Sightings for March 2012

March 31st

Spotted Sandpiper starting to live up to its name - Dave Cooke
Wren in the North Scrubs doing its best to impress - Alan Crockard
...and the Brent Goose arriving for the day - Lorne Bissell

True to forecast, the clear skies succumbed to cloud and meant the light northerly wind gave the air quite a chill. Although we haven't seen details of numbers, we've heard enough to suggest that county sites west of here, particularly Portland, had a quite spectacular day - but whatever happened there certainly wasn't repeated at Christchurch! In fact of figure of 50 phylloscopus warblers, and that's including the now resident Chiffchaff, would be stretching it for the morning; but there were 2 male Redstart, one on the Long Field and one on the Barn Field, as well as a Swallow through and up to 15 Wheatear. The best in terms of migrants was actually a young male Crossbill that loitered around the end of the head for some time; also a Redpoll a Redwing and 2 Song Thrush north-west, plus a handful of Meadow Pipit, alba Wagtail and Linnet. For what is probably only the second time this month, the Spotted Sandpiper put in an appearance on Fisherman's Bank, around 50m north of the public slipway, and 5 Purple Sandpiper were seen from Mudeford Quay. Stanpit was properly counted for the first time in several days and it's clear from the results that birds have seeped away during that time; for example, just 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 8 Grey Plover, 7 Ringed Plover, around 60 Dunlin, some of these now turning in plumage, and about 90 Brent Goose. However, in excess of 70 Black-tailed Godwit are still on-site, as are 12 Shelduck, 2 Pintail and 82 Redshank. A largely deserted sea managed singles of Common Scoter and Gannet, Peregrine were seen on two occasions and the post wouldn't be complete without the Mediterranean Gull count, which today was nine. Finally, a correction to yesterday's comment suggesting March had finished - as was pointed out to me this morning, there are indeed thirty-one days in this month!

March 30th

Sandwich Tern on the river - Alan Crockard
Common Lizard at Whitepits - Chris Dresh
...and some Tufted Duck - Joe Murphy

The month finished with the best arrival of common migrants so far, as 220 Willow Warbler, 65 Chiffchaff and 16 Blackcap were counted coming off the head during the first couple of hours of daylight. Slightly less expected, however, were 31 Redwing, a Yellowhammer and a Firecrest all doing roughly the same thing. Meanwhile, the first 4 Redstart of the year were around the Barn Field and at least 40 Wheatear were spread across the site. On the top of the head at the Coastguards, a Black Redstart alighted briefly and a male Hen Harrier was seen to pass by east at sea, while a large incoming passage of birds over a 2.5-hour spell in the middle of the morning comprised: the season's first Tree Pipit, 1300 Meadow Pipit, a White Wagtail, 4 Redpoll, 15 Siskin, 78 Goldfinch, 325 Linnet, 19 Rook and 135 Woodpigeon, including a flock of 70 birds. Elsewhere, a party of 4 Tufted Duck, three drakes and a duck, rested on the river, Priory Marsh held 2 Water Pipit, a Scandinavian Rock Pipit and a White Wagtail, and 30 Mediterranean Gull and 12 Common Gull moved through; with the only other information being of 88 Brent Goose at Stanpit, so suggesting a good number of these may now have decided to push on north.

March 29th

Chiffchaff - Joe Murphy

There was a definite arrival of some scarcer waders at Stanpit this afternoon, when 3 Little Ringed Plover were on Priory Marsh before being moved on. Presumably one of these was a bird that then spent a short time in Stanpit Bight, while a single bird had over-flown the former site in the morning. Also around Stanpit Bight during the afternoon, a party of 6 Ruff showing a real mixture of sizes, so clearly containing at least one reeve. The early part of the day saw more pipit interest on Priory Marsh, with a 2 Water Pipit and 2 littoralis Rock Pipit there; as well as a Redwing, with a further two of these seen coming off the head over the HHC. In addition to a resplendent, male Black Redstart that lingered in the Barn Field, there was a clear arrival of warblers onto Hengistbury, with at least 25 Willow Warbler, 60 Chiffchaff and 11 Blackcap, some moving on quickly, but others choosing to stay and sing. Also up to 20 Wheatear about the area, plus a steady arrival of Meadow Pipit and Linnet - 280 and 135 respectively counted over 90-minutes from the Coastguards - along with singles of Redpoll and Goldfinch. Meanwhile, a Swallow passed over Wick and a couple of Bullfinch were again settled there. There was little moving at sea, save for a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, 10 Sandwich Tern off Mudeford Quay, with a similar number inside the harbour, and the strange combination of a Shelduck and a Cormorant in tandem that initially caused some consternation. The calm waters off the Long Groyne did see a pair of Great Crested Grebe in courtship, however. Moving down to perhaps the lesser interest, the Mediterranean Gull total was in the region of 15 and a drake Shoveler, the pair of Pintail, the Tufted Duck and 188 Brent Goose remain on-site. Finally, it has now been noted by a couple of observers that singing Dunnock seem to be particularly abundant this year.

