Sightings for December 2008

December 31st

With the sun completely failing to penetrate the low cloud base, the air temperature barely rose above zero all day. This, coupled with the north-east wind, made it feel like the coldest day of the week. However, shelter could be found on the beach and it was from there that a 90-minute seawatch was made. The headline bird was a female Scaup east, but also a party of 3 drake Pochard seen arriving high in-off. In total, 12 Red-throated Diver moved east, 6 of them singularly and the rest in twos, also a Shelduck east plus one arriving and 8 Great Crested Grebe on the sea. In keeping with the morning's diving duck, no doubt being encouraged to move by the cold, a couple of Tufted Duck were in Barn Bight this afternoon, while the 2 Goldeneye were inside the harbour all day. Another species affected by these types of conditions is Dartford Warbler, so one in the strange location of halfway along the sandspit may well have just headed for the coast from further inland. Finally on the bird front, Holloway's Dock held 6 Black-tailed Godwit. So, another year closes with a list numbering 223 species, which is an improvement of 11 on 2007's poor total, and is probably a fair reflection of what could be expected in this day and age. The years of the late 80s, not least 1988 when 262 species were recorded, will surely never be repeated. Anyway, breaking open a new set of tide tables, here's to a successful 2009. Happy New Year!

December 30th

Relatively speaking, it was like a summer's day this morning as the wind swung further north and more cloud kept the frost at bay. It must have been nearly 3C at dawn! The best on the sea was a female-type Eider east, along with 6 Red-throated Diver, 5 of them east, and a Mediterranean Gull. As it rarely gets a visit one always wonders what the end of the sandspit holds; so a flock of 4 Linnet on the inner shore, which are tricky birds in the recording area during winter, proved it was worth the walk. Also, a high tide roost of 51 Ringed Plover. To finish the morning on Hengistbury, there are now two brownhead Goldeneye in the harbour and a Chiffchaff was by Holloway's Dock. A later trip to Stanpit saw the 2 Avocet in Stanpit Bight, as well as the 7 Pintail and 3 Shoveler.

December 29th

Although overnight cloud saw off any frost, the continuing northerly wind ensured it was still nothing short of bitter. A couple of early morning seawatches produced some real December highlights. Firstly, a Velvet Scoter moved west past the end of the head; then, just before 10:00, a Great Skua headed purposefully into The Solent. The support was not too bad either and comprised: a drake Pochard west in the company of 2 Brent Goose; at least 17 Red-throated Diver, including a flock of 6 east and a close bird on the water off Double Dykes; 11 Great Crested Grebe just offshore from the head; a Guillemot on the sea and 5 Razorbill past; while inside the harbour, there was a drake Red-breasted Merganser. Just in front of the Beach Huts, a lone Purple Sandpiper travelled between the groynes and the walk through the Wood produced 3 Coal Tit. A single Jackdaw calling and circling Barn Bight was most out of place for the month, but 2 Raven on the cliffs were far more expected, as was a Peregrine over and one of the wintering Chiffchaff by the HHC. The biggest surprise of a midday visit to Stanpit was a Buzzard settled in the North Scrubs, however, it was quickly moved on by resident corvids. The Stanpit Bight area held around 200 Dunlin, 40 Ringed Plover, 2 Grey Plover and 6 Black-tailed Godwit, as well as 7 Pintail, 5 of them drakes, and 3 Shoveler. The icing on the marsh was making Snipe more conspicuous, with 6 birds showing well; but only 7 Brent Goose appeared to be in the area. Conversely, there was another widespread showing of Teal.

