Sightings for April 2006

April 30th

What an enjoyable day. Lot's of early starts and by late afternoon, twenty tired and wind-burned faces. The actual CHOG recording area, around 3x3km, produced a total of 108 species, while the 5x5km square encompassing Pennington, Keyhaven and Normandy came up with 124. However, in the interests of parity, we also temporarily extended our area to a 5x5km zone, which included Coward's Marsh and the southern section of St. Catherine's Hill. By doing this, the greater Christchurch total rose to 133. A couple of things came out of the day. Firstly, what good fun it was, and thanks to the Hants based guys for competing so well. Secondly, just how much habitat is largely under watched only a short distance north of the CHOG area. Thanks also to the 25 or so people who attended the mis-named "Spring Wader" walk around Stanpit in the morning. Now the birds, in some kind of systematic order. A single, breeding plumage Great-northern Diver was off the Point House Café, while around 3 Red-throated Diver moved past Hengistbury, as did a couple of Great-crested Grebe. A couple of Greylag Goose left the harbour and were later seen moving east off Barton - long distance migrants?! Over 30 man-hours were put in at sea and the best was a single, dark Arctic Skua west mid-afternoon and a distant Manx Shearwater before lunch. Over 150 Common Scoter were logged during the extended watch. A Peregrine was on the Priory early on, but just 1 Red-legged Partridge could be found on Wick. As hinted, other than Whimbrel, waders were almost non-existent. For example, just 2 Dunlin on Stanpit, however, there was a Sanderling and a few Turnstone on the sandspit. The Whimbrel total on Stanpit was in excess of 60 birds, many still focussed on Crouch Hill, despite the dogs. Also 4 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank and a couple Bar-tailed Godwit, At sea, a very high flock of 21 of the latter moved east, also a steady trickle of Whimbrel. Gull interest came from Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull, an adult Common Gull and 2 Mediterranean Gull, an adult and a first-summer. Little Tern numbers are increasing, with 11 resting on the low tide in Stanpit Bight. Among the passerine migrants were single Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail, a few Wheatear and a couple of singing Lesser Whitethroat. Bearded Tit were in the reeds by the HHC and a Nuthatch, somewhere around the Priory, was heard in the dark from the Wick side of the river. A Treecreeper was in the now regular spot behind the Civic Offices and a Bullfinch was on Wick Fields.

Additional news: a Common Sandpiper in Barn Bight mid-afternoon was missed by all the racers.

29th April

As can sometimes happen on Hengistbury, just when it's looking like an average kind of day, the unexpected can occur. Today's highlight was a Hoopoe seen arriving from the Batters, then heading high north over the harbour and appearing to come down into gardens in Mudeford. Dawn was still and fly-ridden, but a soothing northerly breeze then mercifully kept the insects down. A Turtle Dove was heard purring in the Wood on three occasions, but was never seen. Also heard were at least 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Tree Pipit and an arriving Greenshank. At least 4 Garden Warbler were in the area, the Wood, Double Dykes and Wick all hosting birds. Amongst the grounded birds were a Yellow Wagtail feeding on a soil heap in the Bobolink Field, and 3 Wheatear and a Whinchat on the head. Swift came through at a steady pace, with over 110 being noted before lunchtime. At least 2 Brent Goose were still on Stanpit and also hanging on is the lone drake Wigeon in Barn Bight, where there was also 3 Gadwall. Among the trashier wildfowl were 2 Greylag Goose flying downriver and a couple of C***** G**** by the HHC. At sea, almost 60 Common Scoter were seen, including a flock of 46 birds. Also, 26 Whimbrel, 11 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Red-breasted Merganser east, 2 Kittiwake west, and 4 Fulmar and 2 Little Tern lingering. The male Great-spotted Woodpecker was again drumming and small numbers of Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit could be seen arriving onto Stanpit. Tomorrow sees the inaugural inter-site challenge between CHOG and the Pennington/Keyhaven group. Ten of the best from each area will be trying to see as many species as possible on their respective sites. As a result of the long day in the field and the subsequent meet-up, there is only likely to be a brief summary on this page. Fuller details for the day will follow on Monday.

Additional news: a spectacular flock of 51 Whimbrel were feeding on Crouch Hill this evening, while 8 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Black-tailed Godwit were in Stanpit Bight. Over on Wick, there were 4 Red-legged Partridge in the Bobolink Field. There were also 2 Avocet in Stanpit Bight.

April 28th

This morning's migrant hotspots were undoubtedly the area of scrub around the Stanpit golf course and also behind the Civic Centre, where a Nightingale was in full song around 7:00; also present were 10 Blackcap, 3 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and a Redstart. The Treecreeper was also in its usual haunt adjacent to the boatyard. Elsewhere on Stanpit, 18 Whitethroat were counted and 6 Yellow Wagtail were overhead. In contrast, Hengistbury was quiet, although a Firecrest in the woodland was clearly a new bird; otherwise, there were just 5 Wheatear, 3 House Martin, 1 Whinchat and 1 Redstart. It was the best day of the spring so far for Swift with a total of 60 over the recording area. A ringtail Hen Harrier, the second of the year, flew low over the end of the head, while a Common Buzzard moved over the common towards the woodland. The Peregrine was again on the Priory tower and either that or another bird was over the Nursery mid-morning. Waders were on the move again with 157 Dunlin, 28 Whimbrel, 1 Little Ringed Plover and 1 Golden Plover heading north whilst 17 Black-tailed and 9 Bar-tailed Godwit headed east; also moving east were 29 Common Tern. On Stanpit, there were 60 Whimbrel, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Grey Plover. Another 2 Whimbrel were on the Mudeford sandspit together with 26 Turnstone. Another harbour first for the year was Greylag Goose, 2 birds flew upriver this morning. The drake Wigeon was still in Barn Bight along with 2 drake Gadwall. On Stanpit, 6 Brent Geese were on East Marsh but there was no sign of the pale-bellied bird. Finally 2 Raven visited the harbour today and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was still in the woodland.

Late news: 6 Eider moved west past Hengistbury this evening at 7:25pm.

Stop press: The Barn Owl was in the "no dogs" field on Wick at 8:45pm this evening.

