14 Sept 2015

14 Sep 15 - August Was A Great Month For The Studland Ballard Patch

I've managed to get out on most days in August, apart from the first few weekdays. The month got off to a good start with a party of 24 Crossbills watched flying across Brands Bay (from Littlesea) & continuing over Goathorn on 1 Aug. They were my first of the year for the Studland/Ballard patch. Hopefully, I will see more over South Haven as we get into the Vis Mig season in October & early November.
South Haven: Proof I've been getting out early on the patch: the sun rising over Christchurch. South Haven (17 Aug 15)
I've made a lot of early morning visits South Haven this Autumn in the hope of an interesting Wader, such as a Little Ringed Plover or Little Stint. The site has occasion early morning Autumn records of these species, but I've had no success so far. However, I have managed to see a general selection of commoner migrant Passerines, along with some better migrants. The first highlight at South Haven was on 7 Aug, when Graham Armstrong found a Pied Flycatcher while we were chatting & watching the edge of the bushes by the South Haven pool.
Pied Flycatcher: This Pied Flycatcher stayed around for two days at South Haven (7 Aug 15)
The following morning saw me catching up with the first of a number of August Sedge Warblers at South Haven. Unlike Reed Warblers, they do not breed at Studland. But I typically expect to see them on a few occasions, mainly during the Autumn migration. More suprisingly was hearing a calling Water Rail. This was presumably a migrant, as I haven't heard any others calling since late Winter. Another patch Year Tick was a Green Sandpiper flying over South Haven on 9 Aug. This was the first of three that I bumped into on the patch (11 Aug Brands Bay & 25 Aug South Haven). Green Sandpipers are probably just about annual on the Studland patch, but my serious patch watching over the last eight years has only produced a single in Aug 10 & three sightings involving two individuals in Aug 11. Perhaps this is a good year for Green Sandpipers. Sadly, despite the big Wood Sandpiper invasion along the South Coast this Autumn, I haven't been lucky to bump into any Wood Sandpipers. But will as many historical records of Wood Sandpipers as Melodious Warblers on the patch, then it isn't too surprising that nobody has seen or heard a Wood Sandpiper at Studland this Autumn. It remains a patch tick for myself & the two other most regular Studland Birders.The next highlight was a major rarity for the Studland/Ballard patch: a Melodious Warbler on 11 Aug. There are only a handful of records for Poole Harbour and only one (Aug 01 at Swineham) has been seen away from the Studland/Ballard patch. This was the second or third individual of the Autumn for the UK (there was another seen in Cornwall on the same date).
Melodious Warbler: A record shot from Steve Morrison (who has allowed me to publish the photo on the Blog & who retains copyright). South Haven (11 Aug 15)
I spent time watching Brands Bay on nearly ever visit to the Studland/Ballard patch during August, as well as, looking for early morning Waders on visits to South Haven. Waders numbers for the patch increased steadily during the first half of August, with increases in Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits (up to 225), Redshanks (up to 70) & Dunlin (up to 70). Sightings of Ringed Plovers were regular throughout the month, but hitting double figures was a good day. However, Brands Bay had an exception total of 63 roosting & feeding on Redhorn Quay in steady rain on 24 Aug. This smashed my previous best Brands Bay total for Ringed Plover of 24 & is potentially a new Brands Bay maximum Autumn total. It also showed how much better Redhorn Quay could be for attracting Waders, if access to dog walkers, fishermen & walkers was restricted. On that day, I had nine species of Waders (Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank, Dunlin & Turnstone) feeding on the sand & muddy edge of Redhorn Quay on the high tide.
Whimbrel: Their favourite food seems to be small green Crabs around the edges of Brands Bay (2 Aug 15)
There were smaller numbers of Whimbrel (max 11 on 6 Aug), Bar-tailed Godwits (up to 7 still around until the last week of the month), Greenshanks (up to 3), Sanderling (up to 8 at South Haven), the first Knots of the Autumn (max 5 on 29 Aug). Common Sandpipers (max 7 on 15 Aug). Numbers of Common Sandpipers were higher than I've encountered in recent years, but not as good as historical records). But the best Wader has to be a Ruff which was roosting on the marsh on 18 Aug: this was only my second sighting for the patch.
Turnstone: Up to three were around the patch during the month, but individuals were only seen every few days. South Haven (21 Aug 15)
