So, as many of you now know, we now have 2 (or possibly 3 from news from the forum!) kestrel chicks in the nest!
I have to say, it was fantastic yesterday one minute saying to people as they were passing through the Visitor Centre that there are 5 eggs... then looking up... and seeing there were now only three and two little chicks!! Just amazing. At one point yesterday the male brought back a bank vole, gave it to the female who then proceeded to tear bits off and feeding the chicks just as a school group came past - smiles all around to say the least!
We were a little concerned originally about the kestrels as they laid eggs a month earlier this year in comparison to last, probably due to the unusually warm weather we had during March. When we originally turned on the nest camera a few weeks back we were a little shocked to see a full clutch already! Last year when the chicks had hatched they relied on the large supply of reptiles that Arne has to offer as a main food source, and due to the dull weather there has been little reptile activity recently. However a warmer day today brought out the slow worms and the male brought back at least two today to keep the chicks going! So all is well so far in the kestrel nest, and fingers crossed for the nicer weather!
Having the nest camera really highlights the difference between the male and female kestrel, with the females being slightly larger (especially after the male has been keeping her well fed whilst she's been on the eggs!) and the male has a very distinct blue /grey head whilst the females is brown and flecked. Before the eggs had hatched the male spent most of the time hunting and would bring back food for the female, and they would swap over briefly and he would (slightly awkwardly!) sit on the eggs whilst the female had her fill before resuming her duties. Now of course the focus is on the chicks! As you may be aware we have a live feed to the kestrel cam on the main Arne website - so you can watch the chicks grow from the comfort of your home!
In other news... The buzzard nest has turned out to be quite a interesting tale! Unfortunately the buzzards have decided not to lay in the nest despite the potential signs about a month ago. However we have a new resident in the nest! A female mallard duck (!) has decided to live life dangerously and has taken a liking to the nest. She has been sitting on the nest a lot recently, so potentially she may have laid eggs there! So next time you visit Arne come see how the mallard is getting on!
Good news! The kestrels up at Arne Farm are the proud new parents of a beautifully fluffy newly-hatched chick!
Stay tuned on the live web cam for more new arrivals (four more eggs to go).
The day started with an early morning at Arne when we broadcasted the reserves dawn chorus live on the internet. We picked up chiffchaffs, willow warblers, black caps, chaffinches, and greenfinches amongst others. It was great to wake up to and thanks to Paul for coming along to provide commentary.
We had a little bit of excitement when a marsh tit appeared on the feeders for the first time in over a year! These were regular visitors at one time but disappeared after the very cold winter of last year. There call is a loud ‘pit-chu’ which according to Rob sounds a bit like a ‘wild west’ gun fight!
Marsh tit - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
There are some interesting waders about at the moment with quite a few whimbrels passing through and a number of smart summer plumage grey plovers on the Middlebere channel. There are at least 3 spoonbills about and as it is a bit late for them to still be here they are probably immature non-breeding birds so there is a chance that they may stay in the harbour over the summer.
After a chilly grey start it soon warmed up and turned in to a really sunny day and with ith the warm weather we got a lot of reports of sand lizards on Coombe heath. This is the time of year when the smart green males display and fight for territories and females and can be quite easy to see.
This brilliant male sand lizard was seen on Coombe heath today by pudweena (Mr)
Talking of reptiles remember Our reptile weekend on 19 and 20 May - We are running bookable guided walks on both mornings (spaces still available for Sunday) and then will be giving hourly show and tells after 12pm to show you some of the amazing lizards and snales that call Arne there home! http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308779
Back at the visitor centre the kestrel cam has been compulsive viewing with a fourth chick hatching yesterday and lot of food being brought in by the male today. It was amazing the range prey being caught including a bank vole, a slow worm, a common shrew and finally a common lizard which was still alive when it arrived! At least the chick won’t get bored with a lack of variety!
The feeders at the back of the visitor centre are still alive with birds including siskins, nuthatches, goldfinches and greenfinches but if you cast your eyes to the ground you are likely to spot the bank voles and wood mice that live under the building and dart back and forth picking up discarded seeds that have fallen in their paths!
One of the visitor centre bank voles taken by wormsmum - This species is a favourite of our kestrel family!
Well we certainly have had a big turn around in the weather over the last couple of days and I am back in my shorts! All of a sudden dragonfly and damselfly larvae are leaving the ponds around the reserve and taking to the wing as newly emerged adults! one of the most common species about at the moment is the large red damselfly so keep an eye out for them on your walk.