December 28th

Still bracingly cold, but at least there were a few more observers in the field today. Just after 9:30, a ringtail Hen Harrier was seen crossing the Barn Field and appeared to come down in Wick Hams reedbed, but didn't seem to come back out during the next hour or so. Earlier, a group of 4 Redpoll over the Nursery could well have been yesterday's flock, so potentially contained one of more interest. Goldeneye have not yet settled for the winter inside the harbour, but hopefully a female that arrived overnight will now hang around and attract others to join her. The two wintering Avocet have eluded a sighting since 19th, but what was presumably them were in Stanpit Bight this morning. One can only wonder if they had kept themselves hidden during their 'absence' or, in fact, left and then returned? Also, a single Grey Plover, 5 Pintail, 2 Shoveler and the sorry total of 16 Brent Goose in the bight, while a further Shoveler and 4 Gadwall departed the area. Meanwhile, a group of 3 Raven went over Hengistbury, 58 Brent Goose moved past east at sea and, on Wick, singles of Chiffchaff, Redwing and Grey Wagtail were noted. Finally, of interest and potentially viewable from within the recording area, over 40 Great Crested Grebe were on the water off Southbourne.

Additional news: the information services report the Spotted Redshank and the 2 Avocet off Fisherman's Bank late this afternoon.

December 27th

The wind had taken on a bit more north this morning, thereby making it feel even colder on Hengistbury than yesterday. Nonetheless, a few hardy souls braved it and during some clearance work in the Nursery a party of 4 Redpoll was found to contain a Mealy Redpoll. Earlier, during the course of a 90-minute seawatch from 8:30, a total of 750 auks passed west in varying flock sizes. All were extremely distant, so eluded firm identification and almost certainly means the estimate is way on the low side. Also during the watch, 11 Red-throated Diver, mostly east, a Great-northern Diver east, 4 Red-breasted Merganser west and a Great Crested Grebe on the sea itself. To wrap up the morning's news, a couple of Chiffchaff were on Wick Fields and a Purple Sandpiper was seen from Mudeford Quay. This afternoon, the Spotted Redshank was viewable from Fisherman's Bank, as was a Knot, a Kingfisher, 17 Brent Goose and 128 Teal.

December 26th

In a particularly biting east wind, the spirits were briefly warmed thanks to a party of 5 Waxwing that sat in treetops on Wick Fields adjacent to the HHC at 08:45, before appearing to head off towards Stanpit. Some subsequent searching of the North Scrubs, the golf course and the adjoining housing estates has revealed a severe lack of berry bushes. However, if you do know of any crops in the general Christchurch area, then it could be well worth giving them a check. The cold discouraged any further attempt at Hengistbury birding, so the focus shifted to Stanpit where a Rock Pipit that ticked many boxes for a Scandinavian bird was on East Marsh and the wintering Chiffchaff was again by the Bailey Bridge. Pintail numbers peaked at 7, but possibly 9, with the gathering being mainly pairs, while of 3 Shoveler all appeared to be females. A couple of Turnstone were about Stanpit Bight, as was a single Grey Plover, 140 Dunlin and 20 or Ringed Plover.

December 25th

A couple of couples made it as far as the Beach Huts during the course of the day and produced a really good selection selection, including: 31 Red-throated Diver, groups of 11 and 7 east, and 12 west; a Great Northern Diver; 29 Pintail and 16 Wigeon west; 4 Common Scoter east; and 80 auks and 50+ Gannet. Meanwhile, further interest on the sea came courtesy of 2 Red-throated Diver on the water off the Point House Café. Over on Stanpit, an adult Mediterranean Gull could be picked out, while 4 Shoveler, 3 of them drakes, and 2 Pintail were still present, and a wintering Chiffchaff was again by the Bailey Bridge.

Additional news: a Spotted Redshank was in Holloway's Dock and a single Ringed Plover was on the sandspit.

December 24th

The only news comes from Stanpit, where there were 31 Ringed Plover, 8 Grey Plover, 12 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Shoveler, of which 3 were drakes. The website will be updated tomorrow, so if you do venture out please let us know what you see.

