Sightings for February 2008

February 29th

Only the second time this date has featured on the website, but I suspect it won't live too long in the memory. The notables were a drake Gadwall on the river and a pair of Peregrine heading towards the town from Hengistbury. Maybe this year, after a few seasons of false hope, The Priory will host an active pair. Little else, other than 3 Black-tailed Godwit on Wick Hams, 4 Little Grebe on the river and a vocal Water Rail by Barn Bight.

February 28th

Back to normal service today, with the only record being a walk of 52 Snipe over the HHC at dusk.

Additional news: a Mistle Thrush came in off the sea at Hengistbury and headed off to the north.

February 27th

Encouragingly, more records were received today - hopefully the imminent arrival of spring will stir a few observers from hibernation? An early visit to Fisherman's Bank saw 71 Dunlin and 68 Teal, with all the other usual species present and correct. Over on Hengistbury, 9 Purple Sandpiper and 12 Turnstone were by the Café and just inside the harbour respectively, while a Great Crested Grebe was in Barn Bight, with 21 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Snipe resting on Wick Hams. A Grey Wagtail was on the flooded area at the village end of Wick Fields, a couple of Canada Geese overflew, and 2 Peregrine, thought to be male and female, were over The Priory and Stanpit golf course. Later this afternoon, an unsuccessful foray for early migrants drew a blank, but 6 Pintail arrived from the south and a Jackdaw went east.

February 26th

At least there is something to report for the day. Around 5 Stonechat on Solent Meads golf course were considered to be new-arrivers, also an immaculately plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull over there. An early trip to Fisherman's Bank produced little, other than some useful counts of 250 Wigeon and 55 Teal. Stanpit actually received a visit yesterday, so please check back for an update.

February 25th

No sightings to report today, but there is an update on yesterday's colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit, which was first ringed in 2002 on The Wash and has spent much of its subsequent time just along the coast at Keyhaven. Click here for a full life history of the bird.

Additional news: the Spotted Redshank was still present on East Marsh, Stanpit, as were 35 Black-tailed Godwit. A small male Peregrine was positively identified, but a much larger falcon that chased just about everything on the marsh was not seen too well, but could well have been a Saker. Meanwhile, a pair of frisky Great-spotted Woodpecker in the North Scrubs would make a nice breeding record should they find the place to their liking.

February 24th

The RSPB Beached Bird Survey at Hengistbury this morning fortunately drew a complete blank. However, 10 Purple Sandpiper were found on groyne S8, which is towards the southern end of the sandspit. Another good figure came from Turnstone, with 25 on the harbour shore adjacent to the Noddy Train Terminus; but the day's best record undoubtedly falls to 4 Golden Plover south over the Nursery. To finish on Hengistbury, a single Fulmar headed west past there. One of 35 Black-tailed Godwit on Stanpit was colour-ringed and is an individual not previously seen in the area. Further details should hopefully follow in a few days or so. At least 3 Scandinavian Rock Pipit were showing well in the north-west section of Central Marsh, close to the small pond at the northern end of Grimmery Bank, while a lone Grey Wagtail was on Priory Marsh. Early morning counts from the marsh included: 136 Brent Goose with a 10% first-winter estimation and 10-12 Shelduck. Later in the morning, a party of 15 Pintail spent 10 minutes circling the area, seemingly reluctant to pitch in. Please check back to yesterday's post for some additional news, including a good count of Purple Sandpiper.

February 23rd

Despite a reasonable turn out, the sea produced very little over a two-hour spell this morning. Apart from a small passage of Common Gull, 13 Brent Goose and 4 Grey Plover to the west, there is just a single Red-throated Diver, a diver sp. and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull - all to the east - to comment upon. The sandspit hosted a fairly constant presence of waders, made up of 200+ Dunlin, 8 Turnstone and at least 5 Ringed Plover; while, inside the harbour, the Goldeneye was off Rushy Piece and 6 Black-tailed Godwit were on the HHC bar before the high spring tide quickly obscured it. To conclude, just after dawn, a total of 16 Snipe were flushed off Wick Hams by a hunting Sparrowhawk.

Additional news. Unusually for the weekend, Hengistbury actually served up a better selection as the day wore on. An excellent count of 15 Purple Sandpiper was made on one of the sandspit groynes, also a Razorbill and 2 Great-crested Grebe on the water off there. A couple of Raven passed over the head and the pair of Little Grebe were again noted on the Ironstone Quarry.

