Sightings for December 2015

December 31st

Some of the 4-500 Lapwing currently at Stanpit – Alan Hayden

A day of very strong wind from the south-west made for difficult birding, to say the least. At Stanpit this morning, there was a Water Pipit and 8 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit on North Marsh, adjacent to the Pod, while an afternoon visit added Grey Plover, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit and 6 Dunlin to the post. For those interested in such things, a quick check of the year-list shows the area experienced 209 species during 2015. 

December 30th

Pintail – Alan Crockard (upper) and Alan Hayden
Curlew – Leo Pyke
A night of onshore wind actually resulted in significantly less seabirds than brought on by the south-westerlies of the last couple of weeks. In particular, Gannet were very low in numbers, perhaps just 30 birds milling around Christchurch Bay this morning. In addition, the sand-blasted observers at the Beach Huts managed only 2 Kittiwake east and a couple of Common Scoter riding our the swell, while those at Mudeford Quay faired slightly better as a Kittiwake patrolled the Run for an hour and an unidentified diver was seen moving west. The quay also held a presumed ‘Scandinavian’ Herring Gull, a total of 3 Purple Sandpiper was logged and a Great Crested Grebe was in Barn Bight. All in all, a disappointing day for the conditions. 

December 29th

Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Putative argentatus 'Scandinavian' Herring Gull. One of at least two birds that have been seen from Mudeford Quay over the last month. We are in the learning process with these birds and while this is clearly not a classic northern-Scandinavian individual, we wondered if it might be from the southern extreme of the sub-species' range?
We would welcome any feedback or comments
All photos – Alan Hayden
It was relatively calm this morning, but during the afternoon the wind gathered pace ahead of storm Frank. From the Beach Huts, a (the?) Black-throated Diver headed west, as did 3 Kittiwake and 4 Guillemot, while 2 Red-breasted Merganser moved into the Solent and a handful of Gannet fished offshore. Also from Hengistbury, a couple of Redwing in the Wood. At Stanpit, a Chiffchaff was in Stanpit Scrubs and four likely-looking ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit were by the Pod, but at least nine rock-type pipits eventually came up from that area. Meanwhile, the marsh in general holds lots of birds, the pick being at least 15 Pintail and 3 Shoveler. To wrap up, there are now four juvenile Brent Goose being regularly seen.

December 28th

After a couple of mornings of high tides, Stanpit was visited and came up with a nice selection of birds, including 3 Water Pipit and 3 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit. The Spotted Redshank was the best of the waders, but also a Grey Plover, a Bar-tailed Godwit and 65 Black-tailed Godwit in Stanpit Bight. An in-harbour Red-breasted Merganser is a notable record for the area, while 14 Pintail and 3 Shoveler were also logged. Over on Hengistbury, a Kingfisher and 4 Little Grebe were around Barn Bight. 

December 27th

The strong south-westerly wind persisted, so again the sea was the centre of attention, watched from both Mudeford Quay and the Beach Huts. The best were a Great Skua west and what is presumed to be a lingering Black-throated Diver in flight a couple of times. Also, a Red-throated Diver into the Solent, a total of 289 Gannet from dawn until just after 11:00, 6 Common Gull, those have been scarce over the last week or so, 25 Guillemot, 2 Razorbill, 2 Brent Goose and 4 Common Scoter, all west; while a further six scoter were settled, as were 3 Great Crested Grebe. Another 2 Great Crested Grebe were in Barn Bight and the only non-waterbird record for the day involves some Redwing calling at the end of the head.

December 26th

Between 8:00 and 10:00 this morning, the sea off Mudeford Quay was relatively productive, with the best being: a Grey Phalarope in flight then landing on the water; a Red-necked Grebe heading east; and, never easy during the winter months, a Fulmar - that or another also being seen from Whitepits. In addition, 10 Kittiwake, a Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 28 Gannet and 5 Razorbill were notched up at the quay. Meanwhile, on Hengistbury, a Firecrest, 15 Goldcrest, 3 Redwing and the Treecreeper were in the Wood, Wick hosted 3 Siskin, the maximum count of Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit was ten and a drake Goldeneye was inside the harbour, as was a Great Crested Grebe. A rare afternoon visit to the Beach Huts added a Black-throated Diver west, three settled Common Scoter, a Guillemot and a similar number of Gannet to the morning’s tally. To finish the day, the low tide in the Run again saw two presumed argentatus ‘Scandinavian’ Herring Gull, as well as a second-winter Mediterranean Gull; and, to finish the post, the pair of Raven were about. 

