Sightings for April 2012

April 30th

Swift passing east over Hengistbury - Joe Murphy
Whitethroat in display - Joe Murphy

A force 4-5 south-easterly wind made for lots of seabirds today, although Hengistbury fared much, much better than Mudeford Quay. Of 21 Arctic Skua seen heading east up until lunchtime, nineteen were from the Beach Huts, which also experienced: 2 Great Skua, an adult Little Gull that passed in the company of a Mediterranean Gull, 14 Manx Shearwater, a locally significant count of 57 Fulmar, 63 Gannet and 9 Kittiwake, all these west, plus 4 Little Tern, 32 Common Tern, 18 Common Scoter and two unidentified divers. Meanwhile, the quay came up with a further 3 Great Skua and an Arctic Skua, a total of 10 Little Tern and a few Manx Shearwater. Earlier, a Black Tern had been seen heading west over Barn Bight. Despite the blasting wind there was a decent selection of migrant passerines on offer at Wick, not least the belated arrival of a Lesser Whitethroat, the Nightingale that was present all day by the south-east corner of the driving range, and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler and a female Whinchat, both of those close to the Wooden Bridge. Meanwhile, a Redstart and 3 Wheatear were on Hengistbury, as were 2 Cuckoo, seen in flight across the Long Field, with the regular bird still singing at the northern end of Wick Fields. There was a notable movement of Swift over the area, at least 150 until mid-morning, as well as 3 House Martin and a few Swallow - although as the day wore on, Swallow were still going steadily - all into the wind, likewise a trailing Hobby. An evening seawatch was dire, but was enlivened a little by a Common Gull, a first-summer individual, and a pair of Gadwall out on the swell. Things were better inside the harbour, however, as a couple of Spoonbill were seen on South Marsh from Fisherman's Bank, which throughout the day also afforded: 8 Grey Plover and 32 Bar-tailed, Godwit, some of these smart adult birds, 3 Whimbrel, a Knot, a Turnstone, 7 Ringed Plover and 27 Dunlin. Waders elsewhere were headed by 15+ Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit, around the same number of Turnstone across The Run, 15 Whimbrel and 17 Black-tailed Godwit in Holloway's Dock, and 9 Grey Plover and 11 Whimbrel travelling at sea. Peregrine were seen on 3 occasions - two at sea and one over Wick - and the drake Tufted Duck remains on-site.

April 29th

The forecast yesterday stated a 90% chance of precipitation, but as it turned out they were pretty generous with the 10%! That condition, coupled with a strong north-easterly wind, meant the sea was the habitat given almost exclusive attention. There was an exception, however, and that came from Wick, where a Grasshopper Warbler reeled by the Wooden Bridge. The water itself, produced relatively little, save for 3 Arctic Skua - one from Mudeford Quay at 7:00, one entering the harbour over the sandspit at 13:05 and one from the Beach Huts a little later. Also 2 adult Little Gull from the Beach Huts and a wader flock that contained 14 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Grey Plover and 2 Knot, plus a single Grey Plover. Earlier, Mudeford Quay came up with 11 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Whimbrel, a Little Tern and a very bedraggled Wheatear that quickly headed for the shelter of the dinghy park. Throughout the day, 9 Fulmar were logged and a handful of Swift were seen battling into the wind.

April 28th

A light northerly wind gradually veered to the east during a day of constant showers. Without doubt, the most notable event of the morning was a flock of 7 Spotted Redshank that spent a few hours in Stanpit Bight - all of them well into breeding plumage, with three being quite immaculate. On the Wick side of the area, the main attraction was a singing Nightingale at the southern end of the Driving Range - the bird performed well until around 10:30 and is now known to have been there since yesterday morning. Also around the nearby fields before lunch, a Garden Warbler, a couple of Wheatear and the pair of Bullfinch. This afternoon, a Cuckoo was heard from the Wooden Bridge and that or another was seen on Crouch Hill, Stanpit, where there were a further 3 Wheatear. The sea was deserted at times, but a Short-eared Owl did cross Christchurch Bay after passing low over the sandspit and a flock of 8 Eider headed into The Solent. Otherwise, just 3 Little Tern, 24 Common Tern, 4 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Common Scoter, a Fulmar and a few Gannet are worth a mention. At least 7 Common Sandpiper seemed to arrive on the sandspit, where at least 6 Whimbrel and 3 Sanderling lingered, and 5 Turnstone moved east well out to sea. Waders inside the harbour included the first breeding-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit of the season, a couple of birds with thirteen drab individuals, a Knot, 2 Common Sandpiper, both using fishing boat SU170 as a perch, 8 Whimbrel and 9 Grey Plover. Swallow and Swift were arriving throughout the day, with the best count of the latter being twenty-one in 30-minutes from Mudeford Quay mid-afternoon, although five were randomly logged earlier in the day.

