Author Archives: Dominic

Autumn 2017 at Longham Lakes

17th October

Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit (female), Longham Lakes, 17/10/2017 (Lorne Bissell)

Yet more excitement today appeared in the form of Longham’s third record of Bearded Tit. Two birds were located in the reeds on the east side of the South Lake, and appeared fitfully until at least lunchtime (Matt, Lorne Bissell). It really has been an amazing year. During a pretty “birdy” morning, there was a reasonable selection of other stuff. Two Coal Tits were in the south-west corner near Samuel’s Wood in mid-morning; these are still rare here and it is the first time we have recorded two together. Other birds in that area included Bullfinches, at least 2 Siskins, 3 Redwings and a smattering of over-flying Skylarks. There were also good numbers of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings in this area of the site (Dominic Couzens).

16th October
It was always going to be a surreal day with ex-Hurricane Ophelia turning the skies dark and the sun red. And whether it was weird conditions or normal October milling around, yet another great bird turned up on-site today. Hot on the heels of his Common Scoter flock at the weekend, Lorne Bissell managed to unearth another seaduck early this morning, this time a male Velvet Scoter – another first for the site, too. Unfortunately there was to be no repeat of last week’s twitch. The bird flew off by first light and wasn’t seen again. Apart from this the birding was actually rather meagre, although the first Redwings of the autumn, 12 of them, flew over.

12th October
Thought I would try for some visible migration today, especially after the high winds of the last few days. Although stuff was hardly streaming over, there were a few goodies: a party of 6 Skylarks over at 11.00am were, amazingly, the first of the year. There were also a couple of Siskins, at least 40 Linnets, 8 Reed Buntings and, flying hither and thither and not necessarily moving, were Goldfinches and a couple of Chaffinches. To complete a “finchey” hour there were also 3 Bullfinches in the south-west corner, alongside Samuel’s Wood, and the odd Greenfinch about. Of moderate interest was a Grey Wagtail, and the usual ducks. 40 species wasn’t bad for a single hour (Dominic Couzens.)

11th October
A Water Rail was heard this morning among the commoner birds (Dave and Pat Harris.)

8th October
A couple of Siskin flew over today, reportedly.

7th October
It was a great day for birding at Longham Lakes, with lots of excellent birds present. Pride of place goes to the group of 4 COMMON SCOTERS found in the early morning by Lorne Bissell, which had gathered a small band of admirers before 9.30am. This is a new species for the site, but it wasn’t the only highlight. George Green found the 6th Merlin for Longham, a male, and also

Common Scoter

Common Scoters, Longham Lakes, 07/10/2017 (Darran Jones)









saw Peregrine, these two among a very impressive total of 53 species seen by him. There was also a Yellow-browed Warbler in the western corner of the Causeway again, while on the weed was a Ringed Plover among the 62 Lapwings. While it is easy to overlook commoner birds, Trevor Thorpe’s WEBS count of 656 Coots massively beats all other previous totals; there were also 114 Gadwall. Other more routine fare included 25 Greylag Geese, a Great Black-backed Gull, a small passage movement of Swallows, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and Linnets. A Stoat seen by Trevor was also highly notable, the first for a number of years, while there is also visible Mole activity by the Study Centre.

Common Scoters

Common Scoters, Longham Lakes 07/10/2017 (Lorne Bissell)







6th October
There was a Yellow-browed Warbler along the Causeway today (Matt). 63 Lapwings out on the mat of weed, with a good number of Wigeon and Shoveler. Plenty of Chiffchaff moving about but the best two birds were Kingfisher on North Lake and a Sparrowhawk flying across Hampreston Fields towards Green Lane (Martin Wood.)

GBB Gull

Great Black-backed Gull, Longham Lakes 07/10/2017 (Roger Peart)

4th October
In the early morning 2 Green Sandpipers were chasing around North Island and there was 1 Snipe, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Kestrel, 1 Sparrowhawk and 1 Swallow (Lorne Bissell). Later on the Cattle Egret returned and there were 64 Lapwings resting on the weed (George Green.) During a brief ringing session 1520-1700 there were just 10 new birds – 7 Chiffchaffs and 3 Goldcrests, the latter all 1st-year males (Roger Peart.)

3rd October
2 male Nathusius’s Pipistrelle bats were caught at Longham Bridge in the evening (Jan Freeborn.)

30th September
The Longham Lakes Open Day was a great event for all concerned – all the clubs associated with the Lakes, which are now run by the South-west Lakes Trust. Many thanks to all of you who attended, and thanks particular to George Green and Martin Wood for giving up their entire day to help. As it turned out, the birds themselves provided the chief objects of gratitude, not least a CATTLE EGRET which was only the third for the site (the second was last week) and provided decent, if distant views to most visitors. The eclectic supporting cast included lots of wildfowl, a Peregrine, showy Green Woodpeckers and a few Swallows.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret (on left of cattle), Longham Lakes, 30/09/2017 (Darran Jones).









26th September
Lots of variety around today, although no rarities. The most prominent highlight was an impressive increase in the number of wildfowl, with maximum counts of 59 Wigeon, 22 Shoveler and 10 Teal, along with many Gadwall, making it feel like winter. Another highlight was the presence of no less than 5 Ruffs flying around the site this morning, a record count for here, and in company with 18 Lapwings. Visible migration amounted to little, with a small number of Meadow Pipits, Swallows and House Martins; a flock of 40 or so Goldfinches was also about. Other oddments included a Stonechat, a Goldcrest, a Peregrine, a Snipe and the two first-year Moorhens (Dominic Couzens, Martin Wood).

25th September
Remarkably, YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER is now annual at Longham and the “first” definite record of the season was seen and heard today in the south-east corner of South Lake behind the bungalows, in the scrub. There were also 2 Ruff on the weed, but no sign of any Cattle Egrets (Lorne Bissell).

24th September
A pair of CATTLE EGRETS visited the weed briefly this morning (KD Johnson.) This is only the second record for the site (although others look likely this winter).

20th September
A busy day on-site. Firstly, Roger Peart had a short afternoon ringing session and caught new birds in the form of 26 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps and 1 Goldcrest. There were als0 two re-trap Long-tailed Tits, one ringed in July this year the other in June 2015.

Meanwhile, Martin Wood found 2 Stonechats on Hampreston Fields, 1 Common Sandpiper still on the island; Ruff out on the mat of weed with the Lapwings . 1 Wheatear was a bonus, and still some Swallows, House Martin, 2 Reed Warblers and a Sedge Warbler. George Green counted the wildfowl and scored Gadwall  at 100+, Wigeon 19 and Shoveler 16, all good counts for the time of year.

19th September
Had another evenings walk round South Lake. The Ruff were still out on the mat of weed with the Lapwings,  and 1 Common Sandpiper was on the island. A number of Chiffchaffs moved along the willows, while a large group of Swallows came in from the north. Besides the Gadwall and a few Shoveler, it was Coot city (Martin Wood).

17th September
Dropped in to Longham this evening: still lots of House Martin and some Swallows over the lake.  Scanned the mat of weed the normal number of 21 Lapwing and with a juvenile/female type Ruff. It was nice to watch C80 what I believe were Greylag Geese fly in from the North and over the two lakes going South (Martin Wood).

Little Stint

Little Stint (juvenille), Longham Lakes, 15/09/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

Swallows and Martins

Swallows and Martins, Longham Lakes 15/09/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

15th September
Today’s surprise in a memorable year came in the form of a very small wader on the floating weed. Despite the remarkable run of American waders that have graced Dorset this week, this one proved to be nothing more than a well marked juvenile Little Stint. Even so, it was a fantastic bird, and only the second after one in November and December last year. The supporting cast included enormous numbers of Hirundines, many of which were migrating very high overhead, together with a couple of Sparrowhawks, a late-ish Willow Warbler calling and a number of Meadow Pipits over west, including, coincidentally, two flocks of 16 birds (George Green, Lorne Bissell, Dominic Couzens, Marcus Lawson et al.)

House Martin

House Martin (juvenile), Longham Lakes, 13/09/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

14th September
A very brief ringing spell in windy conditions produced 3 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Robin (Roger Peart.)

13th September
To the disappointment of its potential suitors, the Grey Phalarope was gone this morning. Instead, the lake scene was one again dominated by aerial birds. Yet again there was a late Swift. This year has already beaten the previous latest record for Longham (8th Sept 2011). The rest of the birds – probably at least 1000 of them, were House Martins and Sand Martins (maybe 3:1), with very few Swallows at all. Otherwise, there was a Hobby around, a Snipe was on the island, the 4 Garganeys were found in the afternoon, there were at least 7 Shovelers and the usually gathering of weed-loving ducks, Coots and grebes. There were also still a few Reed Warblers about (Dominic Couzens, Martin Wood.)