April 27th

As the fine weather continued only a scattering of migrants could be found. A male Ring Ouzel that flew over the Batters is only the fourth of the spring; also seen were 9 Wheatear, 6 Swift, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Grasshopper Warbler and 2 Lesser Whitethroat. Woodpigeon were moving west in small numbers, say c200 birds, amongst them were 7 Collared Dove. Whimbrel numbered 74 today, around 30 of which were on Stanpit; also arriving were 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Dunlin, 1 Grey Plover and a Ruff whilst 3 Golden Plover flew over the harbour heading north. A Greenshank was heard from Stanpit this morning, while this afternoon waders present included 35 Dunlin, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit and just 1 Ringed Plover; most of the Whimbrel had moved on. It's getting late for Brent Geese, but 5 were on Stanpit today one of which was the pale-bellied form; and a drake Wigeon in Barn Bight was another tardy bird. Late afternoon saw 25 Sandwich Tern and 11 Common Tern on Stanpit with a further dozen or so Sandwich Tern plus 3 Little Tern off Mudeford Quay. Bearded Tit which have proved elusive recently were seen well today, 3 birds in the HHC reedbed. Finally, the Peregrine was on its favourite perch on the Priory tower today.

Addendum: a first-summer Mediterranean Gull was on Stanpit this afternoon.

April 26th

A fine sunny morning produced a real mix of records including the second Turtle Dove of the spring which flew west over Double Dykes. A Hobby was seen soon after dawn with another one harassing the Sand Martin colony a little later. Continuing with the raptor theme, the female Marsh Harrier also put in a brief appearance over the Wick reedbed from which Bearded Tit could be heard once again. Grounded migrants included 16 Wheatear, 4 Garden Warbler and a Whinchat while 2 each of Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit passed overhead. The first Arctic Tern of the year headed north over the harbour in two flocks of 7 and 37 respectively. Arriving waders were 31 Whimbrel, 11 Curlew and 5 Bar-tailed Godwit. Corvids were well represented with 6 Jay on the Batters then 4 Rook and 2 Raven overhead. Off Double Dykes, 2 Red-throated Diver were seen and 50 Common Scoter went east. Both Mediterranean Gull and Common Sandpiper were noted, while a Tufted Duck over the river was a slightly unusual record. Finally, the Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the woodland adjacent to the Nursery.

April 25th

Soon after dawn a heavy mist descended over the harbour and this, combined with a stiff south-westerly breeze, made conditions very unpleasant this morning. A female Marsh Harrier was seen a couple of times over the Wick reedbed, on the first occasion being mobbed by corvids and the second by Herring Gull. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling behind the ranger's cottage, 6 Reed Warbler were in song behind the HHC and 3 Wheatear were on the Barn Field with another one on the old Pitch and Putt course. A Great-crested Grebe was on the river and the 2 Gadwall were in Barn Bight. Finally, 2 Whimbrel were heard arriving. This afternoon a further 3 Wheatear were on Priory Marsh, where 4 Canada Geese were still present.

April 24th

On another dull and overcast morning, it was quality rather than quantity today. The early risers got their due rewards when a Short-eared Owl, the first of the year, was seen just after dawn heading over the HHC towards Stanpit being mobbed by gulls. The bird was seen again and photographed over Wick this afternoon. The regular Barn Owl was also hunting near the old Pitch and Putt course just after 6:00 this morning. Grounded migrants included 10 Wheatear on Hengistbury with another 7 on Stanpit, 3 Garden Warbler, 2 Whinchat, 2 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler in the first field on Wick and another by Barn Bight, a Redstart and finally a Yellow Wagtail on Grimmery Bank. There was a Hobby over the Nursery and the first Turtle Dove of the year over Double Dykes, while at least 2 Cuckoo were heard. On Stanpit 24 Whimbrel were counted and a mixed flock of godwit held 34 Black-tailed Godwit and 13 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Late News: A walk around Wick this morning between 6:00 and 7:30 found 19 Whitethroat, 5 Sedge Warbler, 5 Reed Warbler and 1 Lesser Whitethroat.

April 23rd

With an overcast sky and a couple of hours of light rain conditions seemed ideal for a good fall this morning but apart from 2 Swift over the Head around 7:30 nothing much happened until the rain ceased. A Yellowhammer that moved over the HHC towards Hengistbury was probably the best bird. By mid-morning more than 50 Wheatear and 6 Whinchat were spread across the Barn Field and the old Pitch and Putt course. There was also a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the first field on Wick. Up to 40 Whitethroat were vying for territory on Wick, whilst 3 Lesser Whitethroat and a few Sedge Warbler were also in good voice. At least 2 Cuckoo were heard and a Kingfisher was behind the HHC. The sea was watched for much of the morning, but produced very little, just 33 Gannet, 4 Common Tern, 2 Kittiwake and 2 Whimbrel east, a Fulmar lingering and 3 Guillemot on the sea. Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull, seemingly paired up with another adult, was on groyne S12, while 3 Mediterranean Gull, a first-summer and 2 adults, were over Wick. A flock of 25 Whimbrel arrived on Stanpit followed shortly by another 7 birds.

April 22nd

Although it didn't really seem like it early on, by the end of the morning it became evident there had been a decent fall of migrants. Not least Whitethroat, with birds singing just about everywhere on Hengistbury, over 100 being estimated plus good numbers on Wick. At least 8 Whinchat were across the head, along with 60+ Wheatear, 2 female Redstart by the Barn, and reeling Grasshopper Warbler by the Double Dykes and on the Batters. Other vocal birds included Lesser Whitethroat, 5 males counted in the Barn Field and the first Wick Field. There were also 3 Cuckoo heard, while around 110 phylloscs, mainly Willow Warbler; and 7 Yellow Wagtail and 1 Tree Pipit moved over. A female-type Marsh Harrier flew upriver past the HHC just after dawn and possibly another was seen a short time later over Stanpit. This afternoon, a bird that had previously been watched hunting just outside the area, on Coward's Marsh, then flew south over the harbour. Back to the morning, when at least 9 Mediterranean Gull were seen leaving the harbour over the HHC, also a single Golden Plover in breeding plumage over there. Other wader interest came from a Common Sandpiper and 10 Bar-tailed Godwit on Blackberry Point. One could have been forgiven for expecting more of the latter, after the quite exceptional flock of 500 past Weymouth last night. There were also lots passerine migrants on Stanpit, for example, a female Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler in Smithy's Field, also 3 Whinchat on Central Marsh and 10+ Wheatear spread across the marsh. Just one of yesterday's Greenshank was still there, as were the 6 Brent Goose and 17 Black-tailed Godwit. At least 30 Common Tern were feeding off the sandspit, while couples of Little Tern were seen from both sides of the area. It is difficult to gauge Whimbrel numbers, although 29 did head north and several others were settled. A dour seawatch produced 2 Kittiwake, 13 Common Scoter, a few Razorbill and 2 Great-crested Grebe, all east. There was a further grebe in the harbour, along with a healthy party of 10 Shoveler; while, mid-morning, a Buzzard was soaring over the Coastguards on Hengistbury.