April 27th

Sandwich Tern - Joe Murphy
Magpie - Joe Murphy

There was a slight drop in the wind, but no change of direction; nevertheless, lots of passerines and hirundines made landfall during the course of the morning. A one-hour count between 9:00 and 10:00 saw a welcome wave of 330 Swallow, 125 House Martin and 160 Sand Martin pass over Stanpit, while a Hobby had earlier gone over the HHC. From 9:30 onwards, there was also a passage of migrants through Stanpit, which comprised: a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Whinchat, 5 Redstart, 2 Garden Warbler, a Tree Pipit, 9 Yellow Wagtail, 26 Whitethroat, 60 Blackcap, 26 Willow Warbler and 25 Chiffchaff. However, other than some of the Wheatear, all seemed to have departed just a couple of hours later, but a Cuckoo was in song by Priory Marsh at lunchtime. The other side of the area also fared well, with a Ring Ouzel chased out of the Barn Field by a Magpie, 3 reeling Grasshopper Warbler on Wick, where there was a clear increase of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler, a Yellow Wagtail, a Redstart, 35 Wheatear and 40 Willow Warbler. Meanwhile, moving over Hengistbury to the east were a Spoonbill and 2 Red-throated Diver. Although the sea was a little bit quiet, it did come up with a Great Skua, an Arctic Tern, a Great Northern Diver and 55 Sandwich Tern west, with a further 32 'sarnie terns' inside the harbour, where one of yesterday's Little Gull was present, as was a Little Tern and 5 Brent Goose - two of them now confirmed as pale-bellied. The migrant waders numbers, although not great, are starting to creep up with 22 Whimbrel, a Knot, 29 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Grey Plover, 2 Ringed Plover and 2 Ringed Plover. To wrap this up, a Red-legged Partridge was again in the Bobolink Field, apparently a 'known bird' that has some white in the wing.

Additional news: a Great Skua east and 5 Common Scoter west were also seen from Mudeford Quay, where a Common Sandpiper flew up The Run and a Bar-tailed Godwit was on the sandbar.

April 26th

Whimbrel on the sandspit - Joe Murphy
...and Grey Heron at Stanpit with more Whimbrel in the foreground - Joe Gillespie

During the night, the wind picked up in strength a little more, but as it did so moved to the more conventional south-west so meaning seawatching was pretty hardwork at times this morning. That said, what was missing in quantity was more than compensated for in quality, as a Pomarine Skua afforded those that saw it probably the closest encounter they've ever enjoyed with the species. The bird was first seen crossing The Run from Mudeford Quay, before circling low over the sandspit for a minute or two, then passing at head height past the Beach Huts and off west towards the Long Groyne. Quite stunning! Also worthy of most local seawatches were a Black Tern, an Arctic Tern, 2 Little Gull, an Arctic Skua and a notable figure of 41 Little Tern, all those west; as well as singles of Great Northern Diver and Red-throated Diver west, 22 Common Tern also west, 50-80 Common Scoter in a mixture of directions, 20 Teal and 32 Whimbrel east, and a few Fulmar and Gannet. Meanwhile, birds seem coming in-off during the morning included: 2 Hobby, 8 Swift, 57 Swallow and 16 Sand Martin; and a further Hobby passed over Stanpit recreation ground at lunchtime. Incredibly given the wind conditions, there had been a clear overnight arrival of passerines - the best being a Wood Warbler heard and seen singing in the Wood, but also females of Pied Flycatcher and Redstart there, a Tree Pipit and a Cuckoo in the Nursery, a Yellow Wagtail over the end of the head, 2 Garden Warbler, 25 Blackcap and 50 Willow Warbler, while at least 6 Wheatear were watched arriving onto the sandspit. There was no real change in the waders, although a Greenshank on the Salt Hurns, 14 Whimbrel in Holloway's Dock and 3 Sanderling on the sandspit may have all been recently arrived, but up to 15 Purple Sandpiper and 20 or so Turnstone were seen from Mudeford Quay, and 4 Whimbrel, 11 Bar-tailed Godwit, 40 Black-tailed Godwit and at least 25 Dunlin were at Stanpit. A pale-bellied Brent Goose was one of four Brent Goose inside the harbour, while a pale bird seen arriving over Mudeford Quay at lunchtime may have been another, 2 Shoveler were on-site and a Peregrine spent some time hunting at sea in the morning.

Additional news: a Long-tailed Duck was seen from Mudeford Quay in the morning.

April 25th

Mudeford Quay this morning - Alan Hayden
...and Great Skua off there - Alan Hayden

The wind picked up with a vengeance in the small hours, but had the good grace to come in from the south-east before very gradually edging clockwise. The period until 10:15 witnessed an absolute minimum of 14 Great Skua from Mudeford Quay, but that is an extremely conservative statement and if one took a different view then thirty would not be unreasonable - either way, a very significant total for the site. The reason for the uncertainty is that small groups of birds, the largest being seven, were seen on multiple occasions and in various directions. Also during this time: 5 Arctic Skua, all west - four of them in one flock; 2 Black Tern, both in The Run before one pushed off east and one entered the harbour; 5 Manx Shearwater, 2 Little Tern, at least 10 Common Tern, ditto Kittiwake, 7 Fulmar and 42 Common Scoter; as well as 32 Brent Goose and 30 Whimbrel, the latter all over the quay and attempting to seek refuge in the harbour. From then on, things quietened considerably and sporadic watches from lunch through to 6:30 tonight could add just 2 Great Skua, a Black Tern, 2 Little Tern, 3 Manx Shearwater, 2 Fulmar and 3 Brent Goose, along with 3 Swift incoming. Around the end of the sandspit, Purple Sandpiper remain in good numbers, surely as many as twenty-five, while up to 20 Turnstone were in the same area, and a Grey Plover in advanced plumage and 18 Bar-tailed Godwit were at Stanpit.

