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Sightings for Month: March 2024

March 31st

There was a passage of at least 50 Sandwich Tern east past Hengistbury this morning, as well as the season’s first 3 Common Tern. Also logged offshore, a couple of adult Little Gull, a Fulmar and a light movement of Common Scoter; with the settled flock being around twenty-five. Grounded passerines were few – 5 Wheatear and 2 Willow Warbler being about it – while a handful of inbound Linnet and Meadow Pipit passed over; as did 35+ Mediterranean Gull. At Stanpit, a lone Brent Goose was present, along with now just 88 Wigeon and 28 Dunlin.

March 30th

Mediterranean Gull – Scott Usher

For the next two weeks at least, Mediterranean Gulls will be passing over Christchurch to their breeding grounds in the Solent and beyond. They first bred in the UK in the late 60s and until well into the 90s were considered a rare bird. Check here for their distinctive calls, which will be frequently heard over the area. The key visual feature from the underside is the pure white wings.

There was a fair bit of movement over or past the harbour today. Sticking with the photographic theme, the ‘med’ Gull total was at least 300 birds, but also seen travelling were: 2 Spoonbill, a Marsh Harrier, an Eider, 4 Grey Plover, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 18 Common Gull, 3 Redpoll, 11 Siskin and 48 Linnet. Meanwhile, at least 3 Swallow were seen arriving – so now making it four hirundines for year list; with settled, migrant passerines including 10 Willow Warbler and 8 Wheatear. Rounding up: a couple of Firecrest were in the Wood; 5 Purple Sandpiper and two early Sanderling were on the sandspit groynes; and 4 Sandwich Tern and a diver lingered offshore.

March 29th


Red-rumped Swallow – Matthew Barfield (upper), Alan Hayden and Scott Usher (lower)

It was not a bad Good Friday – a Red-rumped Swallow gracing the Wooden Bridge area for nearly two hours, from around 07:45. There was also support from a drake Garganey heading inland over Priory Marsh and an Arctic Skua lingering off Mudeford Quay for a while late in the morning. Prior to that, however, the sea, from the Beach Huts, had been poor – just a Great Northern Diver, 2 Kittiwake, a Guillemot and the usual 20 Common Scoter. Meanwhile, around 500 Black-tailed Godwit flirted with the area – presumably some of the 3-4000 currently using the Avon Valley – had three, accompanying Ruff. To round up: a couple of Marsh Harrier were around early on – one of them an adult male; 15 Purple Sandpiper were seen from Mudeford Quay; at least 11 Mediterranean Gull passed east; and, finishing where we started, a male Bullfinch was by the Wooden Bridge.

March 28th

Incredibly high waters at Stanpit. If the Rusty Boat wasn’t so full of holes, it may have relocated – Jackie Smith

Despite the blustery and wet conditions, an early Sedge Warbler was on site – sub-singing by the HHC early on for a brief period. Meanwhile, the sea mustered just a Kittiwake and 2 Pintail. This evening, Crouch Hill was carpeted in gulls and included twenty-four, adult Lesser Black-backed Gull – a quite decent number for the area and presumably travelling birds. Also, a storm-driven Kittiwake and a Bar-tailed Godwit. Of breeding interest, the first Tawny Owl egg from the Hengistbury nest box has hatched.

March 27th

Red-necked Grebe – Leo Pyke

The only record for the day is rather a good one – the photographed Red-necked Grebe on the sea for a while off the Beach Huts.

March 26th

A female Ring Ouzel was found in the Barn Field late in the morning, where it remained until mid-afternoon. Also in that area, a single Wheatear, while 2 Great White Egret, 3 Siskin and 9 Sand Martin passed over. A fairly lively sea saw 322 Black-tailed Godwit pass west – with a couple of Ruff in one of the flocks – plus, a Black-throated Diver, 4 Red-breasted Merganser, 28 Common Scoter, 2 Brent Goose and 3 Sandwich Tern, all east; with a further 25 scoter settled. To finish, there were 29 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit groynes and, late in the day, there was a Spoonbill at Stanpit.

March 25th

All the news comes from a Beach Huts seawatch. The first returning Sandwich Tern for the season were logged – seventeen in all – as well as: the same number of westbound Mediterranean Gull, likewise 46 Common Gull, a Kittiwake, 2 Great Northern Diver, a Red-throated Diver, 2 Eider, a Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Shoveler, 22 Brent Goose, 2 Fulmar and a Razorbill; with the regular twenty or so Common Scoter settled and 7 Purple Sandpiper on the groynes.

