Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Studland & Hengistbury Head birding

Studland - Sunday 18th January
Our Sunday monthly group met at Shell Bay, Studland, a gloriously sunny cold winter morning.   Shell Bay was fairly quiet apart from a close Black-necked Grebe and a calling Bullfinch from the nearby trees.  After a further fruitless scan a raptor was picked up flying in off the sea towards us.   It looked very dark and though we had a good idea of its identity we had to wait until it was closer to be sure it was a 1st winter male Marsh Harrier.  It flew over us and towards the inner harbour and the Goathorn area.  

Moving on to look over the harbour towards Brownsea we had a low flying Sparrowhawk go across to South Haven.  From the houseboats we had the usual birds we expect to see here including Shag, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes.  A few Oystercatchers flew along and past us but a small group of Sanderling did stop on the beach right in front of us and gave us superb views running a long like clockwork toys being wound up, then stopping and then running on again.
Sanderling - Bramblebush Bay © Nick Hull

From the hide at Brands Bay with the tide beginning to go out we had the usual waders and ducks, including a few Avocets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Dunlin, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck.  A surprise was to see a Spoonbill suddenly appear from behind some reeds showing briefly before disappearing again.

We finished with a look by the top hide over Littlesea, a few Little Egret and Grey Heron were seen but it was a much smaller bird that stole the show.  A male Dartford Warbler flew into a gorse bush next to us and showed so well as it sat up, then foraged within the bush before popping up again and gave us amazing views.  We left him and walked back to the path when a female was seen, then the male we had been watching flew in nearby.

Nick and I then went for a look over Studland Bay from Middle Beach, we had several Black-necked Grebes scattered across the bay, a flock of Common Scoter and then we found the Red-necked Grebe we had really been looking for.  So a superb finish to our morning.

Carrion Crow - Bramblebush Bay © Nick Hull
Hengistbury Head - Tuesday 20th January
This morning our Tuesday group met at Hengistbury Head and we started with Lapwings in the Barn Field.  Turning round to look over towards the harbour Helen spotted a raptor sat on a fence post in the marsh.  It turned out to be a male Sparrowhawk that sat for us to all have prolonged views through the 'scopes before he flew up causing all the Teal hidden in the marsh to 'spring' up.  We watched him fly over the reedbeds causing panic its wake.

Walking through the woods a Blue Tit was singing so stopping to look carefully Jess found two Goldcrests searching through the lichen on an oak tree.  On our way back we also had Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay.  Towards the head we had Redshank, Curlew, Wigeon and Teal, on the sea the usual Cormorants sat on the posts.  We struggled to find much on the sea or beach and it wasn't until we turned back on the harbour side Kate called our attention to a flock waders flying overhead.  It was a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, they landed on beach and rocks.  Back on the harbour side we watched an enchanting little Stonechat picking bits up on the little beach, though as it got closer to us a Robin popped out and made it clear that bit was his patch!  Then a small flock of Turnstones flew in.   As we arrived back to where we had seen the Sparrowhawk a Kingfisher was seen, briefly resting on a reed before zooming off again.  

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