March 28th

Cetti's Warbler - Joe Murphy

There's no need to mention the weather as it was as re-run of the previous few days, but this seems to be encouraging some birds to come further/arrive earlier than they otherwise may. A Hoopoe was seen in flight over the Barn Field, but unfortunately continued over towards Mudeford village where it couldn't be re-located, despite reasonable searching. After being almost annual in the 80's and 90's, this is actually the first record since 2006, when a bird did exactly the same thing as today. Equally notable was a Hobby over Stanpit, then north. Given the average arrival date over the last 50+ years is 25th April, this seems remarkably early; however, 1996 and 2001 both experienced the species on 1st April. There were a few other highlights, namely: a Ring Ouzel on Wick that lifted off and headed north; a male Crossbill that moved in the same direction over the Long Field; a Little Ringed Plover in the 'corner pool' on Priory Marsh; and a drake Goosander that spent some time close to Barn Bight just before lunch. Also travelling were a Buzzard and 14 Ringed Plover north, plus a Rook south, while the aggregate Mediterranean Gull count approached 70 birds, but there must be a degree of duplication in this, and over 10 Sandwich Tern passed through the area. Stanpit remains largely quiet with respect to wader numbers although a Knot and 7 Snipe remain, with other interest there coming from the pair of Pintail and a male Peregrine. Finally, the clear skies coupled with the time of year mean that soaring Sparrowhawk are being logged on a regular basis, causing undue alarm for the Brent Goose and raised anticipation for the observer.

Additional news: 17 Sand Martin were seen to head north and 48 Black-tailed Godwit were counted at Stanpit, where there were an additional 2 Wheatear.

March 27th

Sparrowhawk with attendant Carrion Crow - Joe Murphy
Curlew Joe - Gillespie

In near identical conditions to yesterday, there was another Hen Harrier seen off Hengistbury. This time, however, it was a fine grey male that coasted east past the Long Groyne at 10:25; while slightly earlier, a female-type Marsh Harrier had been watched soaring to the north-east of the area. Also of interest moving over were: a Little Egret, 8 Siskin, a mixture of Linnet and Meadow Pipit in-off, a Rook and a couple of Sandwich Tern east, 2 Shelduck west and a day-total of up to 13 Mediterranean Gull, the latter nearly all adult pairs. The Wheatear figure is 12 birds - 9 on Hengistbury, including 8 on the Barn Field, and 4 at Stanpit - but the only other arriving migrant was a single Swallow, although that seemed to be moving south above Priory Marsh. There was no obvious movement of Sand Martin but a few birds are now inspecting their burrows on the cliffs at Hengistbury, where a pair of Raven also once more looked interested. The wader numbers went largely unchecked; however, singles of Spotted Redshank and Knot were on-site, small numbers of Snipe continue to be feeding well out from the vegetation, presumably the extremely low water table forcing them further from the fringes than they would normally prefer, and 25 Black-tailed Godwit, a good number of those now looking very smart, were on the HHC mudbar. Wildfowl finish the post, with the pair of Pintail, a drake Shoveler and the Tufted Duck all getting a mention.

Additional news: a Marsh Harrier seen coming in-off the sea at 10:15 may have been a different bird to that already mentioned, which was not 'timed', and a Willow Warbler was on Wick.

March 26th

Grey Heron home-making in the Nursery - Darren Hughes
..and duck Teal - Darren Hughes

