Sightings for December 2005

December 31st

On a mild morning of westerly wind, the seawatch was slightly up on the previous few days, courtesy of a single Red-breasted Merganser east. A sign of just how quiet it has been. Only other "interest" was a Shelduck east and a Great-crested Grebe on the sea. At this point, it was looking extremely unlikely there was going to be anything to change the year-list race, so it was decided to visit Somerset to look at a thrush. Earlier, the Goldeneye, now back down to 3 birds, flew a short way upriver. This afternoon produced the best bird for a while, as an adult Mediterranean Gull was on the HHC mudbar, also 8 Common Gull across the area. Around Stanpit Bight, there were 7 Shoveler, 6 females and the young drake, and a single Gadwall and Shelduck. Also there, 21 Grey Plover, 19 Ringed Plover and 17 Black-tailed Godwit. The Dunlin numbered exactly 322 and the Brent Goose 90. Closing the year, off Mudeford Quay, there were 4 Great-crested Grebe.

December 30th

Warmer, but wetter! This morning's conditions made the harbour, quite simply, unbirdable. The south-south-easterly wind meant the Beach Huts would afford no shelter from the heavy rain, while the high tide at Stanpit flooded most areas, making the marsh almost completely inaccessible.

December 29th

Minus 3.5°C in Stanpit car park this morning and it didn't actually get too much warmer throughout the day, although the lack of wind made it far more comfortable than the previous couple of mornings. The year-listers were out again, but it's hard to see where a new species is coming from - this cold is hardly driving diving duck and reedbed lurkers towards us. Hengistbury has been so dismal of late that Stanpit was reconnoitred today, where a Water Pipit on Central Marsh was the best record, however, 2 Siskin over is also good for mid-winter. The 4 Goldeneye were out in the harbour and a Kingfisher was hunting over Mother Siller's Channel. A minimum of 22 Black-tailed Godwit and 10 Grey Plover were in the area, while in Parky Meade Rail alone, 135 Teal were counted, suggesting some sort of influx.

December 28th

It was another degree or so cooler this morning, and that, along with the north wind, tested the mettle. The same two crazy boys were out and were as disappointed as yesterday. Cold snaps mean birds, don't they? The only new arrivee was another female Goldeneye, making the total now 4 birds. At least 4 Shoveler were seen over the area and a Great-crested Grebe was on the sea. Lastly, an appeal to all users of Stanpit Marsh, whatever your activity. During periods of cold weather, it is more essential than ever for birds to conserve energy, in order to keep them warm. If this energy is consumed unnecessarily, then body heat will be lost. In the conditions we are currently experiencing, conservation of energy can, quite literally, mean the difference between life and death for some birds. Please do try to take care not to disturb any of the birds that are feeding or roosting on the marsh. Thank you for your help.

December 27th

The air temperature this morning at the HHC was one below zero, however, a strengthening northerly wind made it feel far colder. Only two souls ventured out and they were treated to a one hour seawatch that produced just 3 Gadwall, in over the Beach Huts. Only other amusement was when one of those present realised he had forgotten to boil the kettle before filling his coffee flask! On the way to the Beach Huts, it could be seen that yesterday's Goldeneye absentee had returned. In a north wind, a walk along the beach can be very pleasant and, this afternoon, on such a perambulation, 3 Eider and 1 Red-throated Diver were seen heading west, while 2 Guillemot were on the sea. On the return journey, the Double Bends Firecrest was seen.

December 26th

The northern edges of the recording area suffered the merest of frost, which soon melted away, but a damp chill persisted in the air for most of the day. Alas, still little wind. Most areas received some attention, so, for no particular reason, let's start on Stanpit. A single Bar-tailed Godwit was around Stanpit Bight, where 23 Ringed Plover were new arrivers. Other counts involved c200 Dunlin, 10 Grey Plover, 6 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Shelduck. The Brent Goose peaked at 98 birds, with 40 first-winters, an amazing 40% ratio, and seemed reasonably settled between East and North Marshes. Over to Hengistbury, and the end of the sandspit was reached. From there, a count of 48 Turnstone was made, while 2 Purple Sandpiper were on groyne S2. Also on the head, confirmation there are 2 wintering Firecrest, as birds were seen at both the normal spots. That's by the Double Bends and just past Holloway's Dock. At sea, 3 Red-throated Diver and 4 Common Scoter passed west, and 3 Guillemot were settled. Inside the harbour, the Goldeneye have reduced to a pair and were involved in courtship - they've obviously not heard the weather forecast! A count of 9 Little Grebe is the highest for probably a couple of years and a total of 4 Great-crested Grebe, in-harbour, is also very reasonable. There are also some good additions to yesterday's post.

