Well 2011 is very nearly at an end and it’s not until I look back do I think blimey what a brilliant year it’s been at Arne! I have been here since March (time flies when you are having fun!) and I have started to take some of the wonderful wildlife a bit for granted! There are not many other places in the country where you will find such diverse range of species and I have been amazed of what I have seen since I have been here. Smooth snakes, sand lizards, Dartford warblers, firecrests, palmate newts, raft spiders, wasp spiders, purple hairstreak butterflies and sundew were all completely new to me. So much has happened on the reserve in the last year that I could probably go on for ever but I thought I would just share a few highlights with you as a reminder of what a great place Arne is through out the year!
We have had some unusual visitors...
This great grey shrike was a resident on the reserve in the early part of the year. This was another new bird for me too and a great welcome when I arrived in March. One did appear briefly on Coombe heath a few weeks ago but hasn't been seen since.
photo by Kevin lane
And this rather exotic looking hoopoe paid us a visit on the Easter weekend!
photo by Joan Bicknell
This deaths head hawk moth caused quite a stir when it turned up on the reserve in October and news of its arrival even made the papers!
We have had some old favourites...
photo by Dom Greves
Ospreys passed through in the spring and autumn, perhaps 2012 is the year they will stop!?
photo by Dom Greves
These are just a few of the amazing 29 spoonbills we had come to the reserve in the autumn. I think this was a harbour record! It always think that it is a bit surreal to see such an exoctic looking bird as common place on the English coast ( but I supose we were saying that about the little egret 20 years ago!)
We had close encounters...
There was something pinching the nuts from the seed bins – mystery solved!
photo by Peter McSweeney
Rob with an amazing male sand lizard during one of our reptile weekends back in May.
We had a winner...
of the ‘Picture Arne’ competition. This landscape taken by benbound was chosen by Chris Packham. Remember this winters competition doesn’t close until March 2012 so there is plenty of time to enter your Arne pictures! http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/photocompetition.aspx
We had the excitement...
of the roller coaster ride that was our live kestrel web cam which created huge excitement here on the reserve and in people’s homes. The discussions on the forum about them could be exhausting! The good news is that all 4 chicks survived which is fairly unusual but we did have a good spring with plenty of food!
And if the kestrel weren’t enough we had our barn owl family as well and everybody was concerned that the smallest was going to become lunch for its large siblings. Luckily everything was ok and all 3 fledged! Be sure to tune in next year when we will be hoping to have even more nests to show you!
We built a bug hotel...
and it is still creating a buzz amongst visitors today. We did this over a weekend in August as a kids' event to help promote the RSPBs Stepping up for Nature’ campaign! http://www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup/
We led over 80 guided walks...
Photo by Dom Greves
including 10 of our ever popular nightjar walks and every single one was a winner. It is definitely worth standing in front of 40 people waving white hankies in the air for! Be sure to check out next years walks programme which will include reptile rambles, spider walks, dawn chorus walk, creatures of the night walks and of course are weekly Wednesday walks.
We had some great events...
the forage festival which was a celebration of local crafts and traditions (and Robs band!) and it was even more popular than last year.
And who could forget our pull a pine event, which this year attracted an amazing 1029 people, helped us clear 25 hectare of Heathland and in return we gave away close to 400 pine trees as a thank you to the people who came along to help!
We had a new addition to Arnes amazing wildlife...
In August we took part in the extremely rare ladybird spider re-introduction programme when 29 spiders where transported from a breeding site in Wales and were relocated to a secret part of the heath. This is one of the females which was transported in its own plastic bottle! Breeding male have a striking red abdomen with for black spots on it, hence the name!
Arne was on the TV (again)...
BBC Breakfast came along to film for 'Feed the Birds day'. If you missed it check out Paul and Robs 5 minutes of fame here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15489502 (I think the great spotted woodpecker was the real star of the show!)
At the end of the year we said...
Goodbye to Paul Morton after he had spent nearly two years helping to improve the visitor experience at Arne. But don’t worry he has already threatened to come back from time to time as a volunteer! Good luck Paul and thanks!
We are hoping 2012 we will be a good year for...
Dartford warblers. 2011 was a bit of a difficult year for the Dartford warbler after the very hard winter had a big impact on numbers. A warm spring was good news for the remaining birds and if we have a mild winter we could see an increase next year!
All in all I think you will all agree it has been a pretty memorable year and a big thank you to all the staff, volunteers and visitors who made it all possibe and I am looking forward to 2012 being just as good if not better. So all it remains for me to do is wish everybody
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Lets hope 2012 will be a hoot!
What were your Arne highlights of 2011? Why not post a comment to let us know, it is always great to share your experiences.
I know it is pretty obvious but I will start the Christmas blog with a picture of an Arne robin taken last winter. There is so much fantastic wildlife at Arne that we often overlook the more common species! There is always a robin hanging around the visitor centre and a favourite perch is the donations box by the picnic benches.
Christmas Robin at Arne by Vixen37
The visitor centre will be closed on Christmas day and Boxing Day but the car park and reserve will be open as normal. The centre reopens on Tuesday so come down for a winter walk to help blow away those Christmas cobwebs away. The beach at Shipstal point is a great place for a stroll at the best of times and is wonderful on a crisp winter morning. We will be running the ‘Wellies and Waders’ walk as normal on Wednesday http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-289699 so come and see what is about. Talking of the Wednesday walks this week’s was pretty amazing with several hundred avocets at Middlebere being moved along by the incoming tide. The highlights were three Dartford warblers on Coombe heath and great views of marsh harriers hunting over the salt marsh.
