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England Dorset

Dunlin Calidris Alpina ©Guy Edwardes www.guyedwardes.com

To most birders Dorset is virtually synonymous with Portland Bill and its observatory famed for finding rarities at almost any time of year. Indeed the county's position, partly sticking out into the channel and subject to a milder climate than almost any other part of the country, does mean it is well positioned to attract overshooting migrants and wandering colonisers. It is no surprise that the first breeding little egrets in the UK chose Dorset to begin their invasion. Little egrets have been in evidence in all months around Poole harbour for many years.

However, this is not all there is to this county. The Weymouth reserves, almost unique in their urban locales are worth a visit any time of day and any day of the year too, as are Dorset`s lowland heaths (the most threatened habitat in the UK, much already eaten up by the most rapidly expanding urban area in the country - Bournemouth); as well as plantations, army training grounds, hidden chines and wetlands.

Dorset seems to straddle the west and east, with buzzards and redstarts, honey buzzards and bearded tits. There are some great places to bird and the ones below are just a selection, you should explore Dorset for yourself.

Top Sites

Abbotsbury and the Fleet

Satellite View

Good recent record with rare birds of all kinds. Good public access along paths on north shore. Abbotsbury can be viewed distantly from public roads, a full visit is better but fee payable at the Swannery. Worthwhile at any time though August to May best.

Christchurch Harbour

Satellite View

Excellent variety of habitats in small area. May not look much on the map but outstanding record of quality rarities speaks for itself. Best during migration. Much disturbance in mid-summer. Early morning on Hengistbury Head with remainder of day around Wick Hams, Stanpit Marsh and Priory Pools. Notice-board at Stanpit with recent information.

Hartland Moor

Satellite View

Often missed by birders speeding down to Arne this delightful old heath, with some heathland reclamation projects being carried out on it, is a great place for the typical species of lowland heath; Dartford warblers, nightjars, and hobby making any summer evening magical.

Lodmoor Reserve

Satellite View

With bearded tits, vagrant waders and gulls and Cetti's warblers etc.. The latest bird information is available from Portland Bird Observatory or Radipole RSPB shop.

Poole Harbour

Satellite View

Huge area with lots of possibilities. Most popular sites are Studland (winter); Arne (all year); Brownsea Island (access from Easter until October); Holes Bay (a must during a freeze); Wareham area (Autumn through Spring). Most of these will give a days birding on their own but it is usual to combine 2 or 3. A day list of over 100 is a reasonable prospect in spring or autumn. Information available from County Recorder.

Portland and Weymouth

Satellite View

National favourite, worthwhile at any time of year. Area can easily be covered in a day.

Purbeck Coast

Satellite View

Primarily during migration. An excellent rarity pedigree. Main sites are Durlston Head, Winspit and St Aldhelm's Head and most recently Osmington Mills. Though any of the coast from Swanage to Weymouth can be rewarding. Most sites can be covered in under half a day. Primarily searching for migrant passerines which can be present in large numbers (esp in autumn). Sea watching also available though not so reliable as at Portland. Durlston Country Park centre has nature diary with recent sightings.

Radipole RSPB Reserve

Satellite View

With bearded tits, vagrant waders and gulls and Cetti's warblers etc. The latest information on sightings can be had from Radipole RSPB shop.

Contributor

County Recorder

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 420

County Bird - Hoopoe Upupa epops

Checklist

Checklist

WebBirder Checklist

Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder

Useful Reading

Best Birdwatching Sites Dorset

By Neil Gartshore - Buckingham Press 2011 - 248 pages, 65 sites.