March 24th

Red Kite – Scott Usher

Purple Sandpiper and Ringed Plover – Derek Morgan

Greenfinch – Ray Scott

As has become tradition over the last 10-15 years, March is the month for Red Kite – two today, one over Fisherman’s Bank in the morning, the second over Wick in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the waders on the sandspit included 22 Purple Sandpiper and 25 Ringed Plover; with 6 Wheatear at Stanpit. Later in the day, a Bar-tailed Godwit was seen from the marsh, as was a passing Spoonbill and several Sand Martin. To finish, 3 Marsh Harrier are still using the area.

March 23rd

A ringed, male Reed Bunting (upper) and Great Tit – taken from the bird hide – Roger Edwards

A pair of Sand Martin are also already setting up home on Hengistbury – Adrian Simmons

Despite some early, fine weather, there is little to report. Intriguingly, however, a Nuthatch was seen flying along Roebury Lane towards Hengistbury, where 5 Wheatear were on the Barn Field. Otherwise, it’s all from Stanpit and involved: a further 3 Wheatear on Crouch Hill, a Bar-tailed Godwit on South Marsh, and flyovers of Marsh Harrier and Buzzard.

March 22nd

The Purple Sandpiper flock on the sandspit, near the Beach House café, numbered twenty-one this morning, along with 14 Ringed Plover. There is little other news, however: the Barn Field Wheatear peaked at five – all along the southern edge, where the footfall is currently reduced due to the closure of the path at Double Dykes, while two pairs of Bullfinch were along Roebury Lane. More generally, there has been some news from the white-tailed eagle team, which confirms there were actually three birds about the Christchurch area yesterday – the regular female G818 from the 2021 release, plus male G641 and female G644 from last year’s release.

March 21st

Starting with the arriving migrants and an early House Martin – not an easy bird to see in the recording area in spring – past Coastguards this morning. Also perhaps slightly on the early side was a Willow Warbler on Wick, where there had actually been one in song yesterday. Meanwhile, the Wheatear total was at least twenty – the best spots being the traditional Barn Field and South Marsh. Finishing the theme, a couple of Sand Martin went over Central Marsh, 14 Chiffchaff were returned from Wick and 4 Blackcap were logged. On the converse – i.e. birds on there way from our shores – Stanpit hosted 6 Shoveler, of which five were drakes, 2 Pintail, 29 Brent Goose, around 300 Wigeon and a Common Gull. To round up: 3 Bullfinch, two males and a female, were just downriver from the Viewing Platform; a couple of Mediterranean Gull were on the Marsh; and the White-tailed Eagle experience was a bird settled, mostly on Blackberry Point, for nearly two hours from 07:30, plus one low over Wick at 08:40.

March 20th

White-tailed Eagle – David Faulkner (upper) & Leo Pyke

Skylark are now in frequent song over the western part of Hengistbury – David Faulkner

…and Wheatear – Mike Gibbons

Wheatear arrived today – at least twenty-four about the area – the concentrations being: the fenced area on the sandspit, the Barn Field and Crouch Hill. Other notable news concerned a Green Woodpecker – once a resident, but not for several years – heard on Wick and a good count of 35 Purple Sandpiper at the northern end of the sandspit. Meanwhile, around 16 Mediterranean passed through, up to 15 Chiffchaff were on Wick – as were 3 Blackcap, a singing male and two females – and a Great Crested Grebe was off Goldeneye Point. The White-tailed Eagle spent some time settled inside the harbour, but then headed back inland and was joined by a second.

March 19th

Little news from a day of near-constant drizzle, punctuated only by bursts of rain. A male Wheatear was at Stanpit, along with 52 Brent Goose.

March 18th

White-tailed Eagle – Dave Miller

A ringed Great Spotted Woodpecker in the Wood – Dave Miller

…and the ever-present Buzzard – Dave Miller

A White-tailed Eagle flew through the harbour and exited east at around 10:00 this morning, with the afternoon at Stanpit producing: a female Wheatear on Crouch Hill, 2 Sand Martin north and 4 Grey Plover around the bight. Meanwhile, wildfowl continue to drift away – the Brent Goose gaggle reduced to around thirty today.

