Sightings for March 2017

March 31st

Green Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker at Stanpit – Diarmuid Murphy

A cloudy and warm night produced some rain at dawn, but this failed to dump anything of significance onto the area. That said, firsts for the year of Swallow and Yellow Wagtail were logged – over Hengistbury and Stanpit respectively – while single figures of Willow Warbler and Blackcap were about the area, and the Sand Martin count peaked at 15 over the Long Field. Also new for the year was Greenshank – a single bird at Stanpit along with 5 Grey Plover and 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, but a flock of 40-50 Black-tailed Godwit toured. The sea was quiet, coming up with just: 3 Red-throated Diver, one west and two east; 5 Sandwich Tern and 8 Common Scoter east; and a Shelduck west. Meanwhile, a further 2 Sandwich Tern headed into the harbour and a minimum of 6 Mediterranean Gull moved into the Solent. Rounding up, at least 2 Firecrest were singing in the Wood and a Raven was at Stanpit. 

March 30th

A vast improvement in the weather today did not seem to coax out many migrants, unfortunately. Harbour totals of 4 Wheatear, 2 Blackcap, 7 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff and 10 Sand Martin are pretty dire given the time of year, although a couple of Firecrest behind the Nursery added a splash of colour. Mediterranean Gulls are starting to build in numbers, with 37 moving east and a couple of settled birds, while 12 Linnet and a Grey Wagtail on Hengistbury are worth a mention. Counts from Stanpit included 51 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 66 Brent Geese, 14 Shelduck and a couple of Gadwall, with singles of Pintail, Shoveler, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Peregrine and Common Gull providing a little variety. Ravens were seen on both sides of the harbour, with 3 on Hengistbury and 2 on Stanpit.

March 29th

Neither the weather nor the birds were worth writing home about today - a couple of Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 2 Mediterranean Gull and 3 Raven on Wick, with 39 Black-tailed Godwit in Barn Bight and 2 Purple Sandpiper on the groynes just about wraps it up.

March 28th

Both sides of the harbour chipped in with sightings today, with the pick being a fine male Ring Ouzel on Stanpit, the first of the year, initially by the Pod in North Scrubs but later on Crouch Hill. Waders comprised the Spotted Redshank, starting to darken up now, 49 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Bar-tailed Godwit, 9 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover and 11 Curlew, also a Marsh Harrier, 2 Raven and 8 Mediterranean Gull. Hengistbury and Wick managed a Firecrest behind the Nursery, a couple of Wheatear were seen to arrive, 10 Stonechat suggested a migrant or two amongst them and 25 or so Sand Martin were scattered around the recording area; 8 Wigeon and 2 Teal linger on from winter but otherwise just single figure counts of Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Yesterday's post inadvertently did a disservice to Linnet, understating by a factor of 10 - there were actually 63 counted heading north.

March 27th

The first Osprey of the year took advantage of a lovely spring day to make its move, passing over Whitepits just after midday before heading north without lingering. Other than this, it was routine fare only, with Wick holding 11 Chiffchaff, 4 Willow Warbler and 4 Blackcap; 5 Chiffchaff and another couple of Blackcap around the Wood; and just a single Wheatear completing the tally of grounded migrants. Overhead, 13 Mediterranean Gull headed east, 6 Linnet and 150+ Meadow Pipit went north, and around 15 Sand Martin were on site, five around the cliffs at the end of the Head and the remainder possibly passing through.

March 26th

Drake Shoveler at Stanpit – Chris Dresh
Magpie dispatching a Slow Worm – Ali Germain
Black-tailed Godwit
Some of the Black-tailed Godwit are already in there breeding plumage – Clinton Whale
Comma butterfly – Clinton Whale

The was no visible-migration count at Hengistbury this morning, but information from just east of us and social media messages from further west suggest there was a large arrival of Meadow Pipit. The Hampshire source mentioned 1000+ prior to 11:00 in over Keyhaven, for example. As it was, just a few small flocks were noted from the birdwatching boat as they moved inland over the harbour. Otherwise, however, it was very low key. In fact, it’s just 2 Wheatear, 4 Raven and a northbound Rook to report upon from the head, plus a drake Shoveler at Stanpit. 