February 22nd

Almost embarrassingly, the only 'out of the ordinary' report for the day is a personal observation of a pair of Canada Goose from Fisherman's Bank early this morning, after they had presumably roosted there overnight. Lean times indeed! A reasonable crew should be out tomorrow, so things will hopefully pick up.

February 21st

Very little reported today - just a few Goldcrest and a pair of Jay in the Nursery, in fact.

February 20th

Soon after a first light, a rather nasty, damp fog descended on the area and discouraged many of the expected regulars. After a blank week or so, Goldeneye were back on site, with a solitary drake in Barn Bight. The courting Grey Heron are now very audible in the Nursery, where there was also a Mistle Thrush and a passing Raven. A Peregrine was dining on one of the Priory Tower gargoyles, while 6 Snipe were in Brewer's Creek and a lone Turnstone was by Rushy Piece. On Stanpit, a littoralis Rock Pipit could be picked out and a Sanderling was amongst the 200 or so other small waders, the majority of which were most likely Dunlin, also 6 Black-tailed Godwit about the marsh.

February 19th

It's largely pointless commenting on the weather, as little has changed for over a week now, although there was a chillier breeze today. Redpoll were being sought, but the only birds encountered were two in flight over the end of Hengistbury. The right spot and quite possibly the birds, but I guess they have to go down as spp. Despite the normal cynicism surrounding Canada Goose, a skein of 20 west over the head is actually rather noteworthy, as was a flock of 200 Dunlin east into The Solent. Raven seemed to be omni-present this morning - at least 6 birds about the woodland - strongly pointing towards a potential breeding first. Continuing on the spring time theme, there are now a pair of suitably attired Little Grebe on the Ironstone Quarry. If they start this early, they are likely to at least achieve the double brood success of last year. To wrap up, a Red-throated Diver passed west, a Peregrine briefly patrolled the cliffs and a Shoveler was over Wick.

February 18th

Another frosty start, which soon gave way to clear blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately, however, the bird news does not quite match the weather. Other than 11 Snipe in Brewer's Creek that seemed oblivious to the half-term crowds, it was left to a pair of Red-legged Partridge, the year's first, on Wick Driving Range this evening to liven up a quiet day. I wonder if local breeding will eventually be proven for this species in the coming months? While it is a relatively news-free day, it seems a good time to comment on the status of Mealy Redpoll in Christchurch Harbour. Although there are documented records from the winter of 85/86, in November and February respectively, no currently active CHOG members have recollection of these birds. Further, at the time, flammea was considered to be a sub-species, rather than a species in its own right. I believe the official split to Lesser Redpoll (the normally occurring UK birds) and Mealy (Common) Redpoll (those from further north) came in around 2000 or 2001. Therefore, this weekend's birds could be termed as CHOG's first "official" records for the full species. The Harbour List will be updated accordingly.

February 17th

Today's photographer set out doggedly to locate a Mealy Redpoll and after a couple of hours hard work managed just that. Trying to dig out a single bird in the dense vegetation towards the end of the head is no mean feat at all! All today's photos were taken in an area between the Ironstone Quarry and the dried-up pool by the last Beach Hut, but it did mean getting right in there. The bird was loosely associating with a mixed tit flock. Despite this, other than an adult Mediterranean Gull over Wick, there was little interest early on; but the disappearance of yesterday's bitter wind made the whole experience very pleasant indeed. A pair of Tufted Duck passed over briefly, as they made their way upriver, while a drake Gadwall seemed more settled in Barn Bight. A couple of flighty Redwing were in the Wood by the Double Bends and a lone Raven moved off westwards. The cloudless skies inevitably saw Buzzard on the wing and at least two from the valley ventured as far south as the harbour itself; also over the confines of the recording area were 3 Jackdaw. This afternoon, the Common Sandpiper was seen from Argyle Road and the wintering, Stanpit Linnet numbered 5 birds on North Marsh, with other counts including 55 Dunlin and 1 Grey Plover, along with around 80 Brent Goose and 11 Shelduck. Finally, a Kingfisher was on Central Marsh, a Turnstone was on the shingle off Mudeford Quay, and Wick anser trash comprised singles of Greylag Goose and Canada Goose.

Additional news: late in the afternoon, Brewer's Creek held 22 Snipe and a Water Rail.