The complete lack of cloud meant a light ground frost this morning, which coupled with an easterly wind made it feel a little like winter again - however, by late afternoon, the mercury had risen to just above the 20-mark. Again, traditional spring migrants were sparse, but there were some moments of less expected interest, namely: a ringtail Hen Harrier in-off the sea and then coasting east; a Merlin and 2 Peregrine hunting over the sea; a Green Sandpiper incoming from over the water; 4 Crossbill east; a flock of 18 Stock Dove arriving and then north-east; a Bullfinch by the Barn Field; and 3 Siskin and a Grey Wagtail over Hengistbury. Meanwhile, around 275 Meadow Pipit, 47 Linnet, a Swallow and 2 Sandwich Tern were counted checking-in over a 2-hour period; but the only settled migrants were 7 Wheatear, along with even fewer Chiffchaff and Blackcap. On Priory Marsh, there were again 3 Water Pipit and the end of the boardwalk, where a Scandinavian Rock Pipit had joined them. Late in the morning, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser arrived from the west, the drake still being present well into the afternoon, while 2 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 264 Brent Goose and 16 Shelduck were also on-site. To round off the report, a pair of Raven was decked on the cliff top at Hengistbury, a total of 15 Mediterranean Gull were encountered and a Red-legged Partridge was in the Bobolink Field on Wick.

Additional news: a Swallow flew across Ashtree Meadow at 6:00 this evening.

March 25th

The resident, Mallard-chasing Tufted Duck - Joe Murphy
Small Tortoiseshell - Alan Hayden

The early year time change is always welcome for the more fanatic, in that it gives some respite, albeit brief, from the compulsive early rising. The highlights for the day were a first-winter Little Gull west over Wick this morning, 3 fine Water Pipit on Priory Marsh and a littoralis Rock Pipit on Central Marsh that showed just about every documented spring characteristic for that race. There were clearly more decked birds this morning, including the season's first Willow Warbler - as at least two of these sang on Wick - but also 25 Wheatear, eighteen at one point on the old pitch-and-putt course, around 20 Chiffchaff and 4 Blackcap. Aerial passage in the area was probably under-reported as the boat trip to The Needles encountered at least 15 small flocks of wave-hopping Meadow Pipit, but a Swallow, 2 Sand Martin, 5 Sandwich Tern, 7 Mediterranean Gull and a Rook were noted. At Stanpit, the waders haven't been fully counted for a couple of days; however, a Spotted Redshank still in full winter attire was present, as were 42 Bar-tailed Godwit, at least three of those turning nicely into breeding plumage. The final miscellany comes from: 13 Shelduck at Stanpit, the drake Tufted Duck, a Red-legged Partridge in the Bobolink Field and 2 Raven over.

March 24th

Red Kite over Stanpit golf course - Alan Hayden
Stone Curlew over and on Priory Marsh - Alan Hayden
...and Weasel on Wick Fields - Joe Murphy

Another glorious day weather-wise was not too shabby in terms of bird interest. The best was undoubtedly a Stone Curlew that was first located on South Marsh, Stanpit, before it moved to Priory Marsh, where it spent an hour or so ahead of pushing off to the east just before midday. Around the same time, a Red Kite that eventually left to the north was soaring over the area, and earlier a Water Pipit had also been on Priory Marsh. It was clearly a day for larger birds to be on the move, as a single Buzzard, 2 Raven and 2 Rook passed high and purposefully east, while the more expected incomers consisted 2 Sand Martin, 5 Sandwich Tern, 3 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Redpoll, a small number of Linnet and even fewer Pied Wagtail; but an estimated 600 Meadow Pipit were logged up until lunch. The latter in particular were arriving on a broad front, so it's certain many more made land either side of the counting points. Somewhat conversely, there was little to be seen on the deck; for example, 4 Blackcap, one of them singing in the Wood, and 2 Wheatear on the Barn Field are the only reports of settled passerines. Most of the day's wildfowl interest is dubious, the exceptions being a female Pochard that toured before leaving south-west and a decent count of 255 Brent Goose on Stanpit; in addition, the regular Tufted Duck was around, up to 8 Greylag Goose passed through, a pair of these feeding on Priory Marsh for a short time, and 5 Canada Goose came in over the Barn Field. To conclude the bird news, yesterday's 'excitement' about Red-legged Partridge was tempered slightly this morning as birds were further sighted on Wick and in a garden on Minterne Road, so suggesting a release may have just taken place on a nearby shooting estate. Finally for the post, a big thank you to Shaun Robson for his entertaining talk at the HHC last night.