March 17th

Great Crested Grebe – Jeremy Mayes

There was a modicum of inbound migration over Hengistbury this morning – 235 Meadow Pipit, 12 Pied Wagtail, 5 Linnet and a settled Wheatear; with other airborne travellers represented by: a Brambling, 8 Siskin, 31 Chaffinch, a Grey Wagtail, 9 Fieldfare and a Reed Bunting. Meanwhile: at least 50 Chiffchaff were across the head and Wick, the usual twenty or so Common Scoter were on the sea and a Guillemot passed west.

March 16th

Despite a lovely morning of weather, the only news for the day is of 12 Cattle Egret heading inland just after 8:00 and 5 Chiffchaff on Wick.

March 15th

Wheatear – Scott Usher

Kittiwake – Scott Usher

Dartford Warbler, as always captured from a public path – Mark Taylor

The season’s first trans-Saharan migrant, the photographed male Wheatear, was on Crouch Hill this afternoon; when a Kittiwake allowed close approach on Grimmery Bank and at least 5 Mediterranean Gull were resting in Stanpit Bight – with a further four seen over Wick. The only other news involves Chiffchaff in song at a few spots around the area.

March 14th

A trio of gulls at Stanpit. Left to right: Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull and Common Gull – Jackie Smith

There were a couple of nice moments at sea this morning. Firstly, a drake Velvet Scoter headed west; then, just several minutes later, a female-type Long-tailed Duck was on the water, in the company of a Razorbill – the duck taking a few short flights, the last towards Steamer Point. Also from the sea: a nice total of 17 Shoveler – with the Wigeon flock – and 3 Pintail west; 23 Common Scoter; and thirty-nine westbound Common Gull, plus 2 Mediterranean Gull in the opposite direction. Finishing with the sandspit news, a Purple Sandpiper was on the groynes. Meanwhile, Wick hosted a Fieldfare, 10 Chiffchaff and the ever-present Buzzard; and, later in the day, 16 Pintail were logged at Stanpit.

March 13th

There was a nice variety of passerines on Hengistbury this morning, including the first three, reported Linnet of the spring; as well as a Brambling, a Siskin, 2 Firecrest and ‘several’ Redwing. Chiffchaff were present there, but not counted, however – so thirteen from Wick being the only definite number. A quiet sea produced just a Red-throated Diver, twenty eastbound Mediterranean Gull – including a flock of sixteen, 3 Gannet and twenty-one, settled Common Scoter.

March 12th

Firstly, a bit of ringing-recovery interest. A 2cy male Sparrowhawk that recently fell foul of the Priory peregrines was ringed last September – caught in mist nets set for a yellow wagtail roost session. Back to today and nice variety at sea – the notables being an adult Yellow-legged Gull, that settled for a while, a Kittiwake and a good total of 36 Shag. Also noted – a couple of Fulmar, 10 Gannet, 32 Pintail and 28 Brent Goose, the latter eastbound. Passerine-wise, Hengistbury contributed 2 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing, a Siskin and a Firecrest; with Wick offering 6 Chiffchaff. To finish, a female-type Marsh Harrier was about and a Buzzard, not the regular bird, headed over high to the north.

March 11th

A new-in Chiffchaff – Peter Boardman

Dartford Warbler by a Hengistbury pathway – Peter Boardman

Despite the gloomy conditions, migrants arrived overnight – although none from south of the Sahara. The Chiffchaff estimate from Hengistbury and Wick was fifty, while 143 Meadow Pipit and 8 Pied Wagtail were seen coming in-off. Strangely, however, all the day’s Mediterranean Gull – ten of them – were heading in an unexpected, westerly direction, as were 4 Pintail and a Great Crested Grebe. Sticking with offshore sightings, there were 26 Common Scoter settled and a roving Grey Seal. To finish, a Firecrest was in the Wood and 3 Bullfinch were logged on Wick – the pair by the Viewing Platform and one calling by the Wooden Bridge.

March 10th

An exemplar, breeding-plumaged ‘Scandinavian’ – littoralis race – Rock Pipit – Scott Usher

Other than the photograph, there is nothing to report upon.

March 9th

It’s a short one tonight and all from Wick, where there were 5 Chiffchaff, a Bullfinch by the Viewing Platform and the regular Buzzard.