December 23rd

The Stanpit Lapwing congregation, which still hosts a single Golden Plover, continues to pull hopeful predators into the area. Today's best was a Merlin, although it's hard to imagine one of those taking out anything more than a Dunlin. For the records, singles of Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also seen this morning. A Spotted Redshank was logged at both Fisherman's Bank and Mother Siller's Channel, but it's probably best to assume the same bird was involved in each instance. Pintail and Shoveler numbered 6 each, with 4 drakes of the former and 3 of the latter, while the Shelduck crept up to a dozen. Finally, Black-tailed Godwit were down to just 2 and the Brent Goose were at 44 and included two first-winter birds.

Omission: a couple of Mistle Thrush were sat in trees at the northern end of the North Scrubs.

December 22nd

The Spotted Redshank was seen from Fisherman's Bank, as were 20 Ringed Plover, which are certainly news birds in. Also from there, around 210 Dunlin and 17 Black-tailed Godwit. Meanwhile, the duck interest is maintained with 4 Pintail, 3 of them drakes, 3 Shoveler, 2 of these drakes, and an increasing 9 Shelduck.

December 21st

On the year's shortest day, most of the activity was around Stanpit, where a Golden Plover, in with the 1400+ Lapwing, and the Spotted Redshank were the best of an otherwise fairly average selection. A total of 5 Shoveler, a drake and 4 ducks, were settled, as were 3 Pintail, with a further 9 of these west. There was another good count of Little Grebe, 21 today, while a Teal estimate in excess of 200 is also a healthy number for the area. Conversely, the Brent Goose were down at just 25. Around Stanpit Bight, at least 200 Dunlin were scattered, also 4 Grey Plover, 12 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Shoveler. To conclude on the marsh: the very low tide encouraged 7 Water Rail to forage and show themselves off in Parky Meade Rail, a Grey Wagtail was along Fisherman's Bank and a Peregrine sought a meal. The only Hengistbury news is off a 5-minute seawatch that produced 5 Red-throated Diver. Not a bad return. Please check back to yesterday for some updates.

December 20th

The weather forecasters had suggested some rather strong overnight westerlies, but these seemed to pass us by somewhere. Instead, there was little more than a stiff breeze. As a result, if it hadn't been for around 25 sightings of Red-throated Diver off the Beach Huts, the best being a party of 5, it could have been a pretty dull morning indeed. The assumption is that most of these birds were simply locating to different, tidal related feeding spots, so some duplication is inevitable. Consequently, a day total of 15 seems most appropriate. As indicated earlier, there was little else - just 3 Red-breasted Merganser, a Common Scoter, 2 Razorbill and a few Common Gull, in fact!

Omission: a Purple Sandpiper was about the groynes at the end of the head.

Additional news: the Spotted Redshank, 10 Pintail, 3 Shoveler and 8 Shelduck were at Stanpit.

December 19th

An afternoon visit to Stanpit served up the bird of the day, with a first-winter Little Gull spending some time bathing on the river adjacent to the HHC. Perhaps more notable though, was a raft of 40 Great Crested Grebe, drifting west on the tide off Southbourne, and more than likely having come from within 'CHOG waters'. This morning, the Spotted Redshank was seen from Fisherman's Bank, but not the 2 Avocet; however, later, these were seen in Stanpit Bight. Both trips produced a similar number of Dunlin, around 225, also 5 Grey Plover, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Shelduck and a Snipe. With the Lapwing numbers having being remarked upon in recent days, it was convenient that a male Peregrine sent them all airborne allowing an estimate of around 1000 birds to be made, as they hung umbrella like over the marsh for at least 30-minutes.

December 18th

The only news for today is a reference back to some reasonable additional snippets for yesterday. There is at least a Stanpit visit planned for tomorrow afternoon, so hopefully this will result in a few bits and pieces to talk about.

December 17th

Again, it's Fisherman's Bank and a morning visit to the rescue. From there, in addition to a nice count of 210 Dunlin, the Spotted Redshank, a single Knot and 4 Grey Plover were recorded; as well as a Kingfisher. The sodden fields to the north of the area are currently very attractive for Lapwing and this is probably responsible for the increased numbers using the harbour right now, with many birds commuting to and fro. Likewise, Little Egret, which can be rather sparse in the harbour at times.