February 16th

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a couple of Mealy Redpoll that were almost stumbled upon as they drank from a puddle just opposite Holloway's Dock. There was quite a degree of variation in the two individuals, with one being noticeably paler than the other. The wind from the north-east made things very uncomfortable indeed, so after this excitement, it was a case of sheltering in the lee of the last beach hut. From there, little was seen at sea, other than a drake Eider, a Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Gannet heading into The Solent. In fact, it was waders that topped the numbers, as at least 200 Dunlin and 5 Ringed Plover headed south-to-north along the sandspit, no doubt disturbed from their favourite area around the Long Groyne. A pair of Raven was again over The Wood, and a Mistle Thrush and 2 Linnet headed off the head onto Wick Fields. A significant event mid-morning was a flock of 38 Pintail that came from the valley and left over the Black House. A count this high is something noteworthy indeed for the area. On the Ironstone Quarry, at least one Little Grebe is already in residence and fast attaining breeding dress. This in stark contrast to the birds remaining in the main harbour, which are still in full 'winter-type' plumage.

Additional news: A Peregrine was over Stanpit in the afternoon, while 3 Shoveler, 20 Black-tailed Godwit and a Turnstone were more settled.

February 15th

No frost for the first time this week, but a chilly south-easterly wind made it equally cold. Today saw two of the wintering wader singletons, the Spotted Redshank and the Bar-tailed Godwit, making it back into the records. The former was seen from Fisherman's Bank, feeding off East Marsh, then later briefly on East Marsh itself; while the latter was tucked in the harbour by the Mudeford Quay approach road. Other waders noted included 90+ Dunlin, 5 Grey Plover and 5 Ringed Plover. A comprehensive scouring of Central Marsh this afternoon could produce just 5 Rock Pipit, but at least two of these had seemingly impeccable littoralis credentials, also a largish flock of 50 Meadow Pipit about there and Priory Marsh. Meanwhile, a pair of Raven arrived from the Avon Valley, quietly slipping into the woodland on Hengistbury, and a Mistle Thrush was on the golf course for a short time before heading off towards Riversleigh. Earlier in the day, a pair of Pintail were in the mid-harbour and a total of 8 Little Grebe was counted. Finally, that nemesis of quality birding, the Canada Goose, darkened the recording area for the first time this year, with three birds over Wick in the morning.

Godwit note: for those of you who were following the recent Avon Valley flock of Black-tailed Godwit, most have now moved much further north, to just south of Fordingbridge, although 600 remained south of the causeway on Wednesday. Around 800 or so have also returned to Poole Harbour.

February 14th

The blues skies finally ceded to those greyer, but it did get slightly brighter as the day wore on. Around the same time as yesterday, early morning that is, the Avocet was again feeding in the channel along Fisherman's Bank, also 77 Teal and 6 Snipe logged from there. From Hengistbury, 3 Pochard were seen heading downriver, but were lost from view in the emerging sun; while other duck interest came from a pair of Shoveler resting on Grimmery Point. A female Bullfinch was in the Wick Field that borders the HHC and at least 2, but possibly up to 4, Raven flirted with the harbour airspace. Looking toward Stanpit, a significant Dunlin increase was obvious, with 125 birds counted, along with 15 Ringed Plover and 1 Grey Plover. Check back to yesterday for some nocturnal news.

February 13th

Despite some forecasts suggesting otherwise, the fine weather rolls on, which encouraged Bearded Tit to make themselves known in the HHC reedbed for the first time this year, where a number of birds were heard calling. Also heard, but not seen, was a Mediterranean Gull somewhere above the harbour. A, possibly "the", Black-throated Diver skirted the Coastguards eastwards - perhaps on its way to the Black House over the sandspit? Also 2 Red-throated Diver east, but much further offshore. Fisherman's Bank held some treats: firstly, at around 7:30, an Avocet was off there; while later in the day, the Common Sandpiper frequented the jetties, but for just a short time. Going back to the Avocet, it's been a couple of weeks and some very high floods since the regular bird was recorded, so this may well be a different individual. Other than these, however, Stanpit contained only 23 Dunlin, a lone Black-tailed Godwit and 14 Shelduck. Mudeford Quay didn't produce the speculated closer views of diver, but 7 Turnstone went through The Run and a Grey Wagtail was feeding on the sea defences.

Additional news: a Rook was over Wick Fields in the morning was a sure sign of spring, also a large, female Peregrine above there in the evening. Much later on, something new for the year-list was a pair of Tawny Owl heard calling from Two Riversmeet.

