Wednesday 2 January 2013

A New Year in Poole Harbour

New Year's Day in Dorset means a boat trip around Poole Harbour laid on for the locals courtesy of Mark and Mo Constantine. Birders may know Mark as the driving force behind the Sound Approach. Normal people who tend to have a greater interest in personal hygiene may know the couple as the founders of the Lush cosmetics empire.

 A typically distant view of a diver in Poole Harbour, but any view of Black-throated Diver is a good view - the white flank patch helped identify this bird
Yesterday's boat was one of the best yet with a rare combination of dry weather, good company, fine food and, most important, excellent birds. The boat headed out of Poole Quay towards Brownsea and one of the first birds of note was a distant diver. We all assumed this to be a Great Northern before it gradually materialised into a Black-Throated - a very good bird for the area. Great Northern is the more likely diver in the Harbour and at least four more were indeed seen, 2 or 3 of which were unusually close to the boat.

Great Northern Diver - a scaly juvenile - the commonest diver within Poole Harbour
A sail-past of Brownsea Lagoon revealed it to be well-stocked with waders, mostly Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets but also good numbers of Barwits, Oystercatchers, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Redshanks. Heading south around Brownsea brought us into the wintering grounds of several Black-necked Grebes, many Red-breasted Mergansers and, although in smaller numbers than usual, a few Goldeneye. I was pleased to pick up a distant Red-necked Grebe as we rounded Brownsea which everyone eventually managed to see. Upwards of a dozen Spoonbill were on Shipstal Point and Razorbill and Guillemot were also seen.
Red-breasted Merganser - surely one of the most attractive plumages of any British bird
The trip proved to be excellent reconnaissance for a forthcoming Dorset bird race in which I will be participating for the first time. As it approaches, the local news grapevine becomes strangely withered as competing teams try to keep news of potentially tricky day-ticks to themselves. Even yesterday amid the bonhomie of the boat trip I overheard an out of place Mandarin Duck being discussed as furtively as would be a breeding pair of Golden Oriole! And, no, I'm not telling you where it is...

Black-necked Grebe - this one was west of Brownsea


  1. "bird race"??? What next, first to a divorce win Birdwatcher of the year? ;-)

    1. Something like that Michael. Being a Leeds fan you're understandably puzzled about the concept of a 'race' - especially when combined with the word 'title'...

  2. Supporting a football club that has won the top division title since we left university* is an honour I do have, unlike some LFC glory hunters I know :-)

    *199192 season to you Pete.