March 23rd

Kestrel preying on lizards at Hengistbury - Joe Murphy

While yesterday's Little Ringed Plover was showing well from the golf course footpath overlooking Priory Marsh all day, another was heard to come in over Hengistbury during the morning, when a Golden Plover, 6 Sand Martin, a Siskin, 17 Goldfinch, 16 Linnet, 285 Meadow Pipit and 11 Pied Wagtail were also logged heading north over Stanpit. The first mentioned 'LRP' favours the pool in the north-east corner of Priory Marsh, where a textbook Water Pipit, a Ruff and 2 Snipe were also present on-and-off throughout the day; and close-by, a Red-legged Partridge, a species not recorded in the area for a couple of years at least, was flushed from adjacent to the boardwalk. The only certain new migrants were a Wheatear, 5 Chiffchaff and a Blackcap, all around the northern part of Stanpit, but something in the region of 25 Mediterranean Gull passed through, as did a couple of 'mewing' Common Gull, a sound not often heard about Christchurch. By the HHC a minimum of 2 Bearded Tit were in the reeds and the 2 Eider plus a couple of Sandwich Tern were off Mudeford Quay.

March 22nd

Little Ringed Plover on Priory Marsh this afternoon - Alan Hayden

It was the best morning of the spring for Meadow Pipit movement with 1650 birds heading into the stiff north-easterly breeze over a two hour period; also 163 Linnet, 58 alba Wagtail, 3 Sand Martin and 1 Water Pipit. A Little Ringed Plover moved high over the Stanpit golf course, while later what was presumably a different bird spent the afternoon on Priory Marsh. The only grounded migrants were 3 Wheatear on Stanpit and 3 Chiffchaff on Wick, as well as a Yellowhammer and a Redwing in North Scrubs. Wader counts today were 60 Black-tailed Godwit, 52 Bar-tailed Godwit, 31 Dunlin, 17 Grey Plover and the Spotted Redshank. Singles of Eider and Common Scoter were on the sea off Mudeford Quay and a total of 18 Gannet was logged moving east. Inside the harbour, a Red-breasted Merganser did a couple of circuits and 2 Pintail were present, while 23 Mediterranean Gull headed west. Finally, a Marsh Harrier moved purposefully east to west.

Additional news: 3 Sandwich Tern were off Mudeford Quay in the morning.

March 21st

Wheatear behind the Black House today - Joe Murphy
Little Egret - Alan Hayden

A Red-necked Grebe was on the sea off Mudeford Quay this morning, as were 2 Eider, a Great Northern Diver and 6 Great Crested Grebe; a further five of the latter were off the Coastguards along with 3 Common Scoter. Meanwhile, a Black Redstart was on the cliffs, but the only other settled migrants were 12 Chiffchaff and 2 Wheatear on Hengistbury as well as 2 Sand Martin and a Wheatear on Stanpit later. Moving north were 295 Meadow Pipit, 37 Linnet and an alba Wagtail. Waders on Stanpit this afternoon included 2 Knot, plus 39 Bar-tailed Godwit, 31 Dunlin and 15 Grey Plover. To round up, 2 Redwing were on Wick, 4 Raven visited the harbour, 2 Sandwich Tern were offshore and 7 Mediterranean Gull were logged.

March 20th

Ringed Plover on the sandspit this morning - Joe Murphy

The Marsh Harrier was around again this morning hunting over Wick Hams before moving over the river to Central Marsh. Migrants were harder to come by, however, with just a single Firecrest in the Wood, 4 Wheatear on the Barn Field, a total of 12 Chiffchaff and a few Meadow Pipit overhead. Waders on Stanpit were 44 Black-tailed Godwit, 34 Bar-tailed Godwit, 30 Dunlin, 15 Grey Plover, 9 Snipe and the Spotted Redshank, while 13 Purple Sandpiper and 22 Turnstone were on the Mudeford Sandspit, and a further 10 Black-tailed Godwit were in Holloway's Dock. There was a Water Pipit by the Rusty Boat and a pair of Bullfinch on Wick Fields. To round up, just one Sandwich Tern was seen today, 9 Canada Geese paid the harbour a brief visit and the Shelduck count was 15. Check back to yesterday for some late news.

March 19th

Kestrel - Joe Murphy

On a glorious spring morning, there was a scattering of grounded migrants most of which moved off the head through Double Dykes soon after dawn; amongst these were 2 Firecrest, a Black Redstart and a Yellowhammer, also 55 Chiffchaff, 6 Goldcrest, 4 Wheatear and a Blackcap. Overhead, heading in a northerly direction, were 165 Meadow Pipit, 23 Linnet, 15 Goldfinch, 9 alba Wagtail and 6 Siskin, as well as 86 Woodpigeon north-east. The Long-tailed Duck, 4 Sandwich Tern and just one Eider were seen from the Mudeford Sandspit, where 5 Purple Sandpiper were present. On Stanpit, waders today included 70 Black-tailed Godwit, 37 Bar-tailed Godwit, 34 Dunlin, half-a-dozen Ringed Plover and a couple of Grey Plover. The Mediterranean Gull count was five, while 2 Greylag Geese and a male Tufted Duck were around the harbour.

