Sightings for February 2009

February 28th

The undoubted highlight was at least 2, but possibly 3, Firecrest that showed really well at the northern end of the North Scrubs for almost the entire, spring-like day. Nearby, Priory Marsh held lots of ground feeding birds including: a dead-cert littoralis (Scandinavian) Rock Pipit, with all the features bar the pink, 2 Grey Wagtail and a Skylark. Also, a fair number of Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail in the same area, while the information services carried a report of a Water Pipit for the early morning. The sea was dire - just 2 Red-throated Diver past and 5 Common Scoter fishing around the tip of a large boom that has appeared off Southbourne in the last few days. However, it was good to see a couple of Dartford Warbler about a traditional spot on Hengistbury and a Jackdaw moved over. To finish off, single Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwit make the notebook, as do 2 Gadwall and a drake Shoveler. It's WeBS count tomorrow, so even if there's no quality there'll be lots of numbers!

February 27th

Things perked up a little today, particularly at 07:50 when a Bittern, the second record for 2009, was heard booming in the reeds adjacent to the HHC; then, slightly later, a Firecrest brightened up an otherwise quiet Nursery. A Chiffchaff was on Wick Fields, where a Peregrine soared overhead and Cetti's Warblers were being more vocal than of late, which is encouraging after the relatively hard winter; while equally welcome was a Dartford Warbler record from the Long Field. A count of 168 Brent Goose around Stanpit Bight was useful, but after their sudden peak last weekend the Shelduck are back down to 7 birds. Also, 47 Dunlin about Stanpit and 4 Gadwall there. Also, just making it onto the post are 3 Jackdaw over Hengistbury this morning.

February 26th

Another almost apologetic post that can muster just a Coal Tit in the Nursery, plus the Spotted Redshank and 140 Dunlin by Fisherman's Bank. It will get better soon, honestly!

February 25th

On another still day, there was perhaps some evidence of light Meadow Pipit passage with flocks of 17 and 11 over Hengistbury. Meanwhile, two others were busy 'parachuting' territories on the Long Field. Little else though, save for a couple of Raven that headed towards the Nursery and, this afternoon, a couple of Yellow-legged Gull were on the end of the sandspit, viewed from Mudeford Quay.

Additional news: the Spotted Redshank and a drake Shoveler were off Fisherman's Bank tonight, as were around 190 Dunlin.

February 24th

There was a little more wader variety at Stanpit today. Of course, the Spotted Redshank was still around, but presumed incomers were 13 Ringed Plover on Blackberry Point and a Grey Plover just off South Marsh. Also about that area were 112 Dunlin and a single Black-tailed Godwit. On Hengistbury, a ringing attempt for Dartford Warbler was ominously non-productive, while 2 Snipe came up from Warren Hill and a Peregrine sat on fence posts in Wick Hams.

February 23rd

A Pochard in Barn Bight and 2 Raven over the Nursery are the pick of a very quiet day, when the Ironstone Quarry Little Grebe made a return for what I believe will be their fifth year, assuming it has been the same pair throughout. Also of breeding interest, Heron are back in the Nursery, but so far it seems to be just one pair; while 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker in Wood could make it a first for Hengistbury.

February 22nd

All three sites - Hengistbury, Stanpit and Wick - were visited today, but produced a fairly meagre overall return. Having said that, the latter did serve up the first Jackdaw of the year, 6 in total, as well as 2 cock Pheasant, which after a few bumper years seem to be on the decline across the area. To wrap up for Wick, a Coal Tit was by the pond at the village end of the fields. Hengistbury was perhaps a little better, with a first-winter Mediterranean Gull over Holloway's Dock, while 2 Great Northern Diver and a Common Scoter passed by at sea. Stanpit Bight was particularly uneventful, save for an obvious influx of around 30 Shelduck, some of them quite amorous indeed. Also, 130 Brent Goose about the place, but it needed a trip to Fisherman's Bank to find any Dunlin, 75 of them, and a Spotted Redshank.