March 25th

Skylark – Chris Dresh
Kestrel don't often breed in the recording area,
but this year looks as if it may be different – Ali Germain
Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit with nest material – Chris Dresh

The last few years have seen Red Kite become an expected early-spring visitor to the area, so two this morning – one early over Wick Fields and the other around 10:00 over the end of the head – were not the surprise they once may have been. Those, along with a Buzzard in harbour airspace and a soaring Peregrine, were no doubt taking advantage of the clear skies and easterly wind. Other than an area on Stanpit, which hosted a Willow Warbler, 8 Chiffchaff and a Blackcap, and 3 Wheatear on the Barn Field, there was no obvious arrival of birds. There were, however, still at least 3 Firecrest in the Wood and a Siskin passed over there. A couple of hours were spent looking at a disappointing sea, where the best was 4 Shoveler, which actually landed off the Long Groyne for some time, 5 Common Scoter, a Fulmar, around 10 Gannet and 8 Common Gull. Other bits and pieces included: a Grey Plover over Solent Meads; a Kingfisher in Stanpit Creek; a day-total of 7 Mediterranean Gull; and a couple of Raven, 23 Brent Goose and 200 or so Wigeon at Stanpit.

March 24th

Greenfinch – Alan Crockard
Curlew – Roger Howell

The day started to a northerly wind and cloud, but despite this Meadow Pipit had clearly battled their way across the Channel. Just under 500 were counted from the end of the head as they arrived; along with them a couple each of Pied Wagtail and Chiffchaff. There was little else on the move, however; the most notable being a flock of seven waders comprising 2 Knot and 5 Grey Plover east; as well as 6 Shelduck, 4 Shoveler and a handful of Common Gull also east, 4 Fulmar and several lingering Gannet. Meanwhile, a Peregrine patrolled offshore – at one time lunging at a flying Cormorant that took immediate under-water refuge. Over at Stanpit, the pick was easily a pair of Garganey that flew in from the north, but appeared not to settle. Also, the Spotted Redshank, 3 Grey Plover, the Bar-tailed Godwit, 50 Black-tailed Godwit that were harassed by a Peregrine, a Snipe and a Dunlin, plus 3 Pintail, 5 Shoveler and at least 6 Mediterranean Gull. Back to Hengistbury, where 4 Firecrest and 15 Goldcrest were in the Wood, and a male Wheatear was on Warren Hill.

March 23rd

It was a thoroughly unpleasant day, thanks to an easterly wind and occasional showers. A Firecrest that moved off the head early on gave a glimmer of hope, but that soon died away. Slightly later, the sea was watched from the Beach Huts and produced an Iceland Gull into the Solent, as well as: 10 Eider, a Red-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Shoveler, 15 Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe, a Sandwich Tern and 7 Gannet. On the same excursion, 5 Wheatear and 12 Chiffchaff were logged.

March 22nd

Wren – Alan Crockard
Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell – Clinton Whale

The continuing south-west wind brought some unpleasant rain with it this morning, but by midday things had improved dramatically. Seawatching from the Beach Huts and Mudeford Quay yielded: a minimum of 5 Sandwich Tern, 7 Mediterranean Gull, 11 Common Scoter, 2 Fulmar and 5 Gannet. Meanwhile, a single Purple Sandpiper was on a rock groyne at the southern end of the sandspit and a pink-flushed littoralis Rock Pipit was at the northern extreme. The pair of Firecrest were again behind the Nursery and at least 5 Wheatear were on Hengistbury, as were a couple of Sand Martin and 3 Raven. In general, however, there were very few new arrivals. Early on, a seal was in the Run, but wasn’t seen well enough to assign to a species.