Late news from Wick Fields: a Merlin was seen, also 2 Sand Martin north and a singing Redwing.

March 18th

Male Wheatear on the Barn Field today - Joe Murphy

Clear night skies brought a touch of frost to the perimeters of the area this morning, where the dawn temperature was actually just below zero. In addition to a few scattered Chiffchaff, there were 3 Wheatear were on the Barn Field, a couple of Sand Martin about the cliffs and a 30-minute count produced 49 Meadow Pipit in-off over the end of Hengistbury. However, that was pretty much it in terms of traditional spring migrants; but a Fieldfare north, a Grey Wagtail and a couple of Linnet over the Coastguards, a Rook west and 6 Mediterranean Gull were also no doubt re-orientating after the winter. Meanwhile, there was also an uncharacteristic westward flight of Carrion Crow across Poole Bay, with two groups of six birds being seen. A drop in the wind made it easier to pick out the Long-tailed Duck, the 2 Eider and a Great Northern Diver on the sea from the sandspit, while the day's other interest came from 2 Bearded Tit in Wick Hams and 2 Raven over Hengistbury.

March 17th

The dawn rain gave way by about 8:30 and tempted a few observers out on to Hengistbury and Wick, where the year's first Swallow was logged passing over both sites. Also around Wick, a Fieldfare, a Siskin and 8 Chiffchaff, while a Wheatear was on the Barn Field and 4 Raven moved over, as did small numbers of Meadow Pipit, those in addition to 60 or so feeding up on Priory Marsh. Earlier, from the shelter afforded by the buildings on Mudeford Quay, a Little Gull, a Red-throated Diver, a Fulmar and 2 Gannet were seen to head west; at least 30 Purple Sandpiper and 20 Turnstone went from Avon Beach to the sandspit; and 3 Common Scoter and 4 Great Crested Grebe were settled on the water. Stanpit produced very little out of the ordinary - the best being 9 Mediterranean Gull, the Spotted Redshank, a pair of Pintail, a Mistle Thrush and 24 Jackdaw. To conclude, after a short absence, the Spotted Sandpiper was on the Argyle Road slip and showing slightly more signs of breeding plumage on the vent.

March 16th

Woodpigeon and Crow showing signs of spring - Joe Murphy

The first clear morning all week saw a definite arrival of chats onto Hengistbury, as a female Black Redstart was on the sandspit close to the Beach House café, along with 5 Wheatear in the same general area and two more on the Barn Field, plus an additional bird on Stanpit this afternoon. Meanwhile, other signs of movement came from singles of Brambling and Redpoll coming out of the Nursery, a Firecrest and 5 Chiffchaff by the HHC, 53 Meadow Pipit incoming and a total of 26 Redwing, a flock of 25 over and a single bird settled at the end of the head. After yesterday hearing that the Snow Bunting was still present on the last two days of February, it was seen at the southern end of the Beach Huts today; while the best Purple Sandpiper figure was a flock of 18 crossing The Run, where a couple of Sandwich Tern that looked like wintering birds were also present, as was the Long-tailed Duck. At sea, there was a clear easterly movement of Brent Goose, 78 over an hour or so with the largest skein comprising 24 individuals. This fact probably then accounted for a family party of 4 Pale-bellied Brent Goose that were initially seen on the water from Mudeford Quay, before they decamped to Stanpit Bight where they tried to tag along with the darker birds but weren't made entirely welcome. Moving to waders and ducks, there were counts of 56 and 49 Black-tailed Godwit from Holloway's Dock and Barn Bight respectively, an estimated 30 each of Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit at Stanpit, and two pairs of Shoveler and one of Pintail. Finally, it looks as if two pairs of Skylark are going to breed at Stanpit this season - a testament to the improvements made there over the last couple of years by Christchurch Borough Council.

Omission: a Fieldfare was at the end of the head.

March 15th

Even when the sun burnt away the morning's fog, it was almost instantly replaced by a rolling sea mist. The few reports received come mainly from Stanpit, where a Buzzard was low over the North Scrubs and being harassed by Carrion Crow, while 21 Jackdaw around Crouch Hill is an excellent 'on-the-deck' count for the recording area. The Brent Goose dropped slightly to 185, but there was an increase in Shelduck to 17 birds. The only wader count for the day concerns 25 Ringed Plover in Stanpit Bight and, on Wick, there were 3 Chiffchaff by the Wooden Bridge.