December 25th

Robin at Stanpit – Alan Crockard

Mudeford Quay was visited at both ends of the day - the morning session producing 2 Red-breasted Merganser east and 6 Kittiwake plus 25 Gannet west. Later, the post-turkey watch came up with a further 27 Gannet west, but more interestingly: a Slavonian Grebe on the sea and an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two adult Scandinavian-type Herring Gull on the sandbar. 

December 24th

The overnight, south-westerly blast had obviously forced a good number of Gannet into the western Solent, which headed back towards the Channel shortly after first light - around 250 birds were estimated from Mudeford Quay between 8:00 and 9:00. Also from the quay, a Great Skua and a Black-throated Diver at sea, while an unseasonable Little Stint flew through the Run and into the harbour. Grey Plover also seemed to be on the move, as 10 birds, in flocks of two and eight, headed west. As many as 28 Purple Sandpiper were reckoned, also from the quay, and with six being logged at the other end of the sandspit the day’s total could realistically exceed thirty. A lone Grey Plover was also settled on the spit. Elsewhere, 4 Redwing were on the Batters and a Great Crested Grebe was in Barn Bight. 

December 23rd

Goldcrest – Alan Crockard
Skylark – Alan Crockard

There were 2 Firecrest in the Wood this morning, both along the path that borders the Salt Hurns, as well as the Treecreeper; while a Brambling, 4 Siskin and 9 Redwing were at the end of the head. What was presumably the same Slavonian Grebe as the weekend headed across Christchurch Bay towards the Run, seen from the Beach Huts; as were a Red-throated Diver, 140 Gannet, 5 Guillemot, 3 Razorbill and eleven unidentified auks, all west. At least 8 Purple Sandpiper - five by the huts and three on the tip of the sandspit - were logged and 15 Snipe were on Wick Hams. 

December 22nd

Grit Tray for Bearded Tit
Last week, Christchurch & East Dorset Councils Countryside Team sited this grit tray at Stanpit. During the winter months, Bearded Tit need the assistance of grit to grind their diet of seed so making it digestible for them. Thanks to Jack, Jamie and Robin for this initiative. Photo - Robin Harley

A blustery day saw the two, presumably-wintering Sandwich Tern leaving the harbour towards Avon Beach this morning. Meanwhile, 2 Kittiwake and 28 Gannet were logged from the Beach Huts. Inside the harbour at Stanpit, there were 125 Black-tailed Godwit, a good count of 27 Common Gull and a Kingfisher, all seen from the Pod. 

December 21st

It was slim pickings again today - the best being 5 Purple Sandpiper at the southern end of the sandspit, two adult Mediterranean Gull west and 4 Redwing on the Batters. In addition, there were 16 Gannet fishing offshore and a Coal Tit in the Wood. Please check back to yesterday for some extra news.

December 20th

This continued period of mild, south-west-originated weather is starting to test the patience of even the staunchest locals. So much so, that reports have been received from only one source today. On the sandspit, there were 10 Purple Sandpiper on groyne S9 this afternoon; while the morning had seen 2 Shelduck, not a straightforward species in the area during the late year, at Stanpit. 

Additional news: the Purple Sandpiper total was actually 14 birds and there are now three juvenile Brent Goose on Stanpit - two in a family unit and a lone bird. Also on the marsh, 4 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit and 14 Pintail.

December 19th

The day’s highlight was a Slavonian Grebe that flew a short distance along the sandspit before settling on the sea off the Beach Huts. Other than that and 7 Red-throated Diver, six of them west, the sea was a dull affair. Two Red-breasted Merganser west and 2 Great Crested Grebe east being the only movers; while ten or so Common Scoter were settled, small numbers of Kittiwake and Gannet were attracted to a food source in Christchurch Bay, as was an adult Mediterranean Gull, and few Guillemot blogged. A Firecrest showed really well in the Wood, seven or so Redwing were logged from the head and Wick, and the regular 2 Raven were on that side of the area. Over at Stanpit, the Spotted Redshank, 2 Grey Plover, 22 Black-tailed Godwit and 9 Dunlin were the best of the once-again small gathering of waders. Meanwhile, the Pintail had also dropped, down to two today, and a pair of Gadwall was present. Finally, for those of you who don’t follow the Twitter feed, a week ago today the group was pleased to present Alan Hayden and Leo Pyke with a copy of the BTO Atlas for their significant contributions to CHOG, as well as awarding Leo with a life-membership in recognition of completing the editing of a quarter-century of The Birds of Christchurch Harbour.