March 21st

Turnstone – Clinton Whale
Peacock butterfly – Clinton Whale

As the photographs suggest, it was a bright, sunny day, but tempered by another biting wind from the west. One Little Ringed Plover remained on Priory Marsh, where there was also a White Wagtail and 2 Water Pipit. On Hengistbury, the pair of Firecrest was again behind the Nursery, while another was further into the Wood, a Wheatear was on Whitepits and 5 Sand Martin patrolled the cliffs. On Wick, a couple of Bullfinch are still around and what were probably four more martins passed over. The best at Stanpit was a Marsh Harrier, presumably a passing bird as the regular certainly seems to have moved on, but also: the Spotted Redshank, 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin, 5 Pintail, 4 Shoveler, 10 Shelduck and 31 Brent Goose. Around 20 Turnstone were on the sandspit and a pair of Raven was again in the area.

March 20th

Dunlin – Clinton Whale

It was another blustery day, with showers never far away. This morning, the sea was watched from Mudeford Quay and the Beach Huts, although the former site produced the vast majority of sightings, when by local and recent standards there were quite a few birds seen. At least four adult Sandwich Tern were around Christchurch Bay; while a Red-breasted Merganser, 11 Mediterranean Gull and 7 Brent Goose headed east, 5 Kittiwake, 2 Fulmar, 11 Common Scoter and a Guillemot moved west; and up to 35 Gannet were rather aimless. Remarkably, a few Meadow Pipit were coming in off the sea – 27 seen from the quay, including a flock of 17 – as well as a Dunlin and a Shelduck. At Stanpit, the 2 Little Ringed Plover were still on Priory Marsh and 6 Tufted Duck in Parky Meade Rail were quite a surprise; also 4 Pintail and 21 Shelduck present. At least 4 Wheatear were on site, one of them in a newly-cleared reed bed on Wick, and 2 Firecrest were behind the Nursery, where a couple of Rook were loitering.

March 19th

Chiffchaff Chiffchaff Chiffchaff
Today was the most obvious so far for singing Chiffchaff, with birds seeming
to be setting up territories across Hengistbury and Wick – Alan Crockard
Two male Wheatear on Crouch Hill – Clinton Whale

Late this afternoon, a Water Pipit and 2 Little Ringed Plover were on Priory Marsh, but otherwise it was all a bit of a non-event. A couple of Wheatear were on Crouch Hill, with 25 Dunlin and 12 Shelduck being the only other notables at Stanpit. At sea, 5 Common Scoter passed east and, from Hengistbury, a pair of Gadwall were in Barn Bight. A total of 4 Mediterranean Gull were logged and 2 Raven were seen from both sides of the harbour. Despite the cloud and wind, Chiffchaff were in good voice across Hengistbury and Wick.

Otter update: not good news, we're afraid. The Otter, a young female, died in care this morning. The suspicion is that she had ingested oil, but the body is being sent for autopsy to establish the cause with more certainty.

March 18th

Linnet – Clinton Whale

It was a grey and blustery day, although a lot warmer than how the previous one closed. Starting with the waders for a change, and a doubling of the Stanpit Bar-tailed Godwit flock to two birds; as well as the Spotted Redshank, 39 Black-tailed Godwit and 46 Dunlin. Also about the marsh, a couple each of Pintail, Shoveler and Gadwall, 13 Shelduck and 82 Brent Goose. The only obvious passerine migrants were 2 Wheatear on Crouch Hill and 3 Chiffchaff on Hengistbury; while an offshore Sandwich Tern probably hadn’t just come very far, being in tatty first-winter plumage. In addition at sea, 2 Common Scoter and 3 Brent Goose heading west, plus a pair of Mediterranean Gull. Moving back to Stanpit, where a Kingfisher was on the Purewell Stream.

For those interested, here is an update on the Otter. Upon arrival at a surgery in Ringwood, the animal had regained sufficient energy to bite and eat – to the point where it wasn’t apparent what had been wrong. As such, it is now in care where it will have to remain for a good few months; until large and old enough to be released. Young Otter normally remain with their mother for at least a year. 