February 21st

The run of settled weather continues and with it very little of dynamic interest. For the want of anything better to do, the sea was watched from the Coastguards for a couple of hours this morning, when the best was a flock of 6 Red-breasted Merganser, a good number by local standards, which passed by east; also a single bird west. Other slight signs of up-channel movement included a Curlew, along with dribbles of Shelduck and Brent Goose, and 3 Red-throated Diver. Meanwhile, a couple of Common Scoter headed the opposite way and a Peregrine was seen inbound. Around the same sort of time, mid-morning that is, a single Avocet was off Fisherman's Bank, as were 3 Shoveler, two of them drakes.

February 20th

After a few days' absence, Avocet make it back onto the post, although it was just a single bird off Fisherman's Bank at lunchtime. Slightly more interesting was the confirmation of 2 Spotted Redshank in the harbour - one opposite Argyll Road slip and one in Stanpit Bight. This is first direct report of two birds to the website, however the information services have carried such news a few times during the winter. Dunlin numbers took a jump today, with over 180 estimated, but other than a drake Shoveler there were just 6 Shelduck, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 18 Brent Goose to bother noting.

February 19th

Another settled day that did little to stir the excitement, or the birds. The best of the morning was a group of 3 Tufted Duck seen flying downriver from Hengistbury, where 50 or so Brent Goose were counted on Stanpit. The lunchtime Fisherman's Bank ritual again produced the Spotted Redshank, as well as 16 Shelduck, 2 Black-tailed Godwit and 26 Dunlin, while 4 Turnstone were on the inner shore of Mudeford Quay.

February 18th

Low cloud and drizzle greatly reduced the visibility, as well as deterring many visits into the field. Of course, Fisherman's Bank was checked and again provided the Spotted Redshank, along with 95 Dunlin, 10 Shelduck and 12 Turnstone, while two more of these were by Mudeford Quay. Meanwhile, the only report of interest from Stanpit itself involves an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the HHC mudbar.

Additional news: a Water Rail was showing well in Brewer's Creek.

February 17th

Other than a Kittiwake over the HHC and 2 Raven over Hengistbury, the day's records come from Fisherman's Bank. The Spotted Redshank was again present, as were 165 Dulin, a drake Shoveler, 14 Shelduck and 32 Brent Goose.

February 16th

An early look from Fisherman's Bank saw 4 Avocet back in their usual spot - that's about 50m north of the Argyll Road slip. Also, the Spotted Redshank could be picked out in Stanpit Bight, along with 5 Grey Plover, around 135 Dunlin, a drake Shoveler and 8 Shelduck. Meanwhile, a lone Black-tailed Godwit remains - when will it latch onto the fact that over 1000+ of its kind are currently in the flooded Avon Valley north of Ringwood? This evening, from Mudeford Quay, the Christchurch Bay small-to-medium gull roost was scanned a few times, when amongst the estimated 4000 Black-headed Gull over 140 Common Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull were logged. Black-headed Gull were still arriving en masse as darkness fell, so the final figure would have been significantly higher. Interestingly, not a single large gull was in the gathering.

February 15th

The only definite report received from a morning visit to Stanpit is of a pair of Egyptian Goose that appeared over the harbour, then briefly settled off Blackberry Point before heading north up the valley. In the afternoon, a look from Fisherman's Bank confirmed the Spotted Redshank is still present, while an adult Mediterranean Gull, approaching full breeding-plumage, could be seen on South Marsh. A species currently noticeable by its absence is Lapwing, but this is explained by the extensive flooding in the Avon Valley, which seems to be far more attractive than estuarine mud.

