THE surviving Oystercatcher chick, one of a pair to hatch at Hengistbury Head for the first time in 63 years, is feared to have been killed by a dog.

Witnesses say two dogs off their leads entered the fenced off area where the Oystercatcher nested, opposite Mudeford Quay, on Friday afternoon.

One of the dogs grabbed the chick, prompting a nearby beach hut owner to intervene. The dog apparently dropped the chick, but it scurried into the rocks and has not been seen since.

Last week the Echo reported how

two rare Oystercatcher chicks had hatched at Hengistbury Head


BCP Council fenced off the nest site, but one of the chicks was believed to have been taken by a seagull.

The remaining chick, the one attacked by the dog on Friday is assumed to have been fatally injured.

Only one adult Oystercatcher remained at the nest at the weekend.

David Taylor of the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG) told the Daily Echo: "This is a sad end to the first attempt at Oystercatcher breeding in the harbour for more than 60 years.

"What makes it even more tragic is that the parents had got this chick to the stage where it was probably big enough to survive natural predation.

"The bird was last seen alive on Friday, and hopes at that time were high for a successful outcome."

Last week experts urged the public to help protect the remaining chick.

Speaking after the initial news of the Oystercatcher's nesting, BCP Council countryside officer Robin Harley said: "It came as a surprise that a pair were discovered nesting with two eggs in the Christchurch Harbour area by a member of the public. Action was taken to protect the nest and raise awareness locally, and we were delighted when both eggs hatched last week.

"The chicks were immediately mobile, but very vulnerable. Sadly one of them disappeared over the weekend, probably taken by gulls, which are a natural predator."

He said adult birds keep close to their chicks but if they are disturbed by people or dogs they are forced to fly off and leave their chicks exposed.

"We have sadly had reports of a dog chasing the birds, and alarmingly a member of the public also reported seeing a small child handle one of the chicks," he added.

The Oystercatcher is a black and white wading bird of the shoreline. It is resident all year round and feeds on small shellfish. Nesting sites are usually simple scrapes on shingle beaches, although they can breed inland and even on rooftops. Unlike most waders, adults continue to feed their young for several weeks.