I happened to scrutinise the Black-headed Gull flock on the weed this morning, scanning for something phalarope-like. Instead I noticed that, among the 131 individuals, they were all adults except for a single first-winter. Odd.

Grey Phalarope

Grey Phalarope, Longham Lakes, 12/09/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

12th September
Longham’s remarkable year continues, this time with a GREY PHALAROPE on the South Lake (see above). Other goodies today included Ringed Plover, the 4 Garganeys, a Common Sandpiper , Hobby and a Swift (Lorne Bissell). The Phalarope is the second Longham record, the first being on 3rd September 2009.

9th September
The long staying 4 Garganey still present on the South Lake.  In addition there was a large arrival of Willow/chiffs with at least 30 possibly 50 or more in among a large flock of small birds moving through the woods in the south-west corner of the site. This flock also included 2+ Spotted Flycatchers which is a scarce species at Longham.  Finally a late Swift was present among large numbers of hirundines (George Green.) The flycatcher was Martin Wood’s 100th species at Longham this year. He also saw a Jay, and a Moorhen with 2 chicks on the pools to the south of the South Lake.

7th September
There were plenty of birds on-site today (I saw 56 species) but very few landbird migrants (apart from Hirundines) and little special on offer. That said, the 2 female-type Garganeys remain and are always a good birds to see. A Hobby made an appearance long enough to catch a Swallow and carry it off south, while there was also a Peregrine, and a Black-tailed Godwit flew over. There were a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, and the odd Sedge Warbler. There was, in a sense, a remarkable changing of the guard as far as aerial birds were concerned; while Sand Martins were dominant a few days ago, today the House Martins took over, greatly outnumbering their smaller relatives. For probably the last time this year, the aerial bird tally was completed, by the appearance of a single Swift. One of the more interesting other observations was a Moorhen chick on the Stour, as this species is not recorded breeding every year. Other bits and bobs included the first 4 Meadow Pipits of the autumn, at least 3 Grey Wagtails, a Teal and a few Shovelers (Dominic Couzens).

6th September
Quick look at Longham Lakes late pm produced the 4 Garganey showing well on the South Lake and a Wheatear (George Green). Meanwhile, an evening ringing session produced 28 Chiffchaffs, just one adult among them, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Blue Tits and one juvenile male Bullfinch, moulting into his pink breast. Also two retraps – a juvenile Chiffchaff first ringed in early July, so presumably one local bird still hanging around. The other was more interesting – an adult male Great Tit, which I had first ringed at Canford as a nestling in a brood of 5 in May last year. Good to see that he is doing well. Details below (Roger Peart).

Great Tit
TX57681         Nestling    20/05/16            Canford Park, Wimborne,
Recaptured      06/09/17         Longham Lakes, Dorset (3 km SE, 1 year 109 days)

5th September
A morning visit revealed large numbers of Hirundines flying low over the lakes, and perhaps surprisingly these were heavily dominated by Sand Martins, which are often tailing off by now. As ever they were all but impossible to count, but a tentative estimate of 350 birds is undoubtedly many fewer than were actually there. This, though, is the highest count ever on site, beating an estimate of 300 in bad weather in March 2010. There were also some Swallows and a handful of House Martins. Perhaps not surprisingly, a Hobby flew over. The Garganey total is back up to 4, along with a few Shovelers and very strong numbers of Gadwall. There was only a scattering of other migrants, including singles of both Reed and Sedge Warbler (Dominic Couzens).

4th September
Just two Garganey present.  Otherwise little of note, but still good numbers of Gadwall (72+) and Little Grebe (50+) (George Green).

2nd September
A better than average visit this morning with 3 Garganey, juvenile Ruff still on floating weed with 3 Black-tailed Godwit and 22 Lapwing, and a Hobby briefly flying over Hampreston Meadows.  Also good numbers of Little Grebe (44+) and Gadwall (43+ on North Lake+ others on south Lake). (George Green.) There were also notable numbers of Sand Martins about, with a minimum of 20, plus a few Shoveler and 2 Teal (Dominic Couzens.)

1st September
Three Garganey still present.  They were mobile this pm being seen both on the South Lake and North Lake.  Ringed Plover and Ruff reported on the floating weed this am. The Ruff was still present this pm but no sign of the Ringed Plover (George Green).

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Twin Peaks

Here’s something a little different from your usual bird reports…

On the Summit of Ben Nevis

On the Summit of Ben Nevis

I have taken my son Samuel up Snowdon a couple of times so, with the spring half term approaching this year, we decided it was time to launch on assault on the other peaks that make up the well-known Three Peaks Challenge, namely Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, at 978m [3209 feet] the highest “mountain” in England; and Ben Nevis (1245m) [4411 feet], the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK. It would thus be a Twin Peaks Challenge. In contrast to the genuine Three Peaks, we would not be trying to do the whole thing in 24 hours, not with just me driving.

The very worst place to begin such a challenge is Poole, Dorset, where we live. As the old Irish farmer is supposed to have said when asked the way to Dublin: “Well, you wouldn’t want to start from here”. The nearest peak is about six hours drive away. Continue reading

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Summer 2017 at Longham Lakes

30th August
Four Garganey still present this evening showing well close to the west bank of the South Lake (George Green.)

Grey Heron

Grey Heron, Longham Lakes, 25/08/2017 (Martin Wood)

28th August
Perhaps not surprising re recent events in Poole Harbour, but an Osprey circled over the South Lake at Longham Lakes at 11am.  The 4 Garganey were still present, but more mobile than usual (George Green.) Plenty of Dragonflies on the wing, including Gold-ringed Dragonfly. 21 Lapwing on the mat of weed with a couple of Shoveler in South Lake, 1 Pochard and the highlight for me, seeing the 2 fledged Great Crested Grebe chicks (Martin Wood.)

25th August
Four Garganey (3 together + 1 separate bird) still present this evening showing reasonably well on the South Lake.  Large numbers of waterfowl on both lakes presumably attacted by the extensive mats of weed incl 410+ Coot, 43+ Gadwall, 40+ Little Grebe along with 6 Shoveler and singles of Teal & Pochard (George Green).

Juv Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit (juvenile), Longham Lakes 24/08/2017 (Ron Poulter).

24th August
Lots of birds around Longham Lakes today, almost 60 species in all. Most notable were probably the 4 Garganeys that remain on South Lake, as well as a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit on the floating weed. However, in Longham terms the top bird would have been the Coal Tit heard in Emily’s Wood this morning, a very rare bird here. On the nearby Stour, an Otter made an appearance, the second record of the year. There were several Swifts and excellent numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins. Other Passerine migrant numbers were pretty low. Wildfowl included 5 Shoveler and 33+ Gadwall. (George Green, Dominic Couzens, Ron Poulter).

23rd August
Drove past Longham lakes about 18:30 and surprised to see easily 20 Swifts above the King’s Arms (Terry Elborn). Earlier there were 2 parties of 15 and 20 Swifts, along with 100+ Sand Martins (John Lockwood).

21st August
Flock of 4 Garganey still present this morning sleeping amongst floating weed on the South Lake.  A few other minor things of interest – a distant Hobby, my first Shoveler of the autumn and 3+ ‘latish’ Swifts. Also of particular interest to Longham birders – after prolonged and seemingly repeated nest building on the North Lake, a pair of Great Crested Grebes have 2 young chicks (George Green). There was also a new brood of Tufted Ducks, 4 chicks in all and the Greenshank remains (Dominic Couzens.)


Ruff (juvenile), Longham Lakes, 20/08/2017 (Ron Poulter)

20th August
The Greenshank was present again, this time with a juvenile Ruff (Ron Poulter).

19th August
Greenshank and 4 Garganey still there this afternoon, as well as 16 Gadwall and 2 Shoveler. It was odd seeing the Lapwings on in the middle of South Lake resting in a mat of weed: 16 today (Martin Wood).

17th August
Four Garganey and Greenshank still present mid afternoon (Ian Lewis, George Green.)

Garganeys (Ron Poulter)

Garganeys, Longham Lakes 20/08/2017 (Ron Poulter)

15th August
A flock of 4 Garganey still present in the middle of the South Lake.  Telescope required to get reasonable views!  Also a Spotted Flycatcher (George Green.)

14th August
Counts today included 23+ Mute Swan, 4 Cormorant, 4 Garganey, 2 Lapwings, 25 Goldfinches, 40 Starlings and 18 House Martins. There were also some Coot chicks, 2 Broad-bodied Chasers and an ovipositing Emperor dragonfly (Trevor Wilkinson).

11th August
3 Garganey together on the South Lake this morning.  Little else of note except for a single Peregrine which I don’t see that often at Longham. Small Red-eyed Damselflies were present yesterday afternoon on both the small pond at the SW corner of the site and the North Lake, plus one Gold-ringed Dragonfly (George Green.)