Stop press: from Wick this evening, an adult Little Gull could be seen hawking insects over Priory Marsh before heading north, also a Greenshank over the marsh.

Even more news: there was a Little Ringed Plover on Priory Marsh this afternoon and a pair of Red-legged Partridge were in Smithy's Field.

April 21st

A day when, although there was some sea coverage, it was probably not as intense as one could have hoped. Minor irritations, such as full-time employment getting in the way! In the south-easterly wind, an adult Little Gull, in immaculate breeding plumage, which spent the day in the harbour, gave a hint of what may have moved passed later in the morning. In fact, reports from further east indicate quite a passage through the Solent. A one hour watch from the Barn Field area produced 34 Sandwich Tern, 16 Common Tern, a pair of Shoveler, 7 Gannet, 11 Whimbrel, 15 Common Scoter and a diver sp. A Whinchat was on Wick Fields, and there was an increase in the Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler in the reeds there. Another bird that spent the day resting in the harbour was an Avocet, which was seen from both sides of the area, and a Bar-tailed Godwit arrived over the Barn Field just after dawn. On Stanpit this afternoon, a couple of Greenshank feeding in the Bight, were new for the year, but just 8 Dunlin with them. The drake Red-breasted Merganser that has been around for a couple of weeks was, today, in the main channel; and 6 Brent Goose, one of them a first-year bird, were on East Marsh. An adult pair of Mediterranean Gull were over the HHC this morning and four birds were over Priory Marsh in the afternoon. The Whinchat was still on Wick this evening and there were 4 Gadwall in Barn Bight.

Additional news: a single Purple Sandpiper was on groyne S9 this evening, and there 25 Common Tern with a similar number of Sandwich Tern fishing off the same point. Also 18 Turnstone on the beach.

April 20th

A drizzly start that saw quite a few birds around Stanpit golf course this morning. Pick of the bunch was a female Montagu's Harrier, fairly low overhead and the off east. This is the first record for a few years. Also a significant arrival of Blackcap and, interestingly, nearly all female, suggesting the second wave for the species. A total of 30+ birds noted in that area; also the year's first Whinchat, a nice male, a Cuckoo, and small numbers of singing Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat. Another Tree Pipit passed over, as did 4 Yellow Wagtail and 27 Whimbrel, including flocks of 14 and 11 north inland. On Priory Marsh itself, there was a good total of 5 Common Sandpiper. Early morning saw the best from the sea, especially 3 Manx Shearwater east at just after 7:00. There was also an uncertain skein of 17 Brent Goose, who went west, then east before finally giving up and sitting on the water. The information services also reported 3 pale-bellied Brent Goose from Mudeford Quay. Other combined totals from 2 seawatches are 20 Common Scoter, 5 Fulmar, 4 Guillemot, 2 Gannet and 1 Razorbill, the latter settled on the water. A couple of Little Tern were also seen offshore, while a single Common Tern was on the HHC sandbar.

April 19th

All the information services carried a report of a yellow-billed tern off Mudeford Quay at 11:20, then heading west off Hengistbury. Unlike yesterday, no reports have been sent to CHOG, so any further details or notes would be appreciated. Despite the area being watched all afternoon, there was no further sign amongst the very small numbers of Sandwich Tern. In overcast and murky conditions this morning, there was a significant movement of birds over Hengistbury and a reasonable arrival on it. Firstly, the highlights: a male Serin went over the end of the head; while 2 Lapland Bunting, including a superb male, were seen in flight from the Batters; and a Wood Warbler was with other phylloscs by the Ironstone Quarry. To support, there were 3 Redstart, all males, in the first Wick Field from the HHC, and Grasshopper Warbler were on the Common and at the end of the head. Overhead, an impressive 500+ Swallow, 475 Linnet, 320 Goldfinch, with 1 charm exceeding 100 birds, 275 Meadow Pipit, 35 House Martin, 11 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Golden Plover and 1 Tree Pipit headed north; and 9 Whimbrel were rather random in their direction. On the deck, there were at least 42 Wheatear, 16 on Solent Meads golf course alone, 140 Willow Warbler, 70 Chiffchaff and 17 singing Whitethroat; and a pair of Bullfinch in the Nursery were probably migrants. Seawatching was not too bad either: a drake Garganey and 5 Eider, 3 females and 2 young males (07:38), went east, as did 69 Common Scoter and 7 Brent Goose. Also 11 Fulmar seen and a Peregrine over the water, the latter probably hoping to pick off tired migrants. During the search for the tern, a Little Gull was seen at Stanpit, a drake Red-breasted Merganser was in the harbour and a Common Sandpiper was on the sandspit. This morning, a Gadwall was over the HHC, while an evening walk on Wick saw the now regular Buzzard on a fencepost and a single Red-legged Partridge. Slightly later, one lister connected with the Treecreeper by RIBS Marine on his fifth attempt!

