Sightings for January 2015

January 31st

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper on the Long Groyne – Clinton Whale

There was slightly more coverage today, although the cold wind again made it rather hard work. A Firecrest was in the Nursery, a Great Northern Diver drifted westward just off the end of the head and a total of 9 Purple Sandpiper were on the Long Groyne. Elsewhere, a Redwing was in the North Scrubs and a couple of Great Crested Grebe were seen from Mudeford Quay.

January 30th

Redshank – Clinton Whale

On another day when the north-westerly wind made itself known, there were a couple of Chiffchaff at Stanpit; but otherwise it's just 5 Turnstone on the sandspit and a Lapwing flock on the Barn Field to remark upon.

January 29th

It was another day dominated by the uncomfortable north-westerly windchill, with the only reports coming from Hengistbury. A Firecrest was again in the Nursery, a couple of Coal Tit were in the Wood and 48 Lapwing fed in the Barn Field.

Update: there was actually a good deal of news from Stanpit, not least a Green Sandpiper; but also the Spotted Redshank and 4 Grey Plover. In addition, a couple of Water Pipit and 9 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit, as well as an impressive 27 Pintail, 2 Shoveler and a Tufted Duck.

January 28th

The wind was as fierce and as cold as the forecast suggested, which other than 125 Wigeon in Stanpit Creek no doubt contributed to the lack of field reports for the day.

January 27th

Today saw a marked increase of the number of Dunlin inside the harbour - around 260 birds estimated from Fisherman’s Bank - as well as the Spotted Redshank, the lone Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Turnstone and 36 Ringed Plover. There were also 3 Pintail, 6 Shelduck and the drake Tufted Duck to be seen about the place. At sea, a total of 5 Red-throated Diver flew east, a Peregrine was watched incoming from the island and a trickle of auks moved both ways. At least 8 Stonechat remain on Hengistbury, but the forecast cold spell may soon move them on.

January 26th

A female Bearded Tit on the Wick side of the river this afternoon was the first sighting of the year for this locally elusive species. Earlier, on a rather chilly day, a female-type Marsh Harrier had passed low over the same area before heading off northwards, while a Black-throated Diver moved east at sea and a Firecrest was in the regular spot on the Double Bends. Other than the diver, however, save for a single Kittiwake west the sea was a dead loss, despite being looked at for quite some time. Of remaining interest, a Redwing was in the Wood, from where over fifty each of Chaffinch and Greenfinch left their roost at first light, and a Tufted Duck, presumably the tame bird, was again in Barn Bight.

January 25th

The first in-harbour Goldeneye of the winter, a brownhead bird, was in Barn Bight this morning, as was a drake Tufted Duck. On Stanpit, a Water Pipit was on North Marsh and the Spotted Redshank was present, along with 4 Grey Plover. Meanwhile, the Long Groyne hosted 8-10 Purple Sandpiper and singles of Red-throated Diver passed in either direction at sea. The only other news concerns the Raven pair busying themselves about the sandspit and a Kingfisher over the river.

January 24th

Curlew – Clinton Whale

The morning’s weather was dominated by clear, blue skies, but a biting, north-westerly wind; from which the Beach Huts provided welcome shelter. The best at sea were 2 Velvet Scoter out of the Solent and into Poole Bay, as well as 17 Red-throated Diver making the opposite trip, presumably to relocate to optimal feeding areas which had been shifted by the tide. Also, a further Red-throated Diver west, likewise a Razorbill, 20 Wigeon and 2 Teal, 2 Great Crest Grebe and a very distant trickle of eastbound auks. Those who braved the more exposed areas at Stanpit were rewarded with a Jack Snipe on Priory Marsh and 2 Water Pipit, one in the aforementioned spot and another in the pipit-zone on North Marsh, where two out of 10 Rock Pipit were considered to be good littoralis candidates. Back over to Hengistbury and a couple of notable passerines; namely, the year’s first Bullfinch, that on Wick Fields, and a Firecrest in the Nursery, along with a Coal Tit there. To round up, 16 Black-tailed Godwit, 48 Ringed Plover and 23 Dunlin were at Stanpit, as were 4 Stonechat, and 3 Raven were over Hengistbury.

January 23rd

There are, unfortunately, no reports returned for today.