December 18th

Black-headed Gull
Some Black-headed Gull are now in breeding plumage – Clinton Whale
Cormorant in the Run – Clinton Whale

Tawny Owl are a real enigma in the area, only being recorded a few times each year but often in situations which suggest birds are resident. For example, there were two calling to each other during the morning gloaming on Hengistbury today. Perhaps more evening visits are needed to determine the species’ true status? At Stanpit, the Spotted Redshank was present, along with 71 Black-tailed Godwit, 17 Ringed Plover and 8 Dunlin - the latter three numbers all suggesting the recent wader glut may have been a brief one - as well as 7 Pintail. The Purple Sandpiper tally from the sandspit was nine, all on the usual groyne S9, while 2 Raven were about the same area. 

December 17th

The Marsh Harrier, hunting Wick Hams at 9:35, was the best during a low-key day; although 7 Kittiwake and 49 Gannet passed west, while a Great Crested Grebe headed into the Solent. 

December 16th

There were 5 Water Pipit at Stanpit this morning – four on Priory Marsh and one by the Pod – while 12 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit were spread about. Also on the marsh, the Spotted Redshank, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit and a sudden increase of Black-tailed Godwit to 270 birds. In the hour or so after 10:00, seawatching from Mudeford Quay produced a distant Great Skua, as well as a settled Black-throated Diver and three eastbound Red-throated Diver. Earlier, from the Beach Huts, a Great Northern Diver was logged, that also going into the Solent, plus twelve lingering Common Scoter. Just one Purple Sandpiper was seen on the sandspit, along with 2 Raven, and a further 19 Black-tailed Godwit were on Wick meadows. 

December 15th

There is little to mention today, save for 2 Sandwich Tern in the Run, a brown-head Goldeneye inside the harbour off Rushy Piece and 11 Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit. Additionally, 2 Common Scoter and 7 Gannet were at sea, 2 Great Crested Grebe passed, one east, one west; while 2 Raven were about. 

December 14th

Turnstone – Clinton Whale

In a chilly south-easterly wind, a Long-tailed Duck was seen on a couple of occasions, in the company of 3 Common Scoter, from the Beach Huts. Meanwhile, other seabird interest from there and the western beach of Hengistbury included: a Black-throated Diver, 3 Red-throated Diver, 2 Sandwich Tern, 44 Kittiwake, 5 Mediterranean Gull, 3 Guillemot, 14 auk sp., a further 16 Common Scoter and 28 Gannet; all but the terns and the scoters heading west. The best at Stanpit was a Water Pipit by the Pod, also 12 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit, most of those in the same area. The Marsh Harrier was seen from that side of the river, as well as over Wick Hams at 10:30 and half an hour later over the Wick meadows. There were no small wader numbers returned, but a Grey Plover, a Bar-tailed Godwit and 75 Black-tailed Godwit were at Stanpit; as were 12 Pintail, 6 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and 2 Tufted Duck. Late in the morning, a Redpoll, 4 Siskin and a Redwing were settled on Hengistbury. 

December 13th

Skylark on the Barn Field – Clinton Whale

A little bit of social activity last night meant it was only really the WeBS counters who made it into the field early on. The best from them was a Jack Snipe at Stanpit, while the day’s photographer confirmed 21 Purple Sandpiper on groyne S9. No doubt due to the low water levels in the Avon Valley, which is almost devoid of birds, the harbour again recorded a Wigeon figure in excess of eight-hundred - 833, in fact. In addition, 7 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, a Gadwall, 136 Teal and 211 Brent Goose, none of them reported as young birds, were counted. The last week seems to have seen an influx of Dunlin and Lapwing - 123 and 791 respectively today - with other wader numbers including: a Grey Plover, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 52 Black-tailed Godwit, 10 Turnstone and 32 Ringed Plover. Little Grebe came to seven and a Great Crested Grebe was in the harbour by Blackberry Point. 

December 12th

After a quiet start, the sea picked up with interest at 9:20 when a Grey Phalarope headed west just offshore from the Beach Huts. This was followed shortly later by a Black-throated Diver, then groups of four and two of Red-throated Diver; while earlier a couple of Sandwich Tern headed into the harbour. Throughout, there was a westward trickle of Kittiwake and Guillemot, fourteen and nineteen respectively, as well as nine unidentified auks and 5 Common Scoter. Meanwhile, a further 9 Common Scoter and a Razorbill were settled. Finishing with the sandspit, at least 12 Purple Sandpiper were present. Elsewhere, a Brambling and a Chiffchaff were on Wick, the Treecreeper was in the Wood, a Peregrine was over the Batters, a Great Crested Grebe was in Barn Bight and 41 Lapwing were on the Barn Field. 

