Sightings for January 2003

January 31st

After a cold night the freshwater in the harbour remained heavily iced throughout the day. Some locally uncommon birds were seen around Stanpit, hinting at a minor cold weather influx. In Parky Meade Rail, the expected 80 or so Teal were joined by 4 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler and a first-winter drake Goldeneye; while a Mistle Thrush and Redwing were seen in the North Scrubs. Elsewhere in the harbour, a drake Goldeneye and 2 Shoveler were just north of Holloway's Dock, and a Kingfisher was heard around Fisherman's Bank, the latter not being reported for a while. Wader and Wigeon numbers were similar to yesterday, excepting Dunlin which were estimated around 300 birds. If there is going to be an arrival of diving duck over the weekend, they will favour the deeper water areas around the harbour. Traditional haunts in previous cold spells have included: Clay Pool, that's the deep formed by the confluence of the Avon and the Stour; the northern fringe of Parky Meade, birds tuck up against the reeds; also the south-east corner of the main part of the harbour.

January 30th

Despite excellent light and sheltered viewing conditions under the Hengistbury cliffs, a commendable 2 hour seawatch yielded only 2 Common Scoter and 2 Auk sp. This afternoon, out ventured the brave onto a very cold Stanpit, however, bird numbers were noticeably reduced; just 210 Dunlin, 23 Ringed Plover and 11 Grey Plover, while barely 100 Wigeon is the lowest count this winter. Birds are perhaps moving out ahead of the predicted weather!

January 29th

As we await the arrival of the coming cold snap, there is not much change to report. On Stanpit this morning a count produced 235 Dunlin, 167 Brent Goose, 137 Wigeon, 58 Teal and 36 Ringed Plover; while a dopping of 18 Shelduck was on Priory Marsh. At the same time, on a blustery Hengistbury, 3 Common Scoter, 2 Kittiwake and 1 Red-throated Diver were seen from the Beach Huts.

January 28th

Despite the overnight air temperature being a heady 8ºC, the strong northerly windchill made Hengistbury a less than comfortable place this morning. In fact, today's sole observer ventured only as far as the large bush halfway along Barn Bight. From there, the Great-northern Diver could be seen working its way along the red navigation marks in the main channel; this is something the bird has been noted doing before. A lone, drake Gadwall was in Barn Bight, along with 45 Teal and 1 Little Grebe. Looking across to the high tide wader roost at Stanpit, around 400 Dunlin and 25 Ringed Plover were counted. In the distance, Jackdaw could be seen around The Priory.

January 27th

Unfortunately, no reports have been received for today.

January 26th

Stanpit this morning showed little change in the numbers of Brent Geese (c150), Wigeon (c200) and Dunlin (c360). There were 6 Turnstone on Blackberry Point, 9 Shoveler in the Harbour and around 15 Grey Plover present. Limpy the Yellow-legged Gull remains faithful to the mudflats adjacent to East Marsh. There was also a (Scandinavian) Herring Gull of the argentatus form - this bird was quite distinct being noticeably larger with darker mantle and heavy but diffuse streaking around the head whilst still having pink legs. On Central Marsh up to 25 Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe were seen.

January 25th

There was no sign of the Great White Egret in the Harbour this morning but a dog walker reported seeing a Bittern in flight over Central Marsh. A sea watch this morning produced 11 Red-throated Diver ( 6 east & 5 west ), 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 12 Common Scoter, 6 Guillemot and 1 Razorbill. Two oiled Guillemot were also seen. The Great Northern Diver was again in the Harbour together with 2 Goldeneye. Barn Bight held 143 Teal and 8 Turnstone could be seen on Stanpit. A Brambling was heard over the woodland on Hengistbury. On Stanpit an unseasonal Whimbrel was on East Marsh this afternoon.