January 22nd

The best of a quiet day, mainly because it’s the first for the year, was a Grey Wagtail on Wick water meadows; where a Kingfisher was also present. Elsewhere on that side of the river, a single Purple Sandpiper was on the Long Groyne and 18 Lapwing were again making use of the well-grazed Barn Field. Although waders were generally thin-on-the-ground at Stanpit, around 20 Snipe were on the grass around Stanpit Bight, along with 7 Ringed Plover and 31 Dunlin there. In addition, 2 Pintail, 3 Shelduck, c.75 Brent Goose, 3 Stonechat and a Raven were about the marsh. T

January 21st

A Water Pipit, together with seven littoralis Rock Pipit, was on Stanpit again this morning, also present were 6 Pintail, 3 Shoveler and the Spotted Redshank. The only other news is of 2 Red-throated Diver past Mudeford Quay.

January 20th

There is even less to mention today, when all the news came from Stanpit. The small waders were counted at 117 Dunlin and 19 Ringed Plover, while 5 Pintail, 4 Shelduck and 175 Brent Goose were also on the marsh.

January 19th

There was another record of Egyptian Goose today - a skein of five that overflew the area and headed north. There was little to be seen elsewhere, the best being perhaps a flock of 6 Red-throated Diver and a Mediterranean Gull west at sea. Meanwhile, 3 Purple Sandpiper were on the Long Groyne and Kingfisher were seen by the Black House and on Wick water meadows.

January 18th

Skylark on the West Field – Hugh Goldsmith
Brent Goose
...and some of the 150 or so Brent Goose at Stanpit – Clinton Whale

Limited time this evening means the full WeBS numbers can’t be compiled and posted, but a Jack Snipe on Priory Marsh and a Ruff up from there and north were the best of an overall quiet count. However, this is probably due to the Avon Valley recently flooding and providing preferred habitat, as well as c.200 small waders departing eastward early on. There were also a couple of highlights at sea, in form of two separate Red-necked Grebe seen passing Mudford Quay, along with 3 Red-throated Diver and up to 20 Great Crested Grebe off there. Mediterranean Gull are at something of a premium right now, so one over Priory Marsh was a good record.

January 17th

Golden Plover Golden & Grey Plover
Golden Plover, in the below separated by a Grey Plover – Alan Hayden
Interestingly, the Grey Plover looked to be attaining some breeding plumage,
which seems incredibly early for an Arctic-breeding wader species.
Egyptian Goose
Egyptian Goose and Bar-headed Goose (second from right) – Alan Hayden

The day’s most notable event came last in the afternoon, when a skein of 9 geese that circled the harbour was made up of 8 Egyptian Goose and a Bar-headed Goose - the latter presumably the bird that has been around the Avon Valley for some years now. Slightly earlier, a couple of Golden Plover that arrived also caused some interest, while a maximum of 8 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit were on North Marsh. The sea was watched for a couple of hours in the morning and produced: a Great Northern Diver, 2 Red-throated Diver, 5 Kittiwake, 30 Common Gull, 10 auks, 25 Gannet and 12 Great Crested Grebe; mostly west. Meanwhile, a Sanderling was on the sandspit and a Firecrest was in the Wood. The fields on Hengistbury again hosted some Lapwing - forty-five on the Barn Field - with around forty each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin inside the harbour, as well as up to 5 Turnstone. The only Kingfisher report for the day comes from Wick water meadows. 

Omission: a couple of Blackcap were in the North Scrubs and 4 Pintail were in Stanpit Bight.

January 16th

Raven – Clinton Whale

There is very little to mention for today - a Ruff with Lapwing over Stanpit being the most notable. On Hengistbury, a total of 15 Purple Sandpiper was on groyne S9, while a Siskin passed over, and and a Great Northern Diver and a Red-throated Diver moved west at sea.  

January 15th

After last night's blow, it was reasonable to expect a good sea watch this morning, but it wasn't to be. The best was a Red-necked Grebe that moved east past the Beach Huts and then pitched down on the sea just off Mudeford. That apart, there was just a single Red-throated Diver, also east, one Razorbill and a decent count of 78 Gannet, the latter west and all between 10:00 and 11:00 this morning. The sandspit held 7 Purple Sandpiper and 40 Ringed Plover, while a combined total of 119 Teal was noted from Barn Bight and the Salt Hurns. There were 2 Kingfisher about Hengistbury and a Raven on Mudeford Quay.

Finally, thanks again to Simon Woolley for yesterday evening's excellent entertainment.