Additional news: a Jack Snipe was on Central Marsh, along with 6 Snipe and 6 Black-tailed Godwit.

December 25th

The light, overnight frost cleared fairly quickly and only a cool north-easterly served to remind of the chill, on an otherwise pleasant and clear day. As would be expected, only a handful of excursions into the field were made, but one to Wick did turn up a low flying Brambling, a real surprise for December. Also 4 Siskin and 3 Bullfinch in the fields there. On Stanpit, it was kind of nice to see the Brent Goose, around 75 of them, back in the main part of the reserve again. However, it was short-lived as they then made their way to bathe in Parky Meade Rail, which is more atypical behaviour for them. Only other notes from the marsh were 8 scattered Black-tailed Godwit.From Mudeford Quay, a Great-crested Grebe and lone Brent Goose were on the sea, and a Kingfisher was on the inward side of the quay. Please check back to yesterday for a good piece of extra news.

Additional news. A comprehensive walk around Priory Marsh early this morning saw a single Water Pipit and Jack Snipe, as well as 63 Snipe. Overhead, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Redwing passed by, while a Chiffchaff was in the fringes and 5 Bullfinch were in bushes by the Civic Offices.

December 24th

The settled, mild weather continued for another day, but judging by the current clear skies, it may be colder tomorrow. The penultimate Saturday of the birding calendar brought out most of the regulars and with them a reasonable mid-winter selection. The Firecrest at the end of the head was calling frequently and showing really well in bushes around the dried up pond. At sea, the young drake Eider was off the sandspit and would have been quite viewable from Mudeford Quay. Otherwise, the sea was very, very quiet, with nothing moving at all. However, the calm waters made it easy to census the Shag, over 50 birds were counted, including a tight flock of 31, which had a waiting Great Black-backed Gull in its midst. Also picked out on the water was a resting Guillemot. At least 3 Bullfinch were in the Wood and Siskin could be heard, while a pair of Raven again made a southward pass over Stanpit towards the head. Wick Fields produced a wintering Chiffchaff and a single Mistle Thrush, also a Peregrine over the harbour seen from there.

Additional news: a Barn Owl was showing really well by the wooden bridge on Wick Fields at 4:45 this evening.

December 23rd

It was still mild, but the cold is apparently forecast to return tomorrow. Let's see. Stanpit received coverage right through until early afternoon and yielded the following. A pair of Raven headed low over the marsh towards Hengistbury, while a Peregrine passed in the opposite direction over Crouch Hill. There was a Great-crested Grebe in the main channel, just out of Mother Siller's, and the 3 Goldeneye were off the Nursery area. Blackberry Point hosted 5 Turnstone and a Dartford Warbler was very vocal on Crouch Hill, by "the log". Some useful counts of the usual suspects were received and include: 1000+ Lapwing, 400+ Wigeon, c50 Teal, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, 22 Grey Plover on the main part of the marsh. As is now the norm, the Brent Goose, around 90 of them, were on Priory Marsh. There were 3 Shoveler in Stanpit Bight, where a Grey Heron was seen devouring an eel almost as big as itself.

December 22nd

More mild weather and Stanpit today received the attention. A Bar-tailed Godwit, seen from Fisherman's Bank, was a new arrival and just goes to show regular visits are not as tedious as they may seem. Also good, were 2 Raven north, each moving individually, around 30 minutes apart. The 3 Goldeneye were again in the main channel, while around Stanpit Bight, a count of 30 Grey Plover is a definite increase. Also up were Lapwing, but no count was made. Meanwhile, Dunlin were estimated at 300 strong and 6 Black-tailed Godwit were recorded. The wintering Shoveler flock today numbered 5 birds and a Kingfisher was off Fisherman's Bank. Finally, please check back to yesterday for some information services reports of unknown origin.

