Sightings for February 2006

February 28th

A brief scan from Fisherman's Bank this afternoon indicated very little change from yesterday with similar numbers of waders feeding on the mud at low tide. From the Beach Huts at Hengistbury, 3 Common Scoter were seen moving west whilst 3 Purple Sandpiper were on the groynes; also a Jackdaw was over the Nursery.

February 27th

On a slightly less cold afternoon a visit to Stanpit saw the Peregrine on its usual perch on the south side of the Priory. At low tide the waders were difficult to count accurately but estimated as 161 Dunlin, 15 Ringed Plover, 14 Grey Plover, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Bar-tailed Godwit. The 11 Goldeneye were tucked away in a sheltered corner just off the Salt Hurns. Another late afternoon search for the Barn Owl on Wick proved fruitless but 4 Bullfinch were seen. A feeding station set up on Wick for the wintering tits and finches attracted a surprise visitor, a Weasel.

February 26th

A chilly, brisk north-easterly limited visits to the harbour today; early on, the sandspit on Hengistbury held 2 Grey Plover, 10 Dunlin and 5 Ringed Plover, with 3 Brent Goose east. Holloways Dock held 22 Redshank, and there was a rare sighting of an Auk from within the Harbour, with a Guillemot close to the bank in Barn Bight. Mid-afternoon saw one of the local Peregrine sheltering from the wind on the west face of the Priory, and later this afternoon 10 Linnet overflew Wick Fields - clearly spring migration is in full swing! Negative news from Wick, where the Barn Owl has not been seen the past few evenings, despite close attention from the local photographers. A mid-afternoon seawatch from Hengistbury saw an easterly movement of birds including 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Fulmar and 3 Kittiwake plus 44 Brent Geese, 11 Common Scoter and 3 Eider.

February 25th

First of all, thank you to Simon Woolley, who entertained a full-house at the HHC last night with some wonderful recollections from his Eastern Europe trip of 2004. The east wind continued for at least its seventh day, but this didn't deter some Skylark song, while on the sheltered Hengistbury cliffs, 2 pairs of Rock Pipit were enthusiastically displaying. Linnet are mostly absent during the winter months, so an optimist might assume that the 3 seen on Hengistbury this morning were the year's first migrant arrivals! Other than these, most of the day's quality came in the afternoon, when the male Peregrine was first seen making an unsuccessful pass over Fisherman's Bank. Not to be outdone, he then craftily sneaked along the head and re-appeared over the HHC, getting in among the flying Lapwing. After separating an unfortunate individual, he adeptly nabbed it and then struggled against the wind back to the Priory. At one point both a Kestrel and Crow were chasing the weighed down bird. The resulting melee saw 3 Ruff come up from the HHC sandbar and they, with a further bird, subsequently settled off Fisherman's Bank. A morning seawatch produced a lingering and probably prospecting Fulmar, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 7 Common Scoter, c20 auk sp., including 4 Guillemot on the water, and 1 diver sp. There were 8 Goldeneye (2 drakes) in Barn Bight and the sandspit's wintering, solitary Grey Plover was by S10; and on Stanpit, around 60-70 Brent Goose were grazing on Central Marsh.

Additional news: the owl was looked for a dusk, but to no avail, however a Buzzard settled in the area was a real bonus. The Peregrine was also on the Priory throughout.

February 24th

A bracingly cold easterly wind cut like a knife. For me, this afternoon, it was the warmth of the car on Argyll Road slipway, from where 6 Ruff were seen to arrive from the north in a small flock of Lapwing and appeared to come down on the HHC sandbar. A couple of distant Peregrine could be seen soaring high over Wick village. A braver individual than I, spent a commendable 90 minutes on Stanpit this morning and turned in selected counts of 84 Brent Goose on Central Marsh, a total of 25 Black-tailed Godwit spread about, 10 Shelduck and 61 Dunlin. This afternoon, on the low tide, there were far more Dunlin visible, perhaps 250 birds.

Additional news: the Peregrine was resting on the right hand gargoyle on the southern side of the Priory tower .