Additional news: a female-type Marsh Harrier was over the HHC reedbed in the morning, while at least 3 Water Rail were in Brewer's Creek and a female Peregrine hunted the Holloway's Dock area.

December 16th

In the fog this morning, it was just about possible to see the 30m from Fisherman's Bank and note the 2 Avocet in their normal spot. Also, an apparent increase in Lapwing numbers.

December 15th

It seems as if end of year lethargy has set in already, with nothing to report so far today.

December 14th

The WeBS count was something of a brief affair on Stanpit, as the realisation that the rising spring tide could mean some very wet feet suddenly became apparent. The Avocet were roosting in tandem on South Marsh, along with the drake Pintail, while a couple of female-type Red-breasted Merganser arrived in the harbour and fed enthusiastically off Blackberry Point. The Spotted Redshank was off Fisherman's Bank, as were 3 Shoveler and a Kingfisher, and Priory Marsh held 5 Shelduck with a further in Stanpit Bight. A late morning seawatch produced a first for the year, as a Red-necked Grebe moved past in the company of 2 Great-crested Grebe; also a Black-throated Diver, 4 Red-throated Diver and 5 Kittiwake. With the exception of one of the red-throats, all were heading west. Now, back to some of the numbers for both sides of the harbour: 572 Lapwing, 403 Wigeon, 189 Redshank, 144 Teal, a sad 38 Brent Goose with just one young bird, 21 Little Grebe, 13 Curlew and 4 Ringed Plover. Early in the afternoon, a Marsh Harrier was seen heading south over The Priory, but from well outside the area on the Lower Avon Valley WeBS count.

December 13th

Being Saturday, it was inevitable there would be slightly more to write about on a day that started damp and windy, but finished drier and completely still. The 2 wintering Avocet spent the morning off the tip of South Marsh, then moved to their favoured low tide location off Fisherman's Bank, midway between the Argyle Road slip and Tutton's Well. Also, the Spotted Redshank around that area. A couple of adult Mediterranean Gull were seen in the morning, one on Stanpit and one west at sea, where there was also a count of 34 Shag and 10 Great Crested Grebe, plus 2 more of the latter inside the harbour. The best of the afternoon waders in Stanpit Bight were 2 Knot, along with 10 Grey Plover, 102 Dunlin and 7 Black-tailed Godwit. Also, seemingly lots of Redshank, but tomorrow's WeBS count should quantify that a little better. Other interest came from: 3 Shoveler, a pair and single female; 4 Water Rail, including one swimming across Mother Siller's Channel just upstream from the Bailey Bridge; 2 Chiffchaff, one at the aforementioned site and another along the Purewell Stream; and 50 or so Brent Goose. Finally, the information services report 2 Purple Sandpiper, but the location was not altogether clear.

December 12th

No reports have been received so far today.

December 11th

The first Little Auk of the year was seen today at midday; it was on the sea, about 15m from the shore, half way between the end of the Barn Field and the Long Groyne. It dived several times. before flying west into Poole Bay. Earlier, there was frost down to the tideline, where 4 Turnstone were feeding near Goldeneye Point. The harbour held 14 Little Grebe, a Snipe flew over Holloway’s Dock and a Razorbill moved west at sea. Finally 2 Raven were on the top of Warren Hill East. Check back to yesterday for some late news.

December 10th

A couple of female Marsh Harrier were seen this morning. At one point the birds could be seen wheeling around together over the Wick reedbed. A walk along the beach to the end of the head found a Common Seal close inshore, just a couple of yards off the Long Groyne. On the sea were 2 Great Crested Grebe and a Red-throated Diver, while 5 auk headed west and a large offshore feeding flock of thousands of gulls held at least 100 Common Gull. Finally from Hengistbury, 12 Redwing were in the Wood. From Fisherman's Bank, the 2 Avocet and the Spotted Redshank were present, along with 180 Dunlin and 3 Grey Plover.

