13 Sept 2015

13 Sep 15 - June & July: Summer Doldrums On The Studland/Ballard Patch

June is typically the most quiet Birding month on the Studland/Ballard patch. All the migrants have moved through Dorset, barring the odd straggler. Additionally, most species are busy breeding, but when the females have eggs or chicks in the next, the males don't tend to sing as much as they do when initially defending territories. An established male which starts to sing more frequently again is often a sign that the pair are planning another brood. So the territories are often a lot quieter than earlier in the spring.

I managed to make a few visits to Brands Bay in June, where I was not too surprised to find a couple of distant Brent Geese in the back of the bay on 7 June. Unfortunately, too far out for photos. Most recently years we seem to have one or two that failed to make it back to the Siberian breeding grounds. Looks like they were just late stragglers in departing, as I haven't seen these since or heard of them elsewhere in Poole Harbour.
Brent Goose: Photo from the annual Poole Harbour Pelagic (1 Jan 15)
The bigger surprise was finding a party of ten Bar-tailed Godwits over summering in Brands Bay. Five were seen in mid May with ten present at the end of May. Some were seen in early June, but all ten were present again on the 21 June. Some of the party stayed around until the end of August. This is a common Winter species in Poole Harbour which erratically appear at Studland when their preferred low tide feeding areas along Shore Road & the Arne to Newton Bay are disturbed. In the Spring & Autumn, Brands Bay are more frequently home to migrating individuals, but typically they have departed by late May. So it is unusual to find them oversummering on the patch. Generally, there is a reasonable flock of Black-tailed Godwits which never make it up to the breeding grounds or are very late departing, but these Bar-tailed Godwits have made checking the Waders more interesting this Summer.
Bar-tailed Godwit: Dakhla, Western Sahara (10 Feb 14)
Another unusual species for the patch was a single late Whimbrel in Brands Bay on 14 June. They are regular Spring & Autumn migrants through the patch, but generally have moved through by the end of May.
Whimbrel: Brands Bay (21 April 14)
With the combination of the Turkish Birding trip in late June/early July & tidy up jobs for me following major work on the house while I was in Turkey, then I wasn't out on the patch as much in July as I would have liked.
South Haven: How I like to see the beach as I arrive in the early morning: empty. South Haven (26 July 15)
South Haven: Who would have thought July is meant to be our Summer. South Haven (26 July 15)
Birding in July revolved around early visits to South Haven (hoping to add a Little Ringed Plover to the patch Year List) & low tide visits to Brands Bay. Last year Graham Armstrong saw Little Ringed Plovers on several dates, thanks to early morning visits to South Haven in July. Unfortunately, Graham had the only LRP sighting in late June: a mid week individual when I wasn't around. I managed to connect with a few early returning Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings & Dunlins, but no LRPs. Having seen only one Little Ringed Plover on the patch in Brands Bay on 17 Aug 2009, then this wasn't a species I expected to add to the Studland Year List. But I plan to spend more time in future years, visiting South Haven before the grockles descend so hopefully I will have more luck in the future with this scarce patch species in the next few years.
Sanderling: They were present on most early morning visits to South Haven in July, providing I got there before the dog walkers, joggers & fishermen. South Haven (31 July 15)
Sanderling: They are fairly approachable if you are careful. South Haven (31 July 15)
Brands Bay continued to attract up to seventy Black-tailed Godwits on July visits. Additionally, up to seven of the Bar-tailed Godwits stayed around the whole of July. They seemed to be feeding in other other local sites as well as their numbers varied visit by visit. But as the tide started rising, they tended to return to Brands Bay to roost. Although I guess they may have also moved to Brownsea on the higher tides. After the excitement of the Hudsonian Whimbrel in Pagham, I was grilling the Whimbrel in Brands Bay more carefully this Autumn, but unfortunately, it didn't appear in the bay, after it finally departed from Pagham. However, up to six Whimbrel were feeding in Brands Bay in July.
Reed Warbler: Walking out to the beach across the South Haven boardwalk is always pleasant in the Summer as there are several pairs of Reed Warblers breeding around the boardwalk. There are probably around ten pairs around the Studland patch. In comparison, Sedge Warblers are sadly only migrants through the patch. South Haven (10 July 15)
The highlight of June & July was the appearance of three Common Sandpipers in Brands Bay on 18 July, with a further five on the 25 July. This was the only Studland/Ballard Year Tick in June & July & took the total to 155 species. I was confident I would see Common Sandpipers for the Year List. They are scarce in the winter & erratic in the Spring. However, they do hang around more in the Autumn between late July & early Sep & Old Harry, Brands Bay & South Haven are all likely sites.
Rabbit: Another treat in the Summer around that patch is the appearance of a new generation of Rabbits, some of which are approachable with care when it is quiet. South Haven (31 July 15)
Grayling: They seem to have had a good Autumn on the Studland heaths Brands Bay (18 July 15)