April 18th

Today's big news comes from Mudeford Quay, where, at just before 6:00 this evening, a yellow-billed tern was seen heading west. Could it be the bird from last year? Other than that, it was a fairly quiet day, with the best of the migrants being a male Redstart on the Salthurns side of the Wood on Hengistbury and a grounded Yellow Wagtail with the cattle on the Barn Field. Also certainly new in was a singing Blackcap by the HHC and a couple of Common Sandpiper in Barn Bight. Wheatear reached almost 30 birds, the largest gathering being 16 on the Barn Field, while there were 3 Whitethroat on the Long Field and 15 Willow Warbler scattered. There were also 2 Whitethroat on Crouch Hill, Stanpit, accompanying the Subalpine Warbler. Overhead passage was sparse, just 3 Yellow Wagtail and an almost negligible number of Swallow, although more were over Stanpit later in the morning. Offshore, a Fulmar was recorded, as well as 11 Common Scoter west and 4 Common Tern lingering. Some of the Black-tailed Godwit are starting to acquire breeding plumage, a total of 39 being across the harbour throughout the day. Other waders included 10 or so Dunlin and 3 Grey Plover. There are still well over 30 loitering Teal, along with 2 Wigeon and 3 Brent Goose. At least 5, but possibly 10, Jay were on Hengistbury - a mixture of residents and possible migrants; and the Great-spotted Woodpecker was still drumming around the Nursery. Finally, just 5 Canada Goose were on Stanpit.

Additional news: a pair of adult Mediterranean Gull were seen from close to the car park at Stanpit.

April 17th

The conditions were almost identical today, an early light westerly but picking up speed as the day wore on. After five mornings of 6:00 starts, the wisdom of dawn birding is being questioned. Today, prior to 9:00, the only notable aspect of Hengistbury was a small arrival of Whitethroat, a total of 6 singing on the head and 3 on Wick. Then, at 9:00, a clear passage got underway. In a 90 minute spell by the HHC slipway, 140 Meadow Pipit and 12 Yellow Wagtail moved north, all quite low over the river. Around the same time, small numbers of Goldfinch were also seen passing over Hengistbury. This purple patch also saw the first Cuckoo for the year, with a bird being seen by the HHC, but also a report from Stanpit and a bird heard on Hengistbury, so possibly more than 1 individual. There was a large incoming of Swallow, in the 90 minute period they were estimated at 2-3 per minute, equating to around 400 birds. Although the movement was on a broad front and was still evident in the early afternoon, so many thousands are likely to have arrived; but just a single House Martin. The Barn Owl was accidentally flushed from behind the HHC around at 8:30; while the Yellow-legged Gull, was on the sandbar and apparently paired with a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which could explain why Limpy was seen feeding a juvenile of this species last autumn. Also a Common Sandpiper seen from the HHC and 6 Whimbrel landed briefly on the bar before heading north inland. Around 15 Brent Goose, presumably passing birds, arrived at Stanpit, where there were 19 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Grey Plover. Willow Warbler haven't been mentioned, but there were 40 on Wick, 10 on Hengistbury and a few on Stanpit. Meanwhile, there were at least 15 Wheatear in the area and the year's first ringing sortie produced a Blackcap. Other travelling birds included: 2 Common Tern over the harbour, another Rook north, and single Arctic Skua and Little Gull from the Point House Café. Today saw 2 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit, also a few Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Wader numbers should now start to increase ahead of the early May peak. A Peregrine was seen from Stanpit and a Buzzard was soaring over there; and late this afternoon, there was a Common Sandpiper on Priory Marsh, along with 7 of the dreaded geese. This year, the Sand Martin colony seems to be just under the Coastguards, with around 100 birds now present, 4 Dartford Warbler territories are established, the Little Grebe couple are looking good on the Ironstone Quarry and there was a Red-legged Partridge on Wick. No doubt these birds, along with the recent owls, are benefiting from the grazing leaving much shorter vegetation. Finally, and almost forgotten, but the Subalpine Warbler was seen on Stanpit late this morning, but was elusive.

Stop press: at 6:30 this evening, a group of 3 Yellow Wagtail on Priory Marsh contained an Ashy-headed bird. It could not be seen in a brief search later. Also a Marsh Harrier, a female I believe, was seen to go down on Wick, the Subalpine Warbler was seen well and a Hobby went over.

April 16th

Again the forecast held true, as the wind returned to a mellow south-westerly and put a stop to yesterday's sea passage. Having said that, there were still some scraps of interest to be had. A drake Garganey (08:47) heading east with 3 Common Scoter could well have been the same bird that was seen yesterday in the western Solent, as that individual was also in the company of scoter. Other oddities were single Eider and 2 Red-breasted Merganser west, all female-type birds. A total of 31 Common Scoter, 11 Whimbrel, 2 Gannet and 1 Brent Goose passed east, 2 Common Tern were over the harbour, a brace of Razorbill were on the sea and a single Fulmar was milling around. There were 2 records of Swift today, 1 over Wick, the other over the head itself; these are certainly a few days ahead of what might be expected. Still only small numbers of the commoner migrants, perhaps just 20 Wheatear today, while Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat were in single figures. Over on Stanpit, the Subalpine Warbler remains, as do 9 Brent Goose. The Treecreeper were again successfully twitched, these are by RIBS Marine (previously and mistakenly referred to as Stride's), the Little Grebe were on the Ironstone Quarry and so were 2 Canada Goose (a site tick?!), while a Coal Tit was singing in the Nursery. On the sandspit, a lone Purple Sandpiper was by S8, also 20 Turnstone, 22 Ringed Plover and a couple of Dunlin there. A pair of Raven were over Wick, but of far greater value were 3 Rook, 2 over the end of the head and 1 over the HHC, and presumably on the move. Also over the centre was Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull. Earlier, an adult pair of Mediterranean Gull were seen from the same spot and a second calendar-year bird was lingering offshore with the larger gulls.

Stop press news from Wick: the Barn Owl has just been seen (6:30) for the first time in nearly a fortnight, by the Driving Range, also a singing Sedge Warbler, 4 Whimbrel leaving east and the 2 Red-legged Partridge.