I was also keeping an eye on Terns throughout the month, which produced a couple of good Terns. The first was an Arctic Tern I found feeding in Brands Bay on 14 Aug. This was followed by a couple of Black Terns that Graham Armstrong found at South Haven the following day. I would expect to see Arctic Terns on one or two occasions most years, but Black Terns are a lot scarcer & aren't annually seen on the patch: so that that was a bonus species for the patch Year List.
Old Harry: I never tire of finding another angle or lighting for a photo of Old Harry (18 Aug 15)
Light to moderate Southerly winds on 20 Aug & regular Dorset sightings of Balearic Shearwaters at other coastal watch points, gave me the incentive to try some seawatching. I decided to try my luck from the high dune at Pilot's Point at South Haven, after the usual early morning Wader walk. I was surprised to find a Balearic Shearwater just off the end of the Pilot's Point breakwater on the first scan of Studland Bay: although it quickly disappeared off towards Old Harry. The following morning, I tried another seawatch from Pilot's Point with Graham Armstrong & we were rewarded with a couple of more distant Balearic Shearwaters heading East & a dark phase Arctic Skua which came into the immediate bay around the Harbour mouth. It circled, before flying high & passed over Sandbanks & into Poole Harbour. Both the Balearic Shearwater & the Arctic Skua were expected species for the Year List, but usually I end up having to carry out a lot more seawatching to see them. So it was great to have an easy time with these two species.
Littlesea in early morning light: from the high hide. I tried a Vis Mig watch on 28 Aug, but found it was too noisy as the sound of the passing cars was audible for a long time. There was little movement that morning with two Yellow Wagtails heading towards Greenlands Farm as the highlight (28 Aug 15)
Early morning mist over Greenlands Farm from the Littlesea high hide: (28 Aug 15)
I finally saw my first Osprey for the patch on 21 Aug, albeit that sighting was of an individual far up in the harbour. But it was only a few days later that I saw my first individual appeared in Brands Bay. Up to three Ospreys seem to be frequenting Brands Bay, although they are also spending time in the Middlebere and Rempstone Forest areas as well. There are two adults which often seem to follow each other around, as well as a juvenile bird. Whether they are related isn't clear, but they do seem to interact with each other. Unfortunately, I've not managed to get as good photos of the Ospreys in Brands Bay as I managed last year, but I have managed to get record shots of one of the adults & the juvenile.
Osprey: Adult. Brands Bay (10 Sep 15)
Osprey: Juvenile. Brands Bay (6 Sep 15)
The next species for the patch Year List was a couple of Tree Pipit records (28 Aug Greenlands Farm & 30 Aug South Haven). The last day of Birding on the patch was the August Fun Bird Race on 30 Aug. One of the other teams found a Wryneck on Greenlands farm in the fields by The Rare Gate. The main rule of the Fun Bird Race is teams pass news of good Birds around during the day, to give other teams the chance to see them. Unfortunately, it had disappeared by the time Peter Moore & I arrived. But fortunately, I managed to relocate it when we looked again as we were leaving Greenlands & it stayed on view long enough for Peter to photograph it & for me to get one of the other teams onto it. Only my second Wryneck for the patch & a species I hadn't expected to see. They occur every few years somewhere on the patch, but there is so much habitat at Studland, they are normally difficult to relocate.

I haven't worked out the exact number of species seen on the patch in August, but it will be over 100 for the month, which just goes to show how good the patch is. The Wryneck was species number 168 for the patch Year List. This is only eight species behind my best patch Year List of 176 species in 2009. At the end of August 2009 I was on 167 species. Hopefully, I will see another twelve species this year & hit my target of 180 species for the Studland/Ballard patch. It hasn't been hard to see Butterflies in the last few months, for my other challenge of seeing at least one Butterfly in each month on the patch.
Silver-washed Fritillary: Male. My first for the patch. Glebelands estate (16 Aug 15)
I was pleased to find three new locations for one of my favourite Orchids: Autumn Lady's Tresses. In addition to Greenlands Farm, Graham Armstrong located a spike at South Haven & I found spikes at Old Harry & on Ballard Down to the East of the Glebelands estate.
Autumn Lady's Tresses: South Haven (21 Aug 15)