March 17th

Garganey Garganey
Drake Garganey, with duck Wigeon in lower shot – Clinton Whale
This Otter kit, about half size of an adult, was found seemingly abandoned
in the middle of Crouch Hill, Stanpit, this afternoon! After some initial shock,
it was gathered up and taken to the Pod, where the volunteer wardens provided a box
so that it could be taken safely into care with a local animal rescue centre – David Taylor
The day started to clear blue skies; but, by lunchtime, cloud and an uncomfortable westerly wind had set in. A drake Garganey was in Mother Siller’s Channel, Stanpit, for around an hour this afternoon, before it all of a sudden disappeared and could not be refound. The early morning on Hengistbury saw just under 30 Chiffchaff between the HHC and the Nursery, as well as 2 Firecrest behind the latter area, 8 Wheatear – five on the head and three on Stanpit – and a Siskin over. There is little wader news, save for a Grey Plover circuiting Barn Bight and 20 Black-tailed Godwit spread around. The final bird news involves a day-total 7 Mediterranean Gull; but of mammal interest, in addition to the Otter, a Weasel was seen in the Barn Field.

March 16th

Meadow Pipit
There were hundreds of Meadow Pipit around today – Clinton Whale
plus a few Wheatear - Clinton Whale
...and 22 Shelduck – Clinton Whale

A morning of fog saw hundreds of confused and disorientated Meadow Pipit about the area. Initially, the direction of movement over Hengistbury, which comprised at least 500 birds, was largely random – some flocks moving south and even out to sea – but eventually a more consistent northward trend was established. Later, upwards of 220 were decked on Crouch Hill, Stanpit, for some time. Also moving over were 15 or so alba Wagtail, a Ringed Plover and a Mediterranean Gull. On the deck, there were around 40 newly-arrived Chiffchaff, including twelve feeding together on a wood-chip pile by the HHC. In addition, a Firecrest was on Wick and 4 Wheatear were on site. The year’s first Little Ringed Plover headed north through Stanpit, where the Spotted Redshank, the Bar-tailed Godwit, 35 Black-tailed Godwit and 15 Dunlin, along with 8 Pintail, a Shoveler, 22 Shelduck and 156 Brent Goose, were present. Meanwhile, well out of the ordinary for the marsh was a flock of 40 Redwing passing over the car park and two intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull on South Marsh.

March 15th

Rock Pipit
One of the Rock Pipit holding territory by the Coastguards – Clinton Whale

The damp, early conditions failed to deposit too many birds with just 3 Wheatear at Whitepits, a Chiffchaff on the Long Field and a Siskin east making the post. There were also 2 Firecrest in the Nursery – one of them at least in song. At one point during the morning, after things dried up, around 400 Black-headed Gull were hawking insects above Hengistbury, and with them 4 Mediterranean Gull – three adults and a first-winter. 

March 14th

Firecrest – Alan Crockard
Goldfinch - busy home-making – Clinton Whale

There were twos of each of the expected spring migrants this morning – Sand Martin, Chiffchaff and Wheatear – all on the Hengistbury side; as well as couple of active Firecrest on the Batters and a Bullfinch by the Wooden Bridge on Wick. Meanwhile, a handful of Linnet and Meadow Pipit trickled in. At Stanpit, this afternoon on the ebbing tide, the Spotted Redshank was logged, along with a couple of Dunlin, around 110 Redshank, 3 Shoveler, 9 Shelduck, including a pair checking out North Marsh, and 84 Brent Goose. Earlier, 5 Mediterranean Gull came into the harbour through the Run and a Raven was about the head.

March 13th

Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler in today's sunshine – Clinton Whale
First-winter Cormorant – Steve Hogan
Adder – Clinton Whale

It was a glorious morning – T-shirt weather, in fact, on the lee side of the Coastguards – but few birds to support it. The only overhead movers detected were singles of Grey Wagtail, Siskin and Sand Martin, one flock of 6 Meadow Pipit incoming, and up to 9 Mediterranean Gull. In addition, however, there were several flocks of east-bound Black-headed Gull, flying higher than normally might be expected, which could also have been travellers. Meanwhile, the only decked, migrant passerine was a single Wheatear on the Barn Field. There were also three further Sand Martin to that mentioned, but these were lingering and already sticking their heads into some of last year’s nest holes. The rest of the news concerns: a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull on the inner shore of Mudeford Quay; a Firecrest singing in the Nursery; a single Red-throated Diver moving into the Solent; and a pair of Greylag Goose east through the harbour.