December 21st

The winter solstice passed under a cloud of fog that lingered for most of the day - no doubt due to the almost complete lack of any wind. A stroll from the HHC to the extreme of the sandspit produced a nice collection of winter interest. A Firecrest by the fork in the path at Holloway's Dock may be a second wintering individual, with one being seen quite a distance away a couple of days ago. At the end of the sandspit, a first-winter drake Eider seemed to be settled - rested and fishing - very close offshore. Also 3, but possibly 5, Purple Sandpiper on groynes there, along with many Turnstone. These are difficult to count as they dart amongst the rocks, but in flight around 70 were estimated. An adult male Dartford Warbler was in the dunes at the end and another called from around groyne S7. The 3 Goldeneye that include a pristine drake could be seen very well just off Goldenye Point, the mild conditions encouraging some courtship display. Just after midday, an adult male Peregrine attempted to rest on Priory Marsh, but was soon beaten away by crows and gulls. Up to 90 Brent Goose were again grazing in that area. Remember, as from tomorrow, Spring is on the way!

Additional news. A late afternoon walk on Hengistbury saw a Kingfisher around Barn Bight, and 6 Black-tailed Godwit in Holloway's Dock. It was also interesting to hear of around 60 Greenfinch circling and appearing to come into roost at the end of the head, close to the Beach Huts.

Late news from the information services: a Whimbrel and 2 Yellow-legged Gull were at Stanpit. Also a Black Redstart reported, but the exact location was not clear.

December 20th

Very thin pickings today. Early on, a theory that a calm sea would produce rafts of easy-to-see diver and grebe proved to be woefully wrong, as just 5 Great-crested Grebe drifted east with the tide off Double Dykes. An afternoon visit to Fisherman's Bank could muster up only a Kingfisher; and from Mudeford Quay, a single Purple Sandpiper with a minimum of 67 Turnstone could be seen on the tip of the sandspit. This flock continues a good winter for the last mentioned species.

Additional news from Stanpit. A Chiffchaff was in vegetation along the western fringe of the Recreation Ground. A dozen each of Grey Plover and Ringed Plover were on Blackberry Point, and an estimated 120 Dunlin were around the fringes of South Marsh. The Wigeon were gauged at 480 and 100 respectively, around 80 Brent Goose were on Priory Marsh and the Black-tailed Godwit numbered only 3.

December 19th

Another largely windless and pleasant day. Brief visits were made to both Hengistbury and Stanpit, the former throwing up a confiding Firecrest associating with Long-tailed Tit by the Double Bends. The latter, meanwhile, failed to deliver much at all. Although no detailed counts were made, numbers seemed pretty similar to yesterday. The exception, however, were Black-tailed Godwit; over 30 were noted, with the largest concentration being 22 birds on Grimmery Bank, where the dredging spoil is also attracting some potentially photogenic Rock Pipit. The Brent Goose gaggle seems to be behaving very strangely. Over the last 10 days, it has reduced from over 200 to just around 80 birds, and is favouring the relative seclusion of Priory Marsh. This is not a traditional site within the area and the birds seem to be very nervous indeed, with lots of raised necks contrasting with the usual, relaxed grazing style. One has to wonder if some of the recent canine altercations have contributed to the lesser numbers and change of habit? Or are the adults just more wary than normal with such large families to care for this winter?

Additional news: up to 4 Bullfinch were on Wick Fields, where a Little Owl was calling from a roost site close to the driving range this morning. A Water Rail was seen in Parky Meade Rail and 3 Snipe were up over Grimmery Bank.