January 24th

This evening at Stanpit, a Great White Egret was seen in flight and appeared to come down in the Holloway's Dock area on Hengistbury. This is only the second record of this species in the harbour. Earlier in the day, the Great Northern Diver (wrestling with a flatfish) was again seen near the Run; but the sea itself was quiet with just 2 Common Scoter offshore, 1 Red-throated Diver moving east and a flock of 26 Pintail heading out. Sadly another oiled Guillemot was seen by the Long Groyne and there were 5 Purple Sandpiper in the same area.. The Brent Goose count on Stanpit was 152 - also on the marsh were 450 Dunlin, 30 Ringed Plover, 15 Grey Plover and 55 Snipe. Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull, was also in the usual spot. Tonight saw the third talk of the winter programme, and many thanks go to Simon Woolley for a very entertaining talk and some top class photographs. For those who missed it, or those who would like to see some of the shots again , click here to visit Simon's website.

January 23rd

There was no sign of the Red-necked Grebe off Double Dykes this morning - just a single Great Crested Grebe. Two Red-throated Diver were seen, one on the sea and one flying east - also moving east were 2 Kittiwake.

January 22nd

The Red-necked Grebe was again off Double Dykes for a short time this morning before flying west. This bird is probably wintering off Southbourne where it was seen just before Christmas. Not unexpected after the recent stormy weather two adult Little Gulls were seen - one off the beach and one in the Harbour just off Blackberry Point. There was just one Common Scoter on the sea off the beach huts - also noted were 15 Pintail moving west and 3 Red-throated Diver heading east. Counts from Stanpit today included 2 Goldeneye, 8 Shoveler, 11 Grey Plover, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 36 Snipe.

It was disturbing to see four badly oiled Guillemot on the beach. Hopefully this is just an isolated occurrence and not repeated along the south coast.

January 21st

The Mudeford sandspit held around 200 Dunlin and 50 Ringed Plover this morning - obviously birds pushed off Stanpit by the exceptionally high tides. There were also up to 20 Turnstone commuting between Avon beach and the sandspit.

January 20th

The inclement weather this morning meant there was very little opportunity for sensible birding. However one foolhardy soul ventured as far as the beach huts and was rewarded with one Gannet for his efforts!

January 19th

After last night's deluge, conditions had dried up by mid-morning. The only reports received today were from Stanpit, where the limping, third-winter Yellow-legged Gull remains faithful to the southern tip of East Marsh. Counts of the commoner species were, 380 Dunlin, 160 Wigeon, 157 Brent Goose with less than 10 first-winters noted, 114 Teal, 43 Ringed Plover, 23 Grey Plover and 1 Shoveler. Priory Marsh was nicely flooded and attracted 12 Shelduck and a few Lapwing. 2 Water Rail and 2 Little Grebe were in Parky Meade Rail.

January 18th

A relatively warm morning with a light easterly veering south during the morning. Seawatching was the order of the day with the birds seeming to come in fits and starts. A total of 7 Red-throated Diver moving in mixed directions were noted, also 1 Great-northern Diver east. Good numbers of Eider were seen, two groups, one of 7 birds the other of 2, went west, as did 1 Goldeneye. Moving east were small groups of Pintail aggregating 25 birds, 4 Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Great-crested Grebe. Other seabirds were, at least 7 Common Scoter and 2 Guillemot. Around groyne S8 on the sandspit there were 5 Purple Sandpiper and 4 Turnstone; while the Great-northern Diver was feeding just inside the harbour in the current of The Run. Good views of the latter, even photographs, would have been obtainable from the tip of Mudeford Quay. Also in the harbour were 2 Goldeneye, including 1 drake. By mid-morning the Avon Valley shoot had flushed many dabbling duck high over the harbour and out to sea, estimates were 200+ Pintail, 40 Wigeon, 9 Shoveler and 5 Gadwall. At Stanpit this morning, there were 3 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 adults and one third winter, 2 Ruff and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit.

January 17th

Unfortunately, no reports were received for today.

January 16th

A still, quite mild day with all parts of the harbour being covered. At Hengistbury this morning, 2 Redwing went over the head, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was in Barn Bight along with 2 Goldeneye and the Great-northern Diver could be still be seen in the harbour. The sea was quiet with just 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 passing Goldeneye being noted. Wick Fields were watched around lunchtime: 2 Chiffchaff were in the hedges, 22 Snipe went overhead and 2 Jackdaw could be seen about the Priory. On Stanpit this afternoon, presumably the same Mediterranean Gull was present, also the regular third-winter Yellow-legged Gull. An unusual winter record was 1Common Sandpiper off Fisherman's Bank. More expected were 200 Dunlin, 150 Brent Goose, 10 Grey Plover and 2 Grey Wagtail. Finally, just before dusk, 2 Bearded Tit were seen in Wick Reeds and 12 Shoveler overflew the harbour.

