2 Feb 2015

2 Feb 15 - January Summary For The Studland/Ballard Patch Year List

In the last Post, I provided an overview of the Studland/Ballard patch. In the last few years, I have found I haven't been as motivated to get out onto the Studland/Ballard Down patch as often as I was getting out when I was doing a patch Year List. So to incentivise myself, I've decided on another patch Year List. I won't be registering for the Patchwork Challenge15 as it is too large a patch & I don't want to narrow my attention down even further to a smaller sub-patch within the Studland/Ballard patch. I won't be competing against anybody other than my younger self from previous years (2008, 2009 & 2011). I will aim for monthly patch updates on the Blog as to how the Year List is going, but will put occasional extra Posts in when good birds warrant them. It will be possible to follow all updates on the Year List by clicking on the Label Studland15 on the right hand side Label list.
Great White Egret: This was the highlight of the first few hours on 1 Jan. Two Great White Egrets turned up during the Autumn & this one was still around in January. Quite remarkable given there were only a couple of previous records & they stayed minutes before moving on from both Studland & Poole Harbour (11 Jan 15)
My best Studland/Ballard Down patch Year List is 176 in 2009 (following BOU taxonomy). This excludes Crap or Feral Pigeon which I saw, but I ignore all of the Crap or Feral Pigeon individuals I see in the UK as I don't believe there are any wild pure Rock Doves, left in England. My target for 2015 is 180 (again ignoring Crap Pigeon).
Black Guillemot: The second stunning species for the patch Year List & only my second Studland & Poole Harbour Black Guillemot. After being incredible elusive with only 3 brief sightings in about 3 weeks around Studland (including my refound sighting off Old Harry on 19 Dec 14), it was then finally pinned down on the Poole Harbour Pelagic on 1 Jan in the Brownsea Channel. It was often in that area in the first half of Jan & visible from the Studland Houseboats. Photo taken on the Poole Harbour Pelagic (1 Jan 15)
I have had a great start to the Year List. I've been able to get out on the Studland/Ballard patch on all, but three days in January. Overall, I managed to spend about half the daylight hours out Birding. The patch is about 3 miles from top to bottom and about 3 miles from East to West at the bottom, but it tapers to a narrow point at the Northern end at South Haven, which is the Southern side of the Poole Harbour mouth. The land area is about 4.5 square miles, but there can be a lot of exposed mud at low tide, especially in Brands Bay and there are extensive bay & sea views from the Studland peninsula & Ballard Down. This makes the overall area considerably larger, but like the PWC rules, I'm happy to count Birds seen from inside the patch boundaries, even if the Bird is outside the boundary (e.g. on Furzey Island or closer to Brownsea than Studland). Given it is possible to see a long way out to sea from Old Harry & Ballard Down, then it seems inconsistent to have a fairly narrow boundary on the inner boundaries.
Red-necked Grebe: A species I would expect to see sometime in the year on the patch, but they are erratic & I've often had to wait till late Autumn/early Winter to see one. Typically there is only one individual a Winter, so to have had up to three individuals around on the between South Haven & South Beach for most of Jan is excellent (Jan 15)
Despite its relatively small size, the variation in habitats within the patch is impressive. There are tidal mudlflats, sandy beaches, a freshwater lake known as Littlesea, with a couple of smaller lakes. These are surrounded by heathland, dunes, deciduous & coniferous woodland and wet marshy areas. Greenlands Farm is mainly grassy fields, which through grazing has been changed to grassland from the surrounding Godlingston Heath (heathland). Ballard Down is a mixture of chalk grassland, farmland and chalk sea cliffs. There is also the small urban development of Studland village, albeit it is a very leafy village. Overall, it has micro versions of nearly all of the habitats found in Poole Harbour, with the exception of open wet fields for Waders & dense urban sprawl (not surprisingly I don't miss that, although it would make Waxwing a potentially easier species). As a result, it is easily the best local patch within Poole Harbour.
Spoonbill: Another erratic species with usually about one wayward individual in Brands Bay for a few days in a year. Some years, I've only got them on the Studland patch Year List, by seeing Spoonbills flying in or out of Brownsea. But this year, Spoonbills have been regular feeding visitors to Brands Bay with a peak of six individuals on 20 Jan 15 representing a new Studland record count. Brands Bay (22 Jan 15)
Another reason to try for a patch Year List was the presence of some good species on the patch in late December: the wintering Great White Egret, an erratic & rarely seen Black Guillemot & the Green-winged Teal found on New Years Eve. Unfortunately, despite spending an hour or two on a near daily basis scanning & rescanning the Teal flock in Brands Bay, I was unable to refind the Green-winged Teal. Previous individuals have been elusive in Poole Harbour, but a couple of previous Poole Harbour individuals have been relocated in different locations (to their original location) in Poole Harbour, so perhaps it is still lurking somewhere else locally.
Great Grey Shrike: Easily the Bird of Jan on the patch. Only the second record in the last 25 years (the other being in Mar 11). Godlingston Heath (24 Mar 11)
As I was running out of new species to add to the Year List, one that I was struggling to find was Grey Wagtail. Whilst being an erratic Winter visitor, I have usually seen one in Jan. But I hadn't been able to track any down at their usual haunts, so I thought I had missed it. Finally, I found a lone individual feeding quietly on a frozen, flooded pool on the Littlesea Nature Trail.
Grey Wagtail: It would be hard to miss this in a Year List, but I was glad to get it in Jan. Littlesea (23 Jan 15)
I finished on 123 species in Jan (BOU of course), not counting some distantly scoped Crap Pigeons flying over Poole. I had expected that it should have been possible to get to 120 species & had set myself an ambitious Jan target of 125. So to get 123 was an excellent Jan total given how small the area is. I am already over 2/3rds of the way to my end of the year total of 180 species. It will now get difficult to add more than one or two species before the Spring migrants arrive.
Peacock: I've also started the Butterfly patch list, although I won't be keeping a patch Year List. At some point, I will probably see the completely untickable & feathered Indian Peacock as they occasionally appear on the Brownsea shoreline. Greenlands Farm (Jan 15)
I managed to miss Kittiwake & Redpoll. Additionally, there was also a pager report of a Velvet Scoter at the South Haven (from an unknown observer on one occasion, but the news was slow getting out & it had moved on by the time I looked soon after hearing). There were a handful of other potential species that could have occurred including Eider, Spotted Redshank (only about one or two records a year), Golden Plover (generally only a cold weather species in the Winter, but also an erratic Autumn visitor), Siskin & Crossbill. Potentially, the Green-winged Teal could have put in another appearance, so the 125 total could have been feasible.