March 8th

Nuthatch are always a premium bird in the recording area – this one on Wick this morning – Dave Miller

The regular Buzzard – Alan Crockard

Despite the fine weather, there is relatively little to report. Linking with recent in-harbour observations about Common Gull being on the move – a total of eighty-four passed east at sea this morning; likewise, 9 Gannet, while 96 Meadow Pipit coasted. Chiffchaff were again around – eight reported, but no doubt more – and a good ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit, littoralis, was around Stanpit Bight, where 24 Pintail rested.

March 7th

A good candidate for ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit – David Faulkner
As a side note, look at the leg colour – most literature says the species has dark legs

Bullfinch – Alan Crockard

Teal – David Faulkner

Arriving Chiffchaff were definitely about the place today – at least eight around, some in song – the most being in the Nursery area. In seasonal contrast, a couple of Fieldfare were on Wick and 4 Redwing were in the North Scrubs. It’s the month when the Stanpit, saltmarsh Rock Pipit attract interest – of a total of eight birds, in addition to the photographed, putative individual, there were three littoralis race in breeding plumage and sporting a pinky flush to the breast. As per the weekend, a group of eleven, preening Common Gull were likely travellers; with other bits from the marsh coming from 124 Brent Goose and around 580 Wigeon – the latter a big drop from Sunday. To wrap up, a pair of Bullfinch was again near the Viewing Platform on Wick.

March 6th

Peacock Butterfly, one of four seen at Hengistbury today – Peter Boardman

Once the early morning fog had cleared, it was a lovely, sunny day with very little breeze. A visit to Mudeford Quay produced 3 Great Crested Grebe, a Red-throated Diver and 2 Purple Sandpiper, as well as the usual flock of 21 Common Scoter on the sea, while a single Siskin flew over. Wick held 6 Redwing, 4 Chiffchaff, including a couple of singing males, and the usual Buzzard that flew north towards the Avon Valley in late morning. At least 3 Mediterranean Gull flew over the Harbour.

March 5th

Meadow Pipit continue to trickle in – up to thirty about Stanpit this morning – when a Chiffchaff was also present. Meanwhile, around 90 Black-tailed Godwit headed high inland. Over on Wick, a pair of Bullfinch was again near the Viewing Platform, a Peregine passed over and the Buzzard was again settled.

March 4th

This morning, the sandspit held a nice total of 21 Purple Sandpiper and a Merlin passed west at sea. Otherwise, however, it was relatively quiet – just 20 Common Scoter and a Great Crested Grebe on the water, 8 Common Gull, 2 Gannet and an auk, being the reward for just under two hours work. Finishing with the birds, around 40 Black-tailed Godwit came in from the north and settled at Stanpit. Now to mammals, and the unfortunate incidence of a Harbour Porpoise washed up on the Beach.

March 3rd

2cys of Black-headed Gull (left) and Common Gull – Scott Usher

Grey Plover – Scott Usher

The final WeBS count of the season was highlighted with a fine total of 1209 Wigeon – potentially a site record? Other numbers, mostly from the census, but with a couple of top-ups, were: 10 Pintail, a Shoveler, 101 Teal, 90+ Brent Goose, 3 Shelduck and 2 Great Crested Grebe; a Purple Sandpiper, 2 Grey Plover, around 10 Ringed Plover and 120 Dunlin, but just a single Oystercatcher(!); and 2 Mediterranean Gull, plus 11 Common Gull – all but one of those adults. In addition, a party of 12 Cattle Egret was on Stanpit early on, before heading inland, and a couple of Peregrine were about.

March 2nd

This morning, Wick held a nice selection of 2 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing and a Bullfinch; with other news, involving: a Velvet Scoter east past Hengistbury and a Purple Sandpiper amongst 60 Dunlin on the sandspit.

March 1st

This morning, a Water Pipit was on the end of the sandspit, viewed from Mudeford Quay; from where an in-flight, 2cy Yellow-legged Gull was also noted. Meanwhile, the Pintail at Stanpit peaked at forty, with 3 Shoveler, 115 Brent Goose and 52 Black-tailed Godwit about the marsh. On Wick, a pair of Bullfinch was between the Viewing Platform and the HHC – a spot, in previous seasons, where the subdued song of the male has been heard.

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