2003 in Christchurch Harbour

When compared with 2002, this year was something of an anti-climax; with just 1 new species, Radde's Warbler, added to the harbour list, and few other genuine rarities; although Cirl Bunting and Corn Bunting had massive local value, as did a couple of Nuthatch sightings! In total, 212 species were recorded in the area, which is 6 less than last year.

During the early part of the year, flypast Bewick's Swan and White-fronted Goose were encouraging signs, as were all 5 grebe species seen before the end of February. A Great-white Egret seen over Stanpit on one occasion in January was only the second harbour record; while Spoonbill and Bittern were also recorded in this month and 2 White-fronted Goose settled briefly on Central Marsh.

Spring didn't really deliver the birds, although Hoopoe and Wryneck were both recorded, the latter normally associated with the autumn. A pair of Red-legged Partridge took up residence in the Barn Field, but didn't appear to produce any offspring. Even more amazing was a Grey Partridge was flushed from the top of the head in early March. As would be expected, Garganey and Little Ringed Plover put in appearances, and the season also saw a small number of Little Stint moving through. One of the highlights must surely be the 5 Pomarine Skua that settled on the water of the Beach Huts one May morning, before lazily heading west. Also worthy of mention were 239 Whimbrel seen heading east during a short May seawatch. A pair of Bearded Tit were present in the HHC well into the breeding season, but it is not known if any young were raised. Blue-headed Wagtails were also recorded during this time.

Late summer was frustrating as a probable Pacific Golden Plover was seen and heard briefly over Stanpit. If confirmed, this would be another second for the area. Otherwise, 3 Wood Sandpiper on Priory Marsh, a Temminck's Stint famously flushed from Wick Hams and a scattering of Green and Curlew Sandpiper were the wader's contribution. It was, however, a poor return passage for Little Stint, just one bird being recorded. Stanpit finally drew a blank with Spotted Crake, with none at all this year. The best bird for the period was a Barred Warbler seen on Hengistbury in mid-September, with same observer seeing a Goshawk shortly afterwards! There were several subsequent sightings of presumably the same bird; also seen on multiple occasions were Red Kite and Osprey. A family of pale-bellied Brent Goose that spent a few days around Blackberry Point were a real surprise.

As the autumn drew on, a Yellow-browed Warbler seen briefly by the Ironstone Quarry in early October. This month also saw the 2 previously mentioned Bunting, while November had Hawfinch, the first for many years, and Serin on Stanpit; as well as 3 lingering, uncharacteristically photogenic Ring Ousel. A Richard's Pipit was briefly on Stanpit golf course and Lapland Bunting were noted overhead on a couple of occasions, including a group of 4 birds; a couple of Twite and Snow Bunting also passed through. The site proved once again to be the Wood Pigeon Mecca with over 20 000+ bird movements being noted on at least 2 dates; this year saw the first ever easterly passage for the area. Despite intensive searching during late autumn, Hengistbury could not provide the elusive striped phylloscs, even though many were in adjacent patches; however, a Radde's Warbler in the bramble bushes close to the HHC was a harbour first. On the sea, just single Little Auk and Grey Phalarope were recorded this year, this was in October; also in that month, a Pectoral Sandpiper divided its time between Priory Marsh and the flooded fields around Barn Bight. The second Spoonbill of the year was seen over the HHC as it headed east.

As winter approached, 2 Snow Bunting spent a couple of weeks on Hengistbury, and a Woodlark overflew there. By late year, a Red-necked Grebe was present in the harbour and a Common Sandpiper is wintering on Fisherman's Bank. Throughout the year, 4 species of Owl, Barn, Tawny, Little and Short-eared were recorded, with one Little Owl favouring the North Scrubs as its day roost.

In terms of competition, year listing again took place with the winner totalling 202 species. The runner-up were placed around the 180 mark. Two day races took place, in August and October, with 105 and 110 species being the respective day totals.

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