February 12th

Tuesdays rarely enjoy extensive coverage and this one was no exception. Nevertheless, the Black-throated Diver was again located in what seems to be a favoured position off the Black House. On this basis, although the bird is invariably being scoped from Hengistbury, it would be a fair assumption that Mudeford Quay may offer closer views. Also from the head, the first evidence of return Brent Goose passage past the area, as 30 or so moved up channel, along with a Red-throated Diver in the same direction. From Fisherman's Bank, at least, Stanpit was scantily blessed with waders. Just 15 Dunlin and 1 Black-tailed Godwit could be seen, while in terms of wildfowl, the best was 8 Shelduck on East Marsh.

February 11th

Weather-wise, almost identical to yesterday. This morning, at 8:00, the Black-throated Diver was watched entering the harbour from off the sea, where it had presumably roosted, along the Double Dykes and settling into Barn Bight. However, by lunchtime, the bird had worked its way further along the main navigation channel, towards the harbour entrance. Also seen early on were 3 Goldeneye, but later visits could muster only a female individual. Just a single Little Grebe was in Barn Bight, while pairs of Shoveler and Gadwall were watched circling the area from both Hengistbury and Stanpit. The marsh also held 23 Rock Pipit, of which two had good features of Scandinavian birds, also 2 Chiffchaff and 126 Teal logged from there. It is not believed that any oiled birds were found today.

February 10th

In near identical conditions to yesterday, there were few nice bits and pieces around. Sadly though, more oiled auks were present, with both Guillemot and Razorbill hauled out onto groynes. The Hengistbury Rangers are attempting to pick up these birds, so if you do come across any, then please let them know. Bird of the day was perhaps a redhead Goosander that left the area over the HHC, but the Black-throated Diver was still inside the harbour, by the Black House, while there are now 3 Goldeneye, 1 drake and 2 brownheads, in Barn Bight. The spring-like weather encouraged birds into song, not least 3 Song Thrush on Wick; where genuine winter interest came from 3 Bullfinch, a Jackdaw, 1 Redwing, a Siskin and a Coal Tit, with a Grey Wagtail being slightly more expected. A further Coal Tit was in the Wood, as were 3 mobile Redpoll and the Firecrest, this by the Double Bends. The final Hengistbury record for the day involves a sinensis looking Cormorant in Barn Bight. During a late afternoon visit to Stanpit, there was a Scandinavian Rock Pipit on East Marsh, also the small wintering flock of Linnet, today numbering 10 birds. A good count of Brent Goose totalled 211, but all left after being flushed by a helicopter! Another good figure came from Ringed Plover, as 34 roosted on the South Marsh shingle patch, along with 8 Dunlin.

Omission: around a dozen Jackdaw were over Stanpit.

February 9th

A gloriously clear morning with a heavy, early frost. For the second day in succession, an auk was resting up on the groynes. This Razorbill, although seemingly not oiled, is presumably not in 100% condition, as it sat just off the Beach Huts. Incidentally, this is a species photo first for the site. Perhaps even stranger, however, was the presence of a Black-throated Diver in the harbour for the second time this season. At first, it was just offshore Barn Bight, but later moved out towards Blackberry Point. Given it is over a month since the last bird was recorded, it seems safe to assume this is a different individual. The Firecrest was just west of the Double Bends, a couple of Bullfinch were by the HHC, a Kittiwake and Red-throated Diver moved past the Beach Huts, and the pair of Goldeneye were in their normal spot. Meanwhile, a very high tide pushed 30-40 Snipe off the flooding Wick Hams. There are undoubtedly more reports to follow, so an update may be posted later this evening. Finally, thanks to last night's speaker, Trevor Warrick, the photographer, Alan Hayden, and all other contributors for the record-attended event. A total of 52 squeezed into a slightly too small room.

Update: a Redpoll was about the Wood, while a further 3 Red-throated Diver, 2 Great-northern Diver and a handful of auk were at sea, and 2 Gadwall were in Barn Bight.

February 8th

Another day of reasonable offshore movement, with 96 eastward heading Wigeon perhaps being migrants? In addition to these, a Velvet Scoter, a Razorbill and 5 Common Scoter moved the same way, while 53 Common Scoter flew west. Also west, 12 Red-throated Diver, the largest group being 6 birds, a Great-northern Diver, 2 unidentified diver and 2 Kittiwake. A presumably sick Guillemot was preening on groynes by the Point House Café, and 9 Little Grebe and 1 Great-crested Grebe were in the harbour.

Additional news: a Grey Plover was heard over the HHC prior to the evening meeting. In the Avon Valley, the Black-tailed Godwit have reduced to 1200 birds, but there are now over 800 back in the Poole area.