January 14th

Around 5-hours were spent this morning conducting a Common Bird Census on Hengistbury, which produced a couple of Firecrest in the Wood. Elsewhere, a couple of Great Crested Grebe, 7 Gannet and 2 auks were at sea, 44 Black-tailed Godwit were on the Wick meadows, along with a Kingfisher there, and 3 Raven were on the sandspit. 

January 13th

The high point of a relatively low-key day, which saw some of the morning’s activities abruptly thwarted by rain, was 2 Golden Plover seen from Fisherman’s Bank. Also, around 110 Black-tailed Godwit - something of an increase and no doubt due to the recent rains which the birds anticipate will flood the Avon Valley. Being rather optimistic, we could hope the next lot to arrive come from the Hampshire and bring something rather special with them. Also from Stanpit, 8 Pintail, 7 Snipe and 2 Kingfisher. Later, when the rain had cleared, a Hengistbury visit came up with: an adult Mediterranean Gull and a Great Crested Grebe, plus a handful of Gannet and auks; a Song Thrush in full song; and 2 Coal Tit in the Wood. Don't forget the Indoor Meeting tomorrow night.

Additional news: a couple of hours worth of gazing at the sea produced a Black-necked Grebe on the water, as well as 50 Pintail and over 200 Wigeon east. Also, a Kingfisher in Barn Bight, 2 Song Thrush duetting by the HHC and a single Black-tailed Godwit on Wick water meadows.

January 12th

The sea was watched on-and-off for most of the morning, mainly from Mudeford Quay, but there was precious little to show for all the effort. A Great Northern Diver moved west; also two each of Fulmar and Gannet, together with singles of Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit, plus an oiled Guillemot close inshore. A couple of Purple Sandpiper and 30 Ringed Plover were on the sandspit, while 9 Turnstone moved back-and-forth. Just one Raven was present today.

January 11th

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper on the sandspit recently – Alan Hayden
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit in Holloway's Dock – Clinton Whale
A repeat of the recent, unfortunate scene in Stanpit Bight today. Two of the guys are well within the designated wildlife area and the result on the birds can be seen in the foreground

All the news for today comes from Stanpit, where the Spotted Redshank was present, along with 33 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Turnstone, 9 Snipe and 48 Ringed Plover, but just 3 Dunlin; although the photo below may explain the absence of many birds! In addition, there were 4 Pintail, a Shoveler, 8 Linnet, 9 Rock Pipit and 2 Reed Bunting about the marsh.

January 10th

This particular Turnstone, despite its obvious injury,
has been around the area for a while now and seems to be quite unaffected – Clinton Whale

Just after midnight, the barometric pressure plummeted and the westerly wind increased as a result, with gusts in excess of 60km/h ultimately being experienced. A little like yesterday, the sea was a bit of a disappointment, save for one major exception. A Black Guillemot, an adult winter bird but starting to show signs of darkening for the spring, suddenly appeared on the water just a few meters offshore from the Beach Huts from where it was watched for several minutes as it drifted north. This is thought to be possibly the first record of a settled bird for Christchurch Harbour, the rest all being fly-bys. Meanwhile, other stuff on or over the sea included: a Great Northern Diver on the water off Mudeford Quay before leaving west, a Red-throated Diver and 2 Great Crested Grebe also sitting, a smaller but unidentified grebe, a Fulmar, 12 Kittiwake, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 6 Common Scoter; plus a constant presence of Gannet and a trickle of the expected auks. Counts of two, six, nine and twelve Purple Sandpiper were received, so the latter figure may be the one to use for the records, a couple of Raven were on Mudeford Quay and 17 Lapwing were in the uncharacteristic spot of the Long Field.

Additional news: late in the morning, dabbling duck started to appear on and over the sea. These were mainly Wigeon, 100 or so in total, but also 5 Pintail and 7 Teal. Presumably, these birds had been disturbed from elsewhere and were seeking refuge well away from land.

January 9th

Pied Wagtail
Pied Wagtail – Clinton Whale

Although last night’s wind had calmed by dawn, there were still hopes the sea might produce and, as a consequence, it was looked at all morning and for a shorter period this afternoon. Unfortunately, the bird-to-time ratio was one of most unremarkable for many a year, with the combined efforts coming to little more than: 3 Red-throated Diver, 2 diver sp., a Fulmar, 18 Kittiwake, 2 Mediterranean Gull, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Common Scoter, 2 Great Crested Grebe, up to 20 Gannet and a trickle of auks of both the expected species. Meanwhile, 8 Purple Sandpiper were on groyne S9, along with 110 Dunlin, while a further two ‘purple sands’ appeared in front of the Beach Huts watchpoint. On Stanpit, a party of 7 Linnet feeding with 14 Rock Pipit close to the Pod is a nice record; plus 4 Stonechat, 4 Reed Bunting, 187 Brent Goose, 2 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 43 Black-tailed Godwit, 40 Dunlin and 250 Lapwing on the marsh. A couple of Raven were seen on two occasions, as was a Peregrine hunting various prey about the sandspit.