February 23rd

The day started off dry enough, but, by late morning, some quite unexpected snow began to fall; but despite continuing well into this evening, not a single flake settled on the relatively warm ground. However, this was enough to deter any visits onto the recording area. Don't forget the indoor meeting tomorrow.

February 22nd

More cold and wet weather limited the sorties into the field today. Only news is of the Barn Owl, which appeared at 4:40 and was watched hunting for 15 minutes or so, while being hassled by Crows and the occasional gull. A pair of Bullfinch were in the hedgerows and 8 Curlew, a good count for that site, were in the flooded fields. Sadly, there seems to be a spate of vandalism being carried out to the fences on both Wick and Hengistbury. The reasoning behind this is currently unclear.

February 21st

Another grey and miserable day with little to report. Before that, however, please check back to yesterday for some interesting Priory news. This morning, a very brief look from the HHC saw just 11 Dunlin on the sandbar. A further attempt this afternoon from Fisherman's Bank was interrupted by the only rain shower of the day, so only 82 Dunlin made it into the records.

Stop press: at midday the female Peregrine was seen to arrive with prey and was immediately greeted by the male, which, until then, had been loafing on a gargoyle. Something is hopefully going on.

Some late news has just been received of up to 3 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh at the start of the month.

February 20th

No rain, but equally as unpleasant as yesterday, thanks to the blustery north-east wind. Nevertheless, one brave soul made it to the Beach Huts and bagged Eider for the year-list, with 7 birds passing close by as they headed east. Also close in was a Great-northern Diver heading in the opposite direction, as did 2 Gannet and a Common Scoter; and a lone Purple Sandpiper was also noted. Later, a scan across Stanpit, from the shelter of Fisherman's Bank, produced 2 Ruff on East Marsh.

Additional news: this afternoon over the Priory, the male Peregrine was briefly joined by a larger, presumably female bird, and some aerial interaction took place. Both then left the area with the male returning just before dusk.

February 19th

An unpleasant north-easterly held rainclouds over the area for the entirety of the day. Not surprisingly, there is very little to report. The Peregrine was sensibly perched on the western face of the Priory tower just after lunch and, late this afternoon, what was presumably the same individual was high over Blackberry Point. Of local interest, but fractionally outside the recording area, the field just south of the Christchurch bypass bridge is consistently holding 30 to 40+ Little Egret. The owl was a no-show tonight, but 2 Bullfinch were seen there.

February 18th

An almost windless day with what little breeze there was coming from the east. The Barn Owl was watched from 7:00 to 7:15 this morning, when it was seen going to roost in the clump at the end of the driving range. Also seen on Wick throughout the morning were 3 Bullfinch, the Mistle Thrush pair and a single Rook overhead. A seawatch was reasonable and produced a total of 11 Red-throated Diver, 7 west, including a flock of 5, and a further flock of 4 east. Also east went 2 Common Scoter and a drake Red-breasted Merganser; while a Skylark also heading in that direction over the water was a real surprise. Late this afternoon, Stanpit provided more interest with a total of 5 overhead Mediterranean Gull, 2 adult pairs and a first-winter, arriving from upriver and then leaving west. A Peregrine flushed the roosting waders allowing 5 Ruff, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit and 1 Golden Plover to be recorded; the latter had also been seen in the morning. Other notables on the marsh came from a single Gadwall and a count of 32 Black-tailed Godwit. The evening Barn Owl performance started early, with the bird leaving the roost spot around 4:15 and then showing well for the next 30 minutes, before being forced back to the sanctuary of the roost by the combined efforts of a Crow and Kestrel.

February 17th

Just a couple of visits to Wick to report on, but both included some interest. This morning, pairs of Bullfinch and Mistle Thrush were present. The latter were perhaps a prospecting pair and would make a welcome return to the area's list of breeders. The afternoon saw an owl blank, but a Merlin, harrying Lapwing and Woodpigeon, certainly made amends.

Additional news: a single Chiffchaff and 9 Black-tailed Godwit were on Wick Fields; and a Water Pipit was on Priory Marsh.