4th August
A couple of birds of minor interest early this afternoon – a flyover Dunlin and a Common Tern.  Also c106 Tufted Duck chicks (George Green.)

1st August
Just 12 new birds ringed – 3 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Greenfinch and one each of Reed Warbler, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Wren, Blackbird, Kingfisher (another juvenile), and the first Willow Warbler of the year. Just one re-trap, of one of this year’s Long-tailed Tits (Roger Peart.)

31st July
Ringing produced 23 new  birds – 9 Reed Warblers, 4 Wrens, 2 each Blackcap, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Kingfisher (both juveniles) and one each of Robin and Blackbird. Rather surprisingly no Chiffchaffs. There were two re-traps, a recent Robin and a Song Thrush (RS61960) which was first ringed 21st June 2012 as an adult female. This is certainly the oldest ST we have recorded at Longham and probably the oldest one I have ever had. As the present bird was first ringed as an adult it will be over 6 years old. At 5.10am there was a Hobby over the trees to the SW of the lakes flying round for a few minutes trying to catch early House Martins (Roger Peart.)

Little Grebes

Little Grebes, Longham Lakes, 30/07/2017 (Darran Jones).

30th July
It was an incredibly quiet time for the 40 minutes I was there, with a couple of Lapwing on the island and around 60 Tufted Ducks on the North Lake. The biggest surprise was 19 Little Grebes around the south island, he most I’ve ever seen at Longham (Darran Jones).

29th July
Had a walk round the lakes this morning before the rain. The highlights were 5 female Shoveler on North Lake, a Kestrel and 2 Common Sandpipers (Martin Wood).

22nd July
There were lots of Swifts, House Martins and a few Sand Martins about. The Common Terns (2) were still there this afternoon, plus 6-7 Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebe still sitting on nest in the south east corner of the smaller lake (Martin Wood.)

21st July
There was one adult and two juvenile Common Tern, all atop separate buoys in the model yacht corner of the large lake. Also two juvenile Kestrel being fed by their parents on the water meadows (Trevor Thorpe.)

Grass Snake

Grass Snake, Longham Lakes, 18/7/2017 (Kim Smith)

18th July
Had a wonderful morning at Longham in bright sunlight and was treated to a basking Grass Snake on the rocks of south lake and then a swimming Grass Snake which possibly was the same one as it was not much further along. We saw 3 Green Woodpeckers, a pair which flew down from Samuel’s Wood and pecked the grass for a long period, then saw a single green woodpecker in between the 2 lakes on the path. A pair of Kestrels

Tufted Ducklings

Tufted Ducklings, Longham Lakes, 18/07/2017 (Kim Smith)

hovering at the edge of South Lake. 3 Cormorants on the solar panels of South lake and enjoyed the many crèches of Tufted Ducks including having to wait whilst large numbers of ducklings and a few adults crossed the path in front of us transferring from South lake to North – was lovely to watch. In addition, 2 nest-building Great Crested Grebes.  As always it was a joy (Lesley Wilkes and Kim Smith).

17th July
Still at least 1 Lesser Emperor at Longham, one was flying around the east end of the causeway path before moving into the Horse Paddock, another was photographed along the southern shore of South Lake so presumably a different individual. Plenty of the rest of the normal dragons, although the one absentee was Red-veined Darter. My first 2 Clouded Yellows of the year. The adult and juvenile Common Tern were still on South Lake, quite comical watching the juvenile trying to land on the buoys , several times he just slid straight over it and ended up in the water. Also 1 Common Sandpiper on North lake and 3 on one of the fishing Jetty on South lake. The Great Crested Grebes don’t look to be having much joy, still building a nest around a single egg that spends most of the time submerged (Ian Ballam).

16th July
The Common Tern fledgling was still being fed by its parents. There was a Black-tailed Skimmer on the far side of the south lake by the end of the causeway and I saw a small flock of 4 Greenfinches feeding there. There were plenty of Reed Buntings


Sparrowhawk being mobbed, Longham Lakes, 16/07/2017 (Darran Jones)

and Reed Warblers around as well as around 60 Canada Geese on the lake. Returning to the car park I saw a Green Woodpeck-er on the causeway and Sparrow-hawk being mobbed by Swallows (Darran Jones.) In the late evening another mobbed Sparrowhawk, juvenile Song Thrush, 2 Green Woodpeckers, a Jay, a Whitethroat and a Kestrel seen. The two Common Terns were on South Lake, but left at about 7pm going over Emily’s Wood (in south-east corner) with a load of gulls going the same direction (Martin Wood).

15th July
Early this morning at the lakes the weather was too overcast, cool and damp for any Odonata to be on the wing, although I met a chap who had travelled down from Bristol to observe the Dragonflies and Damselflies. Occupied myself with counting the Tufted Duck families and noted groups of 3,1,2,2,7,7,3,1,17,17,9,11,20 and 29 ducklings [that’s 129 ducklings, back to form after a poor year last year], the latter group a combined crèche attended by three females. Also noted singles of Lapwing, Kestrel, Common Tern and Common Sandpiper (Trevor Thorpe). Sandwich Tern briefly fighting with a Common Tern over fishing rights to the south lake. Later adult Common Tern feeding juvenile on north lake (George Green.) In the late evening a session with the bat detector revealed a few passes by Noctule Bats, then large numbers of Soprano Pipistrelles with a few Common Pipistrelles (Dominic Couzens).

Common Tern adult and juvenile

Common Tern adult and juvenile, Lomgham Lakes, 14/7/17 (Lorne Bissell).

14th July
This morning an adult Common Tern was feeding its Juv. mostly on North lake (Lorne Bissell). Finally I managed today to tick off Common Tern at the lakes with an adult and juvenile bird on North Lake, bringing my total up to 97 species for the site. There looks to be a good build-up of Coots and lots of Tufted Duck ducklings. Butterflies and moths included Red Admirals, Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and Six-spot Burnets (Martin Wood.) A late evening walk was fun this evening, giving close views of Roe Deer and Red Fox. At around 9.30 an adult and young Tawny Owl were calling from Samuel’s Wood. A Hobby was feeding over the North Lake well after 10pm and it seems that there is a roost of young Starlings (at least 100) in the bushes on the west side, at the end of the Causeway (Dominic Couzens).

13th July
We had the usual small birds and wildfowl apart from a Sandwich Tern out on one of the small buoys (Dave and Pat Harris).

12th July
Lesser Emperor and at least 2 Red-veined Darters still present.  The darters were showing well and landing on the gravel path along the north side of the north lake.  Also a Grass Snake on platform beside south lake (George Green.) 1 Sandwich Tern from 9:45 am (on north lake) for maybe an hour, 2 Grey Wagtails and several Common Sandpipers calling. The female Great Crested Grebe keeps trying to construct a new platform by the original failed nest in the south-east corner of North Lake, but the male’s not keen and wants to use the new nest about 2 meters north. This morning they were demolishing this third nest to add to the one favoured by the male (Lorne Bissell).

11th July
Unfortunately the Great Crested Grebe nest in the south-east corner of North Lake has failed. The birds are building in two other places nearby although they visit the original nest (Lorne Bissell).

10th July
There was no sign of the male Scarlet Darter today.

Scarlet Darter, Longham Lakes, 8/7/17 (Martin Wood).

Scarlet Darter, Longham Lakes, 8/7/17 (Martin Wood).

9th July
12:30hrs: Male SCARLET DARTER showing well along edge of small pool at far end of South Lake (James Phillips). This is a dragonfly MEGA!

Please could you be aware that there is a pair of nesting Great Crested Grebes near the fishing platform in the south-east corner of the North Lake. They have one egg. This is the first breeding record here for a while, and it is technically illegal to disturb them. 

What is going on with this place. Today James Phillips concentrated on insects and recorded an incredible SIXTEEN species of damselflies and dragonflies on-site. Has this total ever been matched on one day in a single location in Britain? – LL is only just over one square kilometre! There were three significant rarities.

In addition he also saw SIXTEEN species of butterflies!

The species concerned were: ODONATA:
1. Brown hawker
2. Emperor
3. Lesser emperor
4. Golden-ringed dragonfly
5. Scarce chaser
6. Black tailed skimmer
7. Common darter
8. Red-veined darter
9. Scarlet darter
10. Banded demoiselle
11. Common blue damselfly
12. Azure damselfly
13. Blue-tailed damselfly
14. Red-eyed damselfly
15. Small red-eyed damselfly
16. White-legged damselfly

1. Red admiral
2. Peacock
3. Comma
4. Meadow brown
5. Gatekeeper
6. Ringlet
7. Marbled White
8. Common blue
9. Brown argus
10. Small copper
11. Small skipper
12. Essex skipper
13, Large skipper
14. Large white
15. Small white
16. Green-veined white

This brings the total site list of butterflies up to 23 species.

