Well wednesday saw our last nightjar walk of the year. How very sad. What I didn't know was that nightjars had something special planned...very special.
We started the walk off as normal with a general amble across various areas of the reserve. One of the groups was lucky enough to see our returning spoonbills feeding down in the Middlebere channel...what a sight. Along with feeding egrets and godwits, the channal had a certain Autumn feel to it. As it got dark we treked to our normal spot to view nightjars, and although there wasn't much "churring" (there isn't normally this time of year), the birds put on the best display of the year....with 4 nightjars playing, dancing and swooping right over our heads, as if they almost knew we wouldn't be seeing them for another year. What a send off, and everybody there just couldn't believe how they performed for us.....utterly magical.
There is also alot of Autumn migration activity happening in Dorset at the moment, a sorry sign that Summer is ending fast. More waders are arriving in the harbour, with avocets, more spoonbills and godwits plus a green sandpiper. It won't be long before we start getting wheatears, redstarts and other small LBJ's (Little Brown Jobs) passing through the reserve heading back south. In other parts of the County this is already happening, with most of the swifts already gone !!!!!
So as Autumn creeps up, keep your eyes peeled for small migrating birds, because you never what might turn up here this time of year....who knows???? Maybe even a Red Flanked Bluetail........YES PLEASE.
Just as Arne's summer breeding birds are starting to quieten down in the woodlands and heaths, a new interest has returned; the avocet. The logo of the RSPB and a great success story the avocet is a stunning little wader, black and white plumage with a delicate upward curved bill that scythes along in the rich silts of Poole harbour. In fact from both trails at Arne during the autumn and winter months visitors can view one of the largest wintering flocks of avocet in britain. Today we were blessed with just one, the first of many and was seen from the double decker hide along with curlew and redshank.
The amount of gatekeeper butterflies on the reserve at present is truely staggering, almost everywhere you go you'll spot the small orange brown butterfly flitting around. The number of emperor dragonfly and 4 spotted chaser are still high and can be seen either side of the reserve. Spoonbill are back at middlebere channel, 5 having been reported for a few days now and can be seen with the smaller little egret.
Arne is a great place to see birds of prey, in fact throughout the year most of the UK's species of raptor and owl can be seen here as resident or on migration. This weeked is a great example of this as buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk the fastest living creature the peregrine falcon and its smaller relative the hobby were all seen. Glimpses of our resident marsh harrier and the return of our summer osprey excited visitors and early morning views of the ghost like barn owl and late night sightings of the 'carpark' tawny owls complete an imprssive list.
But of course the smaller birds are equally impressive such as the linnet and dartford warblers, or seeing a treecreeper and nuthatch working alongside each other on the same ageless oak whilst purple hairstreak flit about the canopy.
Arne is an amazing reserve all year round, but for me the best is just around the corner as the southerly migration begins and we welcome back our wintering raptors such as merlin and wintering wildfowl, waders, grebes and divers and winter finches!
Ponds were full to the brim with the amazing raft spider today as many people came back enthralled by the experience. What a day for butterflies we had too: small white, large white, comma, peacock, red admiral, gatekeeper, meadow brown, speckled wood, silver studded blue, purple hair streak. green veined white and a beautiful silver-washed fritillary which conveniently landed on the RSPB flag in the carpark for a few glorious seconds! What could be a better advertisment?
Some unusual spots today in the bird world as little tern put in an appearence down at shipstal and a mistle thrush visited the car park for the second day in a row.
Spotted flycatcher are still to be seen down by the toilets (although please be careful hanging around the toilets; it doesn't give one such a good reputation) and greenwoodpeckers are becoming ever bolder down on the farm fields. The new cover crop trail is becoming a bit busier for birdlife too as linnet, goldfinch and the lovely house sparrow were all feeding around the trail.
Well after a week off I wasn't the only thing returning to the reserve today. Numbers of waders are slowly increasing; black tailed godwit, redshank, and curlew and some early arrivals by some keen greenshank and avocet as they settle into poole harbour once more.
Plenty of butterfly activity today with the most notable spots of purple hairstreak by the car park and down by the double decker hide and huge numbers of grayling butterfly over the heaths.
The nest box barn owls are preparing to leave soon, with only around 5 days till they fledge and are busy preening and strenghening their wings for the big night. Other birds of prey around the reserve today were buzzard, marsh harrier and a peregrine in pursuit of two kestrels!