March 12th

Despite the early rain, which packed in around mid-morning, there were birds arriving from early on. At least 8 Wheatear were on site – three tired-looking males at the end of the sandspit, three at Stanpit and two on the Barn Field. Meanwhile, the Chiffchaff number was around 30 birds – one seen coming in off the sea and then flycatching from lobster pots on Mudeford Quay, and up to three singing along the banks of the Stour. Later in the day, a couple of Sand Martin passed high over Priory Marsh. Finishing with the passerines, there was a Firecrest and 2 Grey Wagtail at Stanpit. Today was the last WeBS count of the winter, with the best being an Avocet that left high to the east, but also the Bar-tailed Godwit, 53 settled Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Dunlin, 11 Turnstone and 6 Lapwing; as well as 8 Pintail, 7 Shoveler, 165 Brent Goose, 11 Shelduck, 85 Teal and 395 Wigeon. Meanwhile, by far the biggest number of Black-tailed Godwit for the season was returned – 300 birds east – and 3 Mediterranean Gull were logged.

March 11th

Fog once more played a part, but today only until around 10:00. Early spring migrants were again obvious, including females of Black Redstart and Wheatear – by the Coastguards and Crouch Hill respectively. Traditionally, it’s the males that arrive first, so the gender of the Wheatear at least was something of a surprise. Up to 20 Chiffchaff were spread across the area, including one in song on Wick; while Meadow Pipit were also conspicuous – 115 over Stanpit, 80 on Solent Meads golf course and small flocks in several spots on Hengistbury – and half a dozen Pied Wagtail passed over. Additionally, a Firecrest was by the Wooden Bridge and there was a hint of thrush movement with a Fieldfare and 6 Redwing over Stanpit. An increase in some wildfowl saw 8 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, a Gadwall and 18 Shelduck at Stanpit, where the Spotted Redshank, the Bar-tailed Godiwt, 47 Black-tailed Godwit and around 10 Dunlin were present. Finally, the day-total of Mediterranean Gull was somewhere in the region of 20 birds; as may be expected, all were adults save for one in second-summer plumage. 

March 10th

Meadow Pipit
A damp-looking Meadow Pipit – Clinton Whale

The area was blanketed by fog all day, but birds were definitely arriving. The best was a Cattle Egret seen perched in the Nursery just before midday, before it flew across the harbour and into the mirk. The first, certain migrant Chiffchaff were on site – one on Crouch Hill and three on Whitepits – two of the latter late this afternoon, when they seemed to have just arrived. Also checking in were Meadow Pipit: a report from the morning described a ‘steady flow’ over Stanpit, where around 150 were settled later on. In addition, a single littoralis Rock Pipit was on the marsh, while 12 Chaffinch coasted east and 12 Linnet were on the Barn Field. The Marsh Harrier has been scarce of late – some of us having given up on it – but it was about at around 16:30, when it was seen in flight and perched on Wick. Another individual that has not been logged recently is the drake Goosander that has a liking for the lower reaches of the Stour – this afternoon it was on the river just off Priory Marsh.

March 9th

Although it was a glorious day in terms of weather, the only bird news is a report of an incredibly early - it's at least three weeks ahead of when the first might be expected - Whitethroat; in song close to the Hengistbury Head Visitors Centre.

March 8th

Linnet – Clinton Whale

The best from a drizzle-marred day were: 3 Fulmar and a Guillemot west; 40 Brent Goose and 3 Mediterranean Gull east; and a flock of 8 Linnet on Crouch Hill.