April 24th

Greenfinch - Joe Murphy
Redstart - Darren Hughes
Whitethroat - Joe Murphy

A light northerly wind brought a few showers from inland, but relatively speaking it was a much drier 24-hours than yesterday. Swift took advantage of the conditions, with 6 birds over Hengistbury this morning and a further three from Mudeford Quay late in the afternoon; also a single House Martin over Priory Marsh early on. In addition to 4 Redstart, all males, Hengistbury hosted up to 20 Wheatear and a dozen or so Willow Warbler, while Wick's first Sedge Warbler was in song by the Wooden Bridge. On the sandspit, there were 2 Common Sandpiper during the early afternoon, but most of the other wader news is from Fisherman's Bank, where the Spotted Redshank is still with us, but if history plays out it may leave tonight, along with 11 Grey Plover, 4 Whimbrel, 37 Bar-tailed Godwit, 39 Black-tailed Godwit and 17 Dunlin - the most of the latter for a couple of weeks, meaning the Arctic-bound birds are perhaps starting to pass through. Mudeford Quay was a shadow of yesterday in terms of seabirds, although 2 Little Tern, 10 Common Tern, a Common Scoter, 6 Gannet and a Whimbrel east were all turned in. On the subject of seabirds, it seems yesterday's comment about a sizeable tern passage through The Solent during the evening was founded, as around 700 were logged in 4-hours from Hayling Island. Back to Christchurch, however, and a dark-bellied Brent Goose was on the river and 7 Mediterranean Gull were noted throughout the day.

Additional news: a pale-bellied Brent Goose was inside the harbour and a Whinchat was on the end of the sandspit.

April 23rd

Rock Pipit - Alan Hayden

As the wind swung to the south-east overnight - the classic direction for spring seawatching - Mudeford Quay was particularly well attended this morning, with a further observer sheltering between the Beach Huts on Hengistbury. Skuas were the highlight, with some of the sightings as follows: 06:30 - a flock 5 Great Skua east into The Solent; between then and 08:30 - 5 Great Skua and 5 Arctic Skua west; and in the subsequent hour - 5 Arctic Skua east, including a couple that bullied the Sandwich Tern off the sandspit for some time. With the exception of the early 'bonxies', all were seen from Mudeford Quay. There were also some isolated birds and, although some duplication is possible, a decent estimate for the day is perhaps 10-12 Great Skua and 10+ Arctic Skua. Also seen moving at sea were: 4 Little Gull, 4 Little Tern, a couple of Common Tern, a Red-throated Diver, 14 Fulmar, 5 Kittiwake, a drake Eider, 2 Gadwall, around 25 Common Scoter and 10 Whimbrel, while a Peregrine hunted over the waves and a group of 4 Arctic Tern headed inland over the Barn Field. Rather surprisingly for the conditions, some new passerine migrants were on-site, including 2 Grasshopper Warbler and 30 or so Willow Warbler by the HHC, a Yellow Wagtail over there and a singing Garden Warbler in the Ship In Distress reedbed. To finish up, the waders, which comprised: 14 Purple Sandpiper and 28 Turnstone on the sandspit, and the Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, 11 Grey Plover, 2 Whimbrel and a Ringed Plover at Stanpit. This evening, as the wind and rain abated a little, there was a suspicion of a very distant, easterly tern movement off Mudeford Quay; but unfortunately circumstances prevented any prolonged scrutiny.

April 22nd

Wheatear by the Coastguards - Alan Hayden
Pair of Shelduck over the Barn Field - Joe Murphy

The day started pleasantly enough, but a gathering north-westerly then brought showers of varying intensity throughout the afternoon. Migrant passerines were once again almost completely absent, although the North Scrubs did produce a Grasshopper Warbler and a couple of Wheatear were about the Coastguards on Hengistbury, with a further bird on Stanpit. The wader numbers are made up of combined counts from Fisherman's Bank, Stanpit Bight and Priory Marsh, and come to: the Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper, 7 Whimbrel, 11 Grey Plover, 27 Bar-tailed Godwit, 72 Black-tailed Godwit, a Ringed Plover and 8 Dunlin; plus a further 6 Whimbrel seen heading west of all directions. As would be expected, the pale-bellied Brent Goose have moved off, apart from a single bird that is, while 4 Common Tern and 2 Mediterranean Gull were also on-site. The wind direction shifted a couple of inland Buzzard over harbour airspace, but the patrolling gulls soon despatched them back, and the drake Tufted Duck is still trying to impress the resident Mallard.

April 21st

Sparrowhawk and Carrion Crow over Hengistbury - Alan Hayden
Wheatear by the Noddy Train terminus on the sandspit - Joe Murphy

Sometimes one wonders if it's just in the imagination that Saturdays are worse than weekdays, but today affirmed that it is indeed all too often the case. There were barely any settled passerine migrants - in fact, just 4 Wheatear on Hengistbury, 2 Reed Warbler and a few Willow Warbler make the log - but there were 2 Cuckoo heard, one in the Nursery and one on Wick. At Coastguards, the largely birdless skies were briefly livened by incoming singles of Yellow Wagtail, Siskin, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Greylag Goose, as well as 4 House Martin. Equally fruitless from the same spot was the sea; for example, not a sniff of a scoter in two hours, which for the date is quite an achievement for those present. However, a Black-throated Diver west did provide some respite, as did 15 passing Whimbrel, 5 Common Tern, 4 Gannet, 3 Fulmar and a first-summer Razorbill that was settled just offshore. To continue this rather downbeat report, waders at Stanpit were equally disappointing with just 8 Grey Plover, 6 Whimbrel and 3 Dunlin worth a mention. The pale-bellied Brent Goose, while not counted, were still inside the harbour and it seems reasonable to assume that all thirty-two were involved, a Peregrine passed over Wick and a Red-legged Partridge was again in the Bobolink Fields. As the month progresses, Mediterranean Gull calls are becoming a little less frequent with a good deal of the overhead pairs now being made up of second-summer birds rather than full adults, most of which are presumably settling into the breeding colonies east and west of here. For the records, today's count was eighteen.

