We have had an amazing run of nice weather over the few days which makes me think that perhaps this is the summer we thought we had missed! There is still a lot to see on the reserve and the soaring temperatures have been good for insects. We have built up an unusually long list of butterflies for this time of the year including small copper, grayling, red admiral, comma and speckled wood. We have even had reports of clouded yellow on Coombe heath which is a migrant from southern Europe.
Dragonflies are still out in force and the Coombe heath pond is buzzing with them, ones to look out for are migrant hawker, southern hawker, common darter, black darter and even a late 4 spot chaser! Raft spiders are still plentiful on the ponds and wasp spiders are easy to spot in the longer grass. Look out for the laters nursery web which looks a bit like an inverted Chinese lantern. I posted a photo of one of these on an earlier blog as a mystery photo.
Both common and sand lizards have been seen and a small smooth snake was found crossing the path on Coombe heath.
More and more waders are returning and over 300 avocets have been reported in the harbour. The spoonbill count has reached 28 which I think equals the harbour record and it is still very early on in the autumn. Ospreys are still being reported and one was seen flying over our car park today. This year birds seem to have been favouring the area near Brands bay but they have been seen fishing off of Shipstal beach and Coombe heath. Up to 6 marsh harriers have been spotted there have been a few reports of hen harriers. Fire crests are still being seen in the car park but can be a little bit elusive. They seem to favour the big oak tree by the visitor centre and also the holly bushes going up to the toilets. Talking of the toilets the sand bank opposite is alive with solitary bees at the moment at it worth stopping to have a look.
Remember to check out our cover crop field by Arne farm to look for finches feeding on the seed heads of the sunflowers and other plants. The feeder cam is working well at the moment and is being visited by great spotted woodpeckers and nuthatches. It is being streamed online during opening hours so check it out! http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/webcam.aspx.
Vistitors are starting to ask about the sika deer rut and there have been early signs of it beginning with the occasional bellowing stag and the odd tussle between rival males. It should be in full swing within the next couple of weeks and we will keep you posted when the excitement starts!
Finally - Good News! Picture Arne is back by popular demand! With the roaring success of last year's photography competition, we're hosting another six-month photo bonanza. A winner will be picked from each of three categories (Wildlife, People and Landscapes) and then the three winners will be placed first, second and third overall. The competition opens on the 1 October and for information on how to enter and the terms and conditions of the competition click here http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/photocompetition.aspx. Happy Snapping!
As a taster here is last years winning photo taken by benbound
With a heat wave looming, it may throw a lot of our returning winter birds off track. Saying that, there is no better example of British biodiversity than at Arne right now. Lets start with the birds......We now have a staggering 20 Spoonbill in the Middlebere Channel. This is the largest count for quite a few years now. Raptors are still wowing the crowds with Osprey being spotted at numerous view points on the reserve, also Marsh Harrier are pretty frequent on Coombe. Peregrine Falcons keep making 2 or 3 appearances in the estuaries each day spooking the ever growing number of waders, whilst Buzzard, Kestrel Sparrowhawk and Hobby are seen throughout the day. The big news is the first Male Hen Harrier was spotted near Middlebere yesterday too, so watch out for an elegant grey, ghostly bird floating over the marsh. As I said, wader numbers are growing with up to 70 Avocets using the Middlebere Channel now also still 500+ Black Tailed Godwit, lots of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and we've even had drop in sightings of Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff and this lovely Golden Plover...
Other birds dotted around the reserve include lots of finches now using the winter crop. Migrant birds are still popping up with Wheatear, Whinchat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Swallows and Martins still around. Reptiles are can still being seen, especially with this warm weather. A Smooth Snake was photographed up on Coombe Heath yesterday, and a baby Sand Lizard was even found in a Spiders web on Tony's Spider walk on Sunday. Dragonflies are still very much evident with Southern Hawker and Common Darter being easiest to see. Raft Spiders and Wasp Spiders still entertain the crowds down on the ponds, and look out for our Mining Bees that have set up a fantastic colony right opposite the toilets. There is a great range of Fungi, Mushrooms and Toadstools around at the moment so see if you can ID Them. And finally I heard the first bellowing cry of a Sika Stag this morning prepping for the Rut. Truly an excellent sight..
My best advice would be get to Arne this week and enjoy Good weather, Good Company and GREAT WILDLIFE.
Just a quick blog to highlight the fact you never quite know whats around the corner.....
I was driving home from work last night thinking about the Osprey's, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Wheatear etc, that other people had seen out on the reserve whilst I was stuck in the office all day, when all of a sudden my phone rang. It was my Philippa (my wife), saying that a friend of ours had found a dead bird in their garden, and that they were struggling to ID it. So when I got home I walked to the friends house. I'll add at this point that it is a very rural garden surrounded by woodland and farm fields. I was so distacted by the thought of dinner, that I hadn't given any thought as to what the poor dead bird could be. It wasn't until I reached the house that I started to think....'maybe a young Bullfinch, or even maybe an early Brambling'?
I certainly wasn't expecting a wader to be placed in to my hands, and certainly not a wader that should currently be out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at the moment !!
This is a Grey Phalarope. A bird that breeds high up in the Arctic, and heads south in the winter to spend October through to February out on the roughest of Atlantic seas. Quite amazing to think such a tiny delicate bird would feel so at home in such a hostile environment. Whats even more astonashing is how one ended up dead in a rural garden in Lytchett Matravers!
My theory is this......it was in perfect condition (apart from being dead), so we can remove Peregrine Falcon or Cat attack from the equation. Also, we have been having some really strong South Westerly winds recently, so my guess is that it's been blown across the Atlantic and it's died of exhaustion. Poor little blighter. But still, I bet there's not many people that can say they have had such good views of a Grey Phalarope !!