March 14th

House Sparrow - Alan Hayden

Plover interest was the order of the morning as a Little Ringed Plover circuited Stanpit a couple of times early on, the Golden Plover remained on Priory Marsh and an increased total of 36 Grey Plover suggested an arrival of those also. Over on Wick, there were four new Chiffchaff in song between the Wooden Bridge and the HHC, while a couple of Grey Wagtail joined the 40-strong flock of Meadow Pipit on Crouch Hill and around 125 more 'mipits' moved over. The long staying interest again came from: the Long-tailed Duck off Mudeford Quay; the Marsh Harrier seen over Wick and Stanpit a few times; 2 Water Pipit on Priory Marsh; and a Spotted Redshank around Stanpit Bight. Before moving on to the routine counts, a couple of Knot passed through quickly, 4 Redwing were in Smithy's Field, and at least 8 Mediterranean Gull and a Raven were logged. In terms of numbers, the expected waders came to 75 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Ringed Plover and 53 Dunlin, and the wildfowl comprised 3 Shoveler, 212 Brent Goose, 7 Shelduck, a pair of Greylag Goose that toured before heading back up the valley and 3 Canada Goose west.

March 13th

A Herring Gull with yellow legs has been hanging around The Run for around a month now - Darren Hughes (top) & Andy Wragg
...and the 2 Eider off a dank Mudeford Quay - Chris Chapleo

A cold, damp mist set in early on and remained throughout the day. On Priory Marsh, a Golden Plover in partial breeding plumage was present this morning, while a Spotted Redshank, 14 Grey Plover and 8 Ringed Plover were elsewhere about Stanpit throughout the day. The Marsh Harrier was also around prior to lunch, when the Long-tailed Duck, the 2 Eider and a Teal, the latter remaining all afternoon, were off Mudeford Quay. Also from there, a Sandwich Tern fishing just beyond The Run and a couple of Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit. Inside the harbour, a drake Red-breasted Merganser was a minor surprise, but single drakes of Pintail and Gadwall, 238 Brent Goose and 6 Shelduck were slightly more expected. A flock of 26 Meadow Pipit on the Barn Field can almost certainly be considered as new migrants, but a Chiffchaff by the Wooden Bridge, from where 3 Water Rail were seen, has a less definite case to make.

March 12th

Curlew over Stanpit - Joe Gillespie
Brent Goose - Alan Hayden

There is a reliable report that at 5:30 this morning there wasn't a hint of fog about the area, but that rapidly changed and it wasn't until an hour or so before midday that full visibility returned. When it did, however, the light wind and clear skies made for a really pleasant afternoon. Early on, a Green Sandpiper called over Priory Marsh and Bearded Tit could be heard in the reeds on the Wick side of the river, while singing Skylark were over Central Marsh and Speller's Point, meaning there could well be two pairs about Stanpit this year. On a similar theme, a Firecrest was in song in the conifers of the car park, ditto a Linnet on Crouch Hill. Off Mudeford Quay, the Long-tailed Duck had returned after its encounter with some personal-watercraft yesterday, but the Pintail inside the harbour have now dropped to single a drake, 233 Brent Goose were counted and there were 4 Shelduck. In addition, a Spotted Redshank, 39 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Ringed Plover and 54 Dunlin were logged around Stanpit Bight, and 5 Mediterranean Gull and a Peregrine went overhead.

Additional news: the Marsh Harrier was seen at 7:00 near the Wooden Bridge, then at 11:30 by Barn Bight before being driven off by gulls towards Mudeford and returning again at midday heading over to Stanpit.

March 11th

Oystercatcher in breeding plumage and Teal - Alan Hayden

Until 9:30 the entire area was blanketed in a heavy fog that limited visibility to no more than 100m, but this suddenly cleared in a matter of minutes and gave rise to a really cracking day. The Marsh Harrier put on a fine show around 11:00 as it quartered the Wick Reeds and Priory Marsh for a period of over 10-minutes, while a couple of Peregrine soared above the area and several Buzzard were high over the Avon Valley. Earlier, the Long-tailed Duck could be seen from Mudeford Quay, but often affords better views from just outside the recording area at Avon Beach, and a couple of Purple Sandpiper were on the end of the sandspit. A singing Chiffchaff from behind the Nursery on Hengistbury this morning was probably a true incoming migrant, but another songster by the HHC could be one of the wintering birds. Later in the day, 4 Linnet on Stanpit could equally have been new arrivers or part of the erratic winter flock. Also at Stanpit, a good count of 42 Bar-tailed Godwit, a Spotted Redshank and a Knot, along with 229 Brent Goose and a Grey Wagtail, the latter on the river by Priory Marsh so possibly one of the Bridge Street breeders returning to the site, a Greylag Goose over and the semi-tame Tufted Duck again pursuing Mallard. Please check back to the post for 8th to see details of the spring's first long-distant migrant arrivals.