April 20th

Common Sandpiper - Joe Murphy
Ringed Plover - Joe Murphy
Water Rail - Joe Murphy
Note how the lower two are yet more examples of photographed birds carrying a ring

Today saw return of clear skies and a relatively light westerly wind - conditions that brought a decent number of passerines onto Hengistbury and Wick. First, however, mention must go to the sea, which produced a second/third winter Glaucous Gull lingering off Mudeford Quay at lunchtime and 2 Velvet Scoter that passed Hengistbury in the company of 9 Common Scoter during the morning; also a further 17 Common Scoter and a Fulmar over the water. On the deck, new for the year were 2 Wood Warbler in the Wood on Hengistbury, those amongst 150 or so Willow Warbler in that area, and a single Whinchat in the water meadow at the northern end of the Wick Fields. In addition, a female Pied Flycatcher was in the Wood, a Grasshopper Warbler on Wick was heard on both sides of the river, a Garden Warbler sang by the Barn, while a further 125 Willow Warbler, 19 Whitethroat and 15 Wheatear, plus several Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, were about the reedbeds. Meanwhile, 3 Yellow Wagtail and 60+ Swallow moved over. Common Sandpiper were again around in reasonable numbers - for example, a couple on the sandspit, where there were at least 15 Purple Sandpiper, and five at Stanpit. Around 33 Whimbrel passed at sea and at least six were settled inside the harbour, along with the Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 9 Grey Plover, 27 Bar-tailed Godwit, 62 Black-tailed Godwit and a few Ringed Plover, but just 2 Dunlin. Otherwise at Stanpit, there was real mixture of wildfowl, although admittedly of varying quality: to complement the 32 pale-bellied Brent Goose that are now preferring Blackberry Point, pairs of Pintail and Gadwall were present, as were singles of Teal, Brent Goose and Wigeon, the latter two clearly being unfit birds that would rather be much further north by now; with the trash element coming from individuals of Egyptian Goose and Greylag Goose. To round off, the pair of Bullfinch was again on Wick and a female Peregrine passed over there.

April 19th

Sylvia warbler selection
Dartford Warbler - Joe Murphy, Whitethroat - Jimmy Main, Blackcap - John Harding

Despite the wind dropping overnight and fading to almost nothing by the late afternoon, there were still isolated moments of interest at sea. During the morning, a Great Skua was seen around a fishing boat from the Beach Huts; at lunchtime, a party of 6 Arctic Tern came in over the Black House and gathered a good deal of height above the harbour, but obviously didn't like what they saw and so headed off west again; and this evening a group of 3 Little Tern were feeding off Mudeford Quay. In addition, a couple of Common Tern were seen from Hengistbury and the peak in-harbour count of Sandwich Tern was 19 birds. Also at sea, 15 passing Whimbrel, 5 Common Scoter, a Fulmar, 28 Gannet, 4 unidentified auks and a settled Great Crested Grebe. The best at Stanpit was a Merlin, but also a Cuckoo in good voice there, as well as Reed Warbler now singing in most suitable habitat around Priory Marsh and 8 Wheatear. On the sandspit, a further 16 Wheatear dropped in from 9:00 onwards, while 57 Meadow Pipit and 42 Linnet were also seen arriving, and a Garden Warbler and 22 Willow Warbler were mostly about the end of the head. Elsewhere, it was suggested there were a few more Whitethroat around, but for April 19th there still aren't many. The day saw a clear arrival of Common Sandpiper, with sightings comprising of: six together on the sandspit, one crossing The Run, a single bird by the Clay Pool and five at the top end of Stanpit Creek. Meanwhile, 15 Purple Sandpiper and 17 Turnstone remain on the sandspit; and off Fisherman's Bank the nicely ripening Spotted Redshank, if it's true to form, will be preparing for its departure to the high Arctic over the next few days. Also around Stanpit, 7 Grey Plover, 34 Bar-tailed Godwit, 54 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Ringed Plover and a Dunlin, along with the 32 pale-bellied Brent Goose and four standard-issue birds, plus 2 Raven over.

April 18th

Pale-bellied Brent Goose again in The Run - Alan Hayden

A continuation of yesterday's wind and rain made for quite an observer presence on Mudeford Quay early this morning, when 3 Great Skua were seen as they headed out of The Solent in the company of a number of Gannet. Also seen from the quay up until around 11:00, a Little Tern, up to 10 Common Tern, 5 Mediterranean Gull, 4 Fulmar, 2 Common Scoter and 3 Whimbrel, as well as some Swallow that had braved the channel-crossing. The biggest surprise of the day came late in the afternoon, when a gathering of what seemed to 33 pale-bellied Brent Goose appeared off the end of the end of the sandspit. However, upon closer scrutiny as they left the water to feed on the shore by the Black House, it became apparent one of the birds was of the conventional dark-bellied form; so numerically suggesting the others were the same as yesterday, even though they had appeared to leave the area. To finish up with car-based birding, flocks of 20 and 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen about The Run at lunchtime. At Stanpit, the waders were made up of the regular, dusky Spotted Redshank, 3 Whimbrel, 10 Grey Plover, 27 Bar-tailed Godwit, 45 Black-tailed Godwit and 4 Dunlin. Also around the marsh, a total of 6 Wheatear. After the overnight low pressure, the recent heavy rainfall and this morning's high water, there was some real concern for the Fisherman's Bank Mute Swan nest, but later in the day the pen was seen carrying out flood repairs so hopefully all is still well.

