Some of you may remember that last Christmas our sightings board made it into the daily Echo because of the sheer number and variety of birds. Well today had that feeling of lots of birds in AMAZING numbers.
Lets start with the car park....Firecrest x 3, large flocks of finches moving from the winter finch field to come and feed on our feeders, masses of Chaffinch and hopefully Brambling any day now. A 'MONSTER' mixed bird flock moved through the car park containing Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Goldfinch. I was scanning the flock as quickly as I could to try and find a 'hidden gem', but no luck. Redwing and Fieldfare were flying over in small groups and a Sparrowhawk was causing havoc above the visitor Centre.
In the winter finch field literally hundreds of Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch swarmed back and forth from the hedge row to the rich seed crop. Over the next few weeks we'll start seeing lots of Reed Bunting and fingers crossed for Yellowhammer.
Middlebere hosted Avocet, Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Grey Plover and best of all a lovely female Hen Harrier, as well as two Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel. There was even an Osprey in the Wareham Channel on Saturday!
Out in the Harbour a stunning 1st Winter Little Gull was following and feeding about the 300+ Cormorant flock off Shipstal Beach, whilst at least 40 Red Breasted Merganser and 20 Great Crested Grebe were out on the water. Yesterday also saw the winters first Slavonian Grebe out from the double decker hide. Hundreds of Curlew and around 70 Brent Geese have taken up residence out in fron t of the double decker hide, where you can also spot lots of Teal, Wigeon, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Dunlin. There was also a hint of spring with 3 really late House Martin, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap and a Sandwich Tern!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.....COME TO ARNE......IT'S FAB !!!
There has been a lot of talk about firecrests at Arne in the last few weeks and they can be seen in and around the car park on most days. They were a bird that I had never seen before and although I spend a lot of my time in the car park they have proved to be pretty elusive. I had managed to get some very brief glimpses of small birds as they flitted around in the tree tops but to be honest they could have been anything! Yesterday however I got my first views of this special little bird. Paul did his normal trick of leaping out of the visitor centre when he hears anything unusual and started shouting come and look at this! There was a fire crest hopping around the ivy at the bottom of the big Oak tree next to the visitor centre. It was there for a few minutes and gave me a great display as it hovered under an oak branch in search of small insects. The best bit was when it flew into a bush that I was standing next to and was literally 2 feet away from my face!
Firecrests and goldcrests are very similar but I find the best way of telling the difference is that the white ring around the eye of the goldcrest gives it a permanently surprised look whilst the black eye stripe of the firecrest makes them look a bit sinister. (Perhaps they are goldcrests from an evil parallel universe – sorry must have read too much sci-fi). Firecrests seem to favour holly so check out the bushes dotted around the car park – good luck!
On the heath there are still lots of meadow pipits about and there seem to be a few more reports of Dartford warblers. Perhaps the colder weather and slightly shorter days are making them more active as they have to search harder for food. Out in the harbour there are plenty of returning Brent geese with over 100 reported today. Red breasted mergansers are being seen and there are plenty of waders such as black tailed godwits and curlews about. Good numbers of avocet are around and the best time to see them is before high tide at Middlebere. A peregrine falcon and 2 marsh harriers were seen today. Earlier in the week an Arctic Skua was reported being harassed by gulls from the Shipstal hide. This is an unusual sighting at Arne but it was probably blown in by strong winds and you may remember that Paul and I saw one fly over the car park a couple of months ago.
Something that visitors have been talking about over the last few weeks are the swarms of bees that have been collecting around the flowering ivy that grows up a lot of the oak trees at Arne. These bees are a relative new comer to the British Isles and are a species of mining bee known as Colletes hederae or the Ivy bee (Hedera Helix is the Latin name for Ivy). This bee doesn’t emerge until late August and early September when the Ivy starts to flower. It excavates its nest tunnels in soft sand and the best place to see these is in the bank opposite the toilets (this doesn’t sound the most attractive of locations but this bank is always full of wildlife). It was first recorded in the UK in 2001 and has gradually spread along the south coast and is starting to push further north. There is still chance to see these unusual bees on warm days until the beginning of November. This is another example of what a diverse range of habitats we have at Arne and all of the unusual and exciting wildlife that it attracts!
Colletes hederae (Ivy bee) by Dom Greves
On the guided walk yesterday there were a lot of deer around and the sound of the rutting stags could be heard drifting over the reserve. We got some really close up views as well but the most unusual sight was a large stag with a magpie sitting on his head. The bird seemed to be pecking at the top of the stags scalp and I am assuming that it was trying to remove ticks from it. This is behaviour you often see on nature documentaries from Africa but I have never seen it happen in this country before. The stag didn’t seem bothered and probably quite enjoyed a bit of personal grooming and of course the magpie got a bit of a feed out of it.
Celebrate the RSPB's 'Feed the Birds Day' at Arne this Sunday by coming along to make your own bird feeder to take home! http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-290108
P.S. - I hadn't long finished writing this blog when there was a bang on the office window and I turned around in time to see a small bird flying off. It quickly landed in a small gorse bush looking a bit stunned with it's back to us but it was either a goldcrest or firecrest. I braved the pouring rain and crept around the side of the building to get a better look at it. It was infact a firecrest so it was worth getting drenched for!! We kept an eye on it but it recovered from its trauma and flew off.