March 10th

Purple Sandpiper today - Alan Hayden-
Marsh Harrier over Wick Hams this morning - Chris Chapleo

Once the early cloud cover had been burned off around late morning it really felt like spring in the warm sunshine. Earlier the Marsh Harrier was hunting over Central Marsh on Stanpit, from where it flushed a Jack Snipe before then moving across the harbour to try its luck over Wick Hams. Off Mudeford Quay, the Long-tailed Duck and 2 Eider were present together with 3 Common Scoter, while 12 Purple Sandpiper were on the sandspit and a Sandwich Tern was over The Run. Inside the harbour, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were amongst a couple of hundred or so of their darker bellied cousins on Stanpit, where the remaining 10 Pintail roosted at high tide. Meanwhile, on Crouch Hill the mixed flock of around 30 pipit and wagtail held 5 littoralis Rock Pipit. Waders today included 48 Bar-tailed Godwit and 18 Ringed Plover on Stanpit, and 25 Black-tailed Godwit in Holloway's Dock. Three Raven were making a nuisance of themselves around the Nursery and 3 Mediterranean Gull were logged.

March 9th

Jackdaw on Crouch Hill - Joe Murphy

The Long-tailed Duck and 2 female Eider were off Mudeford Quay again this morning, while Stanpit held 4 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. Earlier, a party of 6 Greylag Geese with a Canada Goose for company circled the harbour before heading off south-west. Staying on the subject of dodgy wildfowl the drake Tufted Duck was on the Batters with a pair of Mallard! On Wick Fields, Bullfinch and Grey Wagtail were seen, while 6 littoralis Rock Pipit were on Crouch Hill. The only wader news today is of 13 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit, 28 Black-tailed Godwit on the Hengistbury side of the harbour and a Ruff flying upriver. Finally, a Red-throated Diver passed Mudeford Quay, a drake Pintail was in Barn Bight, a Raven moved over and 2 Kingfisher were around Wick Hams.

March 8th

Fox on Wick Fields this morning - Alan Hayden
....and a Pied Wagtail on Crouch Hill - Alan Hayden

On a fine spring morning most of the news comes from Stanpit, where a Merlin was high over the Golf Course and 2 Marsh Harrier were around the marsh. On Crouch Hill the mixed flock of pipit and wagtail held 3 littoralis Rock Pipit and a White Wagtail, while a Water Pipit was by the Rusty Boat on the far side of the marsh. The Pintail count was just 10 today, also 2 Gadwall present. Waders included 85 Black-tailed Godwit, 34 Bar-tailed Godwit and 4 Grey Plover. Singles of Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser moved east past Mudeford Quay, where a Great Crested Grebe was on the sea. A few corvids were also on the move with 17 Rook and 5 Raven west, and another 2 Raven east. To round up, the Chiffchaff was still singing in the Sandhills Caravan Park and 2 adult Mediterranean Gull were in Stanpit Creek.

Additional news: the year's first migrants from south of The Sahara arrived in the area today, as 3 Wheatear and 9 Sand Martin were seen on Hengistbury.

March 7th

Mediterranean Gull - Joe Murphy

Given the foul conditions this morning it's not surprising that the only report received was from Mudeford Quay, where the Long-tailed Duck was still on the sea and a Peregrine moved across the bay, while singles of Mediterranean Gull, Fulmar and Gannet headed west. There was also an excellent local count of Purple Sandpiper from there, with 36 birds on the rocks at the end of the sandspit.

March 6th

Water Pipit on Crouch Hill this morning - Joe Murphy
....and for comparison littoralis Rock Pipit - Alan Hayden

A Spoonbill spent a few minutes on Blackberry Point before flying off north-west this morning. Earlier, a couple of Marsh Harrier were around, one over Wick Hams and one on Stanpit that moved from Central Marsh to Priory Marsh. Stanpit also held 4 littoralis type Rock Pipit, a Water Pipit and 20 Pied Wagtail, plus a Kingfisher on Central Marsh. Bearded Tit were again in the HHC reedbed with three there today. Off Mudeford Quay, there was a single Great Crested Grebe and a diver west; also the Chiffchaff was still singing in the Sandhills Caravan Park, while 15 Turnstone were just across The Run on the sandspit. Spotted Redshank were either side of the harbour in Holloway's Dock and on East Marsh, and there was good local count of 167 Redshank from Stanpit. Most of the Pintail appear to have left with only a single drake in Barn Bight today. Overhead, were 5 Raven and 2 Rook west, plus 6 Mediterranean Gull.

