbler, of which there are many, and Stonechat have remained on-site; with many of the ‘dartfords’ feasting on the glut of spiders currently exposed on the burnt ground. Presumably, this is only a temporary situation and once this food source has gone the birds will leave the area. The reptile story is even worse, however. Yesterday, around 125 animals, mostly Common Lizard, were rescued; but the almost complete absence of Sand Lizard suggests most of those are still in hibernation underground. While this may sound good news, in reality the weakened creatures will emerge into what is now a foodless desert, where they will be easy prey for the already attendant crows and magpies. Therefore, on forthcoming warm days, ARC will be undertaking rescue efforts which will involve patrolling the site and collecting any reptiles found, from when on they will be translocated to safe habitat. If you would like to get involved in these efforts, the first one likely being Saturday 4th, then please contact: Gary Powell on 07810 770561 or Chris Dresh on 07810 770567. You can also get latest news from ARC on Facebook and Twitter.

Finally and not for the faint hearted, but a poignant illustration of the effects of the fire, this photograph contains all six species of British reptile.

April 1st

With the northerly vectored wind persisting, it had the makings of another poor day - although things were somewhat salvaged by a drake Garganey east at sea and a Little Ringed Plover watched arriving. Other seasonal interest on Hengistbury came courtesy of 2 Wheatear and 14 Chiffchaff, while a departing Redwing was also on-site. Back to the sea and a Kittiwake plus 2 Gannet west and 6 Common Scoter east, as well as gaggle of plastic geese containing 5 Greylag Goose and 9 Canada Goose. Wildfowl of more interest, included twenty-three arriving Shelduck, 2 Shoveler and 2 Gadwall. 

Additional news: a couple of Firecrest were in the Wood.

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