As Arne is such an amazing place we have decided to start a photographic competition. Not only will the competition be free to enter it also has a lot of other things going for it too: RSPB vice president, wlidlife photographer and TV presenter Chris Packham has kindly agreed to judge the entries, Viking optics have kindly donated two brand new pairs of binoculars as 1st and 2nd prize, loads more great prizes for the top three images and some entries will be used in the May edition of the RSPB's Bird magazine which has a 1.7million readership!
To enter the competition all you need to do is visit www.rspb.org.uk/picturearne and follow the simple instructions, oh and visit the reserve of course and start snapping. At this time of the year who knows what will turn up? Osprey, short eared owl, avocet, brambling? If you're not one for wildlife photography never fear as scenic shots are what we're looking for too; try and capture the sun setting over the heath or the early frost in the early morning sunlight. Arne is a beautiful place with some amazing creatures; capture it.
As the purple blanket disappears from the heathland and the days get shorter we start to lose some of the wonderful wildlife that has become so familiar over the past 6 months; the tiny carnivorous sundew plant on the damp heath withers away, the acrobatic hobby will soon be leaving us to head south as will the osprey as will all the little starts, flycatchers and warblers (except of course the iconic dartford warbler who stays with us through the winter), the reptiles too will disappear from our weekly walks....
So why come to Arne?
Because in my opinion this is the best time of the year on the reserve. What we lose we gain tenfold; the hobby leave and we gain the smallest British raptor the merlin! Yes the osprey go but look what we get in return; the beautiful hen harrier! Nothing to see on the heathland? Check out the farm land; huge flocks of birds including goldfinch, house sparrow, buntings, mistle thrush, redwing, fieldfare, siskin and brambling. In the woods watch out for the amazing crossbill and we havn't even started on the harbour yet. The land in front of the hides in winter is covered in a blanket of birds; wigeon, teal, pintail, shoveler, pochard, spoonbill, little egret, curlew, black and bar tailed godwit, redshank, greenshank, avocet and who knows what else? Look out a bit furthur and you might spot a goldeneye, long tailed duck or a great crested grebe, furthur still and there might be red breasted meganser and any mix of divers.
Head down to Arne to celebrate this brilliant time of year.
Osprey were spotted fleetingly today but plenty of other things were out and about to compensate. Dartford Warblers perhaps keen to get out in the sun one last time this year were spotted throughout the day and were even singing. Lots of migrants including whinchat, willow warbler, wheatear and chiff chaff and staggering numbers of sand and house martin and swallow.
Plenty of marsh tits in the carpark and a young sparrowhawk returned unsuccessfully to the feeding station over 10 times within an hour! In stark contrast to the tawny owl in the car park a young hawk needs to be taught how to hunt and needs practice where as young owls their hunting is mainly instinct.
Plenty of waders around including dunlin, black tailed godwit, curlew red and greenshank and spoonbill were feeding in front of the double decker hide.
Osprey still keeping up appearences down on the middlebere channel with at least 2 seen a day this week. Ask in the visitor centre to be shown the carpark roosting tawny owl, you may get a cricked neck but seeing a owl during the day is always a fantastic and rare experience.
Out on the water plenty of returning birds for the winter months including teal, great crested grebe, avocet and numbers of curlew, dunlin, spoonbill and godwit are being swelled by the new arrivals. Out on the farm fields and in the cover crop there are plenty of mistle thrushes and good numbers of finches.
With guides with scopes positioned out all over the reserve this weekend, we searched for raptors! Down on combe heath, Osprey fished and perched in the dead trees both days, hobby too were seen all weekend, sunday saw a female sparrowhawk and saturday a female marsh harrier. On saturday, brilliant views of an osprey fishing out of the double decker hide and a kingfisher was seen hunting sligtly smaller fish today.
The best viewpoint for the weekend was the osprey west track observatory; both days hardly a minute passed without osprey being seen fishing perching or eating sometimes 4 at once! Buzzard, kestrel and 3 peregrine falcon were also spotted. A lovely surprise today when I discovered the tawny owl has returned to his old winter roasting spot by the car park.
Lets not forget all the other wildlife seen though; dartford warbler, stonechat, redstart, willow warbler, greenshank, spoonbill, raft spider, grass snake and 28 little egret in one tree!