Early in the afternoon, it was a shame to see up to five kite surfers sailing inside the buoys on Stanpit Bight and landing on Blackberry Point itself, so disturbing a significant number of birds. To be fair, this is an activity that is normally carried out responsibly inside the harbour, but today that was certainly not the case. If anyone knows of an association or club that is involved with this activity around Christchurch, it would be great if you could forward details.

Actually, since drafting the previous, we have received the following, first-hand account from a birder on Stanpit. ‘Started doing a wader and gull count but everything was flushed by kite surfers who for over an hour at high tide were surfing inside the excluded area and right up to the spits/headlands the birds were trying to roost on and they caused chaos amongst the birds.’

January 8th

Heavy rain, which started in the small hours and never really gave up until late in the morning, made field work more than difficult. However, one hardy soul did venture out onto Hengistbury, where a Firecrest was in the Wood, along with 5 Goldcrest, and a Kingfisher was around Barn Bight. A drier, lunchtime visit to Stanpit produced 5 Rock Pipit, two confirmed as ‘Scandinavian’, as well as as 7 Pintail.

January 7th

One of a decent number of Stonechat that are in the area right now – Darren Matthews

It was another good day for variety; starting at Stanpit where a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull was present. The only pipits that could be located there were 6 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit, but also 4 Stonechat and 4 Reed Bunting; as well as 12 Pintail and 2 Shoveler. The sea was again busy, not least a minimum of 300 auks, a reckoned ninety percent being Guillemot, the remainder Razorbill, all moving west. The best individual was an adult Little Gull, also heading west, along with a Great  Northern Diver, 6 Red-throated Diver, 65 Kittiwake, a Mediterranean Gull, 2 Fulmar and 6 Common Scoter. Meanwhile, a Firecrest and a Chiffchaff were in the Wood, adjacent to or in the Nursery.

January 6th

An Arctic Skua was seen again this morning and just like the bird on the first of the month it was a dark juvenile, so given the species’ rarity in these waters at this time of year an individual may be lingering in the general area. There also another close and settled diver; this time, a Great Northern Diver literally just off the Beach Huts. Meanwhile, 11 Red-throated Diver were logged heading in a number of directions; but 13 Kittiwake, a Mediterranean Gull, a Fulmar, 50 Gannet and 8 Common Scoter were perhaps a little more intent on moving west. A couple of Firecrest were on the head and a good count of 12 Stonechat was returned from there - it’s not infrequent for these to be almost entirely absent during the winter. Another bird around in fairly decent numbers is Lapwing; an estimated 600 or so flushed by a Peregrine from Stanpit, taking with them 2 Golden Plover and 4 Ruff. 

Additional news: a Water Pipit and 7 Rock Pipit were at Stanpit, along with an increased five Stonechat, plus 2 Pintail and a Shoveler.

January 5th

 Green Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker on Crouch Hill – Darren Matthews

It was good again today at sea, but before that news the interest from Stanpit. The Water Pipit and 7 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit were in the normal location on North Marsh, while a further 9 Rock Pipit in the middle of Central Marsh were too far away to be certain about, although their choice of habitat may provide a pointer. Also on Stanpit, three male Reed Bunting; it seems these are now slowly edging their way into the area. Now Hengistbury, from where divers were once more feature - between the Double Dykes and the Long Groyne there was a settled Black-throated Diver and up to 3 Great Northern Diver, all those birds reportedly within photographic range. Meanwhile, a Black-throated Diver, 14 Red-throated Diver and 12 unidentified diver passed by to the west, as did a Sandwich Tern, 11 Mediterranean Gull, all adults, 3 Kittiwake and 75 Gannet; with 3 Eider heading in the opposite direction. Also on the water, a or ‘the’ Red-necked Grebe, today off Whitepits in the company of 7 Great Crested Grebe. A flight of 3 Linnet over the head is noteworthy for the date and a Peregrine was about the area.