April 15th

As forecast and hoped for, the wind swung right around to the east, thereby starting the first up-channel seabird movement of the year. This was also the first time that observers at Barton and Hurst have kept close contact with us, actually throughout the watch period. As a result, it became clear that many birds, in particular Whimbrel and Common Tern, were somehow not visibly passing Hengistbury at sea. Times are given for the records that can be certainly tracked further east and hopefully we can get some timings from the other two sites. All the following relate to an easterly direction of movement, between 7:15 and 12:45. A good total of 6 Velvet Scoter were recorded, in groups of 2 (09:59), 3 (11:10) and 1 (11:12), also a Black-throated Diver (08:40) immediately followed by a Red-throated Diver, 47 Whimbrel, 140 Common Scoter, 9 Common Tern, 46 Gannet, a surprise Avocet (09:23), around 500 yards out and being hassled by gulls, and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. There were also 2 Pintail that intermittently settled on the sea, along with a few Guillemot; a Peregrine also went east at sea. Birds that moved in the opposite and seemingly, wrong direction included: 13 Common Tern, a single Brent Goose, 2 Great-crested Grebe and a Red-throated Diver. Several Fulmar, Razorbill and auk sp. were also noted. A nice and now officially tickable species record was 2 Barnacle Goose heading south, then east, over Hengistbury. Small wader movement also got underway, with 69 Ringed Plover, 38 Dunlin and 2 Turnstone seen moving east. A couple of Grasshopper Warbler were reeling, by the Ironstone Quarry and on the Salterns, a Redstart was on Wick Fields, and 5 Yellow Wagtail and a Tree Pipit passed overhead. A selection of common migrants at the eastern end of the head suggested a decent arrival - around 35 Willow Warbler, 8 Wheatear and 7 Blackcap were noted, while there were also Willow Warbler and Wheatear in the Wood and on the Barn Field respectively. Woodland species continue to feature, with now 2 Treecreeper by Two Riversmeet, a Great-spotted Woodpecker and 2 Jay on Hengistbury, and a Coal Tit at Stanpit. Other Stanpit submissions comprise: 56 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover, a Whimbrel, 9 Turnstone and 2 Little Grebe, by Parky Meade, it's getting late for these now. In the last few days, some expert opinions of the highest order now consider the Subalpine Warbler, present again today, to be a young female bird. I think it's time to leave this one to a committee to decide. However, just to throw in a further variable, the bird was heard sub-singing today.

Additional news: 8 Knot and 5 Grey Plover were in the harbour during the evening.

April 14th

Firstly, some sad news about the Long-eared Owl, which after not being seen this morning was found dead by the Hengistbury Rangers in the Bobolink Field on Wick. This probably explains the bird's strange behaviour yesterday. It is not clear as to why the bird died, however, disruption of hunting is unlikely, as the species is one of the more nocturnal owls and Wick Fields are almost totally undisturbed during the hours of darkness, save for the odd tramp. The bird was also, apparently, roosting unmolested, despite the many human activities on the fields. Given the number of observers in the field this morning, the reports are almost embarrassingly thin, although the continuing south-west wind can be used as an excuse. Of course, the Subalpine Warbler continued to please the seemingly increasing number of visitors, but on Hengistbury obvious new migrants were almost non-existent, where perhaps the best bird was a Coal Tit in the Nursery. Continuing the woodland theme, the Treecreeper was seen in almost the same spot as yesterday, adjacent to Stride's boatyard. It was Priory Marsh that held most of the interest today, including the year's first Sedge Warbler; also immaculate single Water Pipit and Yellow Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail and the White Wagtail, while a Common Sandpiper was also there this afternoon. However, all of this was somewhat marred by the presence of 12 Canada Goose! Increasing numbers of Swallow and House Martin are now feeding over the pools, with the former seen trickling through for most of the day across the entire area. In contrast to the last couple of days, the only raptor interest came from a large Peregrine, presumably the current Priory bird, over Fisherman's Bank. There is still no arrival of Whitethroat, just 1 bird reported today, and Wheatear were estimated to be around just 6 birds. Conversely, a species that does seem to be arriving is Whimbrel, a group of 6 were seen leaving the harbour to the east and a single passed the same way at sea. Talking of which, a 90 minute watch produced just 1 Red-throated Diver east, 7 Common Scoter west and 2 Fulmar. At least 4 Gadwall are still in the area and the Red-legged Partridge was again encountered on Wick. If you are planning to go onto Priory Marsh tomorrow, please do try and keep to the public footpath that runs across there.

Additonal news: 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen from Mudeford Quay in the afternoon and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at Stanpit, by TS Orestes, in the morning.

April 13th

Still something of a paucity of commoner migrants, but to be frank, who cares given the other stuff that's hanging around. On Wick, the Long-eared Owl was glimpsed a couple of times in flight before 7:00 this morning. Then, around 8:15, the behaviour of an owl that was seen hunting and repeatedly settling on the ground gave rise to suspicion that another 'eared species was in the area. However, closer and more prolonged views, proved it was again the regular asio , but acting very strangely. Another curiously acting bird, due to its aversion to skulking, the Subalpine Warbler, has now completed its first week on Stanpit. Backing up yesterday's record, what was presumably the same Goshawk, a large female, was seen from Stanpit Golf Course. Following the recent Nuthatch, another locally rare woodland species, a Treecreeper, made it onto the year list today, a single bird being by the entrance to Stride's Boatyard at 6:00 tonight. Back to the morning and Priory Marsh, where there were 3 Water Pipit, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Pintail and a genuine alba Wagtail. Best of the commoner fair was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler by the Double Dykes, while just a single Whitethroat was recorded. Where are they? The only real increase came from hirundines - around 50 Swallow noted today, as well as 6 House Martin. A single Red-legged Partridge was on Wick Fields and other plastic came from 3 Canada Goose on Priory Marsh. Apparently, there have been a few more recently, but thankfully unbeknown to me.

Late news from a morning seawatch, which saw a Velvet Scoter and 3 Common Scoter.