December 11th

One of two Raven on Crouch Hill this afternoon – Clinton Whale
Dunlin & Ringed Plover
...and a mixed flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the sandspit – Clinton Whale

The picks of a relatively quiet day were a Firecrest in the Wood and a Bullfinch on Wick, while 15 Purple Sandpiper were again on the sandspit, mostly around groyne S8. Also on the spit, 28 Ringed Plover and 40 Dunlin. The only other bird information concerns a Kingfisher on the Wick meadows, but please do check back to yesterday for a piece of local-interest news that was omitted. Of amphibian interest, as the mild weather continues there are still Natterjack tadpoles in pools on Hengistbury. Finally, today is the last chance to register for the next Outdoor Meeting, see details below.

December 10th

Little Egret
Little Egret at Stanpit – Alan Crockard

The south-westerly wind gathered a little more pace today, so seawatching is pretty much the exclusive content of this post. In the period prior to 9:30, all three divers passed by Mudeford Quay - one Black-throated Diver, that also seen from the Beach Huts, a Great Northern Diver and 2 Red-throated Diver. Other totals from the two sites came to: 15 Kittiwake, 5 Common Gulll, 9 Razorbill, 2 Guillemot and 20 auk sp., all west; fourteen settled Common Scoter; and the presumed argentatus, ‘Scandinavian’, Herring Gull on the end of the sandspit.  

Omission: Blackcap are quite a rarity in the area during the winter months, so one in the Hengistbury Visitors Centre was nice; as was a Kingfisher about the pools in the Nursery.

December 9th

The Marsh Harrier was seen from Stanpit this morning, where 2 Water Pipit were present - one by the Rusty Boat and one on Grimmery Bank - as were 9 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit - five by the Pod and four on Grimmery Bank. Also on the marsh, 3 Chiffchaff on the golf course embankment and 6 Pintail. The best return of Purple Sandpiper from the sandspit was 15 birds, along with 15 Ringed Plover and 34 Dunlin there, while 18 Black-tailed Godwit were on Wick meadows and 57 Lapwing were on the Barn Field. This afternoon, a 3-hour seawatch produced 16 Guillemot and 20 Common Scoter; and a Raven overhead. 

December 8th

The Marsh Harrier was seen hunting a couple of times this morning - firstly, at 9:10 over Wick Hams, then an hour or so later over Wick Fields. Also about the fields, a Fieldfare, 4 Chiffchaff and 15 Siskin. A final reminder, see below, about tomorrow evening's indoor meeting.

December 7th

What is presumed to be a regular Marsh Harrier was around Wick Hams between 1:00 and 2:00 this afternoon, even perching on fenceposts for some time. Earlier, a walk along the sandspit found 12 Purple Sandpiper, 14 Ringed Plover and 10 Dunlin, while the Treecreeper was in the Wood and a Chiffchaff was on Wick. A reasonably-busy sea came up with: a Red-throated Diver, 112 Kittiwake, 5 Mediterranean Gull, 16 Common Gull, 6 Razorbill, 4 Guillemot, 18 auk sp., 3 Red-breasted Merganser, a Great Crested Grebe and 52 Gannet west; 6 Shelduck east; and twenty-one sitting Common Scoter. Apart from a couple of items of purely local interest, which feature at the end of the post, the remaining news comes from Stanpit, where 25 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Pintail, 2 Gadwall and 210 Brent Goose were counted. To round up, there were three in-harbour Great Crested Grebe, and now the real gem: a total of 130 Rook left the Nursery roost at dawn! Until recently, the species was absent from the area other than passage-period flyovers and a single, failed breeding attempt.

December 6th

Lapwing – Clinton Whale

There are few reports from a day of reasonably inclement weather. In fact, perhaps the most notable return is of 4 Great Crested Grebe in Barn Bight, a species that is far from commonplace inside the harbour. Meanwhile, a Firecrest was in holly bushes where the Wood borders the Salt Hurns and a Great Skua passed west at sea. Also over the water, up to 20 Kittiwake, a further Great Crested Grebe, 7 Guillemot and 18 Gannet, all westbound. 