January 4th

Black-headed Gull
A few Black-headed Gull are already attaining their breeding heads – Clinton Whale

The sea was watched early in the day and then around lunchtime. The first spell produced a Black-necked Grebe from Mudeford Quay, presumably ‘the’ Red-necked Grebe west past the Beach Huts, 4 Red-throated Diver and 6 Great Crested Grebe. Later on, however, in addition to 2 Velvet Scoter east, divers really started to move down-channel - 52 Red-throated Diver, 2 Black-throated Diver and a Great Northern Diver being the totals - while singles of the latter two were sat just offshore from the Long Groyne. Also seen over the water, 3 Common Scoter east, 7 Guillemot and 46 Gannet. Whatever prompted the divers to move may have given rise to a clear influx of Golden Plover, always a notable wader here, with 14 birds on Stanpit this morning; along with 18 Grey Plover, the Spotted Redshank, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Turnstone and 45 Ringed Plover. Passerine interest came courtesy of a Water Pipit and 6 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit at Stanpit, singles of Chiffchaff by Priory Marsh and around the HHC, and a Firecrest in the Nursery. Finishing off, a Kingfisher and 12 Pintail were on-site.

January 3rd

One of the many hopeful Starling on Mudeford Quay – Jean Southworth
Teal on Wick – Clinton Whale

Rather strangely, against all the forecasts, the wind was coming from the south-east at dawn - although it did quickly move to the south-west and by dark was coming directly from the north. Meanwhile, the start and end of the day were dominated by heavy rain. The sea, which was watched from first light until noon, once more provided some interest: a Long-tailed Duck passed close and westbound off the Beach Huts; a Great Skua did a couple of circuits, the second very close to the shore, before leaving for Poole Bay; and the Red-necked Grebe spent some time on the water off the huts. In addition, there was a Fulmar, a good local record for mid-winter, 4 Red-throated Diver, two west and two settled, a Razorbill, several Guillemot and 8 Great Crested Grebe. For the first time in a few weeks, Gannet were conspicuous - a constant presence of around 15 birds per scan fishing rather aimlessly between the two bays. The only other news for the day is of a Coal Tit in the Nursery. 

January 2nd

Water Pipit
Water PipitWater Pipit – Alan Hayden
Pale-bellied Brent Goose
Pale-bellied Brent Goose – Alan Hayden

Although the wind had altered to a north-westerly, the sea still provided moments of interest. The Red-necked Grebe was offshore from the Beach Huts this morning, along with 2 Great Crested Grebe, while three species of diver were logged: a Black-throated Diver moving west, a Great Northern Diver on the water off Mudeford Quay, and a total of 9 Red-throated Diver, six west and three east. In addition, a Razorbill, 14 Guillemot, 2 Kittiwake, a Common Scoter and 9 Gannet headed west, with 2 Shelduck seen to arrive from the east. On Stanpit, a pale-bellied Brent Goose was with eighty-five or so of its dark-bellied cousins, of which sixteen were young birds, a Shelduck may have been one of the previously mentioned birds, the Pintail numbered fifteen and a single Shoveler was about. Also around the marsh, the North Marsh Water Pipit, 12 Grey Plover, 40+ Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Turnstone, 40 Ringed Plover and an estimated 250 Dunlin. On Hengistbury, a Firecrest was in the Wood and a Raven passed over. Meanwhile, a Peregrine hunted the area on at least two occasions and a Kingfisher was in Parky Meade Rail.

Additional news: a Greenshank was on Wick Hams and a Sanderling was on the end of the sandspit.

January 1st

Great Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull – Clinton Whale

The new recording period got off to a decent start from Mudeford Quay, where a dark, juvenile Arctic Skua passed westbound just a few meters offshore; likewise, a Red-necked Grebe that then settled on the sea just off the southern end of the Beach Huts. The overnight wind - a south-south-westerly - failed to produce any real numbers however, with just a Red-throated Diver, a Kittiwake, an adult Mediterranean Gull and 2 Common Scoter, all west, plus 8 Guillemot, 15 Gannet and a Great Crested Grebe making up the rest of the detail. A further Mediterranean Gull, again an adult, passed over Wick, while 2 Redwing fed in the horse paddocks there and a Fieldfare was in the Wood on Hengistbury. The only wader new involves the Spotted Redshank on Stanpit, but there were 13 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 124 Brent Goose and the 2 Stonechat on the marsh, with a Kingfisher being seen on Wick.

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