April 12th

A much warmer and far more pleasant day, which saw Long-eared Owl make it onto the harbour life-lists of many of the regulars. Mark Andrews re-found the bird as it rested on a fencepost in the "No Dogs" Field on Wick (if that rule were to be extended, one could only wonder what might be found!). The bird remained in the same spot for a couple of hours, before being left. It couldn't be located during subsequent searches. It was generally a good day for raptors, as the owl watchers looked up to note an overhead kettle of 4 Buzzard, a Goshawk was seen soaring slightly above them; while, on Stanpit, a Hobby was seen to pass through and the young female Peregrine was noted on a few occasions, mainly on or around the tower. New additions for the year came from a reeling Grasshopper Warbler on Wick Fields, close to the HHC, and 2 Whimbrel on Stanpit for most of the day. The Subalpine Warbler was again present and the year's second Nuthatch record came from Stanpit Golf Course. Recently received information suggests there may be a breeding attempt by The Priory, but just off the area. If this is the case, the species may lose its mega status, for this year at least. Despite some of the quality on offer, the commoner migrants remain sparse: around 25 Willow Warber, a few Blackcap, single Whitethroat and Wheatear, and a dozen Swallow being the day's estimate. A group of 4 Gadwall were on the river opposite the HHC this morning, and a pair of Mediterranean Gull flew over the HHC to Blackberry Point this afternoon. Also on Stanpit were 2 Grey Plover, 18 Sandwich Tern and 46 Black-tailed Godwit.

April 11th

The forecast stated the westerly wind to be brisk, but, reportedly, it was more than a touch stronger and very cold. In fact, in 90 minutes this morning, Hengistbury and Wick produced absolutely nothing of note. Consequently, it was left to Stanpit to provide the interest and sylvia warblers again headed the news. A Lesser Whitethroat in the Priory Marsh area was the first this spring, while the Subalpine Warbler was again being seen regularly. Only other news is of 4 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh this morning.

April 10th

A real quality record today, in the form of a Long-eared Owl on Wick Fields. Chris Chapleo rounded a corner and found himself staring it in the face as it rested on a fencepost. The bird moved on to a further bush, but was disturbed by a dog (sounds familiar, doesn't it?) and then moved into dense vegetation alongside the river. Despite searching, it was not seen again. This is the first record for a good number of years and sets things up nicely for a quintet of owls in this twelve-month period. It's a sobering thought that one regular has now seen 4 Subalpine Warblers on site, but never a Long-eared Owl. Talking of which, the warbler was again on Stanpit, first seen around midday and then into the late afternoon. Another great record from Wick, for April, was a Jack Snipe flushed from dry ground in the northern corner of the Bobolink Field; also noteworthy, was a male Bullfinch on the fields. More value came from a sighting of Limpy, the Yellow-legged Gull, seen briefly on the HHC sandbar at lunchtime. On Priory Marsh, there were 2 Water Pipit and 1 Grey Wagtail; while a female Peregrine that spent nearly all of the day on The Priory was in complete juvenile plumage, which seems late to me. Pairs of Rook were seen over Hengistbury this morning and Wick this evening - does this suggest a change in the species' status in the area? Common migrant estimates across the area comprise 35 Willow Warbler, 11 Blackcap, many in song, 6 Wheatear, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Reed Warbler and 1 Whitethroat. The Brent Goose have largely deserted Stanpit, just 10 or so birds remaining, also a paltry 2 Dunlin and 1 Grey Plover there. The Little Grebe are now home-making on the Ironstone Quarry, the Great-spotted Woodpecker is still banging away and, surely, the Red-legged Partridge on Wick will, this year, deliver. Meanwhile, the friendly, inter-site rivalry with Pennington continues, with their total currently leading us by one species.

Additional news: a couple of late Snipe were over Stanpit in the evening.

April 9th

Dawn was clear and windless making the harbour a glorious place to be, however, as the day wore on cloud, a cold wind and heavy showers made it markedly less pleasant. Despite the early accommodating conditions, there were very few migrants - in fact, there were possibly more birders than Willow Warbler on Hengistbury. Blackcap were the exception, with perhaps 30 bird being present, but only 9 or so Wheatear and 2 Whitethroat, both on Wick; while overhead, a single Tree Pipit and 2 Yellow Wagtail moved north. Possibly the best bird on was a female Yellowhammer on the ground at the end of the head, although a Bearded Tit, the year's first, calling by the HHC comes close. Unexpected migrants were 2 Rook east and 1 Sparrowhawk west at sea, and more routine were 230 Meadow Pipit and over 125 Linnet north. On Stanpit, the Subalpine Warbler was showing well until just before noon, when it was disturbed by dogs, as is so often the way, and has not been seen since. Also from Stanpit is an information services report of 8 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh. Early this afternoon, a couple of Hobby were over Wick Fields, the first time these migrant falcons have been seen this season. It was actually a reasonable day for raptors with a female Marsh Harrier being grounded by a shower on Wick this evening, before heading off again, and this morning a Buzzard was soaring over the centre of the harbour. There are still 4 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit, by groyne S10, also 23 Ringed Plover there, a Red-breasted Merganser seen leaving over The Run and a single Gannet was at sea. The 2 Red-legged Partridge were again on Wick Fields and 3 Mediterranean Gull, an adult pair and a first-winter, were over Double Dykes this morning, and an adult and first-winter were seen on Stanpit at lunchtime. The Great-spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the Wood and a male Swallow was singing enthusiastically by the Barn. This evening, after the rain, there were many Swallow feeding over Wick Fields. A count of 40 Black-tailed Godwit from Fisherman's Bank included several birds in good breeding plumage.

Additional news: the DBC website reports a Common Sandpiper on Priory Marsh.

April 8th

A remarkably quiet day in terms of summer visiting birds, but not birders visiting Stanpit, where the Subalpine Warbler was still being enjoyed. Opinion seems to be hedging towards the bird being a first-summer male, but the lack of red orbital eye-ring is still giving a few minor doubts. Also on Crouch Hill, a breeding plumaged Water Pipit put in a brief appearance, while from the hill a newly arrived Little Tern could be seen around Stanpit Bight. Common migrants were so few that it's barely worth mentioning numbers, the only notable area being the south facing golf course embankment at Stanpit, which held a good number of feeding Willow Warbler. All three hirundines were seen in small numbers and only 5-6 Wheatear only were recorded. At sea, 7 Gannet moved east and a pair of Gadwall were in Barn Bight. Mention has to be made of the rather comical Kestrel that frequents Crouch Hill and has taken to pursuing insects on foot, for which it seems ill designed!

Update: a Whitethroat was on Wick Fields and 1, but perhaps 2, Peregrine were around the Priory.

