As visitors to Arne will know, we have several cameras set up around the reserve looking at lots of different nests. Last year we had the excitement and drama of the barn owl and kestrel boxes and we are hoping for more of the same this year but we have an exciting new addition! This year we have a camera on a nest of my favourite bird of prey, the buzzard! The pair of buzzards first turned up a few weeks ago and since then they have been really busy gettingthe nest ready for laying in the next few weeks. Both birds have been in with fresh pine branches and it really does look like a desirable residence for any discerning buzzard! The pictures come complete with sound and we have heard the pair mating just off of camera (think they must have been a bit shy!).
The most exciting thing is that we have all of this streaming live to our website! So settle down in the comfort of your own home, office, or internet cafe and watch the first buzzards nest to be filmed inDorset right from the start!
The birds are appearing daily but they will be more regular when the female lays her eggs. Buzzards usually lay their eggs in mid April but because of the good weather it could be a bit earlier so you will have to watch to find out! http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/webcam.aspx
If you would like to keep us updated with what you are watching then join in with the discussion ‘Buzzards – Life on the Nest’ on our forum. This worked brilliantly with the kestrels and barn owls last year so let’s see if we can get it going for the buzzards this spring! http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/arne/f/12301/p/72885/460473.aspx#460473 I am really excited about the next few weeks and remember there will be other nests to see in the visitor centre at Arne as well!
Although buzzards have been a real success story in recent years are now are common site in Dorset this wasn’t the case 20 years ago and I remember getting really excited as a kid watching buzzards on holiday in the Lake District (I was on holiday not the buzzards!). Not being used to seeing large raptors in Northamptonshire (all though they are there now) I always thought there was something magical about these magnificent birds and in fact I still do!!
Common Buzzard by Paul Morton
Arne is always spoilt for birds in the winter and this year was no exception with thousands of waders, geese and ducks descending on the saltmarsh. It was amazing to have spoonbills, hen harriers, marsh harriers, peregrines and a short eared owl as regular visitors but one species that caused a bit of a stir over the whole winter was the firecrest! Several of these brilliant little birds have been resident in the Arne car park and we have been getting a bit excited because they are still here and have even started singing! Could they possibly be staying to breed? Well there has been another exciting development - yesterday forum member Yogi Bear took some amazing photos of one collecting moss from the bark of a tree in the corner of the car park! Firecrests build ball shaped nests out of moss, lichens and spiders webs and line them with feathers and hair.
Is this the proof we wanted? - Amazing picture taken on Saturday by Yogi Bear.
I am officially on holiday at the moment but I can never seem to stay away from Arne! When I got up this morning the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so I decided to declare summer by putting on a pair of shorts and cycling up to the reserve. On the way up I was struck by all the gorse that has suddenly burst into flower over the last week or so. The vibrant yellow flowers are a welcome early splash of spring colour on the heath and their sweet coconut fragrance is always a welcome accompaniment to any stroll around Arne.
Gorse bushes on Coombe heath
I had trouble finding any Dartford warblers today although the weather was perfect but they were spotted by plenty of other visitors (perhaps I am a bit out of practice!). I am still awaiting the arrival of the first wheatears of the year at Arne although there were reports along the coast in early March.
My main aim today was to find my first raft spiders of the year. I started off by looking at the Coombe heath pond without much luck so I decided to go up to the Shipstal ponds after lunch. I quickly spotted one sitting on a semi submerged branch which is always one of the best places to start searching and once I got my eye in I found about a dozen sitting amongst the grassy tussocks on the edges of the pond. There was a lot of other activity on the ponds with plenty of water boatman, pond skaters and four palmate newts about.
Whilst I was up at the ponds it was nice to hear Mediterranean gulls calling above the shrill shrieks of black headed gulls. There are only about 500 pairs in the country and Poole harbour is an important breeding site for them!
I am always amazed by the amount of ants on the heath and I know I put some ant photos in a blog a couple of weeks ago but today I found a nest constructed over a tree stump with part of the stump in the process ofbeing stripped down. This shows how thousands of insects working together can be a powerful force of nature!
Well, it's all change at Arne at the moment. It can be quite a bizarre time, seeing a range of species on the reserve that wouldn't normally be seen together.... Like watching avocet and brent geese whilst listening to a woodlark, then turning around and seeing a slowworm! Well that's what happened to me on monday anyway.
Our winter species are leaving or have already left; avocet, dunlin, redwing, hen harrier and merlin and we should soon to be seeing our summer species like our 6 native reptiles, dragonflies, green tiger beetles, osprey, hobby, etc... But one little bird has not read the script! It's the Arne firecrests.
These tiny little birds have over wintered with us for the last few years but this year they don't seem to want to leave! I'm certainly not complainig. Firecrest are a rare breeding species in the UK and even rarer in Dorset so to have them breeding on the reserve would be amazing!
Check out this picture taken by Olivier last week, he has taken a few brilliantly sharp pictures but I'm using this one because it is clear from this picture that this little chap is in full display mode....
On a non displaying bird (which is what we normally see at Arne, the 'crest' is flat and yellow gold, but as you can see from this picture this chaps crest is that flame colour that gives the species their name and is stuck up in a punk like fashion.
These guys really are amazing to see and as this is all happening in the carpark, I would recommend a visit down to Arne!
I still can't believe the weekends we have been having. It has been pretty amazing since January. It was probably the warmest weekend of the year so far and again Arne was the place to be.
There have been lots of Dartford warbler sightings on Coombe heath. The bright warm days have been ideal for spotting them, especially if there is very little wind. Take a bit of time to stop by the gorse near the Coombe heath hide as this is always a good spot to look. The firecrests have been singing like mad in the car park which is a good sign that they may stay through the spring and summer.
There are still a few avocets about and the spoonbills have been showing well on the Middlebere channel.
I had a day off today but spent part of it volunteering with the wardening team on the reserve. We were working out on the salt marsh in front of the Shipstal hide and although it was really foggy there were a lot of brent geese on show and we got good views of a peregrine falcon hunting teal along the shore line.
To celebrate spring we have a 'Spring Song at Arne' walk this Saturday. We will listen out for some of the special birds like Dartford warblers and woodlarks and have a look for some of the early spring signs that I have been talking about recently. The walk starts a bit earlier than normal at 08:30 from yhe visitor centre http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-290126
There are lots of birds starting to get ready for spring and this picture of a wren singing its head off at the weekend was taken by M-squared.
Great spotted woodpeckers are drumming in earnest at the moment and just standing in the car park you can often hear several at once!
Don't forget to look out for lizards and raft spiders around the reserve and let us know what you see.
YET ANOTHER REMINDER THAT THE 'PICTURE ARNE COMPETITION' IS COMING TO AN END! JUST OVER 2 WEEKS TO GO - we having been having a bit of a flurry of enteries in the last few weeks, so don't delay get yours photos in today! http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/photocompetition.aspx. We have been enjoying looking at all the enteries so keep them coming.