February 14th

Once the sun had burnt away the overnight frost, it was a glorious, still day in the harbour - almost spring-like. In fact, Mistle Thrush, this somewhere in Stanpit village, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker and even Linnet all thought it was as they indulged in song or drumming in an early effort to establish a territory. On Stanpit, the 7 Avocet remain and spent most of the morning on the tip of south marsh; also singles of Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwit, along with 14 Ringed Plover, 85 or so Dunlin and 105 Brent Goose. The 2 Goldeneye have not been recorded for some time, but today they were feeding off the southern end of Fisherman's Bank, while 2 Shoveler were in Barn Bight. At one point, something caused alarm about East Marsh and put over 40 Snipe into the air, which is a reasonable count these days. Over 8 Raven passed east over Hengistbury, as well as a single Rook, the first of the year, and a Buzzard was on the wing in the lower portion of the Avon Valley. It was also nice to record a Dartford Warbler on the Barn Field, as it is feared the recent, severe weather may well have taken its toll on the local population. The best on the sea was a tight group of 232 Cormorant, about a mile out into Poole Bay, which bizarrely also contained a lone Canada Goose! Earlier, 3 Greylag Goose had passed west and a total of 5 Red-throated Diver were logged. Also, 48 Brent Goose and 5 auk sp. east. The Southbourne grebes are deservedly attracting some attention and of the 3 counts received for the day, the highest came in at 249 from four flocks between Warren Edge and Boscombe Pier.

February 13th

Back after a two-week Asian trip and thanks to Mark for covering what turned out to be quite a busy period. This morning saw a northerly wind and some irritating drizzle, meaning the shelter at the Beach Huts was best described as marginal, as was the interest over a 50-minute seawatch. At least 5 Red-throated Diver were seen in flight, while a drake Common Scoter was settled on the water, but little else of note, other than around 75 Brent Goose taking the long way round to arrive from Poole. Earlier, a single Raven was active over the Nursery, where the local Carrion Crow were giving it a hard time, and 7 Avocet could be seen huddled on the fringe of East Marsh. Finally, even though they are usually on the water outside of the recording area, the Southbourne Great Crested Grebe are well worth a look from the cliff-top car park. Today, 210 were counted from there, in four distinct flocks.

February 12th

A few more signs of life today - from Stanpit, combined figures from various observers included 104 Dunlin, 8 Avocet, 5 Shelduck, a drake Shoveler, 61 Brent Geese, a single Grey Plover and 2 Rock Pipit (apparently petrosus rather than littoralis ), with a Peregrine on the south face of The Priory tower around midday perhaps being one of a couple of males seen sparring over the Marsh later in the afternoon. On the other side of the harbour, two groups of Cormorant seen to depart out to sea weighed in at a hefty total of 250 birds, whilst the Southbourne Great Crested Grebe tally reached an incredible 330 birds this morning, albeit not all within the recording area.

February 11th

A quiet day, both weather- and bird-wise. This morning there were 3 Grey Wagtail by the Wooden Bridge on Wick (normally only singles are seen in the winter), and 3 Redshank in the same flooded area is also unusual. Also there, a Little Egret was unsuccessfully stalked by a Fox. Late this afternoon, Fisherman's Bank held the customary Avocet - 3 today - with 16 Brent Geese, 108 Dunlin, 6 Shelduck and the Spotted Redshank for company. Non-avian late news for yesterday involved a Seal sp. off Fisherman's Bank at around 8am, feasting on a large Flounder.

February 10th

Despite a chilly wind from the north, at least it was dry and for the most part sunny, which tempted a few out into the field today. This morning, there were 8 Linnet by the Hiker café, 12 Little Grebe in Barn Bight and 2 Red-throated Diver headed east; while The Priory Peregrine was sheltering from the wind on the southern side of the main spire. This afternoon, a quick look from Fisherman's Bank revealed 6 Avocet in the near channel, with around 80 Dunlin, 5 Shelduck and a couple of Little Grebe, with the Spotted Redshank flying in just prior to dusk. Beachwalkers would do well to heed today's photographer's comments - evidently a swift about-turn was needed as he found himself pinned against the cliffs by a high tide and swell that lapped over the top of his wellingtons! The base of the cliffs was being undercut by the wave action, and with the cliffs already being sodden from the recent rain, it would also be sensible to keep well back from the cliff edge should your walk take you over the head itself.