December 18th

Throughout a crisp, still and clear morning, it was the water birds that received the scrutiny, thanks to the monthly WeBS count. A Common Sandpiper seen on Fisherman's Bank from Crouch Hill could well be the same bird returning for its third-winter here. However, it does need to be looked at more closely to determine age or to eliminate something more exciting. Other notables were a single Purple Sandpiper by groyne S10 on the sandspit and a Jack Snipe up from Central Marsh, Stanpit. Before the rest of the totals, let's deal with the only passerine reports of the day, involving a group of 8 Redwing by the HHC early this morning and 2 Bullfinch heard by the Double Bends. The 3 Goldeneye, a drake and 2 female-types, were in Barn Bight and at least 3 Kingfisher were across the area. Other tallies include: Lapwing 630, Wigeon 522, Coot 214, Brent Goose 82, Teal 95, Turnstone 15, Grey Plover 11, Snipe 10, Water Rail 6 and Little Grebe 5.

Additional news: there were also 4 Shoveler, 2 pairs, in Stanpit Bight.

December 17th

After a mild, still start, a rather chilly westerly breeze got up and the Saturday morning regulars could only muster up a few scraps of minor interest between themselves. Bullfinch continue to be seen regularly, with 3 by the HHC and 1 in The Nursery this morning, and 4 on Wick Fields in the afternoon. Also seen both sides of lunch were Peregrine, with single birds actively pursuing waders over Stanpit and, on the first occasion, caused 11 Grey Plover to vacate the area. In the mid-afternoon, there were 2 Purple Sandpiper on the large groyne by Whitepits Rough, and a pair of Goldeneye and single Great-crested Grebe were in the harbour. Earlier, there had been 2 Great-crested Grebe from the Beach Huts. Also from there, 2 Great-northern Diver and 1 Red-throated Diver east, and 1 Goldeneye east. While at least 2 Guillemot and 1 Razorbill could be seen well on the calm sea.

December 16th

A very quiet day, as the mild temperatures and north-westerly wind continued. This morning, the only bird of note from Hengistbury was a Purple Sandpiper on groyne S1. Despite an hour on Stanpit this afternoon, as the tide fell, there is almost nothing to say. I guess the surprise is the sudden drop in overall numbers, with Wigeon, Lapwing and Dunlin all well down from the big counts of last week; while 18 Ringed Plover on Blackberry Point were the only species with an increased count. Perhaps the recent, warmer weather has encouraged birds to head further inland? A Fieldfare north over the Recreation Ground was a reasonable record, particularly so late in the day.

December 15th

Today saw a co-ordinated sea bird survey between Studland and Hengistbury. Consequently, the entire shoreline of the recording area, from the Point House Café to the end of the head, was covered. In a light north-westerly and overcast skies the following were logged - 6 Red-throated Diver, 4 east and 2 on the sea, 3 Great-northern Diver, 2 west and 1 close off Double Dykes, 3 Great-crested Grebe on the water and 2 Red-breasted Merganser west. Also 5 Razorbill, 2 Guillemot and 5 auk sp. Earlier, from the HHC, presumably the same Yellowhammer as 24 hours earlier was seen, along with 4 Bullfinch and 5 Siskin moving over. In the reeds, at least 3 Bearded Tit were seen and 3 Golden Plover overflew. Inside the harbour, the bunch of 3 Goldeneye were off Blackberry Point and a Gadwall was close to the dredger in the main channel.

December 14th

A Hengistbury beach walk brought on a welcome variety at sea. Best were 3 Eider west, but also 5 Red-throated Diver and 1 Great-northern Diver heading the same way. A further 2 Red-throated Diver were on the water, as were a couple of Razorbill. Meanwhile, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 17 Common Scoter passed to the east. Bird of the day however, especially for one stalwart involved in the cut-throat race for year-list runner-up, was a Yellowhammer over the head towards Wick. From the Barn Bight shore, the 3 Goldeneye and a Great-crested Greber were seen and a Kingfisher was in that same area. From there, the Stanpit Lapwing were estimated to number a minimum of 1500 birds.

December 13th

Pretty similar stuff to yesterday, with Stanpit getting the attention. The current poor showing of Brent Goose is getting concerning. This morning, there were just 69 slightly north of Crouch Hill, but this afternoon, a ridiculously low number of 4 birds were all that could be seen. Also seemingly moving out over the course of the day were Black-tailed Godwit, around 25 were seen before lunch, but none afterwards. Both these species are susceptible to disturbance and East Marsh was uncharacteristically deserted during the afternoon. A couple of Ruff were seen on the mud off Blackberry Point, and a single was elsewhere in the morning. The 3 Goldeneye, 1 drake and 2 brownheads, were again seen, as were 11 Shoveler and 8 Shelduck. Also a Kingfisher around the marsh, as well as hordes of Wigeon and Dunlin. The weekend's WeBS count is going to be hectic.

