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These are records and photographs contributed to the Nature of Dorset by nature enthusiasts from across the county. If you would like to contribute there is a guide as to how HERE.
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I started this project collecting records from Twitter contributors this month and, sadly, did not get a full month's set of data but I think what records there are demonstrates what the typical status of wildlife is in mid winter in Dorset. Apart from a record of red fox and one of Atlantic grey seal they are all bird sightings but given the time of year one would hardly expect flowers and insects!
The bird records are nearly all from coastal locations, again this is to be expected as if rarities are to show up in winter then it will almost certainly be at the well known 'hot spots' on the coast and that is where most eyes are peeled. Being coastal locations the records are dominated by waders, ducks and other species with an affinity for maritime or estuarine habitat. In amongst the wintering wildfowl and seabirds the occasional vagrant gem will appear. These features are all found in the records for this January.
The treats this month came in the form of a lesser yellow-legs, a wader from north America, whooper swans (not often seen this far south) and waxwing, occasional winter visitors from Scandinavia.
Lots of waders over winter here on the shores of Dorset, mainly in the sheltered areas of Christchurch harbour, Poole harbour and the Fleet; here they feed on the mud flats exposed at low tide. Some are here in big numbers, with others it is just a very few individuals but the list in January was, in many ways, quite typical of a winter month here with spotted redshank, golden plover, purple sandpiper, Jack snipe, Bar-tailed and black-tailed godwit, avocet, greenshank, green sandpiper, snipe, lapwing, dunlin, redshank, curlew and oystercatcher all present. Avocets in particular are now seen in large numbers and the godwit population is one of the most significant in numerical terms in the whole of Britain. Also on the mud flats look for little egret, spoonbill and Brent geese.
On the open water ducks, sawbills and grebes can be seen with records this month of smew, goosander, red-breasted merganser, black-necked grebe, great crested grebe, eider, goldeneye, pintail, tufted duck and shoveler. There are other species such as wigeon, teal, pochard and gadwall present but there were no records of these on Twitter in January. Gulls also feature strongly in winter with Mediterranean gull and common gull being records to supplement the more usual species of herring gull, greater black-backed gull and black-headed gull.
The reed beds are the place to look for bearded tit, Cettis warbler, water rail, kingfisher and the elusive bittern.
Finally, and of most interest to many observers, are the wintering birds of prey and January brought reports of several short-eared owls, mainly on Portland. Barn owls were also seen on several occasions hunting during the day here. Marsh harriers and hen harriers are often present in winter along with our resident kestrels and peregrines.
As I said, not a complete month of data but enough to give a snap shot of winter in Dorset.