8th July
Managed three different male Lesser Emperor in the end! All were in the NE corner of the North Lake. 12 species of Odonata seen in all, with best of the rest being one male Red-veined Darter, many Small Red-eyed Damsels and a couple of White-legged Damsels too (James Phillips). Also a Hobby (Lorne Bissell), 8 Little Grebes and a Song Thrush collecting food (Martin Wood). Martin also took a photo today of what it turns out is a SCARLET DARTER dragonfly.

7th July
Had a nice evenings walk South Lake lots of small Tufted Ducklings with 17 with one female then two and three broods. A lot of Mallards about and it was very nice to see two smart looking Little Grebes. A Common Sandpiper was on the large island a part from that it was pretty quiet (Martin Wood).

6th July
Ringing was rather quieter than Tuesday. Just 19 new birds and 3 retraps (a Blackbird from 2015, juvenile Robin from May and a Great Tit from Tuesday!). The 19 new birds were: Wren 4, Reed Warbler 3, Chiffchaff 2, Blackcap 2, Robin 2, Great Tit 2, Greenfinch 2, and one each of Dunnock and juvenile Whitethroat. Also a dead Pygmy Shrew (Roger Peart.)

Lots of dragonfly action today, with at least one, probably two male Lesser Emperors, at least one Red-veined Darter and many Small Red-eyed Damselflies. One Lesser Emperor was on the North Lake (especially south-east corner), together with the Red-veined Darter, while another very probable individual was on the large pool beyond the south-west corner of the South Lake, the stronghold for Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Also present: Black-tailed Skimmer, [Common] Emperor, Brown Hawker, Red-eyed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly and Banded Demoiselle. Also Common Sandpiper, Common Tern and Sandwich Tern, a 1st-summer Mediterranean Gull, 120 Starlings  and 5 Song Thrushes around the car park and 9 Lapwings on the island. (Lorne Bissell, Dominic Couzens, George Green, Darran Jones). NB: If you are checking out dragonflies and damselflies, please take care not to disturb nesting birds.

Sandwich Tern, Longham Lakes, 5/7/2017 (Darran Jones)

Sandwich Tern, Longham Lakes, 5/7/2017 (Darran Jones)

5th July
Ringing this morning produced a good number of 44 new individual birds and 6 retraps. Retraps were 4 Long-tailed Tits, a Dunnock and a Great Tit. One LTT and the Dunnock were ringed in 2012, the Great Tit in 2014. The new ones included two new species for the Longham ringing list: a House Sparrow and a juvenile Starling! The other new birds were Long-tailed Tit 10, Chiffchaff 8, Robin 5, Reed Warbler 5, Wren 4, Great Tit 3, Blackcap 2 and one each of Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Dunnock (Roger Peart.)

A fair number of baby Tufted Ducks are about now, but I saw no Great Crested Grebe chicks. There were around 70 Starlings on the industrial part via the second side. A lone Kingfisher was fishing on the tiny island on the far side of south lake and a Sandwich Tern (a first for me) briefly stayed on one of the buoys before heading towards the River Stour (Darran Jones.) The Sandwich Tern was present fishing on South Lake for much of the evening.  A count of the 1st hatchings of Tufted Duck was 5 broods of 9,7,3,1 and 1 chicks.  Finally a flock of 150+ Starlings is by far the largest lock I’ve seen at Longham Lakes (George Green.)

4th July
A visit this pm produced another brief sighting of a nice bright red male Red-veined Darter over the pool in the SW corner of the site.  Also Small-red-eyed Damselflies are much in evidence on the same pool (George Green).

1st July
Among the dragonflies were a few Black tailed Skimmers ; also Cinnabar caterpillars and a Redshank on the large island (Martin Wood).

Gold-ringed Dragonfly, Longham Lakes, 24/06/17 (Lorne Bissell)

Gold-ringed Dragonfly, Longham Lakes, 24/06/17 (Lorne Bissell)

30th June
9 species of Damsels and Dragons in total including male Red-veined Darter on path on east side of South Lake, first Small Red-eyed Damselfly of the season on the pond in the SW corner of the site, first Brown Hawker of the season and Scarce Chaser. Also first Common Sandpiper of the autumn (George Green).

23rd June
Neither rare dragonfly was seen today in the wind, but a White-legged Damselfly was about (George Green)

21st June
It’s still all systems go on the dragonfly front. In the early afternoon there were no less than 7 dragon-twitchers, a record for here. There seemed to be multiple Red-veined Darters at the eastern end of the Causeway, and at least one male Lesser Emperor there at 3pm. A Lesser Emperor is holding territory near the pumping station along the east side of the south reservoir (Ian Julian). Also a Gold-ringed Dragonfly, Scarce Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Red-eyed, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

20th June
In the south-east corner of the North Lake I noticed an Emperor-type dragonfly patrolling over the reeds. I was able to confirm it was a Lesser Emperor as it flew past me patrolling up and down along the path no more than 6ft away. It then proved difficult to follow, but I later found it or another patrolling between the jetty & the slipway in the NE corner of the south lake, & a definite 2nd shortly afterwards on the north side of the causeway, about halfway along. Returning to the SE corner of the N lake, I found one perched about 5ft away from me and whilst watching this one, another flew past chasing a large dragonfly, which looked as though it could well have been a 3rd Lesser Emperor. I also had 2 male Red-veined Darters patrolling the SE edge of the North lake, but none settled, & several Scarce Chasers (Olly Frampton.)

Update: 1 Lesser Emperor and 1 Emperor still at Longham just before 2000. Lesser appeared occasionally in SE corner of N lake as reported by others, always going anti-clockwise – the speed it was moving and time between appearances made me think it might even have been doing a circuit of the entire lake! Well done Olly and thanks for putting news out, that’s the first Lesser Emperor I have seen (Peter Moore).

In the evening (10.30pm), there were large numbers of Daubenton’s Bats feeding over the River Stour close to Longham Bridge, with a Serotine (Dominic Couzens.)

19th June
I found 3 Red-veined Darters at Longham Lakes this morning.  The first and second involved a pair mating in brambles near the Study Centre and the third was a male I watched for some time along the south shore of the South Lake. Very quiet on the bird front (George Green.)

10th June
I escaped from the Wimborne Folk Festival this afternoon and went to the lakes, plenty of Swift with a few House Martin, Sand Martin and Swallow hawking over the lakes and causeway. Apart from the usual, the best bird I got was a Hobby around the south east corner and over Emily’s Wood (Martin Wood).

5th June
Remarkably, the Bonaparte’s Gull was seen again this morning. It was thoroughly hassled by the Black-headed Gulls and eventually left the Lakes, headed for River Stour (Lorne Bissell).

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull (1st Summer) with Black-headed Gulls, Longham Lakes, 5/6/17 (Lorne Bissell).

1st June
A drake Garganey was reliably reported to me this morning.  Apparently it was at the south end of the South Lake skulking in the reeds.  Despite my best efforts I failed to relocate it (George Green).

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Birding Walks in Dorset

Dartford Warbler, male

Dartford Warbler, male, Hampshire, UK (Dave Kjaer).

£8 per person per trip.


17th May – Radipole Lake, Weymouth
24th May – Ballard Down, Swanage
7th June – Dancing Ledge, Langton Matravers
14th June – Coombe Heath, near Wool
21st June – White Sheet, near Wimborne
28th June – Blashford Lakes, Ringwood
5th July – Fontmell Down, Blandford
12th July – Lodmoor, Weymouth

To book, e-mail me on

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Champions of the Flyway 2017 – the Media Birders’ race day


CotF Media Birders

The Media Birders 2017 team. Andy Swash (left), Dominic Couzens (middle), Tim Appleton (right).

This year I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual Champions of the Flyway international Bird Race in Israel. 34 teams from around the world assembled to compete in a 24-hour Bird Race on Tuesday 28th March, seeing who could see and hear the most species in a 24 hour period in a defined part of Southern Israel, beginning and ending in Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

The following is a detailed account of our race day. It is written to thank our many sponsors and supporters for their help.

The reason behind Champions of the Flyway is to raise money to try to put a stop to the widespread illegal slaughter of migrant birds on the eastern Mediterranean flyway. Incredibly, more than 20 million birds are shot or trapped in various countries along the flyway every year. In 2017 the money raised will go to Birdlife International’s partner in Turkey, Doğa Derneği (Birdlife in Turkey) so that they may focus on halting the illegal killing of birds on migration. For more  information see


04.20 – We meet in the lobby of the Agamim Hotel, the starting point for all teams. Birdrace Organisers Dan and Jonathan are there and tell us that most other people are already out – have we blown this already with a late start? Ten minutes earlier a Common Whitethroat had struck the lobby windows, but had recovered from the blow and was released. That delay has cost us; we missed it and didn’t see another all day.