February 16th

The harbour received only spartan coverage today with just afternoon visits to Stanpit and Wick. On Stanpit the 4 Ruff put in an appearance on East Marsh; also present were 65 Brent Geese and 27 Black-tailed Godwit. On Wick, the Barn Owl failed to perform at the appointed hour.

February 15th

The overnight weather must have deterred the regulars this morning as the only report was from the Stanpit golf course where 5 Rook were overhead and a Merlin headed north. On Wick this afternoon, the Barn Owl repeated Monday's behaviour to the letter, appearing near the wooden bridge at exactly 4:30pm before making its way slowly towards the HHC and the Barn Field. Also on Wick 2 Bullfinch were in the small bushes adjacent to the driving range.

February 14th

Thanks to Mark Andrews for looking after the site during the recent spate of absences - although, describing 2 of the 4 of the India trippers as "regulars" may have been a little generous! On a breezy morning the sea promised, but delivered nothing, save for 2 Oystercatcher, over a 45 minute spell. Inside the harbour, the 11 Goldeneye were in the main channel and the wintering Bullfinch flock on Wick Fields numbered 4 birds. An early afternoon visit to Stanpit produced counts of 54 Brent Goose, but surprisingly only 16 were first-winter birds, also 10 Black-tailed Godwit. A Peregrine was seen harassing the 1800 strong Lapwing flock, 25 Shelduck were around the area and a Little Grebe was in Barn Bight. Small, mixed groups of Pied Wagtail and pipit were in several places. It's now getting towards the time of the year when some of the Rock Pipit, considered to be of Scandinavian extraction, start to assume some interesting plumages. Finally, after not having seen a Black-headed Gull for 12 days, it's really noticeable how quickly the head moult into breeding plumage takes place.

February 13th

This morning, Stanpit was visited and a count of the waders revealed 1,175 Lapwing, 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 250 Dunlin, 37 Oystercatcher, 8 Grey Plover and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. Also counted were 53 Brent Goose, 22 Shelduck and 11 Goldeneye. This afternoon on Wick, the Barn Owl appeared right on cue at 16:30, and lingered for about 5 minutes before heading towards the HHC. Pheasant are becoming more noticeable as the breeding season approaches, with at least 6 males being seen in recent days on Wick, and they are also appearing at all parts of the harbour, with 2 males looking rather out of place on Stanpit this morning as they ran along the gravel causeway from East Marsh to Crouch Hill.

Additional news: a Water Pipit was on Priory Marsh.

February 12th

Rather disappointingly for a weekend, the only sighting of the day was a casual observation of the 11 Goldeneye (including 2 drakes) in the harbour this afternoon. Presumably, the dull, damp start to the day deterred visitors.

February 11th

Another mostly sunny day, but with a bit of a "nip" in the air - the quartet of regulars fresh back from India might describe it rather differently! Both Hengistbury and Stanpit were visited this morning. From Hengistbury, 2 Bearded Tit were seen by the HHC, and a Mediterranean Gull, Bullfinch, 2 Ruff and a Great-spotted Woodpecker were noted; the seawatch produced 4 Red-throated and a distant Great Northern Diver, with a further unidentified diver also seen. In the Harbour itself were 2 Great Crested Grebe and 11 Goldeneye. Over on Stanpit, a single Bar-tailed Godwit was accompanied by 26 Black-tailed Godwit, with 170 Dunlin, 58 Brent Goose and around 230 Lapwing also seen.

February 10th

Almost spring-like today, but precious little change in the birds around the Harbour. Sample counts from Stanpit this afternoon included 14 Curlew, a single Grey Plover, 90+ Teal, 500 Wigeon, 12 Shelduck, 11 Goldeneye, 7 Little Grebe and 52 Brent Goose. Over on Wick, the Barn Owl showed well between 16:30 and 17:00, in the area between the wooden bridge and Solent Meads coffee shop, and there were 3 Bullfinch in the hedgerows.

February 9th

Another bright, sunny day, although frosty first thing. Three Bullfinch, a Raven flying north and 5 Little Grebe by the HHC were noted on a morning visit, whilst at lunchtime the regular 11 Goldeneye and 17 Shelduck were seen. The Peregrine maintains his vigil on the Priory tower, being present off and on all afternoon.