Check back to yesterday for late news.

March 5th

Brent Geese over the harbour - Chris Chapleo

On a fine but bitterly cold day Stanpit received most of the attention this morning. The mixed flock of two or three dozen pipit and wagtail, which was still around Crouch Hill, held 2 Water Pipit, 2 littoralis Rock Pipit and a White Wagtail, while another Water Pipit was by the Iron Boat and a 'continental' Coal Tit was in the North Scrubs. The only other report received so far is of the Long-tailed Duck off Mudeford Quay.

Late news from Hengistbury: a female Peregrine moved over Wick Fields towards Stanpit this morning just after 9:00 and 12 Pintail were on the river.

More late news: the Spotted Sandpiper was on Fisherman's Bank this morning.

March 4th

The final WeBScount of the season went ahead this morning with a full complement of 'counters' out in the field despite some very heavy rain and strong winds . Both the Long-tailed Duck and Spotted Sandpiper were in their usual spots and singles of Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Avocet were all on East Marsh. Meanwhile, there was another Spotted Redshank in Barn Bight and 23 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit. The Brent Goose count was 205 today but there was no sign of the pale-bellied bird. Other WeBS figures included 153 Redshank, 142 Dunlin.124 Black-tailed Godwit, 37 Grey Plover, 36 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Ringed Plover and 6 Turnstone. The drake Tufted Duck was present but only 13 Pintail were seen. The only non-WeBS interest was a White Wagtail was with 5 Pied Wagtail on Wick Farm Meadows.

March 3rd

Pale-bellied Brent Goose on the harbour side of Mudeford Quay - Alan Hayden

A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was on the harbour side of Mudeford Quay this morning. It then flew into the harbour and was seen with the main flock of Brent Geese on the HHC mudbar and later on East Marsh. On the sea off the quay, and also seen from the Beach Huts, there were 3 Black-necked Grebe today, plus the Long-tailed Duck, 2 Eider and a Great Northern Diver, while birds on the move, all west, were 7 Fulmar, 6 Common Gull, 4 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Kittiwake. The Purple Sandpiper count was 23, all on the end of the sandspit, and the Spotted Redshank was again in Holloway's Dock. Singles of Redpoll, Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail, plus 2 Redwing, were on Wick Fields and a couple of Mediterranean Gull were around the harbour. A Ruff on Stanpit this afternoon was clearly a new arrival; also 17 Ringed Plover, 17 Bar-tailed Godwit and the Spotted Redshank.

March 2nd

Record shot of Eider and, further back, Black-necked Grebe in the mirk
off Mudeford Sandspit this morning - Chris Chapleo

The early morning fog cleared fairly quickly although it was still quite chilly until mid-morning. The Black-necked Grebe and 2 female Eider were seen from the Mudeford Sandspit, but there was no news on the Long-tailed Duck. On Stanpit, where a Jack Snipe flushed from Grimmery Bank, the mixed flock of pipit and wagtail has grown to more than fifty. Amongst the birds were at least 12 Rock Pipit of which two were showing characteristics of the sub-species littoralis . A Water Pipit was by the Iron Boat and 2 Chiffchaff were singing on Wick Fields, while overhead were 2 Siskin, 2 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare and 1 Rook. There was a real miscellany of wildfowl around the harbour today, with a Greylag Goose, 3 Shoveler, the drake Tufted Duck and 2 Gadwall, plus 170 Brent Geese and 32 Pintail, the latter on the main river. The Spotted Sandpiper was on Fisherman's Bank, where there was also 2 Turnstone.

March 1st

Green Woodpecker - Alan Hayden

This morning's fog curtailed any birding activity until lunchtime when the Long-tailed Duck, Black-necked Grebe and Eider could all be seen from Mudeford Quay; also a diver headed west and 9 Great Crested Grebe were on the sea towards Avon Beach. The Spotted Sandpiper was also still present on Fisherman's Bank. On the Hengistbury side of the harbour, 6 Redwing and 2 Chiffchaff were on Wick and 3 Dartford Warbler were about the Long Field. Later this afternoon, 6 Mediterranean Gull, 5 adult and a second year bird, were in the pre-roost on Stanpit.

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