Additional news: a couple of Mediterranean Gull were on Stanpit and a Water Pipit was on Priory Marsh in the afternoon.

April 7th

The first real rarity of the year was found on Crouch Hill, Stanpit, just before noon, when a Subalpine Warbler was discovered by Nick Urch. This is the harbour's fourth record, the others coming in 1988, 1993 and 2004, and Dorset's twentythird. The bird showed well all afternoon, despite some nasty rain showers, and is still there this evening. The overnight forecast suggests it may stick around. After a relatively cloudy night and a light south-westerly, there was a moderate arrival of Willow Warbler on Hengistbury and Wick this morning. It's always difficult to estimate numbers, but 70-80 birds is not unrealistic, also 10 Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap and a male Redstart. A Whitethroat by the wooden bridge on Wick was the first for the year, while an impressive 19 Wheatear had arrived on the Barn Field by 10:30. The day total for these is something like 30 birds. Other than the obvious, Stanpit produced further quality with a female Marsh Harrier coming up off Priory Marsh and then heading east; there was also a settled Little Ringed Plover there, with a further bird over. In fact, there were probably 4 individuals, as flying birds were also recorded over Stanpit Bight and in off the sea at the sandspit. Also on the marsh, a male Ring Ouzel managed to vaporise into the gorse clump that held the interesting sylvia warbler. Duck interest came from a female Pintail in Barn Bight, and 1 Red-breasted Merganser and 7 Common Scoter at sea. A drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker was in the Wood and, given the multitude of sightings of flying birds, he may be in luck. The 2 Red-legged Partridge were on Wick Fields, as was a female Bullfinch and a couple of Cetti's Warbler were in song.

April 6th

Another reversal in the wind direction saw it coming from the west, but with a surprising chill. Another clear night and day meant that not too many birds lingered, however, as yesterday, there was a nice selection. A pair of Garganey that spent most of the morning in Parky Meade Rail was the highlight and, nearby, there was a Little Ringed Plover on Priory Marsh, also 3 Yellow Wagtail north over that area. Singing Reed Warbler, the first time the scratchy song has been heard this year, were on Wick and Stanpit; and a male Pied Flycatcher, another new bird, was seen moving onto Wick Fields. At dawn, a Pochard was over the harbour and other airborne interest came from a female Merlin, single Siskin, 2 adult Mediterranean Gull and 4 Tree Pipit. A Bullfinch by the HHC could have been one of the winterers, but a Redwing was certainly a migrant. Wick actually held more than Hengistbury with 43 Willow Warbler, 9 Blackcap, all males, and a single Redstart counted; also a Red-legged Partridge in the fields and a Buzzard in a hedgerow there. A 30 minute count mid-morning produced 270 Meadow Pipit, 220 Linnet and 45 Goldfinch, all north; while the Wheatear estimate was 15-20 birds. The Great-spotted Woodpecker was again drumming in the Wood and a good total of 22 Turnstone were at Mudeford Quay early morning. A pair of Shoveler were on Priory Marsh, as were an alarming number of Canada Goose - 8 today! There was also a pair of Lapwing, raising the normal hopes they may once again breed here. Stanpit is now emptying of birds, the Wigeon are greatly reduced, but there are still around 80 Brent Goose. Wader-wise, there are now 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, still the single Sanderling and just a couple of Dunlin. Amongst the gulls, at least 4 Common Gull are lingering on.

April 5th

After a clear night, there was a covering of ice on Priory Marsh and the easterly wind made it feel even colder. Despite excellent coverage, Hengistbury held relatively few migrants, but a Tree Sparrow in Double Dykes, before heading off west, made it a good morning. Another couple of year firsts came from 2 Tree Pipit north over the head and 4 Pochard, along with 3 Tufted Duck, in Parky Meade Rail, Stanpit; also a male Merlin low over there. Wheatear numbers were down on yesterday, around a dozen being the day's estimate, also 11 Willow Warbler and 7 Chiffchaff on Hengistbury, with a scattering of the same around Stanpit, and a single Blackcap in the Wood. A Great-northern Diver passed by west, as did 2 first-winter Mediterranean Gull, and a single Purple Sandpiper was on S6 this afternoon. Other Hengistbury interest came from a female Bullfinch in Double Dykes and a Gadwall in Barn Bight; while a pair of Little Grebe on the Ironstone Quarry seem to lining up for a third season. Hopefully, not planning the same, are the 5 Canada Goose entrenched on Priory Marsh. The only other Stanpit records are 107 Brent Goose, 74 Wigeon and 35 Black-tailed Godwit. On Wick, 2 Red-legged Partridge were in the Bobolink field and, this evening, the Barn Owl was watched well and photographed while perched (images to follow, probably tomorrow) from around 6:00 onwards, also 6 House Martin feasting on the many insects. Cetti's Warbler seem to a little more vocal now, 2-3 males were in song on Stanpit this morning and 1 was heard on Wick later on.

April 4th

Overnight, the wind reversed, coming from the north-east and chilling a day with plenty of variety. After the elusive wintering bird, the first migrant Common Sandpiper was today in Barn Bight, along with 4 Gadwall. Coming in off the sea were several hundred Meadow Pipit, also c15 Swallow throughout the morning and 1 House Martin, while single Raven and Jackdaw moved east. The Wheatear arrival was in the order of 30 birds, most seen resting on the beach and sandspit after the channel crossing. A westerly movement of just over 100 Woodpigeon was also recorded. This evening, a male Redstart was feeding up on the Priory Marsh embankment, both the common phylloscopus warblers were obvious across the area for most of the day and 3 Blackcap were on Hengistbury this morning. At sea, at least 15 Common Scoter and 1 Gannet moved east, and 1 Purple Sandpiper and 16 Turnstone were on the sandspit. Signs of possible breeding came from: Peregrine, a pair displaying over the Priory; Little Grebe, a male whinnying on the Ironstone Quarry; and Great-spotted Woodpecker, a bird drumming in the Wood. Signs of actual breeding came from a brood of Mallard on Priory Marsh, with another swimming against the tide up The Run, pursued by Mute Swan. This evening, at 5:45, the Barn Owl was hunting over Wick Fields, and two pairs of Shoveler and Canada Goose were on Priory Marsh. Red-legged Partridge were present on Wick for most of the day and a male Bullfinch was there in the morning. Stanpit counts numbered 110 Brent Goose, a notable 70 Shelduck, 48 Black-tailed Godwit and 22 Ringed Plover.