February 9th

Rain stopped play!

The only news today was of an omission from yesterday, when a male Red-breasted Merganser was feeding just 10 metres off the public slipway at Mudeford Quay early afternoon.

February 8th

Another dry, calm start to the day was ideal for the monthly WEBS count; however, the honour of best sighting of the day went to 12 Waxwing that overflew Hengistbury towards Mudeford, never to be seen again (despite searching). Avocet numbers have increased to 7 and there were also a couple of Spotted Redshank on Stanpit, plus 6 Tufted Duck in the harbour. Combined counts for both sides of the Harbour included 551 Wigeon, 206 Teal, 36 Brent Goose, 27 Curlew, 37 Ringed Plover and 163 Dunlin. Variety was provided by a Grey Wagtail on Wick Floods, 2 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Yellow-legged Gull, single Grey Plover and Shoveler, also 4 Red-throated Diver east, 18 Common Scoter west and a Coal Tit in the woods.

February 7th

A sunny, almost calm early morning led to high hopes amongst the Saturday crew, but apart from good numbers of winter thrushes, 350 Fieldfare and 150 Redwing in groups of up to 60 of each, and an excellent count of 55 Linnet (unusually numerous this winter) there was little else of note, just 15 Skylark, 2 Raven, 15 Little Grebe and a Coal Tit, and a seawatch that yielded 2 Kittiwake west, 7 Red-throated Diver east, plus a few auks blogging around. Totals of 200 Fieldfare and 150 Redwing were also provided from a walk over Wick, but it is not known whether or not these duplicate the figures from the Barn Field based observers. Also, 110 Cormorant headed out to sea over the fields. Seawatching later in the morning was rather more productive, with an adult Little Gull east and 4 Red-throated Diver, included an oiled bird just off the beach; while 2 Gadwall were also seen within the Harbour confines. Finally, thanks to Simon Woolley for his entertaining and informative talk last night, with just a hint of jealousy from someone who has yet to see 1,000 species in their lifetime, let alone in one year!

February 6th

The day dawned wet and windy, with a cold nor'easterly keeping most birders sensibly indoors. A large gathering of gulls in Poole Bay looked promising and a visit late in the afternoon, when conditions had improved (and the snow that fell over much of the day had cleared) produced counts of approximately 2,500 Black-headed Gull, 400 Herring Gull, 120 Common Gull, 80 Great Black-backed Gull and 20 Lesser Black-backed Gull, with variety added by at least 3 adult winter Little Gull and 14 Kittiwake. The gulls were generally loafing on the water between Double Dykes and Southbourne Overcliff, but every now and then a large group would take to the air and swirl around, quite an impressive sight! Also on the water were 150+ Great Crested Grebe, 80 Razorbill, 30 Guillemot, 2 Red-throated Diver and a female Red-breasted Merganser. The only other news so far today concerns a group of winter thrushes at the village end of Wick Fields, with up to 30 Redwing and 6 Fieldfare spending most of the day in the area. Late-arriving seawatch numbers have also been added to yesterday's report.

February 5th

Most of today's records come from a lunchtime visit to Fisherman's Bank, where the regular 4 Avocet were joined by a pair of Pintail, 55 Redshank, 110 Dunlin, 15 Ringed Plover and a single Grey Plover; but just 8 Brent Geese could beseen. Also, 20 Black-tailed Godwit on a later visit, while earlier a male Red-breasted Merganser was in the same area. The Red-throated Diver is now a cause for concern - despite being seen to fly strongly this morning, it was hauled up on Wick Hams for a while yesterday and was today described as looking 'rather unwell' by a local vet. Should anyone see this bird, or any other, in obvious distress, there is a rescue centre in Burton (07884 226540) who have dealt with similar incidents in the past.