April 17th

Some of the 32 pale-bellied Brent Goose in The Run this afternoon - Darren Hughes

A good proportion of the day was subjected to lashing rain courtesy of strong south-westerly wind. Nevertheless, a Grasshopper Warbler sang for a little while by the Driving Range on Wick, a Wheatear was on the nearby horse paddock and a gathering of 6 Blackcap was in Ashtree Meadows, so suggesting some bits-and-pieces had made it in overnight. Actually, once the worst of the early rain had subsided at around 8:15, at least 75 Swallow arrived over Mudeford Quay, meaning they must have passed through some quite awful conditions to get here. Also defying the weather was a Buzzard departing inland over the northern part of Stanpit. Without doubt, however, the significant event of the day was a gaggle of 32 pale-bellied Brent Goose, presumably bound for Spitzbergen, that fed and rested around The Run from lunchtime to just before five this evening. Mudeford Quay also came up with: a first-summer Little Gull out of the harbour and east late this afternoon; up to 11 Little Tern and 5 Common Tern generally east; a tight flock of 20 Kittiwake early in the morning; 13 Common Scoter, all but one east; 5 Fulmar, 4 Gannet, 3 Turnstone and the yellow-legged Herring Gull. At least 4 Whimbrel were about the area, as were 2 Knot, 26 Bar-tailed Godwit and 10 Black-tailed Godwit.

April 16th

Skylark - Joe Murphy
Mediterranean Gull - Alan Hayden
Sandwich Tern - Joe Murphy

Once more it was cold, but this morning was made a little worse by the presence of a late, albeit light, frost. The only new 'arrivees' from overnight appeared to be: a Grasshopper Warbler that reeled briefly by the HHC, a couple of equally reluctant Reed Warbler in the No Dogs Field, a Sedge Warbler in Wick Hams and an increase of Whitethroat to around 6 birds. Additionally, a Merlin, 2 Tree Pipit and 8 Swallow passed over and a Cuckoo was again at Stanpit, where a Short-eared Owl was settled around the Priory Marsh area - an event that has happened a few times in the last week or so. The notable wader event was a gathering of 33 Bar-tailed Godwit in Barn Bight this afternoon, as well as a flock of 60 unidentified birds that were seen moving east at sea from Stanpit and were either the aforementioned species of godwit or Whimbrel, of which there were definitely three at Stanpit. Also on the marsh, the still darkening Spotted Redshank, 5 Grey Plover, 56 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Ringed Plover, while 5 Purple Sandpiper and 17 Turnstone were in the area of the sandspit. Finally, two each of Peregrine and Common Scoter were seen at Hengistbury, the day-count of Mediterranean Gull was ten, 4 Gadwall were turned in from both sides of the harbour and the 20 Brent Goose remain.

April 15th

Male Blackcap holding territory in the Nursery - Alan Hayden
Meadow Pipit - Joe Murphy

The effect of the bright sunshine was completely overpowered by a, at times blasting, northerly wind that made the whole field-experience significantly less than pleasant. However, there was a modicum of interest provided by a Firecrest in the Nursery, where a few Blackcap attempted to out sing each other, and a Cuckoo by Mother Siller's Channel this afternoon. Otherwise, the only other obvious newly arrived migrant was a Wheatear on Crouch Hill. Around Stanpit Bight, there were 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Grey Plover and 6 Dunlin, as well as 19 Brent Goose but now seemingly just a single duck Wigeon.

April 14th

Stonechat & Dartford Warbler - Joe Murphy
Rookery and Rook - Joe Murphy & Alan Hayden (bottom)
During the last week or so, it has become apparent there is a small rookery on Hengistbury, which is the first ever recorded breeding of the species in the area and an event that
had managed to escape the notice of pretty much all the regulars! Consequently, this year's series of migrant Rook observations are now wide open to debate...

As is so often the case, the weekend failed to match the level set by the days of the working week. Actually, it was also rather cold this morning, as cloud quickly blocked the early sun and a varying easterly wind provided further chill. The choice of the day came from the sea, when a Long-tailed Duck was picked up amongst a flock of 10-12 Common Scoter circuiting off the Coastguards before heading into The Solent. Also from there, 3 Red-throated Diver east, a dozen or so more Common Scoter and 2 Fulmar over the water, while a very light incoming passage was enlivened by a Merlin, but otherwise, over a couple of hours, just 6 House Martin, a trickle of Swallow that gathered pace as the morning wore on, 20+ Meadow Pipit, an alba Wagtail, 2 Goldfinch and a Linnet were logged. Earlier, a Yellow Wagtail had passed over Wick Fields and an intriguing pair of Bullfinch was on the northern fringe of the adjacent golf course. As hinted towards at the start of the post, it was fairly quiet on the deck, although 2 Grasshopper Warbler were reeling from time-to-time at the eastern end of the Bobolink Field, a Redstart was in the Barn Field, 2 White Wagtail were on Central Marsh, a Whimbrel was by the Wooden Bridge and 4 Whitethroat were on-site, but just a single Wheatear made the notebooks and both Willow Warbler and new Blackcap were less than twenty in number. The remaining miscellany that is perhaps of interest included: up to 20 Mediterranean Gull, a drake Shoveler over the harbour, a Great Crested Grebe in breeding plumage that settled briefly off Blackberry Point and Red-legged Partridge heard in the Bobolink Field.