February 7th

Something of a gavier bonanza off Hengistbury mid-morning, with a total of 21 Red-throated Diver passing west. The largest flock, comprising 9 birds, also contained a Velvet Scoter, which then reappeared and headed back into The Solent. A couple of Black-throated Diver, 2 Kittiwake, 3 Pintail and 3 Great-crested Grebe also headed down channel. To complete the picture on the sea, there was a count of 32 Shag; while a Firecrest was in the Wood by the Double Bends. Around the same time, over on Stanpit, the Brent Goose were about 170 and Wigeon exceeded the 400 mark.

February 6th

A bit of a miscellany from a reasonably well covered Hengistbury this morning. At sea, singles of Red-throated Diver and Kittiwake passed east and west respectively, while two each of Goldeneye and Great-crested Grebe were inside the harbour, just off Blackberry Point. Interest in the woodland came from a Redpoll over the Batters, a Coal Tit in the Wood itself and Raven heard by the Nursery. Waders though, continue to be sparse, with just 60 Dunlin and 1 Grey Plover along Grimmery Bank, but, later on, 11 Shelduck from Fisherman's Bank at lunchtime was a reasonable count. Around the same time, a brief look at the valley suggested the godwit numbers had dropped a little.

February 5th

Very little to report today, in fact next to nothing. A brief 5 minutes on a blustery Fisherman's Bank late this afternoon saw 160 Brent Goose in Stanpit Bight, along with a single Black-tailed Godwit and a few Dunlin. Today's Avon godwit estimate was 1500+ birds.

February 4th

A day with sparse coverage saw the 2 Goldeneye, seemingly a pair, in Barn Bight and a Coal Tit with the Long-tailed Tit flock in the Wood. Over on Stanpit, 2 Grey Plover, 30 Ringed Plover and 45 Dunlin could be picked out from the head. In the Avon Valley, the 2000+ Black-tailed Godwit remain in their favoured spot just south of the Causeway.

February 3rd

In spite of the uncomfortable south-south-easterly gusts, there were a few sheltered spots to be found on Hengistbury. From there, Balearic Shearwater were seen on three occasions, but the possibility of all sightings being the same bird has to be considered. Little else though, given the conditions, other than: 18 Kittiwake, 4 Red-throated Diver, 1 Red-breasted Merganser a Gannet and 16 auk sp. The best of a testing WeBS count came from the sandspit, where there were 2 Purple Sandpiper, a Grey Plover, a good count of 74 Ringed Plover and 49 Dunlin. Meanwhile, a pair of Goldeneye have reappeared in Barn Bight, as did the Mudeford Quay Gadwall, for the first time this year. The early morning at Stanpit saw no Black-tailed Godwit, however, by 11:00, over 550 had left westwards, while up to 300 remained on the marsh. Note, there were still 2500 birds off the Avon Causeway at around the same time. For those so inclined, other totals from the census include: 433 Wigeon, 120 Redshank, 113 Brent Goose, 102 Coot, 58 Teal and 12 Curlew.

February 2nd

All three diver species were off Hengistbury this morning. As would be expected, Red-throated Diver topped the numbers with 13 west and 3 east, while singles of Black-throated Diver and Great-northern Diver headed east and were on the water respectively. Also logged at sea were: 10 Common Scoter, 2 Shelduck and a Great-crested Grebe west. At dawn, a couple of Redwing passed over the HHC and, later, a lone Siskin was about Wick Fields, where at least 2 Song Thrush were involved in an intense vocal duel. Around 90 Dunlin were off Grimmery Bank, while 40 more accessed the harbour over the sandspit after being moved off the Beach, as did 20 Ringed Plover. Barn Bight hosted 15 Snipe and a Kingfisher, and the river held 11 Little Grebe. Details have now been received on last week's colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit. Click here for details. On the subject of godwit, but a couple of miles outside of the CHOG area, there is currently a flock of 2000 birds on floods just south of the Avon Causeway.

Additional news: the distant egret shown below was thought to be a probable Cattle Egret. This shot was taken on Wick Fields with the bird heading away and up the Stour Valley. Also a Peregrine over the fields in the afternoon.

February 1st

For the first time in a few days, the sea received some real attention, but could serve up just 2 Red-throated Diver and a single Razorbill past the Beach Huts. Little else was reported from Hengistbury, other than a Raven by the Coastguards and 15 Dunlin off Grimmery Bank. A couple of afternoon trips to Stanpit revealed that most waders have simply left the area. Apart from the customary Redshank and Curlew, only 2 Black-tailed Godwit from Fisherman's Bank can be reported. There were also 3 Shoveler, 2 of them drake birds, on the tip of South Marsh.

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