February 8th

The sunshine tempted at least two observers into the field this afternoon; their reward was more of the same, with the Red-throated Diver seen in the channel by the HHC, the Peregrine on its usual perch on the Priory Tower, 5 Black-tailed Godwit from Hengistbury and 3 Grey Plover on the groynes.

February 7th

Unfortunately, no records have been received today.

February 6th

Back to the dull, still weather today, although a little milder. Two Sanderling on the beach at Whitepits were a good winter record; the regular 11 Goldeneye and 11 Black-tailed Godwit were also seen from Hengistbury. Bullfinch remain on Wick, with 4 birds together this afternoon, and the Barn Owl again showed well in the same area as yesterday, at around 16:45.

February 5th

Today was the monthly WeBS count, which ensures that accurate numbers are obtained from all parts of the harbour. The observers were treated to the usual cold, dull start to the day, but by mid-morning the sun had actually put in a rare appearance, with the afternoon feeling almost tropical! The figures provide evidence that birds are indeed in short supply. On Stanpit, just 51 Brent Geese were noted, with 560 Wigeon, 58 Teal, 300 Lapwing and 170 Dunlin all below the norm for this time of year. Amongst the other birds seen were 2 Pintail, 19 Snipe, and single Grey Plover, Ruff and Turnstone. From Hengistbury, 169 Wigeon , 43 Teal, 25 Turnstone and 11 Goldeneye were counted, with the Red-throated Diver and a Great Crested Grebe also seen. Wildfowl numbers were also low in the nearby Avon Valley, at least as far north as the Avon Causeway, so the Harbour birds have clearly moved some distance. This afternoon, a diver sp moved west off Mudeford Quay, and 11 Turnstone flew along the beach. Finally, the Barn Owl has reappeared on Wick Fields (maybe it has never left?), showing very well just below Solent Meads Coffee Shop hunting in broad daylight at around 16:30.

February 4th

As befits the weekend, both sides of the harbour were visited on yet another dull, cold day. Early morning at the HHC produced a Golden Plover with the Lapwing as they flew behind the Centre; closer examination of the flock on the mud bar revealed a rather pale Ruff as well. Little Grebe upchannel were counted at 11 birds, and one of the regular Bullfinch was heard from Wick. The seawatch was mostly unproductive, just a single Red-throated Diver west, and an out-of-place Gadwall which landed briefly on the sea, although Shag numbers seemed fairly high, one group alone consisting of 20 birds. The male Red-breasted Merganser remains in the Harbour, along with a Great Crested Grebe, and there was a Coal Tit in the Nursery. Stanpit this afternoon held only small numbers of the commoner birds, with 60 Dunlin, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, a Grey Plover and just over a hundred Lapwing - maybe the Peregrine, seen peering from its lofty perch on the Priory, has caused a local movement away from the Harbour to avoid its attentions?

February 3rd

Wick this morning held a pair of Bullfinch and a Mistle Thrush, whilst in the main channel were 11 Goldeneye and a male Red-breasted Merganser, never a common bird within the confines of the harbour. There were 6 Ringed Plover on the beach, a Kingfisher at Wick Hams, and the regular Peregrine was watched preening on the Priory clock tower. The continuing cold, dull weather has yet to produce any evidence of cold weather movement, but the commoner birds are noticeably more approachable as food becomes harder to find. As a late postscript, the Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser remain in the Harbour, with a single Bar-tailed Godwit and 8 Goldeneye also seen.

February 2nd

A still, dismal and thoroughly dank day, which chilled to the bone; and, as seems the recent norm, there are few reports, just a Bullfinch and 18 Black-tailed Godwit on Wick.

February 1st

A very still day and mirror calm sea conspired to offer up the best nature record of the day, as 3 Bottle-nosed Dolphin were watched from the Double Dykes this morning, also a couple of unidentified diver past there. No doubt about a bird in the middle of the harbour though, as the now regular Red-throated Diver was again recorded. The Priory Peregrine made it onto the third page of tonight's Echo. A real page 3 bird in the harbour

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