April 13th

Redstart - Alan Hayden
Great Spotted Woodpecker - Joe Murphy
...and Green Woodpecker - Alan Hayden

There were fewer birds around today, although the variety was perhaps a little better. Shortly after first light, a Short-eared Owl came up from Priory Marsh, circuited the harbour once and then descended into the reeds on Central Marsh, from where it was not seen to leave. Slightly later, a Little Ringed Plover overflew and a Turtle Dove zipped by over Wick; then during the afternoon, a Little Tern fed briefly at Stanpit, while a Water Pipit and White Wagtail were settled on the northern part of Central Marsh. An early, 40-minute flurry of Willow Warbler saw 120 birds move across the Long Field, but elsewhere only 'a few' were reported during the course of the morning. Meanwhile, a Pied Flycatcher flew past the HHC, at least 6 Redstart were around, with the Long Field or Wick being the best bet for those, a Grasshopper Warbler reeled for a short time in the Wick Fields and 4 Whitethroat, 4 Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler and up to 25 Wheatear were spread across the site. Of birds arriving over Stanpit in the hour or so after 9:00, the best was 11 Yellow Wagtail and a Tree Pipit, as well as 72 Swallow, these slowing to 10-an-hour by mid-afternoon, 14 House Martin, 39 Sand Martin, 110 Meadow Pipit, 83 Goldfinch and 51 Linnet. Throughout the day, the pick of the waders was a couple of Common Sandpiper at Hengistbury and 5 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit, but also 7 Grey Plover, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 72 Black-tailed Godwit and 8 Dunlin at Stanpit. To complete the records, over 50 Mediterranean Gull made their way around, 20 Brent Goose, 10 Shelduck and the 7 Canada Goose of dubious intent were on Stanpit, 6 Buzzard drifted over the northern part of the area from the Avon Valley and 2 Red-legged Partridge were on the Bobolink Field.

April 12th

Male Pied Flycatcher - Chris Chapleo
Male Redstart - Joe Murphy
Willow Warbler - Alan Hayden

Without doubt, it was the best day of the spring so far, with warblers dominating the proceedings. Before those details, however, a few of the other highlights: a male Pied Flycatcher that was discovered late in the morning was still by the horse paddock on Wick this evening; a Cuckoo had been in the same general area early on; and at least 15 Redstart, twelve of them males, were logged, mainly on Wick. In addition to 4 Grasshopper Warbler at Stanpit, plus 2 Garden Warbler and a Reed Warbler on Wick, the fairly well thought-out estimate for Willow Warbler across the entire site is 485, with the main concentration being west of the Nursery and onto Wick. Meanwhile, also spread about were 95 Blackcap, 35 Chiffchaff, these east of the Nursery so almost certainly new birds, 4 Sedge Warbler and 13 Wheatear. Once more, it took until around 9:00 for the overhead passage to get going, but when it did it included: a flock of 3 Spoonbill and a Common Tern west, a Hobby, a Little Ringed Plover, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit, 5 House Martin, 75 Swallow, 320 Meadow Pipit and 68 Linnet. The wader figures for the day involve the dark Spotted Redshank, 7 Grey Plover, 9 Bar-tailed Godwit, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Ringed Plover and 12 Dunlin, while 18 Brent Goose remain at Stanpit; at least 25 airborne Mediterranean Gull were recorded and a Red-legged Partridge was around the Bobolink Field on Wick.

April 11th

Yellow Wagtail - Darren Hughes
Swift , note the slight white in the wing, and Merlin - Alan Hayden
Short-eared Owl - Darren Hughes

After a few relatively barren days there was far more to be seen this morning, particularly in terms of incoming airborne migrants. The best from all parts of the harbour were: 2 Merlin and 2 Short-eared Owl, one these settling for a while on Priory Marsh and one seen over Wick, as well as 5 Buzzard over, including two very pale birds - also, the year's first Swift, a male Yellowhammer, 2 Redpoll, 7 Yellow Wagtail and 6 White Wagtail, some of the latter two actually settling on Stanpit briefly. In addition, 2 House Martin, 32 Sand Martin, 1130 Meadow Pipit, 560 Linnet and 156 Goldfinch moved through this morning, but just 17 Swallow were logged throughout the day. On the deck, at least 120 Willow Warbler and 22 Blackcap were scattered, a couple of Redstart were by Stanpit golf course, a Whitethroat was in the North Scrubs and 3 Sedge Warbler were around Priory Marsh. Two more debutantes for the season involved a Common Tern off Mudeford Quay and a Common Sandpiper at Stanpit, where there was also a Spotted Redshank, a Greenshank, 3 Whimbrel, with a further of these north over Wick, 2 Sanderling, 6 Grey Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, the usual looking number of Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Ringed Plover and 7 Dunlin. Elsewhere: a couple of Water Pipit and a littoralis Rock Pipit were on Priory Marsh; the day's Mediterranean Gull estimate should certainly exceed 50 birds; 20 Brent Goose, 12 Shelduck and 13 Sandwich Tern were settled inside the harbour; and a Red-legged Partridge was on the wood pile in Roebury Lane.

April 10th

Blue Tit with pollen staining around the bill - Joe Murphy
Male Greenfinch - Jimmy Main

The closure of Tuckton Bridge for the week makes it impractical for a number of the regulars to get from Christchurch to Hengistbury in the mornings, so reports from that side of the harbour may be a little sparse over the next few days. Nonetheless, between themselves, those resident in Southbourne and Wick managed to rustle up an impressive April record of 9 Redpoll, as well as 14 Mediterranean Gull and 2 Swallow over, 9 settled Willow Warbler and 2 Red-legged Partridge, these in the Bobolink Field. After yesterday's relative frenzy, the sea returned to more expected levels, with just 4 Common Scoter, three west and one east, from Mudeford Quay early on; while at Stanpit, Fisherman's Bank turned in the darker Spotted Redshank, a Knot, 11 Grey Plover, 12 Dunlin and 8 Brent Goose.