Downtown Eilat (04.30-04.45)
We go into the night of southern Israel; downtown Eilat is our first destination, where there is a roost of White-eyed Gulls by a shopping mall. A House Crow calls and the House Sparrows are well awake, but we cannot see the gulls. Let’s hope this starts to go better…

Then a Striated Heron calls out of the darkness. That’s a good bird.

1- House Crow 2- House Sparrow 3- Striated Heron Continue reading

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Hot off the Press!

Three years in the making, my new field guide to Britain and Ireland’s mammals is finally out!

Britain's Mammals Cover

Fully comprehensive, there are stunning photographs of every mammal recently recorded in Britain, including all 26 bats and 30 cetaceans (whales/dolphins etc).
There are detailed notes on how to identify every species, together with up to date distribution maps and notes on behaviour. It’s a must for every naturalist!

328 pages, 500 colour photos.

Signed copies are available from me on request (postage payable), and other copies can be bought through Amazon, NHBS and, in a few weeks time, from bookshops.
Only £17.95

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Spring 2017

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler, Longham Lakes, 29/5/17 (Lorne Bissell)


















29th May
I didn’t wander far this morning but a visiting birder went round and didn’t mention anything out of the ordinary. Young Reed Warblers are being fed and Great Crested Grebes are displaying, plenty of Hirundines about and  a Grey Heron now sits in the Great White Egrets’ tree…(Lorne Bissell),

26th May
Went round the south lake this morning very quite again.  15 Reed Warbler singing,  1 Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat and 5 Reed Bunting, 2 Chiffchaff also singing. 13 Greylag Geese settled on the water before flying off east. Carp spawning in South Lake along the edge of the causeway from the slipway up to the north west corner (Martin Wood.)


Coot, Longham Lakes, 25/05/2017 (Lorne Bissell)

25th May
A gorgeous day to be around the lakes, and the site was full of activity. One interesting observation was of a Bank Vole, the first seen at Longham this year. Unfortunately it was in the talons of a Kestrel, so close that I could see the colour of the vole’s back, even as it was carried off. There is obviously a pair of Kestrels breeding nearby. Other observations included a singing Treecreeper in Emily’s Wood, plus a pair of Stock Doves and a Great Spotted Woodpecker there. Roger Peart had a Raven over at 6am. In the general area was a flock of 15-20 Starlings, mostly juveniles flying noisily about.

A long-lived Great Tit - 5 years, 260 days and counting!

A long-lived Great Tit – 5 years, 260 days and counting!

Meanwhile, ringing this morning revealed Wren 1, Dunnock 2, Robin 2, Whitethroat 2, Great Tit 3, Bullfinch 1, Reed Bunting 1. There was more interesting re-traps: one each of Blackbird (ringed Sep 2015 as juvenile), Robin (ringed July 2015 and retrapped 2 days ago!), Cetti’s Warbler (ringed Oct 2015 age unknown) and Great Tit (ringed Sep 2011 as a first year bird). I am sure this is the oldest Longham Great Tit known to date – 5 years, 260days and counting!

24th May
The male Garganey was still around today (Dave and Pat Harris).

23rd May
During a ringing session at Longham this morning were 19 new birds and 5 re-traps. New birds were, 2 Dunnock, 3 Robin, 2 Song Thrush, 1 Blackbird, 3 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 1 Blue Tit and 2 Chaffinch.
The re-traps were interesting: a) Robin ringed July 2015 as a juvenile ; b) Dunnock ringed in May 2012 as adult female ; c) three Chiffchaffs – one ringed March this year, one ringed April 2016 as adult  and the other ringed September 2015 as a first year. Nice to have some oldies back again!
At about 6am there were 20+ Swifts high overhead (Roger Peart.)

21st May
Not much to report about very quiet round the lakes today with few Tufted Duck on north lake and a couple of Great Crested Grebe on south lake; also 19 Greylag Geese, these moved off to the Hampreston fields. 12 Reed Warbler singing between the causeway and round South Lake with 2 Whitethroats singing on near the north west corner and one near the south east corner of South Lake (Martin Wood).


Garganey, Longham Lakes, 18/05/17 (Martin Wood).

18th May
A fine pair of Garganey turned up on Longham Lakes this evening (Martin Wood). The Bonaparte’s Gull is still around (George Green). Otherwise quiet.

16th May
After failing to see it on my last 4 visits, despite thorough searching, I was surprised to find the Bonaparte’s Gull back at Longham Lakes this pm showing very well perched on the floating tyres close to the shore of the North Lake.  The black head is progressing nicely. Otherwise nothing to report (George Green).


15th May
A Red Kite flew over today, the first of the year (Rose Kempshall.)

Meanwhile, Darran Jones has created a Flickr album of his favourite Longham Lakes pictures. See here

Bar-tailed Godwit, Longham Lakes, 13/05/17 (Martin Wood)

Bar-tailed Godwit, Longham Lakes, 13/05/17 (Martin Wood)

13th May
Yet another great bird was at Longham today. Martin Wood found this Bar-tailed Godwit (presumably a female owing to the lack of orange colour) on the main island in the south lake today, and fortunately it stuck around. The only previous record was on May 1st 2007, see here
so it’s been ten years! Among the other birds reported were Cuckoo, PeregrineHobby and at least 80 Swifts (Robin Trundle, Trevor Thorpe, Bob Moore.)

11th May
Longham has never been quiet for long this spring, and today’s new treat was a pair of Garganey that showed on the south end of the Big Lake during the morning (Darren Hughes). Still present at 9.30am but then flew east towards River Stour and disappeared from sight. Common Tern and Common Sandpiper also present (George Green). Later in the day, the Bonaparte’s Gull was reported (Dorset Bird Club).

8th May
The Bonaparte’s Gull was seen again today.

7th May
3 beautiful Black Terns appeared at Longham this morning and remained on-site during the whole day, delighting many of the locals and continuing the astonishing run of good records here. They provided an excellent supporting cast to the Bonaparte’s Gull, which has now been here for 12 days. Other good birds included a singing Cuckoo.

Black tern

Black Tern, Longham Lakes 7/5/2017 (Darran Jones)

Black Terns

Black Terns, Longham Lakes 7/5/2017 (Darran Jones)

6th May
This morning I had my 2nd site record of a Marsh Harrier.  A female type bird which arrived from the south, circled over the South Lake and then headed east (George Green). The Bonaparte’s Gull was there between 2:00 and 4:00. Also 3 Pochard, 3 Hobby and a Garden Warbler (David Taylor) [first of the year]. There was also a Cuckoo calling in the afternoon (Darran Jones).

 5th May
Another new bird for the year appeared today, when a Little Ringed Plover briefly flew over the South Lake and then left east towards Christchurch (Matthew Bell). This afternoon there were lots of Swifts hawking over the Causeway. whizzing past at eye level and close at times. Then high up, I heard them screaming, as they do, so I looked up expecting a Hobby,  but there were at least 200 birds, and the best way I can explain it was they formed a large dark mass like when you see a large herring ball  on the documentary programmes.  All the birds were travelling in a westward direction. On the south side of the island two Shelduck were asleep, but the best bird of the afternoon was a wonderful Osprey that came in from the southeast over south lake. It was harassed by the gulls so turned drifted over Samuels Wood and looked like it was following the river going south southeast (Martin Wood.)

4th May
This morning at Longham Lakes, 14 singing Reed Warblers, 5 singing Cetti’s Warblers, c40 Swift, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Cuckoo calling (Trevor Thorpe.) The Bonaparte’s Gull was showing very well on the North Lake this evening c7pm.  For the last 2 possibly 3 days it seems to have been absent during the day but present in the evening. Presumably it wandered to Hengistbury yesterday.  It will be interesting if this pattern is repeated in future days.  It is moulting rapidly and it will not be long before it has a black head (George Green.)

3rd May
The Bonaparte’s Gull was absent for most of the day but reappeared in the evening (Nick Whitehouse.)

2nd May
The Bonaparte’s Gull showed well again (Caroline Herbert.)

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull, Longham Lakes, 1/5/2017 (Darran Jones)

1st May
Longham was absolutely swarming with Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings. I must have counted at least 17 Reed Warblers and easily saw over 20 Buntings as I walked the lakes for a couple of hours. I heard my first Cuckoo of the year. Caught my first Pheasant in the back fields and also saw my first Shelduck on site since I’ve been going to Longham. The Bonaparte’s Gull was showing exceptionally well, but there was no sign of the Black Terns that had been reported the previous day. I counted 8 Cetti’s Warblers as well [that’s a record!], although I’ve seen no Little Grebes whatsoever (Darran Jones.) Also 20 Swifts (Steve F Smith).