This picture of two marsh harriers in the same frame was taken by Greylag from the Shipstal hide on Wednesday. I thought the black bird mobbing them could be a raven but after checking it out ravens are in fact larger than the harriers so I think this is more likely a carrion crow?? Remember the raptor weekend on 7-8 January for a chance to see some of the birds of prey that spend the winter at Arne http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-290117
For the more serious birdwatchers amongst you the reserve is an ideal place to start your year lists, so come along on New Year’s Day to get a bit of a head start. I don’t think there are many places where you could see firecrests, hen harriers, Dartford warblers, avocets and spoonbills all in the same day!
I will do a bit of an Arne review of 2011 in the next week or so but for now I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas from all of the Arne team!
Who could resist Arne on cold clear winters morning over the Christmas and New Year??
Well today was my last day, and I would just like to thank everyone again for my time at Arne. I soon won't be able to blog on this site so thought I would take this chance to say goodbye and wish the reserve all the best in the future.
Merry Christmas to all our visitors and I hope you all have a fantastic 2012.
This is my first blog as a Volunteer Information Assistant at Arne. I have had a wonderful and exciting first week, such a nice welcome from regulars and new visitors alike, keep it coming! Lots of people seem to have got the "Arne bug" as I have myself, I have visited Arne many times and it seems to get under your skin so you cannot escape!
Just a brief bit of info about my background: I studied Animal Conservation Science at the University of Cumbria in the Lake District from which I graduated in 2009 and I have since spent some time volunteering and carrying out my own research in Colorado (Yellow-bellied marmots), Australia (Bottlenose dolphins) and Norway (Eurasian beaver). These were fantastic "working holidays"! I have also just completed a MSc. in Environmental Health in Norway which was focused on beaver and marmots. This was a fantastic opportunity and I am sure that many of you have heard about the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland.
An Eurasian Beaver from my study
During this summer I began my RSPB experience by volunteering in Weymouth at the Radipole reserve as a Little Tern protector! I spent many a night sitting on Chesil Beach chasing foxes down the beach shouting and waving my arms! We had a very successful year and 15 chicks fledged! I came over to visit here at Arne quite a lot and that is how I have arrived here now!
Little Tern Chris Gomersall RSPB Images
Anyway enough about me and more about what’s here at Arne, there is so much to see I don’t know where to start! In this first week I have had first sightings of Dartford warbler (who are making lots of appearances at the moment), Hen harrier (currently 3 in the harbour), Firecrest (regular sightings in the car park), Black necked grebe (seen off Shipstal), Goosander (exciting for me) and many more but I cannot list them all! I wouldn't call myself a beginner birder but I definitely need to brush up on my waders and ducks!
I am making the most of Paul and Michael's endless amount of wildlife knowledge by joining them on as many guided walks as I can, if you come along to the Wednesday wellies and waders 10am walks, I am sure you will see me listening intently with my binoculars glued to my eyes!
I look forward to learning all about this wonderful place and hopefully pass on the knowledge I gain to visitors and make visiting Arne a great experience!
As some of you may have heard on the grapevine, this week will be my last at Arne as I have a new job starting in the New Year. I shall miss the reserve a huge amount and all the people who have made my two years here the best I could have asked for. A huge thank-you to all my colleagues for all your support and effort over the last 24 months, and a special thank-you to EVERYONE who has visited the reserve to support and learn about our amazing wildlife. Talking of which...today produced two lovely surprises.......
Firstly, I was contacted by one of my Poole Harbour informants at 14:30pm that there were 13 Barnacle Geese flying towards to Arne/Middlebere, So Michael and I jumped in the Mule (4x4) and dashed up to Coombe to see if we could see them, and see them we did. In fact they were so obliging that they flew right past us and then decided to do a full u-turn and come and land in the Middlebere Channel right in front of us!
These are a rare species in Dorset, normally found much further North of the UK, but due to the recent cold snap these 13 birds have probably headed a bit further South than normal to look for better feeding grounds. They didn't stay too long, and flew off after 10 minuets heading towards Wareham, but it's likely they may stay in the area for a while longer yet.
Secondly, I was out doing a Hen Harrier survey from 15:15pm - 16:15pm and was treated to one of 'those' moments I'll never forget. I was scanning back and forth across the Harbour looking for any Hen Harrier that may be coming in to roost. There were 5 Sandwich Terns (yes Sandwich Terns) fishing when I saw a Peregrine approach. The Peregrine made a half hearted attempt to catch/upset the Terns and gave up pretty quickly and started to fly in my direction. As the Peregrine approached and got to about 50m away a Merlin shot out of a tree to see off the unwelcome predator and the two birds put on a real real David and Goliath show with the Merlin successfully seeing off its much larger and faster relative. Well...the story doesn't end there. Unbeknown to me that whilst all this was going on a Short Eared Owl had entered the fray about 30m above the bickering duo and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Peregrine freshly upset and embarrassed from the defeat of such a minor opponent headed straight towards the Owl to let out some pure frustration. The poor Owl had to put up with about a minuets worth of torment before it decided to give up and do a 180 degree turn and head back toward Middlebere. All this happened in the space of 2 minuets and I'll never ever forget it. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the whole episode so thought you may enjoy this Winter sunset instead...
Elsewhere it was a bird bonanza today. 500+ Avocet still in Middlebere along with 3-4 Marsh Harrier. Over 50 Pintail were out in front of the Double decker Hide whilst Black Necked Grebes, Great Northern Diver, Goldeneye, Red Breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe can all be seen out in the Harbour. Dartford Warbler are once again becoming (dare I say it) seen everyday with Stonechat and the Finch Field is now starting to contain lots of Reed Bunting.