ISBN: 9780956987600

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Bird Song from a Dorset Wood and Heathland Garden CD

John Hammick - Mandarin Productions 2004

ISBN: 151160

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Coastal Birds and Marine Mammals of Mid Dorset

Richard White and Andrew Webb 48 pages, b/w photos, line illus, tabs, figs. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Distributed by NHBS 1995

ISBN: 1873701969

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Coastal Birds of East Dorset

S.J. Aspinall, M.L. Tasker Paperback - 48 pages (1990) Joint Nature Conservation Committee

ISBN: 0861396847

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Rare Birds in Dorset

Edited by Stephen Morrison 192 pages, 55 distribution maps, 157 graphs. 1998

ISBN: 0953007804

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of Dorset

by George Green Published by Christopher Helm 2004 ?40
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713669349

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch birds in Dorset, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight

By Dr G. Green and M. Cade (Helm) 2010 4th Edition
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780713688139

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Bournemouth Natural Science Society

Website

Ornithology - This Section promotes the Objects of the Society through lectures and field meetings, and the availability for study of Museum specimens and Ornithological books and magazines….

Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Website

CHOG watches and records the birds of Christchurch Harbour, which is situated on the south coast of England and includes the well known birdwatching areas of Hengistbury Head and Stanpit Marsh. Despite covering an area of only 9 square kilometers, over 300 species of bird have occurred in the harbour.

Dorset Bird Club

Website

Contact: Membership Secretary Diana Dyer, The Cedars, 3 Osmay Road, Swanage, Dorset: membership@dorsetbirds.org.uk By phone on 01929 421402 or email Chairman - Neil Gartshore chairman@dorsetbirds.org.uk -   The Dorset Bird Club is a membership based club financed, and run, by its membership. Please look around the site - if you are not a member, and are interested in Dorset's birds, then why not consider joining….

Dorset Environmental Records Centre

Website

Dorset Environmental Records Centre was established in 1976 as an independent organisation to collate information on all of Dorset's wildlife. It provides an opportunity for local naturalists and conservation organisations to work together….

Dorset Wildlife Trust

Website

The Trust's main activity is to acquire and manage nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife of Dorset. We have 40 established reserves, ranging from a tiny island in the river Stour to our most recent acquisition, Upton Heath…

Holton Lee

Website

This reserve is open to disabled users and has specially designed facilities - as far as we know it is the only such facility in the UK

RSPB New Forest Local Group

Website

We are an active local RSPB group covering the whole of the New Forest and neighbouring areas in Hampshire & Dorset. We have an extensive programme of walks throughout the year, plus monthly meetings ( 2nd Wednesday each month) in Lyndhurst Village Hall. Members and non-members welcome…

Observatories

Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre

Observatory

Satellite View

Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre, situated at the Old Lower Light, Portland Bill, in the county of Dorset on the south coast of England, was established in 1961 to provide a focal point and accommodation for naturalists, particularly birdwatchers, visiting Portland. The origins of the Observatory date from the pioneering work by Dr Ken Rooke and friends who began studying bird migration at the Bill in 1951.
Warden: Martin Cade, Old Lower Light, Portland, Dorset DT5 2JT 01305 820533 obs@btinternet.com

Museums

Dorset County Museum

http://www.dorsetcountymuseum.org/natural_history

The focus of this collection is plants and animals from within the boundaries of Dorset, including insects, birds, molluscs, marine invertebrates and plants, and much more. Included are a collection of 5,000 native herbs, as well as bird specimens collected by local resident Alfred Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, on his travels around the world…

Reserves

Abbotsbury

Website

Satellite View

This nature reserve of international importance supports a wealth of wildlife. Sedge and reed warblers, heron, great crested grebe and diving and dabbling ducks frequent this wetland habitat. Because of the proximity to the sea Abbotsbury also has little and common terns, shelduck, cormorant, and ringed plover. There is also the chance to see more unusual species.

Brownsea Island

Website

Satellite View

The lagoon was reclaimed from the harbour in the 1850s to create farmland, but neglect of the sea wall and wind pumps led to its becoming a non-tidal wetland, which attracts a variety of birds whose legs and beaks fit them for feeding in brackish water and on mudflats. It is a habitat of national importance, providing a vital refuge for waders, especially when the tide is high and the mud flats around Poole harbour are covered.