April 9th

Egyptian Goose at Stanpit yesterday - Jimmy Main
...and Lapwing on Priory Marsh, also from yesterday - John Harding

The Easter weekend signed-off with a day of constant rain and a south-westerly blow. As a consequence, the morning was all about the sea, which was watched from the Coastguards, the Beach Huts and Mudeford Quay from 6:40 to 12:00. The main event during this period, although it didn't really get going until sometime after 10:00, was a locally significant number of Manx Shearwater - 94 in total - all heading west after presumably being displaced up-channel by the strength of the wind. This included an individual in the company of a Fulmar that literally grazed the end of the groynes on the sandspit. The westerly movement was also made up of 11 Kittiwake and 8 Fulmar, but Common Scoter were a little more random with fidgety flocks of 20 and 30 seen a few times, plus smaller groups of 8, 4, 3 and 2, as well as a lone bird. Milling Gannet and Sandwich Tern were present throughout but not really counted, while an easterly heading Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Mediterranean Gull, including two second-summer birds, 2 Common Gull and 5 auks were also noted. Quite incredibly given the conditions, the Beach Huts also witnessed some sizeable passerine flocks checking-in - not least ones of 80 Linnet and 40 Meadow Pipit - with final tallies being 86 and 68 respectively. In addition, there were 14 Swallow (the best number of the spring so far!), 5 Sand Martin and an accompanying female Merlin. The early afternoon was probably the 'driest' part of the day and a trip to Stanpit proved there had been something of a wader arrival, with 4 Knot, 10 Grey Plover and 16 Bar-tailed Godwit augmenting the incumbent 2 Spotted Redshank and 81 Black-tailed Godwit. Earlier, a very vocal Whimbrel came in over the sandspit, where 20 Turnstone and 3 Purple Sandpiper were at the southern end. However, there were even more Purple Sandpiper seen in the afternoon, when a flock of minimum 25 was seen traversing The Run on a couple of occasions from Mudeford Quay, as well as further singles of Manx Shearwater and Fulmar from there.

April 8th

Tufted Duck - Alan Crockard
Chiffchaff - Joe Murphy
...and a Rock Pipit inspecting the many still vacant Sand Martin burrows - Joe Murphy

Other than the season's first Sedge Warbler and 3 White Wagtail on Priory Marsh this morning, it was once more a rather disappointing day; for example, no more than 10 Willow Warbler were reported across Hengistbury and Wick, with a similar number of Wheatear being turned in from all sites. In terms of incoming birds, there was a 2-minute flurry of 60 Meadow Pipit over the Coastguards at 8:30, but that was pretty much it - although a Yellow Wagtail and 3 Swallow were also seen from there. A nice flock of 17 Whimbrel moved east at sea, while a further bird was inside the harbour along with a Knot, but the only other waders mentioned were 40 Black-tailed Godwit and 7 Ringed Plover. Back to the sea, where a Great Northern Diver was again settled off Whitepits and a Red-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, a lone Brent Goose and 11 Common Scoter travelled east, with a further 2 scoter heading in the opposite direction. Mediterranean Gull nudged close to thirty-five for the day and to brighten the suspect wildfowl interest a pair of Egyptian Goose were at Stanpit briefly, as were the Tufted Duck and 6 Canada Goose.

April 7th

Grey Heron - Alan Crockard
Linnet - Alan Hayden

Although still short of the longed-for arrival of birds, things were livelier today. The best was a Short-eared Owl that was initially sat on Hengistbury before heading over the harbour to Stanpit, where it was also logged pushing through straight inland. Over a couple of hours until 9:30, up to 1000 Meadow Pipit were seen arriving - this figure coming from counts of 780 past Stanpit golf course and 480 past the Coastguards. These also pulled in the year's first Yellow Wagtail - two over Hengistbury and one over Stanpit - but just 5 Swallow! In fact, concern for the hirundine situation gathers momentum by the day with the settled Sand Martin around the cliffs perhaps still numbering only 10 birds! Meanwhile, other bits-and-pieces in-off during the morning included 95 Linnet, a Grey Heron, a Fieldfare and 2 Rook. Of the settled passerines, Willow Warbler were around in reasonable numbers, probably 65 or so across Hengistbury, as well as 10 Blackcap, 13 Wheatear and a single Redstart, the latter on the Long Field, while a Coal Tit on the top of the head could also well have been a migrant. The offshore wind calmed the sea a little and allowed a Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver to be picked out south of the Double Dykes; in addition, 19 Common Scoter were recorded, fourteen in a settled flock and five east. The wader highlight was 2 Whimbrel at Stanpit, where a Spotted Redshank, 3 Grey Plover, 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 61 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Dunlin and 2 Snipe remain; as do 20 Brent Goose that were briefly joined by a Greylag Goose, 6 Canada Goose and the duff Tufted Duck. The day's Mediterranean Gull total is a bit of a lottery, with returns comprising: 34 from Stanpit and 24 from Hengistbury during the morning; and 17 settled on Priory Marsh in the afternoon; so maybe 50 birds would split the difference? To conclude, a pair of Raven once more attempted to settle in the Nursery and if you're planning a late morning visit to Stanpit tomorrow then wellington boots will be necessity to cope with the spring tide.

Omission: there were 22 Turnstone at the southern end of the sandspit .