January 15th

A Sandwich Tern moved east past the Beach Huts this morning. This is probably not as surprising as it first appears as wintering birds have been seen regularly in both Poole and Weymouth Harbours in the last couple of weeks. There was also a Slavonian Grebe off Double Dykes. Most other birds were moving in a westerly direction - these included 6 Red-throated and 2 Black-throated Diver, 1 Velvet Scoter, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Little Gull and 4 Kittiwake. Around 20 auks were also seen with 3 Guillemot passing by very close. More than 40 Common Scoter were scattered on the sea between Double Dykes and the end of the head. Two Purple Sandpiper were noted moving between the groynes. There is still at least one Firecrest in the woodland.

January 14th

In the Harbour today were 3 Goldeneye, all females and the Great Northern Diver was just inside the Run. On the sea there were 4 Common Scoter along with 2 Guillemot - also both Little Gull and Kittiwake moved west. A party of around 30 Black-tailed Godwit were seen flying north out of the Harbour towards the Avon Valley where there is a large wintering flock. One Firecrest was seen in the usual spot by the first bend.

January 13th

The much milder conditions made for a very pleasant morning on Hengistbury where the wintering Goldeneye and Little Grebe were just off Barn Bight. Sea watching produced a dozen or so auks including one Razorbill which pitched into the sea close inshore, 8 Red-throated Diver, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 3 Pintail. The scoter flock which numbered up to forty birds towards the end of last year seems to have dispersed. The Firecrest were still present and 2 Jay were seen in the woodland.

January 12th

Three or four intrepid birders ventured out into the frozen wastes this morning. My car was registering -5°C when I arrived at Stanpit! The Great Northern Diver was seen near the harbour mouth and 4 Red-breasted Merganser were off Mudeford Quay - 3 Red-breasted Merganser also passed by the beach huts heading east. The Teal count in Parky Mead has increased to 230 - also in the Harbour were 8 Little Grebe, 5 Pintail, 7 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler and 4 Goldeneye. Snipe were much more visible on Stanpit obviously due to the frozen ground - there were also 2 Turnstone, 1 Knot and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit amongst the many Dunlin and Grey Plover. The Bittern hasn't been reported since the original sighting. Two Bearded Tits and a Grey Wagtail were by the HHC and the 2 Firecrest were still favouring the evergreen shrub on the first bend in the woodland.

January 11th

Much less wind than yesterday and a lighter overnight frost, but it was still cold if you stood still for too long. Most of the coverage was from Stanpit today, where the familiar, limping third winter Yellow-legged Gull that was a regular in the autumn seems to have returned. In the area around Smithy's Field, there was 1 Blackcap, 1 Fieldfare and 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Out on the marsh itself, the birds were similar to yesterday, but 2 Bearded Tit were seen from Grimmery Bank as they briefly flitted out of Wick Reeds. There was a healthy count of 177 very vocal Teal in Parky Meade Rail also 5 Pintail in Stanpit Bight, while 18 Shoveler and 3 Tufted Duck overflew the harbour. Late morning, a Kingfisher went through the old depot site towards Fisherman's Bank.

January 10th

Another cold day and another cold weather bird, this time a Bittern seen from Stanpit this 10:15 morning. The bird could be seen from the bench on the riverbank by looking across into the reeds just to the right of the HHC. Also on Stanpit this morning were 170 Brent Goose, 160 Dunlin, 20 Grey Plover, 20 Ringed Plover, 4 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. This afternoon, a Jack Snipe was seen on the ground in Central Marsh, 2 Yellow-legged Gull, an adult and third winter, were in the Bight and there was a sprinkling of Rock Pipit across the marsh. Due to the hard ground and icy water margins, there are many birds feeding close to pathways, including normally shy species such as Teal. Keeping disturbance to a minimum and allowing birds to feed and conserve vital energy is of huge importance in these conditions.