And last of all- Check out our latest Arne Video Diary which concentrates on how we manage all the invasive pines on the reserve and how you can get involved at our upcoming 'Pull A Pine for Christmas' event here .....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w84fXNUvD2g Enjoy...
Firstly, I should explain that you might be seeing me a little less around the visitor hut over the next 6 months and I'm sure you will all 'pine' after me (ooo a little flora pun) but never fear, my job has changed slightly which means you may bump into me at Arne or over in Weymouth at Radipole...
Secondly, we've had some great sightings over the weekend. My favourite of them all of course is the lovely firecrest; check the carpark holly bushes. 18 spoonbill today off Coombe heath in the Middlebere channel, along with marsh harrier, and waders and wildfowl galore including the relatively small brent geese, the faster than light (topical) peregrine falcon, the noisy whistling wigeon, black tailed godwit, redshank, curlew and the odd grey plover. The cover crop field is absolutely crammed with linnet, goldfinch and chaffinch, you may also spot reed bunting and bullfinch if you are lucky. The sika rut is in full swing, if you hear a wierd scream, don't worry it's not Michael Wilson it's just the stags claiming their girls and territory.
Thirdly, for those of you who can remember further than a few months back (I know Paul struggles) you may remember Paul and I (with a little help from Dom and one of the wardens Mark) use to produce our own Arne Video Diary, each one looking at a different aspect of management, a different species found on the reserve or a certain event and I am please to announce that it has returned!!!! Feast your eyes on this the new Arne Video Diary, and it's all about one of the biggest management problems we experience on the reserve, and one of the 'ingenuis' ways we combat it.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w84fXNUvD2g and as always, please feel free to comment and ridicule our screen presence....etc
If you want to catch up with all the previous videos check out our youtube channel here http://www.youtube.com/user/RSPBArne
Yesterday saw the 2nd Arne Autumn Forage Festival, I know I'm a bit bias as I helped organise it, but wow, what a day! Thankyou everyone who helped in anyway, all the traders who came, all the walk leaders, the musicians and all of you who came down to Arne to learn about what the wild can offer us. For those of you who couldn't make it, the day celebrated our local crafts and produce. There were fire lighting demonstrations, knife skills courses, fungi walks, welly wanging, live music and over 20 different local food, craft and bushcraft stalls. It is an annual event so if it sounds like your thing, don't worry, it'll be back next year! Here are some photos of the day...
The Ancient Technology Centre were brilliant, here they are demonstrating stone and iron age fire lighting.
There was live music from a splendid local skiffle band (but I would say that as it was my band...)
And here is Bob from Natural England leading a knife skills course in the woods
We'd love to hear your feedback on the event if you were there or any suggestions or recommendations for next year....
Well, I came back from holiday this week, and although a break was great, I certainly missed the Arne wildlife. The first bird I saw on my return on Monday was a lovely little Firecrest next to the visitors centre, and since then there have been 3 in and around the car park all week. My ultimate highlight arrived this morning when I nipped down to Shipstal viewpoint to check the harbour for returning winter ducks and divers, when I came across two stunning Ring Ouzel's feeding in a Rowan bush. These are the first to be recorded on Arne since 2004! Now is a great time to see our only summer visiting Thrush. These guys would have bred up north this summer, and are heading south back down to Africa where they will stay until next Spring, unlike the Redwing's and Fieldfare's which have started to arrive, who will stick with us through the long dark winter. If you get a spare five minuets, go and stand outside in your back garden at about 21:00 and see if you can here the thin rasping 'pszzzzzzz' of the Redwing. Thrush's migrate at night, so although you can't see them, the Redwing's iconic trill is a dead give away that they're back and to me, this is the true arrival of Autumn, and a welcome return of a stunning bird. Other birds around the reserve include Brent Geese, Red Breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe, and amazingly on the RSPB Bird Boat on Sunday, all 3 species of Diver were spotted! Merlin are always a possibility as are Marsh and Hen Harrier now. A few straggling Swallow, Chiffchaff and Blackcap can be spotted fueling up before the final farewell.
We are well into autumn now and the sika deer rut is in full swing. It is well worth coming along to have a look especially in the farm fields. There is often one dominant stag in each of the fields surrounded by a number of hinds and immature males. Although there is a good chance of seeing stags battling with each other the most extraordinary thing about the rut is the noise. Today as I was walking around the reserve I was accompanied by the sound of roaring stags. It is a really eerie noise that sounds like a squeaky door and if you haven't heard it before you may wonder what on earth it could be coming from. The stags use the call as a challenge to other males in the vicinity and to demonstrate their dominance.
This impessive stag was taken by Nikon4pete
Today I saw my first Dartford warbler for quite a while and also on the heath where a couple of stonechats and lots of meadow pipits. There are lots of curlews on the salt marsh and hundreds of cormorants out on the harbour. Spoonbills are still about and large numbers of waders such as black tailed godwits can be best seen as the tide starts to come in. Today I watched a couple of grey seals swimming off of Shipstal beach in front of Long Island.
On the reserve we are preparing 'Arne's Autumn Forage festival' which is on Saturday 22 October. This exciting event celebrates local producers, autumn food and traditional crafts from around Dorset. This promises to be a great family day out with a local produce market with food stores, forage walks, games and craft demonstrations plus hands-on bush craft activities. For full details check out our event page http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-261875