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull, Longham Lakes 29/4/17 (Roger Peart)

30th April

Two Black Terns moved through during the day (Birdguides). Otherwise the 1st-Summer Bonaparte’s Gull is still around, along with an excellent general variety. Cuckoo was heard again (George Green).

29th April
There was a SERIN around the Study centre in the morning, heard just a few times and not seen (Darren Hughes). This is the third new species for Longham in less than a week! Bearing in mind that the Bonaparte’s Gull continues to delight visitors and you could say that this site is in dreamland. It was also a day for more usual fare, with the first Cuckoos of the year appearing, first a male singing early morning (Dominic Couzens) and then a brown female flying over the lake (Lorne Bissell).

Obviously, many birds are settling into breeding territories. To this end, it was interesting to see a pair of Shelduck on the south side of the site, near the settling pools south of the River Stour – could they breed in a tree hole nearby? At the same place there was a pair of Mistle Thrushes with well-grown young, fledged and almost independent. This is the first confirmed breeding record for the site. There was an Egyptian Goose on the main island in the South Lake in the evening, and 3 Common Sandpipers around.

28th April
Another amazing day at Longham Lakes! The Red-rumped Swallow was not seen today, but instead the first Osprey of the year appeared a couple of times mid-morning (Trevor Thorpe). Meanwhile, there was some serious Bonaparte’s Gull worship going on, as the photos here show.

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull (1st-summer), Longham Lakes 28/4/217 (Darran Jones)

Compared with Black-headed Gull look out for the black bill and bubble-gum coloured legs of Bonaparte’s.

Bonaparte's and Black-headed Gulls

Bonaparte’s and Black-headed Gulls together, Longham Lakes, 28/4/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

Note that Bonaparte’s Gull (right, closer) is slightly smaller and more delicate than Black-headed, and also slightly darker grey on the mantle (although this is very subtle on this bird). The 1st-summer Black-headed can be seen to have an orange bill.

Bonaparte's Gulll

Bonaparte’s Gull, Longham Lakes 28/4/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

The above photo shows the distinctive underwing. In particular, the inside of the wingtip on the underwing is entirely pale, where in Black-headed Gull there is a dark band just behind the wing-tip. Incidentally, the very boldly marked black V on the upperwing is quite distinct from the bird at nearby Blashford Lakes.

In other news, there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on site, which you can see next to the big white bird that’s been here for ages!

Great Egret

Great Egret, Longham Lakes 28/4/2017 (Lorne Bissell).

27th April
Unless your local patch is Spurn Head or Minsmere, you aren’t meant to get days like Longham produced today. For one glorious hour this evening, the first-summer Bonaparte’s Gull was swimming on Longham Reservoir North, while a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW, new for the site, was hawking insects over the Causeway. One bird, the swallow, is an overshoot from southern Europe, and the gull is a native of North America. These birds were on a small wetland in Dorset. Birding does this sometimes. The long-staying Great Egret was also around this morning – three rare birds at once!

Red-rumped Swallow

Poor record shot of Red-rumped Swallow, Longham Lakes, 27/4/2017

For most of the day, my main excitement was actually in the morning when, on a walk along the Stour on the South Side (unfortunately out of bounds to the public) I heard a Grasshopper Warbler singing, only the second record for Longham. In the same place Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers were also singing in a glorious patch of reedy, overgrown marsh. With Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff in earshot, this was a major delight in itself. There were also 2 Bullfinches and a Treecreeper in Emily’s Wood, while a pair of Mistle Thrushes, quite scarce here, were feeding next to Ringwood Road south of Longham Bridge, inside the South-west Water holding. What with seeing a male Blackcap displaying to its mate (ruffling its feathers and chasing), and listening to such delights as the gentle cooing of a Stock Dove as a Hobby dashes past, this is great spring birding in its own right. There were also 2 Shelduck on the island and Mediterranean Gull flying over.

Then came a tweet about the Red-rumped Swallow (thanks, Martin) and the evening was madness. Here’s to patch birding!

26th April
This lunchtime and afternoon there is a 1st-summer BONAPARTE’S GULL on Longham Lakes, commuting between the North Lake and the NW part of the South Lake, found by George Green. It might be the bird from Blashford. It’s a first for the site.
If you’re visiting, please don’t use the Study Centre car park unless you have a Longham Birders permit.

1st Summer Bonaparte's Gu;;

Bonaparte’s Gull, Longham Lakes, 26/4/17 (Lorne Bissell)

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull (1st-summer), Longham Lakes, 26/4/2017 (Dominic Couzens)

There were lots of Swifts and all three Hirundines about, which attracted the first Hobby of the year (per Martin Wood).

25th April
This morning was cold but glorious. I saw a Grey Heron in between the 2 lakes and after quite some time it flew to a central perch in North lake. Saw 2 pairs of Mallards on North lake with clutches ducklings one had 4 and the other pair had 7. Saw a Pied Wagtail near North lake, a male Greenfinch and a Goldfinch in the Thicket. The whole time I was treated to aerial displays from many Swifts (Lesley Wilkes.)

23rd April
Last night’s flurry of migrants has disappeared but a Dunlin has appeared on the island in Longham Reservoir South (Martin Wood). A Whimbrel flew over.


Whinchat, Longham Lakes 22/4/2017 (Martin Wood)

22nd April
By Longham standards, especially by its spring standards, today turned out to be good for migrants. In the morning, a Wheatear flew alongside the south lake, close to where the site’s first Sedge Warbler of the spring was singing. Meanwhile, Swifts were moving in quantity, with good numbers of Swallows and one each of House Martin and Sand Martin. Then, at lunchtime, Martin Wood found a glorious male Whinchat on Hampreston Fields – this is a rare spring migrant here. In the evening, a Wheatear was around the east end of the Causeway, near the Study Centre, while another was in the Horse Paddocks along Green Lane, close to the main road. There was also a flock of Pied Wagtails here, about 20 in all, together with a glorious male Yellow Wagtail, these days another quite scarce migrant. All this time at least 2, perhaps more Common Sandpipers were around the site. Other interesting birds included 3 Shovelers, 2 Shelduck and 3 Egyptian Geese, while there are still plenty of Gadwalls around. Some of the Mallards have broods of ducklings. A Linnet was by the south pumping station and a Goldcrest was singing along Green Lane (Dominic Couzens, George Green, Martin Wood).

On a personal note, I saw or heard 62 species on site today, close to the day-record of 67. I missed Blue Tit, too (Dominic Couzens)

20th April
There were 2 Egyptian Geese on Hampreston Fields this lunchtime, while Mallards on-site are in mass-production mode, with broods of 8 and 9 ducklings about. Other counts included 8 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Migrants are still only trickling in, although at least 3 Reed Warblers are in and singing, while 10 Swallows and some Swifts passed by. At least 7 male Reed Buntings are about (Trevor Wilkinson).

16th April
Whitethroat, Blackcap, 3 Redshank and 1 Common Sandpiper.  Last two on North side of large lake. Also my first Orange Tip and a Muntjac Deer in the copse by the river (Ron Poulter). [The Muntjac is the first site record for more than 10 years, although there have been tracks].

15th April
A very quick look in the afternoon today revealed nothing much on the lake, but there were a pair of Linnets by the Pumping Station on the east side of the South Lake. Also 8 Gadwall, 3 Shelduck and a Lapwing, with Reed Warblers and a Whitethroat in(Dominic Couzens).

14th April
Had a wonderful morning at Longham Lakes today from 09.00 -11.40hrs. A Cetti’s Warbler was blasting out its short song just south of the Study Centre, while nearby I heard the wonderful song of a Willow Warbler. Stopping off at the slipway to look across to the large island I noticed the Common Sandpiper on the little jetty, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Lapwing and Tufted ducks on the east side of the island. I stopped and scanned up and down the oak trees at Samuel’s Wood with binoculars, as I have done on every visit for the past four years with the hope of seeing a Treecreeper or – the holy grail of Samuel’s Wood – a Nuthatch. I was very surprised to find working a large limb of an Oak at the back of the wood a wonderful Nuthatch!

Eventually I arrived at the small ponds at the south end of the lake were I found the Great White Egret working the edge of the reeds, before flying up in to the large Oak at the back of the ponds. Working along the reeds I was surprised to find a fresh water terrapin out up on the bank warming up in the sun (Martin Wood).

In the afternoon, there were Swallows, House Martins and 2 Swifts. The latter are the earliest ever recorded here, by 1 day! (Dominic Couzens).

13th April
A light scattering of migrants, including Sand Martin, Swallow, Reed Warbler and Common Sandpiper. One Great Egret remained [this was the last record of the long-stayers]. (Dave and Pat Harris).

12th April
Had a quick hours walk round the North lake. Couple of Swallows, 8 Sand Martin , also the Common Sandpiper on the large island in South Lake. Also 3 Cetti’s Warblers calling/ singing (Martin Wood).

