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

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

The firecrest is, along with its close relative the goldcrest as I am sure you will know, one of the smallest birds to be found in the United Kingdom. It is not generally a breeding species in Dorset although it does breed in small numbers in the south east of England but we are right on the edge of its range here so this is a bird that we mainly see during migration times when birds from northern Europe pass through moving south. Whist it prefers conifers for nesting when on migration it will stop over in scrub and woodland edges of any sort but usually in coastal locations and often in well vegetated valleys so this habitat, coupled with its small size, makes it a bit tricky to find. The weekly reporting chart shows sightings during most weeks of the year with a few reports during the breeding season and as Dorset has conifer plantations that suit its needs it may be that we have breeding pairs here but that positive proof of breeding …

Marsh Harrier in Dorset; what your tweets tell us ...

Marsh Harrier in Dorset; what your tweets tell us ...

There is so much bad news surrounding birds of prey these days with their persecution on grouse moors and pheasant shoots in Britain so some good news is always welcome and the marsh harrier is one species that can provide that; at least in Dorset anyway. In recent years it was become well established in Dorset and now breeds here but here it is under the protection of the RSPB so they should be safe. Marsh harriers are such a beautiful creatures I just do not understand how anyone could harm them but, of course, where big money is involved emotion goes out of the window and greed takes its place. I had better stop there! The marsh harrier is closely associated with reed beds where it finds its prey and a look at the distribution map of reports shows this relationship quite clearly with clusters of sightings around Christchurch harbour, Poole harbour and Radipole/Lodmoor in Weymouth and at each of those sites there are, indeed, exten…

Blackcap in Dorset; what your tweets tell us

Blackcap in Dorset; what your tweets tell us

The blackcap is essentially a summer visitor to Dorset arriving in spring after a long journey from Africa where it spends the winter. Its warbling song can be heard from trees and tall hedgerow shrubs from mid April onwards into May and possibly early June but once a territory is established, a nest built and young birds have hatched and need feeding the singing stops. This is quite common species in Dorset in summer although the weekly reporting chart might not give that impression as it shows a low number of reports from week 19 to 34, that is late May through until mid-August. This is because as it is common it becomes of less interest and so is less likely to be included in a tweet. The bulk of reports occur over the five weeks from week 14 onwards, mid-April to late May; this is when the inward migration is at its peak. After the summer lull reports from Autumn migration start coming in in mid-August and has a fairly short peak but then…

Black-tailed Godwit in Dorset: what your tweets tell us

Black-tailed Godwit in Dorset: what your tweets tell us

One can see black-tailed godwit throughout the year in Dorset and one could be forgiven for thinking they are an internationally common species but sadly that is not the case. The prime sites around the coast of Britain are vitally important for them, especially in winter, and a high proportion of the Icelandic race over winter in southern England and in Ireland. These sites are important too for the European race that tend to stop over in early autumn but then go on further south into southern Europe and Africa.  Whilst records show that the black-tailed godwit can be seen in every week of the year this is not a breeding species in Dorset but a small number do breed further north in England. The ones that overwinter are, presumably youngsters not ready to breed but, even so, they do exhibit their lovely red and brown summer plumage. This species stopped breeding in England way back in Victorian times but started again in 1952 on a…

Osprey in Dorset: What your tweets tell us ...

Osprey in Dorset: What your tweets tell us ...

The osprey has become something of enigma in Dorset! Once seen only as a passage migrant in spring and autumn a few years back (possibly c2014?) one bird stayed for the entire summer. Probably a young bird it set up home in Poole harbour but was never joined by a mate and so despite there being some anticipation there was no successful breeding. It seems that every summer since then there has been at least one in the harbour over the summer months but, despite the nesting platform put up at Arne for them, there is still no sign of a positive breeding outcome. Poole harbour is undoubtedly prime habitat for ospreys with a large expanse of not over deep water with lots of fish, mainly mullet, and plenty of suitable perches and potential nest sites to be had along the southern and western flanks of the harbour and there is no doubt that ospreys like the look of it and yet none have taken the plunge and tried to raise young in the locality. That…

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

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

In the last ten years spoonbill have become something of a permanent feature in Dorset having been very scarce prior to that. I wrote some time ago that "In 2008 six young birds stayed in the area all year" and at that time there was great anticipation that they might start to breed here but, as far as I am aware, despite regular birds here and in good numbers too I believewe are still waiting! They have started to nest elsewhere in the UK I believe so perhaps it is just a matter of time. There were more tweeted reports of spoonbill in 2017 than in 2018 but this just could be that they are just becoming accepted as part of the native fauna now and not always worth reporting, I certainly don't think they are in decline although the significant numbers reported in the winter of 2017/8 have yet to be matched this year. On the 17th October 2017 there were 60 on the lagoon on Brownsea alone and there probably others present in …

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

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

The chiffchaff is one of several warbler species that migrate to us from Africa in spring for the breeding season and then head back south again in early autumn. I always reckoned to hear my first chiffchaff on, or about, the 15th March each year and, interestingly, the weekly chart shows a surge in tweets in week 14, around the 15th March! They do start arriving a little earlier than that it seems as reports start to pick up a couple of weeks before week 14. Being an early arriver compared to other warbler species the chiffchaff does get quite a bit of attention from observers when they see their first of the year, it shows that migration is under way and spring, in theory at least, is just around the corner.
The weekly chart makes interesting viewing in my opinion as it shows a sudden decline in reports from mid-May through until early August. There are two reasons for this I would imagine. Firstly, the chiffchaff is a common nesting…