January 9th

Despite similar conditions to yesterday, the harbour was admirably birded for the duration of daylight hours. The reward came this afternoon as a Spoonbill entered the harbour from the east, and was watched from Stanpit before descending out of sight into the area around the HHC. Conceivably, the bird could still be present. Other birds seen around Stanpit at the same time were 2 Jack Snipe, accidentally flushed from very close to pathways, a Peregrine overhead, 10 Grey Plover and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. Earlier in the day, 1 Jack Snipe was in the North Scrubs, along with a Bullfinch. A beach walk at Hengistbury in the morning saw 5 Red-throated Diver, 3 past and 2 on the sea, 2 Little Gull, 20 Common Scoter, 4 Great-crested Grebe, 1 Guillemot, 1 Razorbill and 6 unidentified Auk, also 4 Turnstone on the sandspit. Just after dawn, a Ruff flew over the pitch and putt course; and, as yesterday, Lapwing were on the move, with around 150 seen out to sea from the head. On the water inside the harbour were 2 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe and a lone Knot was on the edges on Barn Bight. The information services reported a Spotted Redshank in Holloway's Dock.

Tonight's meeting regarding the Hengistbury Head proposal was a fiery affair, with well over 300 attendees. While there was strong local opposition to the development on the basis of it being on a Greenfield site, the overall plan does mean the restoration of over 6 acres of existing car park to natural grassland. Coupled with that, it is hoped the new information centre would increase visitors' awareness of the head's birdlife and consequently reduce inadvertent disturbance. On balance, CHOG would tend to favour the proposal, but would comment the new building might be better accepted if it were a little smaller. Letters to Bournemouth Council, expressing points of view, should be received by 17th January, click here for address details.

January 8th

The lowest air temperature so far this winter, minus 3 Celsius being recorded at dawn. Despite the persistent wind, the cliffs on Hengistbury provided shelter for some relatively comfortable beach birding. A Red-necked Grebe was on the sea off Double Dykes, and at the end of the head a Black-necked Grebe drifted west close inshore. Other birds on the sea were 10 Red-throated Diver and 8 Great-crested Grebe, these must have been encouraged into the area by the recent winds. Movement on the sea included 111 Brent Goose and 1 Eider east, as well as around 30 Auk. Short-billed ground feeding waders are often the first to move on in cold weather, so the sight of 250 Lapwing and 4 Golden Plover flying south out to sea was no real surprise. The Firecrest have not been inclined to desert however, with 2 birds in the Wood today, also a Jay in there, while 1 Bearded Tit was in the HHC reeds. After a short absence, Goldeneye are reappearing in the harbour with 6 being seen today.

January 7th

A lighter frost than the yesterday, but a significantly more uncomfortable wind chill from the east. Birding from the warmth of the car on Mudeford was an eminently sensible option, and not altogether unproductive. The Great-northern Diver was seen fishing in the Run, but the most bizarre event befell a female Common Scoter that had drifted close inshore and attracted the attention of a posse of large gulls. At one point, a Herring Gull was seen to grab the hapless individual by the head and lift it a full 3 metres clear of the water before releasing it. The marauders eventually tired of their pursuits and left the bird in peace, it must have been healthier than it looked. Also seen was a group 3 Eider containing 2 drakes passing east, 12 Common Scoter also moved in the same direction. Other birds noted from the quay were 1 Guillemot, a few unidentified Auk and 1 Diver species. From Hengistbury, where one particularly hardy observer ventured, a Red-breasted Merganser was seen in the harbour and a Red-throated Diver went past.

January 6th

Another frosty morning, this time with a slight northerly wind chill. Just like yesterday's Eider another wanderer returned, with the Great-northern Diver being seen in the harbour from Barn Bight. Despite being looked for, the bird was last seen on 28th December and the rarity of divers in the harbour suggests it is almost certainly the same individual. Also in the harbour were 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Goldeneye. Midway along the sandspit this afternoon, there were 30 Ringed Plover and 10 Turnstone.