December 5th

Teal with a backdrop of Mallard – Alan Crockard
Brent Goose
Brent Goose – Clinton Whale

It almost goes without saying that the strength of the wind meant some seawatching would take place this morning. As it turned out, however, it was something of a typical Hengistbury anticlimax. Over a 3-hour period, just: 33 Kittiwake, although some were very close, 3 Guillemot, a redhead Red-breasted Merganser and a Great Crested Grebe were logged heading west; while the twenty or so Common Scoter remained settled. Also from the Beach Huts, a single Purple Sandpiper. Over at Stanpit, the Spotted Redshank was confirmed as still being present, along with 34 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Ringed Plover and 13 Dunlin. Meanwhile, 134 Mute Swan were counted, which is remarkable figure for the time of year.

December 4th

Although not counted, it was reckoned there were
really good numbers of Wigeon about the area today – Clinton Whale

The biggest news of the day is of a juvenile Brent Goose amongst a couple of hundred adults at Stanpit. The Siberian-breeding dark-bellied birds have seemingly had a catastrophic summer with only a handful of youngsters in the south-coast gatherings. To add some context, however, this comes after at least 2 years of bumper crop. Marsh Harrier feature again - single birds being seen approaching from the east and towards the Wood at 7:50 and heading south over Ashtree Meadows at 9:05 - as do Black Redstart, with two being at the southern end of the sandspit. Also on Hengistbury, a Firecrest and a Fieldfare in the Wood. Waders at Stanpit haven’t been returned for a while, so a report of the Spotted Redshank, a Grey Plover, 27 Black-tailed Godwit, 22 Ringed Plover and 5 Dunlin was welcomed. The drake Tufted Duck was again logged, as were 5 Raven.

Yesterday, a lost-looking dog was seen on East Marsh, Stanpit, and we've just learnt it had earlier slipped its leash at Avon Beach - photo and contact details.

December 3rd

Purple Sandpiper
Ringed Plover & Dunlin
Roosting waders on the sandspit - Purple Sandpiper (top), Ringed Plover and Dunlin
– Paul Boult

The wind took on a more southerly vector this morning and pushed a variety of seabirds into Christchurch Bay. A juvenile Pomarine Skua headed into the Solent, seen from the Beach Huts, while a Little Gull, 177 Kittiwake, these stopping abruptly at 9:00, 6 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Sandwich Tern, 4 Eider, 18 Common Scoter and 11 Razorbill moved west. Also, the regular twenty or so Common Scoter off the sandspit, which held 8 Purple Sandpiper, 13 Ringed Plover and 2 Dunlin in a small high-tide roost. In addition to 4 Chiffchaff, Hengustbury held a significant number of Goldcrest, seemingly newly arrived and estimated to exceed 50 birds. Meanwhile, a Brambling, 9 Siskin and 95 Goldfinch passed over.

December 2nd

Rock Pipit
Rock Pipit on the saltmarsh at Stanpit – Alan Crockard
Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover on the sandspit recently – Clinton Whale

Again, the sea received the lion’s share of the day’s time. Close-in Black-throated Diver have been seen a few times recently, so a bird west past the Beach Huts this morning may mean there is a lingering individual. Meanwhile, a pair of pale-bellied Brent Goose moved into the Solent and the settled Common Scoter were today counted to be 17 birds. Also from the huts, 2 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Razorbill, a Guillemot, 5 Gannet and 2 Purple Sandpiper; while 2 Black Redstart were about the southern end of the spit. A couple of Firecrest seem faithful to the northern edge of the Wood, where it borders the Salt Hurns, plus a Treecreeper and 35 Goldcrest throughout the trees as a whole. Overhead passage continues, with 280 Goldfinch, 62 Linnet, 21 Siskin and 6 Redpoll east this morning, as well as 20 Redwing heading inland after appearing to have roosted in the Nursery. To finish up, 3 Pintail were in Barn Bight and the Great Crested Grebe remained off the Salt Hurns.

December 1st

The recent, strong winds dropped away a little overnight but the sea still most of the attention. The Black-necked Grebe was seen again off Mudeford Quay, while around 20 Common Scoter were also settled in Christchurch Bay. Moving birds included a Black-throated Diver and a Razorbill west, plus a Great Northern Diver and a Great Crested Grebe east. A further ‘great-crest’ was inside the harbour, a single Purple Sandpiper was logged on the sandspit and 3 Black-tailed Godwit were in Holloway’s Dock.

Sightings for earlier months can be found in our Sightings Archive.
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