April 6th

Dartford Warbler - Alan Hayden
Rook over the Nursery - Joe Murphy
Adder - Chris Dresh

Frustratingly, the day fell well short of expectation and it was left to an adult Little Gull that arrived into the harbour over the Barn Field to salvage some level of respectability for this post. Also moving around fairly randomly were 35 Mediterranean Gull, a couple of Common Gull, 6 Rook, including a completely tail-less bird, and a Raven. Smaller migrants were almost non-existent, with just 4 Willow Warbler, 8 Wheatear and 2 Swallow recorded, which for the amount of observer coverage underlines just how poor it was today. The sea was also quiet, with just a Red-throated Diver, a Common Scoter and a handful of Gannet east, while Stanpit could only contribute a Grey Plover, the same 3 Shoveler as yesterday and 18 Brent Goose.

April 5th

Male Kestrel - Joe Murphy
One of the resident Hooded x Carrion Crow hybrids - Paul Bright-Thomas

After the last couple of weeks, a really cold north-easterly wind was something of a shock. From just before 7:00 to 9:30, the sea was watched from the Beach Huts and provided a decent number of birds, if not too much quality: for example, 63 Gannet, 2 Razorbill, 24 Brent Goose and 14 Sandwich Tern passed east; while a single Fulmar headed in the opposite direction. A skein of 18 Brent Goose also entered the harbour over the sandspit and they were then subsequently reported a couple of times on East Marsh. However, an earlier look from Fisherman's Bank counted twenty-two, so suggesting these had moved off before the others arrived. A total of 4 House Martin north over Stanpit was a good record given the paucity of hirundines right now, but only 2 Wheatear could be found there. Also about the marsh, a Spotted Redshank, this the darker bird, a Knot, 3 Grey Plover, 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, 85 Black-tailed Godwit, a Ringed Plover and a carefully counted 134 Redshank, plus 3 Shoveler, 2 drakes and a duck. The 4-day weekend starts here and hopes are high!

April 4th

Teal Chris - Chapleo
Female Stonechat - Joe Murphy

Despite some overnight rain that put paid to any significant arrival of birds, a single House Martin did struggle through, this seen moving west past the HHC, and a Greenshank was in Stanpit Creek during the morning. Otherwise, it's just 12 Willow Warbler and 7 Wheatear to mention, although there were perhaps a lot more Sandwich Tern around today than there has so far been. The rest is disappointingly routine for the date and includes a Spotted Redshank, 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 75 Black-tailed Godwit, 13 Dunlin and 20 Brent Goose at Stanpit, plus 6 Gannet at sea off Hengistbury and the Tufted Duck at Wick. To fill out this short post, there is an incredibly high number of Redshank still on-site - up to 125 birds - which is rather puzzling as they should now be settling into their breeding grounds; and of local interest, a Mute Swan is nest building at the northern end of Fisherman's Bank.

April 3rd

Skylark at Stanpit - Jimmy Main
Mediterranean Gull over Stanpit - Jimmy Main

After another clear and pleasant dawn, the cloud came in around lunchtime - bringing with it a little bit of rain during the afternoon. After a week or so of expectant sky gazing, the spring's first Osprey appeared over the harbour at 9:50 this morning. In typical fashion, mayhem ensued as every bird larger than a crow went up to mob, so forcing the newly arrived raptor to eventually veer off to the east. The day actually saw quite a decent total of Wheatear - just under fifty on Hengistbury, as well as seven in-off the sea at Mudeford Quay - plus 25 Willow Warbler 'across-the-gap' at the HHC, with further birds in song on Wick and the quay. There was also a Red-throated Diver watched on the water from there, while further interest on Wick came from a Redwing and a Bullfinch. Before moving to the more settled birds, a couple each of airborne Rook and Mediterranean Gull were also logged. From Fisherman's Bank this afternoon, there were 2 Spotted Redshank, one of them in quite advanced plumage and possibly a new bird, along with a Grey Plover, 13 Bar-tailed Godwit, 54 Black-tailed Godwit and 13 Dunlin. The last couple of days have seen a dramatic drop in Brent Goose numbers, with just a dozen on-site today.

April 2nd

Some of the relatively few, for the date, Sand Martin that are settled at Hengistbury
- Joe Murphy

Just before dusk last night, the wind dropped suddenly and that, coupled with clear skies, produced quite a ground frost about the area. In terms of migrant passerines, other than the year's first Whitethroat on the Bobolink Field, it was quite frankly a waste of time; with the only other interest coming from a Redpoll and 9 Rook in-off, plus 3 Wheatear. The bird of the morning was a Black-throated Diver that moved east off Hengistbury, as did 16 Sandwich Tern and 2 Tufted Duck. Although waders are dropping in numbers before the spring passage birds arrive, an Avocet did put in a brief appearance on the HHC mudbar and a Spotted Redshank was seen in Stanpit Creek. Otherwise, it's just 13 Bar-tailed Godwit, 82 Black-tailed Godwit and 125 Redshank to remark upon. Putting the day behind us, even Mediterranean Gull were sparse, with just four being logged. Please check back to yesterday for some additional news.

April 1st

Reed Bunting - Joe Murphy
Long-tailed Tit - John Harding

Today saw the return of the clear skies, which if one found shelter from the northerly breeze made being out in the field rather a pleasant experience, although not necessarily in terms of birds to see. The outstanding events were a young Spoonbill west over the harbour around 8:45 this morning and a Yellowhammer over Stanpit golf course an hour or so earlier. Otherwise, it's just 9 Wheatear, five on Hengistbury and four on Stanpit, a flock of 4 Shoveler, three of them drakes, and 25 Mediterranean Gull to report as migrants. The wind brought a couple of Buzzard close to the recording area's airspace and 5 Lapwing at Stanpit were the first of those there for a while.

Additional news: there was a fine total of 22 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit late in the afternoon.

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