January 5th

A beautiful crisp, windless day which saw the first significant frost of the season. This made the first WeBS count of the year an almost pleasurable experience. Numbers seen from Stanpit were: 350 Dunlin, 297 Coot, 180 Brent Goose, 184 Wigeon, 166 Teal, 23 Snipe, 21 Shelduck, 17 Shoveler, 9 Grey Plover, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Kingfisher, 2 Little Grebe and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. The low Snipe and almost non-existent Lapwing counts suggest birds may have moved on ahead of the cold weather. The female Eider has returned to Mudeford Quay and 5 Turnstone were seen around there. A Blackcap was heard calling adjacent to Two Riversmeet car park.

January 4th

The overnight temperature must have dropped below zero as there was the thinnest layer of ice on some of the shallow puddles on Hengistbury, but the cold northerly wind made it feel much colder. Even more wintry was a 30 minute snow shower in the mid-morning. Just after first light, a skein of 3 grey geese flew west over Hengistbury, 2 were positively identified as White-fronted but the remaining, larger appearing bird could not have a definite name put on it. There was above average interest on the sea, albeit mostly very distant, at least 8 Eider were seen, also 5 Red-throated Diver, 5 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Razorbill, 1 Guillemot and over 40 unidentified Auk. Only 10 Common Scoter were certainly counted, but it is likely there are many more still offshore. Pintail were mobile today with 15 or so birds being noted. On Stanpit this afternoon there were 350 Dunlin, 180 Brent Goose and 12 Grey Plover, also seen from there were 2 Goldeneye. In the late afternoon, the Firecrest was seen by the second bend on Hengistbury, and a Short-eared Owl was mobbed by Crows over Barn Bight before appearing to leave high towards the sea.

January 3rd

A dry day with the wind getting chillier and veering northerly throughout. The Firecrest was again seen on Hengistbury in the normal spot by the right hand bend. On the sandbar there were 7 Purple Sandpiper, around 30 Ringed Plover and 1 Turnstone, along with a handful of Dunlin. In the harbour Little Grebe have reappeared with 5 birds being noted in Barn Bight, and a Kingfisher in the same area. Just 6 Common Scoter were visible on the sea today. It's hoped the coming cold snap could bring some diving duck to the harbour.

January 2nd

The Beach Huts could only be reached via the high route along the Batters this morning, both the path through the Wood and the beach were under several inches of water. The wind was a driving south-westerly, which brought 2 Great Skua close inshore as they harassed a flock of over 50 Gannet as well as the 25 Common Scoter on the sea. More Scaup were seen today, this time a flock of 5 birds that came towards the Head before veering west. Also seen moving by were 6 Kittiwake and the Firecrest was again recorded in the Wood. On the end of the sandbar, at least 100 Dunlin and 4 Purple Sandpiper were present.

January 1st

The New Year hardly got off to a flying start, the atrocious weather deterring nearly all observers. Not surprisingly Mudeford Quay got the most coverage, where a healthy count of 10 Purple Sandpiper was made along with 2 Turnstone. The only other notable records were of a single brownhead Goldeneye on the river by the HHC and a Peregrine over Stanpit.

So the curtain closes on a great year of Christchurch Harbour birding. In total, 218 species plus 3 sub-species were recorded. Of the 218, five were new for the area - Rough-legged Buzzard, Bee-eater, White Stork, Bobolink and Pallid Swift. This year has certainly seen the harbour birded with renewed enthusiasm, mainly fuelled by a healthy species count competition amongst some of the locals, the winner seeing 209, a full 25 species clear of second place! The closely fought runners up spot was settled in the final minute of the final seawatch of the year, when today's 2 Scaup appeared as telescopes were already being packed away. Despite the "pressures" the challenge brought, the whole year has been immensely enjoyable and we are looking forward to an even better 2003. Thanks go to everyone who so sportingly participated and are we up for it again next year? That 218 has to be beaten. Thanks also go to everyone who has visited the harbour and contributed their sightings. All records for the year are still welcomed and can be submitted via sightings . We hope to see many more birders in the coming months - all are welcome.

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