11th April
Great White Egret still present roosting in tree just south of southern shore of South Lake.  Also a Common Sandpiper on the shore of the North Lake (George Green.)

9th April
It was a lovely morning though walking down Green Lane, with Blackcap singing, Collared Doves cooing and Goldfinches sinhing. Out on North Lake the usual fare of Tufted Duck, Coots and Great Crested Grebes with 2 Mediterranean Gulls over and a Swallow. At least 5 calling Cetti’s Warblers round the lake. On the large island in south lake there was one Black-tailed Godwit and one Shelduck (Martin Wood).

8th April
Had a really great walk around the lakes this morning. What a fabulous day. The Great White Egret still there. Plenty of Cetti’s Warblers, Wrens, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, all singing their hearts out and a good representation of Mediterranean Gulls (Robin Trundle.)

7th April
A Swallow over the south lake. A few Gadwall are still about. Looking forward to a flood of migrants when the weather turns (Dominic Couzens). Also 1 male Blackcap, but also a (fairly quietly) singing Reed Warbler on the northern lakeside. 2 Great Egrets flew over the causeway from the fields by the river (Carl Wilcox).

5th April
A 20-minute look on the north of the site produced a bonus in the form of 2 Linnets feeding in the big field (with huge oak tree) to the north of the Study Centre. These finches are not common here (Dominic Couzens).

4th April
The seemingly ‘resident’ Great White Egret was still present on Hampreston Fields.  Otherwise nothing to report (George Green.)

2nd April
Went to Longham again today. Chiffchaffs and Chaffinches were singing away as we walked down Green Lane, while out on North Lake it looked like most of the Tufted Ducks were on the water with a few Mediterranean Gulls and Great Crested Grebes. A Cetti’s Warbler was calling on the western side of the lake, while scanning over the fields I found the Great White Egret down on the river and 2 Shelduck in the pool in the shire horse field. As we returned we found a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but still no sign of those darn Bullfinches (Martin Wood.)

1st April
The site was pretty quiet early morning, with no obvious overhead migration except for a Meadow Pipit. However, it is clear that plenty of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are in, and a few Willow Warblers are passing through. Apart from that, a few wildfowl are hanging on (8 Shovelers today) and 2 Shelducks were on the island in the South Lake, a new species for the year. There were also 6 Snipe on the island, quite a good total.

The appearance of Mediterranean Gulls in large numbers at Longham is a strange and very seasonal phenomenon (mid-March to early April). It is also a daily ritual. Very few birds were on the lakes at 7.00am, but almost on 8.00am sharp, flocks began to appear from the south-west and gather in a large, noisy group (Dominic Couzens.)

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February and March 2017 at Longham Lakes

30th March
A ringing session this morning produced 3 new birds (2 Blackcaps, 1 Great Tit) and a re-trap Reed Bunting. The latter was ringed in May 2011 so coming up to 6 years – and it was an adult female when ringed, so actually at least (almost) 7 years. The oldest known is almost 10 years so she needs to go on a bit longer yet!

Med Gulls

Mediterranean Gulls, Longham Lakes, 30/3/17 (Roger Peart)

As few birds were being caught I had a look at the south lake where by 0830 there was an increase in noise from Mediterranean Gulls on the water. A very large flock had arrived (there were a few earlier on) and I estimate at least 200 birds including some Black-headed Gulls and possibly a few of other spp. So I reckon there were about 150 Med Gulls. The single Great White Egret was still present, and a pair of Shoveler. At about 10am just before I left there were at least 10 Sand Martins darting around – difficult to count exactly as they fly so quickly and one isn’t quite sure if they are the same or different (Roger Peart.)

28th March
I had the nets open this evening while putting them up and caught 2 new birds (Wren and Chiffchaff) and five retraps (3 Long-tailed Tits, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff). The Chiff was ringed in Sep 2015 and I caught it again last summer so it is a ‘local’ bird! One LTT was ringed in Sep 2012, a nice old bird but only half the age of the oldest known from UK ringing (Roger Peart.)

25th March
Very pleasant this morning with singing Song Thrush, Chiffchaff and 4 Cetti’s Warblers, Dunnocks busy chasing each other and Wren blasting out its loud song. The 2 Great White Egrets were on the large island in South Lake, 4 Sand Martins over North Lake, two pairs of Great Crested Grebes performing their courtship dance, with lots of head shaking with their chestnut frills held wide open but not much else going on. A nice spring sighting of 12 Mallard ducklings by the slipway (Martin Wood.)

19th March
No sign of any Sand Martins today, but I did hear and see a Cetti’s Warbler dashing for cover and found the long staying Great White Egret. I counted around 8 Reed Buntings, the most I’ve seen at Longham, as well as around 60 Mediterranean Gulls on the south lake. There were around 37 Mute Swans in the back fields, three Redwings (no Fieldfares alas) and a small group of Teal were on the small pond past the woods with five Little Egrets. The most notable bird for me was a female Bullfinch which I found in the far corner of north lake by the stile (Darran Jones.)

18th March
Had a very good morning at the lake. The long staying Great White Egret was on the large island in south lake with two Little Egrets. The wintering duck have departed as no sign of any Pochard or Wigeon only 3 Shoveler and 6 Teal and 6 Gadwall. Also singing Chiffchaffs, calling Cetti’s Warblers, c20 Sand Martin and a wonderful sight and sound of 103 Mediterranean Gulls settled on South Lake. It looks like the farmer of Hampreston fields has been busy cleaning out the ditch and cutting some willow down along the ditch and on the river (Martin Wood.) Also 1 Raven in the afternoon, and several Sand Martins still (Dominic Couzens).

No sign of the Sand Martins that Martin saw on the 18th, but I did hear and see a Cetti’s Warbler dashing for cover and found the long staying Grea -White Egret. I counted around 8 Reed Buntings, the most I’ve seen at Longham, as well as around 60 Mediterranean Gulls on the south lake. There were around 37 Mute Swans in the back fields, three Redwings (no Fieldfares alas) and a small group of Teal were on the small pond past the woods with five Little Egrets. The most notable bird for me was a female Bullfinch which I found in the far corner of north lake by the stile (Darran Jones).

17th March
Redshank on island in South Lake. Also a small influx of 10+ Sand Martins plus 72+ Mediterranean Gulls – my first high count of the spring (George Green.)

14th March
One Great White Egret still present perched in tree at south end of South Lake (George Green).

11th March
It was a nice walk round the lakes with birds singing and calling. Those Bullfinches are still eluding me; I looked all round the hedges of North lake. There were Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Long tailed Tits and Cetti’s Warblers. Out of the thicket shot a male Sparrowhawk that flew low right over the top of me –  a wonderful sighting. Two Great White Egrets were on the Stour, while out on South Lake, 9 Pochard still remain but numbers going down; with them 16 Wigeon, 9 Teal, 2 Shoveler and 6 Gadwall, plus Mallards, Tufted Duck and Coot. Looking through the gulls I had 1 Common Gull, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 Great Black-backed Gull and 11 Mediterranean Gulls mixed in with the Black-headed Gulls. Besides all of these there were the usual woodland species like Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker a Kestrel and a new bird for the Patch Work Challenge: a pair of Jays which brings the years patch list up to 70 species of bird and 4 mammals seen so far (Martin Wood.)

8th March
News of a local ringing recovery today:
Blackbird LA58296 N
3JF 07/07/14 AMT Longham Lakes East (5), Dorset
X 0F Dead 07/03/17 Bournemouth Airport, Dorset (5 km, E, 2 yrs 243 days)

4th March
At the lakes late afternoon 2 Great White Egrets on the River Stour. 20 Little Grebe, 36 Mediterranean Gull, a Kestrel plus a Sparrowhawk seen. Also 12 Pochard in the south west corner of south lake, in the flooded pools in Hampreston Fields: 14 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 10 Teal and a pair of Shoveler (Martin Wood).

2nd March
Today’s best bird wasn’t a bird. Actually, you couldn’t really describe it as a “best” sighting either, because it was an American Mink. It was only my second sighting of this sleek mammal here at Longham, so I couldn’t help but be pleased. On the other hand, Minks are bad news for many native animals. It cut across the path next to Emily’s Wood, paused while we looked at each other, and slunk away. There were also 4 Roe Deer on-site, in two sets of two.

Bird-wise today was quite average, excepting that one Great Egret remains. There were also plenty of wildfowl, including all the winter ducks such as Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. Gulls included a second-winter Mediterranean Gull and three Great Black-backed Gulls, 2 adults and a first-winter. 2 Stonechats, a male and a female, were beside the reservoirs, and 40 Greylag Geese made as much noise as you would expect 40 geese to make. The many ringing calls around the site show that at least two pairs of Green Woodpeckers are holding territory. The level of song is increasing delightfully.