April 3rd

The wind, although lighter, was still making birding difficult; nevertheless, reports have come in from most of the area for most of the day. The undoubted highlight was a Nuthatch calling in the conifer clump on Stanpit Golf Course and then flying off towards the Priory area. This could well be the sole record for the year. A Little Ringed Plover heard several times over Stanpit was the year's first, and was on exactly the same date as last year. The northern section of Stanpit held many Willow Warbler, over 50 being the estimate, also 12 Chiffchaff and 5 Blackcap, while 4 Wheatear were on the Barn Field at Hengistbury. On Priory Marsh, there are now two pairs of Shoveler. These fowl normally linger well into spring, showing all the signs of breeding, but habitually seem to disappear at the final moment. Also on Priory, 3 Gadwall and a Red-legged Partridge, and a further 3 Gadwall in Barn Bight could well have been different birds. Encouragingly, a Peregrine is still using the Priory, a bird being on the left gargoyle of the tower's south face mid-morning. Meanwhile, the Avon Valley Buzzard population seems to be burgeoning; around 20 birds, including a single group of 11 were seen from within the recording area. There was also a talon-grappling display right over Wick Fields. From the western side of the harbour, a total of 5, but possibly 7, Canada Goose is leaving me in a cold sweat!

Extra news: the Wick Barn Owl was seen at 7:30 tonight, sat on fence posts at the village end of the floods. Around an hour earlier, the bird was also seen, but retreated after some severe Carrion Crow hassle.

April 2nd

Overnight, the wind suggested it would drop off, but by dawn, hopes were dashed as the breeze regained its strength from the west. Despite this, there was a clear arrival of warblers and crests. On Hengistbury early on, at least 25 Willow Warbler, 20 Goldcrest and 3 Blackcap were moving through; while a single Yellow Wagtail passed over, as did 3 Yellowhammer, and a Firecrest and Redwing were on the Batters. Presumably what was last night's Redstart was in the "No Dogs" field on Wick, where Bullfinch could be heard and 2 Red-legged Partridge were flushed from the next enclosure. Common overhead birds included 370 Meadow Pipit, 112 Linnet and 8 alba Wagtail, more notable though was a Water Pipit, seen to arrive, and 2 Siskin. There were just 2 Wheatear on the Barn Field and a single House Martin passed over there, along with 16 Swallow. The sea delivered a little more than yesterday, with 44 Common Scoter, 32 Common Gull (check back to yesterday for an additional count) and 2 Gannet east. In the woodland, a Great-spotted Woodpecker was a notable April bird and 3 Purple Sandpiper remained on the sandspit. A couple of first-winter Mediterranean Gull passed by Hengistbury and a further bird was inside the harbour. The wind picked up even more in the afternoon and Priory Marsh produced just 3 Shoveler, a pair and an extra drake; a few Swallow were lingering around that area and most sheltered bushes held feeding Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, with equal numbers of each estimated. So far this spring, it has been observed that Cetti's Warbler, in particular, but also Dartford Warbler and Stonechat, seem to be very thin on the ground. There is a concern that some of the prolonged colder weather earlier in the year could have taken a toll.

Late news from the Wick man. This morning, a Buzzard was low overhead before heading back towards Tuckton, also a couple of Jackdaw on the ground. Intriguingly, the Buzzard was seen again from Wick, over Tuckton, late this afternoon - the few weeks have produced a series of interesting records from this part of the area. The Barn Owl made a welcome return to the diary, tonight being seen at 5:30 over the HHC, and a female Wheatear was added to the day's total.

April 1st

At dawn, a strong south-westerly breeze with ominous looking clouds suggested that seawatching might have been the best option. How wrong that assessment was - as the rain held off and by 10:30 eight species of raptor had been recorded! Firstly, a Goshawk was over Wick Fields, then modern technology allowed a few of the regulars to add Red Kite and Marsh Harrier to their lists. The kite was first seen over Coward's Marsh, a mile or so north of the recording area, but a timely phone call as the bird headed south, ensured it was nabbed over the harbour, before heading east. Later, the female-type harrier was seen descending into reeds from Priory Marsh, however, a text to Hengistbury ensured it was seen well as it again came up and went east. Also on the day list, a Merlin and Sparrowhawk, both in off the sea, and Peregrine over the head and on the Priory. Meanwhile, local Buzzard and Kestrel made up the full eight. This evening, the year's first Redstart, a bright male, was on Wick Fields. The morning summer visitor incoming involved up to 40 Wheatear, many seen arriving and resting on groynes, 15 Swallow, 1 House Martin, 15 Willow Warbler, 12 Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcap. Most of these were on Hengistbury, with Stanpit producing lesser numbers of most. A Siskin moved over the Beach Huts and 2 Chaffinch arrived off the sea, a migrant species not often seen in spring; while less thought of as travellers were 2 Curlew and 1 Rook, seen heading high and purposefully east; also of note were a couple of Redwing in Wick Ditch. At sea, 29 Brent Goose, 6 Common Scoter and 1 Great-crested Grebe headed up the channel, while inside the harbour the pairs of Gadwall and Shoveler were still present, as were 4 Little Grebe. A couple of Bullfinch were on Wick and the sandspit held 3 Purple Sandpiper, 27 Turnstone and 10 Sanderling. Mediterranean Gull again feature well, adult pairs were over the HHC in the morning and on South Marsh, Stanpit, this evening, and a single adult was over the Barn Field. On Stanpit this afternoon, there were single Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling and counts included 140+ Brent Goose and 54 Black-tailed Godwit. A pair of Canada Goose were on Priory Marsh, let's hope they move on before they lower the tone of the place. Please also check back to yesterday for some good counts from the sandspit.

Additional news: a clear, easterly movement of 79 Common Gull was observed in two hours off Hengistbury, where 130 Meadow Pipit passed overhead.

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