In amongst all the curlew around our shorelines in the winter period it is worth looking out for its close 'look-a-like', the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). They are primarily seen on passage during migration time but they can turn up at any time during the winter depending on the weather elsewhere. Poole Harbour is a favoured place for these birds, along with Christchurch Harbour and the Fleet.
The problem with whimbrel is that they can be really difficult to tell from a curlew and sometimes it helps to see both together. I wonder how many of us have dismissed a whimbrel as 'just another curlew'? The key really is the bill; long and down turned like a curlew yes; but nowhere near as long. The bill also seems to turn downwards at a point two-thirds along whereas the curlew's bill is a more gentle, continuous curve.
The whimbrel is also a less bulky bird, more compact perhaps? The markings on the head differ too but unless you have a really good view that can be difficult to tell from a distance.