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Common Scoter: what your tweets tell us ...

Common Scoter: what your tweets tell us ...

Common scoter are not unusual in Dorset in winter and there are always reports of them but in my experience they are often particularly difficult to see. This is because they are a sea duck coming only occasionally to estuaries or large lakes and lagoons near the coast. Most often they are some distance off shore and difficult to see and they continually go out of sight as they bob up and down on the waves or dive in search of food; they are usually just far off black specs on the water! However, all is not lost as they tend to gather in rafts and so there are several to see but they are also quite mobile and often fly together and that is when they are at their most obvious.   Common scoter are winter visitors seeking relief from the harsh conditions in their breeding grounds in northern Europe and in some northern areas of Britain. That said there are sparse sightings in summer too with non-breeding birds moving off shore here. There does no…

Turnstone in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Turnstone in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The turnstone is one of Dorset's more familiar waders to those who know what they are looking at! They can be seen, often in small parties, on beaches usually feeding along the strand line. They also feed on stoney mudflats at low tide as they turn over stones and seaweed looking for invertebrates otherwise hidden; this of course gives them their name of turnstone. Although an Arctic breeding species they can be seen for most of the year here in Dorset. The weekly reports show that although there are less reports between week 22 and week 29 in mid summer there are usually turnstone about even during the nesting season with non-breeding birds choosing to stay over here for the summer. Otherwise you can reliably see turnstone almost any time of year although most reports seem to come in August as birds return for the winter or are, perhaps, just passing through on their way further south; there is a further peak in May as the reverse m…

Grey Plover in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Grey Plover in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

In common with several of the wader species we get on the shores of Dorset the grey plover is an Arctic breeder coming south to spend the winter here. That said grey plover can be seen all year round with a small number of non-breeding birds choosing to stay here throughout the summer. Less like other waders they tend to be more solitary, even a little territorial, and are rarely seen in any numbers together although they are not uncommon in favoured sandy or muddy sites along the Dorset coast.  The presence all year round is reflected in the weekly reports chart with records for virtually every week of the year but bizarrely, at the time of writing in February 2019, there have been no records for weeks 7 and 8 during the time the Nature of Dorset database has been operating. This may just be coincidental or it may show that wintering birds here decide to move further south in the depth of winter to warmer climes. There is a peak of re…

Whitethroat in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Whitethroat in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The whitethroat is one of Dorset's summer visiting warblers. After spending our winter months in central Africa it makes the long journey back to us for a relatively short stay while it raises its young and then heads back south again. In both directions it has to cross the Sahara desert and is a species that is susceptible to great losses in unfavourable conditions on this part of the journey. It is called the whitethroat of course because of the prominent white plumage on its throat! A harbinger of spring the first whitethroats start to arrive back here in Dorset from about week 15 at the beginning of April. The bulk of the reports come during April as the number of birds passing through the county is at its highest and then the frequency of reports levels out during the summer months until the autumn exodus starts in week 34 in mid August and continues through until the end of September. Although a nesting species in Dorset ther…

Black Redstart in Dorset: what your tweets tell us

Black Redstart in Dorset: what your tweets tell us

The black redstart is primarily a species of mainland Europe where it is common around towns and villages; curiously it seems quite at home in industrial situations and can be found around large factories and warehouses. In Britain there are apparently a few nesting pairs in south east England but they certainly do not breed in Dorset, well not yet anyway, they are a winter visitor. Whether our wintering birds are from central Europe or from elsewhere in Britain is not clear but the probability is that they are from more northerly locations. The numbers wintering in Dorset vary from year to year but the winter of 2018/9 seems to have been a good one with birds being reported from a number of places and not just solitary birds, sometimes two or three in one place which I think is a little unusual. In January 2019 there were seventy reports alone; that is not seventy birds but reported sightings.  The weekly reports show that black redsta…

Kestrel in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Kestrel in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

There was a time, not so long ago, that the kestrel was probably our most common bird of prey. They could often be seen hovering over roadside verges and roundabouts, especially along the newly built motorways, in the 1960s and 1970s. Now they seem much more scarce and I rarely see one from the car like I used to. Whether this is due to a general decline in kestral numbers or a decline in small mammals found along roadsides I do not know; maybe this is another indication of the harm over tidiness along our roadsides can be or possibly the cumulative effects of pollution from car emissions? In Dorset the kestrel is a resident species and reports are fairly evenly distributed throughout the year with, perhaps, a tendency for more records in the autumn so that may be evidence of some inward migration over the colder months or may be the dispersal of young birds raised in the county.  Although widely distributed in Dorset the distribution map w…

Hawfinch in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Hawfinch in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Some bird species are subject to irruputions when their numbers surge and go way above what is considered to be the norm. This is a well known characteristic of the waxwing and crossbill and in the winter of 2017/8 here in Dorset we witnessed an irruption of hawfinch. Not a breeding species in Dorset, it is considered a scarce passage migrant with just the occasional record in some winters so to have Hawfinch being seen daily in a good number of locations was an unusual experience. The irruption of winter 2017/8 started in October of 2017 when there reports from week 40 onwards. Starting with just three reports in week 40 there were 20 by week 43 before the number of reports each seek started to decline. This decline was, I am sure, partly due to the initial wave interest with birders dashing off to known sites to see them waning and then we entered a period of reports from people revisiting occasionally to monitor the hawfinches presence…