This spring it seemed unusually quiet for ospreys on the reserve with many flying straight through to their nesting sites but today we had a couple of sightings. First off one was seen flying in the direction of Hartland moor with a fish in its talons and then was spotted latter on flying just off of Shipstal point. This is a bit late for ospreys to be in the harbour so fingers crossed that this is a young bird that may hang around for a bit longer.
Last weekend we held a series of reptile show and tells when we showed visitors some of Arnes incredible snakes and lizards and in the the last few days they have been fairly easy to spot around the reserve. Male sand lizards have been seen basking on a lot of the sandy heathland paths and a small amount of patience can been rewarded with some great views of the second rarest reptile in Britain. In fact the rarest British reptile has been spotted out and about as well. Although there are plenty of smooth snakes on the reserve they are very elusive and rarely seen out in the open but a couple of days ago a visitor to this picture of one slithering across the path on Coombe heath! You can clearly see the understated black marks all the way along the back of the snake and it lacks the distinctive diamond pattern of the adder.
Photo by Jenny Millard
It is the time of year that Nightjars are returning to Britain from Africa and I have been out onto the heath a few times in the last couple weeks to try and locate some with out much success but last night - Bingo! I was hoping that the warm weather was going to bring out more flying insects and encourage more nightjar activity and I wasn't disapointed. At about 9:30 I heard the first male churring and as I walked in that direction I got some great views of one flitting across the top of a small ridge before settling on a small bush to churr! It was brilliant seeing my first ever nightjars when I arrived at the reserve last year but to be honest it was just as exciting seeing them again this year.
We still have spaces on the first 'Creatures of the Night' walk this Saturday so if you would like a chance to see some early nightjars along with some of the bats that live on the reserve then book today! http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308782
There are lots of linnets and meadow pipits on the heath and I got some great views of a singing Dartford warbler the other evening. There are up to 5 spoonbills still around and I watched 3 feeding along the Middlebere channel at a rising tide yesterday evening!
Finally a quick reminder to come along to the first spider Sunday of the year this weekend and find out more about the the life of spiders on the reserve. http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308783
Well it's that time of year again and Spring Watch is back on the tele and it is a great chance to find out about the nature on your doorstep. But who needs Spring Watch when you can come along to Arne and see it all for real!?
At the visitor centre we have our own selection of live nest cams. The stars of the show at the moment are the kestrel chicks which have grown up really fast and it won't be long before they will be thinking of leaving the safety of their box. Even the smallest of the four is doing reall well and again this year looks pretty hopeful for all of them which is very exciting. Come on down to Arne in the next few days for your last chance to see them on the big screen or go and watch them live on the Web! http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne/webcam.aspx
Haven't they grown! Posted by mims. The chicks take time out from their exhausting TV schedule!
We have got a camera on a buzzards nest as well and we were a bit disappointed that they decided to go and nest somewhere else but we were very surprised when a squatter in the shape of a female mallard duck turned up. She has been incubating her eggs for a few weeks now and today when I took a look at the nest imagine my delight when I saw several very tiny ducklings peaking out from beneath their mother! I am trying to record the moment when they decide to take the plunge and leave the nest but this may be easier said than done. Although the nest is fairly high I think the ducklings will be OK as this isn't that unusual. Being very light they will be able to parachute their way down. to safety. I am not sure how many ducklings there are but the highest count was 8! I will bring you further news of what happens.
On our final camera we have a family of blue tits which are also doing really well again there are 8 chicks and it hasn't take them very long to change from blind, bald hatchlings to being almost ready to fledge!
Not on camera but another unusual nest is a Wren that decided to take up residence in an old swallows nest in one of our workshops. The parents decided to use the swallows nest as a foundation and then built it up in unusual wren fashion with lots of moss. The eggs have hatched and the babies are doing well!
Out on the reserve woodpeckers are very active at the moment and there are lots of nests about. Also look out for old woodpecker holes with starlings darting in and out to feed their young. There were plenty of Dartford warblers seen on today's Wednesday walk which was great. There was even a family of five seen hopping about the gorse! There are still 3 spoonbills about and they can often be seen feeding along the Middlebere channel. Nightjars are becoming more active on the warmer nights and there are still places on our Wednesday Nightjar Walks which begin on the June 6. Book now to avoid dissapointment! http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308871
And remember it is not just about the birds! There are more and more dragonflies emerging from the ponds, lots of butterflies are taking to the wing and look out a long the sunny parts for some of Arnes amazing reptiles!
Dartford Warbler on Coombe Heath taken by forum member Somerset Chris