Late news - a morning seawatch was quite productive, with an easterly passage comprising 68 Razorbill, 23 Guillemot, just 6 Red-throated Diver, 3 Common Scoter, 5 Kittiwake and 2 adult Little Gull.

February 4th

No snow today, but still a few signs of cold weather movement, with 65 Fieldfare on Stanpit golf course, also 7 Redwing, 33 Skylark and 150+ Meadow Pipit around the marsh. The Spotted Redshank was still present; and 4 Pintail, plus a couple of Grey Plover, were also noted. A Red-throated Diver in Parky Meade Rail was seen at approximately the same time as one close inshore by Rushy Piece, so presumably there were two birds present. Other than the diver though, no other reports were received from that side of the Harbour today. A couple of omitted records have now been added to previous posts, see below for details.

February 3rd

A second day with a coating of snow - a little deeper this morning, with a further brief fall around 08:30. Prior to which conditions were pretty foul, with driving sleet and icy rain - clearly displacing more birds than yesterday, in number if not in variety. Fieldfare were reported from both sides of the Harbour, mostly in flocks of around 30-60, but with one group of 130 departing Wick Fields over the HHC during the snowstorm. Redwing were similarly widespread, the largest flock again being on Wick, near the HHC, and comprising 60 birds. Skylark were also seen in numbers, with a maximum flock size of 56, by Wick Hams. Most birds appear to have settled in the harbour overnight and spent the day searching for food, rather than passing through. At least 450 Fieldfare, 250 Redwing and 140 Skylark were noted, but the true figures could be much higher. Meadow Pipit were also evident in larger numbers this morning, with at least 30 birds apparently having arrived. The only other reports today were of 2 Red-throated Diver flying upriver and the 4 Avocet back off Fisherman's Bank, along with 40 Dunlin, 35 Redshank and a couple of Grey Plover.

Omission: a couple of Grey Geese west at sea were thought to have been 'white-fronts', but were too distant to be certain.

February 2nd

The rarest occurrence today was settled snow. Despite this, conditions were actually much more pleasant than yesterday, and a reasonable selection of birds was seen. Likely cold weather movements seen from Hengistbury included a Ruff, 3 Golden Plover, 26 Skylark and 16 Fieldfare west (with another Fieldfare by the HHC) and an arrival of 120 Lapwing. More typical movements at sea involved 67 Red-throated Diver, 85 auk sp., 3 Red-breasted Merganser and 160 Common Gull, all east, and 129 Great Crested Grebe, plus a group of around 150 Cormorant, on the sea between Double Dykes and Whitepits; while less usual was a Goosander moving west. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was in the harbour, a Bearded Tit was heard by the HHC, 3 Gadwall were noted in Barn Bight, a Peregrine was seen with prey and a pair of Raven were looking rather settled in the Nursery, which also held a Firecrest, successfully finding a rather large meal despite the snow! A Red-throated Diver that arrived over the Barn Field and headed towards Parky Meade Rail, apparently landing, appeared to be oiled on its belly and vent area. A lunchtime scan from Fisherman's Bank added the wintering Spotted Redshank, 45 Redshank, 80 Teal, 50 Dunlin and 15 Curlew to the day's totals.

February 1st

A strong, bitingly cold ESE'erly wind from which there appeared to be no shelter made for rather unpleasant seawatching conditions. Variety was similar to yesterday, but numbers were well down, probably a result of the direction of the wind. A total of 32 Red-throated Diver passed between 07:30 and 10:00, with 80 auk sp., 30 Razorbill, 10 Guillemot, 25 Gannet, 2 Common Scoter, 2 Kittiwake and 60 Common Gull, also 3 adult Mediterranean Gull and a Fulmar, all heading east. There were 15 Great Crested Grebe on the sea, a few groups of 20-30 Cormorant headed into the harbour and a couple of Raven passed overhead.

Omission: a Yellow-legged Gull headed out of the harbour over Mudeford this afternoon.

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