December 12th

In a chilly north-east wind, Stanpit received a couple of visits this morning. The pick of the wildfowl in Stanpit Bight were 4 drake Pintail, also a single Gadwall and 6 Shoveler amongst the hundreds of Wigeon. The Brent Goose again numbered just over 200 and for the second time in a week were being worried by an errant dog, which then went on to terrorise the rest of East Marsh. Only 5 Grey Plover and 12 Black-tailed Godwit could be seen, but the Dunlin were again estimated to exceed 400 birds.

December 11th

Heavy fog that persisted into the late morning discouraged most activity. A number of excuses were used, ranging from decorating, to being too cold or just plain hungover. Consequently, the only excursion was to Stanpit immediately before dusk. No detailed counts were made, but there are loads of the usual suspects making it a worthwhile place to visit. Around 8 or so Shoveler were resting in Barn Bight, where there were also a few Grey Plover and at least 1 Ringed Plover. Only 9 Black-tailed Godwit could be seen on East Marsh and, strangely, Brent Goose seemed to be completely absent. Of interest, the dredging spoil currently being deposited on Grimmery Bank is proving attractive to Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtail. Please check back a couple of days for a good Turnstone count.

December 10th

A remarkably mild and pleasant day, with what little wind there was coming from the south-east. This gave rise to a very relaxed atmosphere around the area; and with most of the year-listers assuming their tally is largely complete, the talk is already turning to next month. A group of 7 Eider east past the Beach Huts was probably the highlight of the day, but little else from there other than a Purple Sandpiper and a diver sp. After scanning the harbour from Lob's Hole, it was seen that the Goldenye flock has increased to 3 birds, including 1 drake. Also arriving are Little Grebe, up to 6 present today in Barn Bight and Parky Meade Rail. Just after dawn, Bearded Tit were seen and heard around the HHC, also a single Golden Plover and 2 late Siskin over there. A Peregrine headed north over Stanpit mid-morning and 203 Brent Goose were grazing by the Warden's Caravan before having a dog unleashed on them! Stanpit Bight held some duck variety, the best being 3 drake Pintail, also a dozen Shoveler. The Lapwing were estimated at 850 birds and although the Dunlin weren't counted there are still "lots." An obvious movement of Herring Gull to the east was noted today; while, conceivably, this may have just been a local passage to perhaps Pennington tip, it is not a normal occurrence. It is also curious that no other large gull species were seen doing the same.

December 9th

Very little field activity today. The only venture into the recording area was a mid-afternoon scan from Fisherman's Bank, from where it could be seen there are still hundreds of Dunlin present. At least 4 Shoveler, a Kingfisher and a few Grey Plover could also be seen. However, the setting sun made it difficult to pick out much else amongst the near-silhouetted forms.

Additional news: a very large group of Turnstone, numbering 77 in total, was just east of Mudeford Quay.

December 8th

After a windy night it was somewhat surprising to see a flat sea off Mudeford Quay this morning, when there was little to report. The only other news received today was from Wick, where Bullfinch and Kingfisher were seen this afternoon.

December 7th

After a few days respite a heavy overnight frost brought icy conditions back to the Harbour today. However with little or no wind the sun made it feel very pleasant on Stanpit this morning. The Wigeon flock numbered over 700 as the rising tide pushed the birds into Stanpit Bight; also there were 14 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall and a drake Pintail. Waders were back in numbers with counts of 450 Dunlin, 33 Grey Plover and 22 Ringed Plover. Conversely only 26 Black-tailed Godwit were present. An early afternoon visit to Hengistbury found a Black-throated Diver off Double Dykes from where it drifted slowly towards the Long Groyne. Other sightings included a Great Crested Grebe off Goldeneye Point, a Kingfisher in Barn Bight and a Purple Sandpiper below the Point House Cafe.