Durlston Country Park & National Nature Reserve

Website

Satellite View

Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve, situated 1 mile from Swanage in Dorset, is a fabulous 280 acre countryside paradise, consisting of sea-cliffs, coastal limestone downland, haymeadows, hedgerows and woodland. With stunning views, walking trails, the historic Great Globe, superb geology and fascinating wildlife there is always something different to see…

RSPB Reserve - Arne

Website

Satellite View

Arne is the place to see heathland wildlife including Dartford warblers and nightjars. All six species of reptiles found in the UK live here: adders, grass snakes, smooth snakes, sand lizards, common lizards and slow worms. There are also 22 species of dragonflies…

RSPB Reserve - Garston Wood

Website

Satellite View

This ancient coppiced wood is especially worth visiting in spring, when there is a breathtaking carpet of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses. You can see many woodland birds, including turtle doves…

RSPB Reserve - Lodmoor

Website

Satellite View

This reserve has a grazing marsh with ditches, shallow pools, reedbed and bushes. You can see bearded tits and Cetti's warblers all year and there is one of the largest breeding colonies of common terns in the south-west…

RSPB Reserve - Radipole Lake

Website

Satellite View

Radipole Lake, an R.S.P.B. reserve of national repute, is found in the centre of the seaside town of Weymouth. Its location lends itself to easy access by either public transport or private car. It is within 5 minutes walk of the Weymouth railway station.

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

1998 [July] - Helen Baines

Report

It was also fairly quiet birdwise, but we saw an average of 21 species per outing, giving us a total of 91 species for the trip, which included 33 lifers.

2010 [June] - David & Amanda Mason

Report

…As we had not seen Dartford Warbler in this country since 1994 and had never previously seen Cirl Bunting in the UK, we decided to spend a few days in Dorset and Devon with two specific birding targets in mind…

2011 [May] - Tony Jones - Brownsea Island

Report

I know Red Squirrels can't fly, so I suppose that officially they aren't birds, but seeing one in England would be a 'tick' for both Penny & me, so during our holiday in Dorset we planned a visit to Brownsea Island, nestling snugly in Poole Harbour. I thought there must also be a fair chance of some birds, as I remember Bill Oddie including it in one of his birding programmes…

Guides & Tour Operators

Birdfinders

Tour Operator

Locally based international tour operator - Birdfinders, Westbank, Cheselbourne, Dorset, DT2 7NW, United Kingdom Telephone: +44 (0)1258 839066 Fax: +44 (0)1258 837449 Mobile: 07050 602473

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Dorset Birding and Wildlife Experience

Tour Operator

This site outlines what the Dorset Birding and Wildlife Experience has to offer. We will take a flexible approach to your enquiry, so if you don't see exactly what you are looking for please contact us to discuss your requirements…

Poole Harbour Birdboats

Tour Operator

There's no better place to see birds on the water than Poole Harbour and the beautiful Purbeck coast…

Swallow Birding

Tour Operator

On Swallow Birding trips we are enthusiastic, relaxed, friendly and fun. Small groups mean Leader Steve Grimwade can give the time and attention necessary to make your trip a great birding experience!

Two Owls Birding

Tour Operator

…we offer guided birdwatching half-day, full-day trips and courses in the Dorset, New Forest and West Hampshire area plus birding weekends in the UK…

Places to Stay

A Great Escape Guest House

Accommodation

A Great Escape offers a high level of accommodation with ensuite bathrooms, flat screen televisions with FreeView, fridges, safes, hairdryers, and refreshment making facilities. We also include a full English breakfast using locally sourced produce…

Dorset Accommodation for birdwatchers

Accommodation

Annotated list…

Holton Lee

Accommodation

…empowering and resourcing people, particularly carers and those with disabilities, through creativity, environmental awareness, personal and spiritual growth.