March 7th

Reed Bunting
A very peculiar-looking Reed Bunting – Clinton Whale
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit – Wayne Dodd

When all’s said and done, it was a pretty dire day so far as birds were concerned. The best from a 90-minute spell prior to 08:30 on to top of the head was a passing Siskin, while a handful of Linnet and 9 Woodpigeon may or may not have been migrants. A couple of Shelduck did move west at sea, but otherwise for the morning it’s just a Peregrine and 3 Raven to mention. A walk round Stanpit this afternoon added just a single Mediterranean Gull and 2 Black-tailed Godwit to the day’s meagre tally. 

March 6th

A relatively still morning saw a couple of Marsh Harrier – both female types – move through: one came in off the sea and along the sandspit at 09:05; the other, around an hour later, moved high to the north-east. Meanwhile, a Buzzard also travelled east over the area. The best at Stanpit was the Spotted Redshank and 3 Avocet, but also an increase in some wildfowl to 16 Shoveler, 8 Pintail and 170 Brent Goose. Wigeon numbers, on the other hand, are now dwindling fast. Also about the marsh, 8 Grey Plover, the Bar-tailed Godwit, 56 Black-tailed Godwit and 10 Dunlin. Elsewhere: a Great Crested Grebe was in Barn Bight and two were offshore; the Tufted Duck was also in that bight; 2 Raven went north over Hengistbury; 15 Turnstone were on the sandspit; and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed in the North Scrubs.

March 5th

Drake Pintail – Clinton Whale

The first Sand Martin of the year headed inland over Whitepits this morning, but other than that is was standard winter fare. The pair of Bullfinch was on the No Dogs Field, while 6 Pintail, 8 Shoveler and 106 Brent Goose were at Stanpit. More news may follow.

March 4th

Cormorant at dawn – Chris Chapleo
Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit – Wayne Dodd

A light south-westerly wind and patchy cloud produced a pair of Garganey briefly by the Bailey Bridge at Stanpit, at around 9:30 this morning. Meanwhile, breeding-bound birds passing by Hengistbury included: at least 9 Mediterranean Gull, 2 Curlew, a Sandwich Tern, a Pintail and 2 Linnet, all west; as well as a Pied Wagtail in off the sea and an offshore, patrolling Peregrine presumably on the look out for such migrants. Inside the harbour, the drake Red-breasted Merganser was again present, as was a pair of Great Crested Grebe, with a further of those on the sea, and 60 or Black-tailed Godwit. Rounding up, two or three Firecrest were in the Wood and resident or semi-resident species going about their spring business included: a few pristine-looking, male Stonechat on exposed perches; swallow-like Greenfinch in display flight; vocal Skylark rising above the Barn Field; a Linnet in song on Crouch Hill; and Dunnock seemingly everywhere.

March 3rd

Water Pipit
Water Pipit – Clinton Whale
Scandinavian Rock Pipit
Scandinavian Rock Pipit
Scandinavian Rock Pipit
Scandinavian Rock Pipit
...and what are reckoned to be decent examples of littoralis race (Scandinavian) Rock Pipit
Features include: plain grey tones to the head and nape; whitish supercilia;
and perhaps even a hint of pink on the breast – Clinton Whale

There was a good selection of pipits on and off through the day by the Pod on Stanpit. During the morning, a Water Pipit was present, while later up to 8 ‘Scandinavian’ Rock Pipit were there. Also at Stanpit: the Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 Grey Plover; 4 Pintail and 6 Shoveler; and at least 4 Mediterranean Gull

March 2nd

The only news for today involves two more spring migrant contenders - a couple of Sandwich Tern that spent a short time off Mudeford Quay - but again it's impossible to be certain of how far they may have really come.

March 1st

Before the drizzle set in, there were more signs of spring as 2 Blackcap and 3 Chiffchaff were in song at Stanpit; presumably in the Ashtree Meadow area. They may have been newly-arrived birds, but equally they may have been silently lurking there all winter. On Hengistbury, a male Bullfinch was again by the HHC and a Tufted Duck was in Barn Bight.

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