Longham Lakes 2017 – a review

THE YEAR 2017 in review at Longham Lakes, Dorset

This year has been fantastic in just about every aspect for this site, for birding and wildlife-watching generally. The total of 134 species of birds is a record, just, but it was the quality that stood out, and a nice touch was that unusual species often came at the same time. Six bird species appeared for the first time: Bonaparte’s Gull (26th April), Red-rumped Swallow (27th April), Serin (29th April), Common Scoter (7th October), Velvet Scoter (16th October) and Lesser Scaup (23rd October) bringing the overall total to 186 species. Several made their second appearance, namely Grasshopper Warbler (27th April), Bar-tailed Godwit (13th May), Grey Phalarope (12th September), Little Stint (15th September) and Black Redstart (31st October), while Hawfinch (21st October) turned up for the 3rd time. Other good birds included Great Egrets, with 3 at the beginning of the year and 1 at the end, Bearded Reedling, Yellow-browed Warbler, Arctic Tern, Water Pipit, Firecrest, Coal Tit, Osprey, Merlin, Black Tern, Garganey, Whinchat and many others. Other eclectic bird highlights included gatherings of 1000+ Starlings, a Chiffchaff ringed here after a trip 770km down from Scotland, a summer when over 200 Tufted Duckings hatched, and superb numbers of ducks and other waterbirds present in the autumn.

Among other wildlife, 2017 will stand out as an exceptional year for dragonflies and damselflies. This included 2 new species for the site, which were Red-veined Darter and Britain’s 8th Scarlet Darter. In early July these two, plus Lesser Emperor and Small Red-eyed Damselfly, were all present, allowing an unprecedented spectacle of 4 rare or scarce species on this single site. On 9th July no less than 16 dragonfly species were present on one square kilometre. This could constitute the highest number recorded at a single location on one day ever in Britain. At the same time there were 16 species of butterflies on site, although no rarities among these.

It was not spectacular for mammals in 2017, but there were at least 5 records of Otters, plus a Mink and a Stoat, and at least 6 species of bat, including Nathusius’s Pipistrelle.

This year, perhaps not surprisingly, saw a sharp increase in the number of birdwatchers visiting Longham, and there are now almost 200 pass-holders that use the car park. As a visitor and regular, I have been really pleased to see how the dog-walking visitors have almost invariably kept their pets under control. Unfortunately, the kayakers in the DUCKS group have regularly been seen violating their exclusion zones, particularly around the island in North Lake.

I will give the last word to Martin Wood who, along with Lorne Bissell, has visited Longham more often than any other birder this year, taking up the Patchwork Challenge, as did Darran Jones (https://greatbritishbirdhunt.blogspot.co.uk/).

“It has been a great year patching Longham with a list of 112 species seen with some wonderful lifers and site firsts for me, and it has been a pleasure and good fun sharing these birds with other Longham Birders and others. As I reflect on the past year some of the best moments were seeing my first Bonaparte’s Gull, which led to an exciting hour or so watching the Bonaparte’s with Terry Elborn and a Mike Gibbons, only for a Red-rumped Swallow to arrive, another first for me. Then on another day seeing Bearded Reedlings and the Lesser Scaup on the same day.  And of course I cannot forget that magic moment when my picture of a dragonfly, which I assumed was a Red-veined Darter,  was re-identified as a Scarlet Darter.

“There is something I have learned on this journey, and that is I need to learn more about how to identify bird calls during visible migration, as this is one part of my birding that lets me down . Also get to grips with the Dragonflies, more Butterflies and one new hobby I started this year, Moth-trapping (thanks to Mark Andrews.)”


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