December 6th

On another cold day the first Goldeneye of the winter, a female, was off South Marsh this afternoon whilst on East Marsh 4 Shoveler and 3 Gadwall were amongst the Wigeon. The Black-tailed Godwit flock showed another increase with 66 birds present on Stanpit. On Wick Fields this morning 2 Bearded Tit gave splendid views by the wooden bridge and 4 Bullfinch were in the hedgerow.

December 5th

The air temperatures dropped slightly overnight, but otherwise conditions were quite similar to yesterday. Firstly, please check back to the preceding report for some decent additional news. Surprisingly for a December Monday, both sides of the harbour were covered. On Hengistbury, a Firecrest was seen near the Beach Huts and a Dartford Warbler in the strange location of the tip of the Sandspit is well worth a mention. Also 5 Siskin over and a Razorbill on the sea. A total of 215 Brent Goose, in a single gaggle, were counted on Stanpit, but despite two visits, there was no sign of yesterday's interloper. It was interesting to note that, by the afternoon, the geese had split into smaller, more dispersed groups. Black-tailed Godwit reached a maximum of 45 and a count of 17 Curlew is the best since before the cold snap. There are still only a small number of Grey Plover, just 5 today, but an estimated 750 Lapwing is more to the norm.

Additonal news: there were 8 Purple Sandpiper and a couple of Turnstone on the groynes by the Beach Huts, and a Red-breasted Merganser pased by towards Mudeford.

December 4th

A pleasant morning on Stanpit, where there was almost no wind with the temperature well above zero. Lapwing have returned in their hundreds and were forming nervous clouds over the harbour, being seemingly spooked by just about anything from a Carrion Crow to a Grey Heron. A couple of Ruff have also arrived, being seen in flight from Priory Marsh towards Stanpit Bight. There was an excellent Shoveler count in Barn Bight, a group of 15 birds being later joined by another pair; also 3 Gadwall close by. The recent rains have made the harbour deeper, even at low tide, and this has encouraged at least 2 Great-crested Grebe and 2 Little Grebe to use the area. Black-tailed Godwit have increased to around 40 birds and the Dunlin flock was estimated as being 150 strong. Conversely, only 2 Grey Plover could be located today. Finally, a Dartford Warbler was heard on Crouch Hill .

Additional new: a pale-bellied Brent Goose, presumably last week's bird was on the Stanpit and the 2 Ruff were also seen on the deck.

December 3rd

Overnight, the wind dropped and had turned to the south-west, but yesterday's blow had caused the HHC weather mast to assume a strange angle. A Slavonian Grebe in Barn Bight created some major excitement. Although the second for the year, the first being in February at sea, the species is not annual and this was the first in-harbour for around 10 years. There was also a Great-crested Grebe in the same area. Earlier, Bearded Tit were heard in the HHC reeds and a Peregrine flushed birds from Stanpit, where there are now, again, 100 or so Lapwing. The sea received quite a bit of attention, but was largely quiet. The totals are 2 Great-northern Diver, 1 Red-throated Diver, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Great-crested Grebe, 1 Guillemot and 1 Shelduck; and a Turnstone was on groynes by the preferred beach hut. Of other interest, a late moving Fieldfare headed towards Hengistbury from Wick and a Chiffchaff was in the Wood.

Additional news: there were 2 Bullfinch in the North Scrubs and a Kingfisher was by the Rusty Boat.

December 2nd

A day of ferocious south-easterly winds that were forecast to gust at an amazing force 11. The accompanying rain meant that only car bound observations were possible. On the shingle between Mudeford Quay and Avon Beach, there was a group of 55 Turnstone; while off the quay itself, just 3 Common Scoter, 2 Kittiwake and an auk sp. were recorded.

December 1st

Firstly, thanks to Shaun Robson for a great talk about Morocco last night. The only reports for today come from Hengistbury, where a strong south-easterly wind made seawatching very uncomfortable. An immature Kittiwake flying through the harbour was actually the best marine sighting. Otherwise, it was just 3 close Common Scoter and a further, more distant Kittiwake.

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