Knoll House, The (Studland)

Accommodation

To the north and west are nature trails and bird-watching reserves. Projecting out into the Channel, as we do, is a guarantee of better weather than on the mainland. We have our own micro-climate in Studland. The grounds extend to about 100 acres and include eight acres of Spring gardens at Studland Bay House which contain some rare and interesting species.

Luckford Wood House

Accommodation

Visit the many Nature Reserves and enjoy watching the many species of birds, lizards, butterflies, and dragon flies. Marvel at the beauty of the rare wild orchids, or try to spot the majestic sika stags and hinds before they spot you. Marvel at the migrating Canadian Geese on their way to their feeding grounds and back.

Sea Barn Farm Camping Park - Weymouth

Accommodation

The Park is part of a family farm bordering the fleet nature reserve…

Top Parts B&B

Accommodation

Top Parts is set on high ground at the head of the Bride Valley just two miles from the village of Abbotsbury and the World Heritage Coast at Chesil Bank…

Blogs

Joe Cockram - Joe's Birding Blog

Blog

Somerset Blogger’s tales of twitching, photo-jaunts in Somerset, and overseas…

Other Links

Birding the Nothe

Website

Join me in my birding on The Nothe, a small town park in Weymouth, Dorset, Southern England. In itself, the park is unremarkable, with the usual collection of lawns, shrubberies and car park. But its location, on a peninsula of land jutting out into sheltered Weymouth Bay, makes it a great place for birding, with a remarkable variety of species noted here and in the surrounding waters. I’ve been counting birds here since 1981, and there are other records going back to the fifties. At present in this site you can.

Dorset Birds

Website

Book…

Dorset Wildlife Rescue

Website

The Wildlife Rescue is a voluntary organisation based in Ferndown, East Dorset. You can contact them if you come across sick, injured or orphaned birds, for help and advice.

Heritage Coast

Website

UNESCO awarded Natural World Heritage Status to the coast of Dorset & East Devon in December 2001 in recognition of its unique pedigree which spans 185 million years. Please use this website to explore what the 95-mile coast and its countryside offer you as a visitor…

Naturenet Dorset

Website

Information on a number of Dprset reserves including Arne.

The Bird Food Shop

Website

Welcome to The Bird Food Shop web site the definitive answer to the easy on-line purchase of bird foods and feeders. We offer a range of wild bird foods and caged bird foods at competitive prices for collection or delivery by the Post Office. The Bird Food Shop is an integral part of Root & Vine, which is a long-established Fruit & Vegetable business situated in the Market Square of Sturminster Newton, Dorset in the very heart of the West Country.

The Rambling Birder

Website

Homnepage of a Dorset birder - Ken Tucker, with photos, trip reports etc…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Bob Ford

Gallery

There are some very nice landscapes and a portfolio of birds.

Photographer - David Boag - Natural Focus

Gallery

The first acceptable photograph David took was of a Kingfisher in the early-70`s and this led him into a seven year photographic study of the species. David Boag has a very professional website and he certainly takes some stunning photographs.

Photographer - Guy Edwardes

Gallery

Some really first class images from this Dorset-based photographer…

Photographer - Mike Mockler

Gallery

Mike Mockler is an award-winning wildlife photographer with many published photographs to his name. His photographs have been used in countless books and magazines around the world, including the front covers. He is a past winner of the “Dusk to Dawn” category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the world’s largest and most prestigious photography competition. He has also won several highly commended awards in that competition…

Photographer - Steve Carey Bird Photography

Gallery

I've Been Birdwatching Since 2005, My local patch for Birdwatching is Lodmoor Nature Reserve RSPB and Radipole Lake Nature Reserve RSPB in Dorset. I also Birdwatch the Cambridgeshire,Norfolk and Sufolk Area as my Brother lives up that way. I also have day trips out to other Birding Sites…