Late news: on Wick Fields this morning a male Bullfinch was seen, also a wintering Chiffchaff while in the Nursery 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker were present. On the sandspit 28 Ringed Plover and 13 Dunlin were roosting; on the river were 10 Little Grebe and a single Great Crested Grebe.

December 9th

On another bitterly cold morning there is very little to report, just a single Great Crested Grebe and around 12 Little Grebe in the harbour.

December 8th

The 2 Avocet and the Spotted Redshank were opposite Fisherman's Bank again today, also 140 Dunlin and 90 Teal. From Hengistbury, the only report is of a party of 8 Siskin over the HHC this morning.

December 7th

All that was seen on a mid-morning walk on Hengistbury was a Great Crested Grebe in Barn Bight, together with a collection of the usual wildfowl. Sadly, no other reports have been received despite a glorious, sunny, almost windless day.

Late news from Hengistbury: a Long-tailed Duck, the second of the year, moved west close inshore, while 4 Red-throated Diver and 5 Great Crested Grebe headed in the opposite direction.

December 6th

The settled weather tempted a few more observers into the field today, with scant reward for their efforts. However, there was one noteworthy sighting, with 128 Cormorant arriving "en masse" from the south, circling The Run and heading off towards Barton. Siskin and Redpoll were both seen today, with 2 of the former and 4 of the latter; 2 Chiffchaff were in the vicinity of the HHC, 3 Redwing headed off at first light, a Shoveler flew downriver and 12 Goldcrest were in the Wood. Little Grebe are still present in good numbers, 20 being the highest count today, with 4 Great Crested Grebe in the harbour and 5 on the sea. A walk to the end of the sandspit produced 24 Ringed Plover, also 3 Red-throated Diver at sea. A group of 6 Brent Geese were in the channel by Parky Meade Rail, a rather unusual location for this species, and this afternoon saw a good count of 86 Teal in Barn Bight.

Late news: a late morning seawatch produced another 7 Red-throated Diver, 3 Great Northern Diver and 16 Common Scoter, all west.

December 5th

The only report received so far is a late item of news from yesterday, when a male Merlin was seen over Wick Fields.

December 4th

After the overnight deluge, the sky quickly cleared giving way to a pleasant and sunny morning. In the Wood on Hengistbury, both Firecrest and Blackcap were by the Nursery, while inside the harbour there was an impressive count of 9 Great Crested Grebe. There was another Great Crested Grebe on the sea, where a Red-throated Diver moved east. Opposite Fisherman's Bank, the Spotted Redshank and the 2 Avocet were still present along with 35 Dunlin.

December 3rd

Stanpit wasn't for the faint-hearted this morning as a strengthening northerly wind made it feel very cold. Both South and East Marshes were almost deserted as the birds roosted in the more sheltered areas, although 2 Knot did emerge from one of the channels. The Spotted Redshank and 2 Avocet were opposite Fisherman's Bank, while a total of 220 Dunlin and 18 Black-tailed Godwit were scattered around the area; also seen was a Kingfisher and a pair of Pintail. The only passerine of note was a Siskin over Stanpit.

December 2nd

The 2 Avocet were in Stanpit Bight this morning and the Spotted Redshank was opposite Fisherman's Bank. There were also 3 Pintail, 2 drakes and a duck, and 2 Shoveler while just over 70 Brent Geese were present, along with 235 Dunlin, 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Grey Plover. The only news from Hengistbury today is of a Fieldfare and Great Spotted Woodpecker on Wick. Check back to yesterday for additional news.

December 1st

On another bitterly cold day, the only report received so far is from Fisherman's Bank where the Spotted Redshank and half a dozen Dunlin were roosting with the Redshank on the high tide, also a Kingfisher there.

Late news: a pair of Pintail and a single Turnstone were on Stanpit; also, on the Mudeford Sandspit, 27 Ringed Plover and 6 Dunlin .

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