I had an interesting Pheasant encounter on the West Fields (not accessible to the public). I flushed one, then two more, one and another two Pheasants, making six in all, a record for Longham Lakes. One of these birds was a male, and all the rest females, so there is one happy bird out there all set for a lively breeding season (Dominic Couzens.)

1st March
I had literally 15 minutes to look over the lakes this afternoon, but it was well worth it. A male and a female Goosander were fast asleep out on Longham Reservoir South, unaware that they were my 72nd species for the year (Dominic Couzens).

26th February
At first the lakes looked devoid of any birds besides a few Coot and Tufted Duck in the very choppy water. But looking carefully on the causeway there were 3 Stonechat, a couple of Reed Buntings and 32 Pied Wagtails. On the river the Great White Egret was fishing and in the fields were 54 Canada Geese and 38 Greylags which took flight and landed on the south lake. I had my 1st patch record of a male Goosander, which I presume it took off while I was watching the geese fly in. Up at the top end of south lake mixed in with the Black-headed Gull were 5 Mediterranean Gulls, and while up at this end I watch 23 Shovelers fly in and land on the lake (Martin Wood).

24th February
Dropped in to the lakes on the way home from work this afternoon. The best finds were 2 Great White Egrets (possibly three), 26 Pied Wagtails in the horse paddocks by the visitor centre, a Cetti’s Warbler and a Mediterranean Gull. And no Bullfinches! (Martin Wood).

Great Egret

Great Egret, River Stour at Longham Lakes, 21/2/17 (Lorne Bissell).

21st February
A visit to the lakes produced 2 Med Gull, 2 Great White Egret and good numbers of all the common ducks (except no Wigeon). A pair of Bullfinches were seen in the hedge south of the visitor centre. A single Lapwing was also present with a pair of Stonechat on the island (Daniel Whitelegg).

20th February
A drake Goosander showed well on the South Lake this afternoon.  Much to my surprise this is my first sighting on the actual lakes since winter 2011/2012.  All subsequent records have been the from nearby River Stour. Oh yes!  A Great White Egret was still present on Hampreston Meadows.  Also first sign of Med Gull spring passage with 4 birds present (George Green).

18th February
How about a nice surprise when you are looking through the scope on a sunny day? I was scanning the fields from the west bank looking towards the River when one of the Great White Egrets flew up from the river and head up river. Then something caught my eye moving in the undergrowth,  can it be, no it is, I could hardly believe my eyes as the creature emerged from the undergrowth with a lovely sleek brown coat and ambled a long the bank. It was an Otter no less, but in my excitement and just overwhelmed to be watching it through my scope I forgot about grabbing a record shot. This was the first one I have seen from the Longham Patch. Also 15 Shoveler, 30 Teal, about 46 Pochard, 91 Tufted Ducks, 3 Buzzard over, 5 Med Gulls and, a new bird for the Patch Work Challenge this year, a Cetti’s Warbler. Two Great Crested Grebes were performing their courtship weed dance yesterday and today, the first time I have seen this happen. An absolutely  wonderful afternoon (Martin Wood.)

17th February
Out on the lake 12 Pochard, some Tuftys and a pair of Great Crested Grebes attempting, half heartily it seemed, a weed dance. Making my way up to the causeway, the Great White Egret flew from the island in South Lake and landed in one of the pools on Hampreston fields. I scanned the island from the west side of South Lake and had a nice surprise with a Water Rail showing well and feeding along the edge of the island until some people started flying there boat plane , which also flushed 11 Lapwings from one side of the island to the other. 20 Shoveler near the western shore made for a very enjoyable sight with the colour of the males and the drab females and the long bills. Song Thrushes, Dunnock and Robins singing made a very pleasant and relaxing walk round the lakes after work (Martin Wood.)

14th February
Valentine’s Day saw me getting up early for two things: flowers for the wife and a chance to spot the Fieldfares that had been spotted by Martin at Longham Lakes. I headed right over to the usual spot, spying one lone Great White Egret, around 21 Pochard and a small group of Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes, but very little else. I found my new birds over the far side of South Lake but I really had to work for them. Martin had already seen some Mediterranean Gulls, so I scoured the large group of gulls that were floating around and causing a ruckus. I counted 127 Black-Headed Gulls, two of which were Mediterraneans, Success! (Darran Jones.)

11th February
A very cold walk round the lakes this afternoon produced newbirds for the Patch Work Challenge and Longham year list, with Fieldfare, Pheasant, Kingfisher and Goldcrest. Also 2 Great Egrets, 27 Greylag Geese, 44 Pochard and 3 Wigeon. Some other counts: Canada Goose – 4, Wigeon – 3, Gadwall,  Teal – 16, Shoveler – 15, Pochard – 44, Pheasant – 1 male, Little Egret – 1, Grey Heron – 1, Little Grebe – 16, Moorhen – 2, Common Gull – 1, Lesser Black backed Gull – 3, Collared Dove – 2, Kingfisher –1, Green Woodpecker – 1, Goldcrest – 2,  Blackbird – 3, Fieldfare – 20, Redwing – 30, Grey Wagtail – 1 (Martin Wood.)

Pochards, Longham Lakes, 2/2/17 (Roger Peart)

Pochards, Longham Lakes, 2/2/17 (Roger Peart)

4th February
At Longham Lakes, the water level was down on the large lake, exposing large areas of shore line of the island and sides. As I walked up to the slip way I could hear Wigeon calling, but was not expecting to see  a large raft of them – to my surprise there were 152, and another 4 out on the flooded meadows; also 6 Pintail. I also heard a Water Rail at the south east corner down by the river (Martin Wood.)

3rd February
I had a brief visit to Longham this morning before the rain arrived. The three Great White Egrets were still around – all of them initially spread out along the north bank of the north lake. At least a couple of hundred (I guess) Canada Geese on the flooded Hampreston fields, plus some Shovelers and at least 6 Pintail – presumably from the group that arrived a week or so ago. There may have been more than 6 but that is all I could pick out (Roger Peart.)

Totals: Canada Goose 150+ Some by large island but most on flooded fields to the west
Gadwall 4+ By large island on S lake
Pintail 6+ On flooded fields to the west
Shoveler 3+ On flooded fields to the west
Pochard 9+ Party on North lake
Cormorant 4+
Little Egret 2+
Grey Heron 1+ At least one
Great Crested Grebe 2+ on N lake
Buzzard 1 Low over trees to the north
Coot 20+

3 Great Egrets, Longham Lakes, 2/2/17 (Lorne Bissell)

3 Great Egrets, Longham Lakes, 2/2/17 (Lorne Bissell)

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New book – out in April

A narrative book, it combines some of my birding experiences with lots of science about how birds live and survive.SOLAW Jacket

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Book Now for Early Spring Field Trips

These are the trips I will be running this early spring. They are open to all and are chosen to showcase the best of the season. Please do book up early to get your place.

To make a booking, please e-mail For more information on each trip, click under its entry in Events.

10.30am-4.00pm unless stated otherwise. £15 per person per day. Bring packed lunch. Book early – places limited.

Friday 3rd February– Pulborough Brooks RSPB, West Sussex
Wildfowl hotspot with plenty of extra interest

Thursday 9th February– The Burgh, West Sussex FULL
Famous for raptors and owls

Friday 3rd March – Hayling Island, Hampshire FULL
Big wader variety, lots of tame Brent Geese

Thursday 9th March– Thursley and Frensham Common, Surrey FULL
Heathland birds such as possible Dartford Warbler, even Great Grey Shrike

Thursday 14th March– Ebernoe Common, West Sussex FULL
Lots of bird song in this gorgeous, secluded woodland site

Tuesday 21st March – Lower Test Marshes, Hampshire
Lots of bird song, chance of Water Pipit, Green Sandpiper

Thursday 6th April– Pagham Herbour, West Sussex FULL
Should be great for early migrants and much more

Special trips for small groups only. £25 per person.
10.30am-4.00pm. Bring packed lunch. Book early – places very limited.

Friday 24th February- New Forest Finch Safari   1 place left
Potentially 10 species, including Crossbill and Hawfinch

Friday 31st March – Thatcham Reedbeds, Newbury, Berkshire FULL
Great range of birds and spring everywhere

Tuesday 11th April – Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes, Hampshire  1 place left
Expect 70-80 species in migrant hotspot

£8 per person per trip. Open to all. Please book. 10.00am-12.00pm.

25th January – Higher Hyde Heath, Wareham
1st February – Moors Valley Country Park, Ashley Heath
8th February – Holme Bridge, Wareham
22nd February – Arne RSPB reserve
1st March – Upton Country Park
8th March – Studland
15th March – Blandford (+ Otters, hopefully)
22nd March – Radipole Lake RSPB
5th April – Hengistbury Head

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