Arne is completely buzzing at the moment! With the welcomed change in weather over the weekend (such that it actually felt like June!) there were a few new sightings of unusual bugs and butterflies!
On Sunday we had the first reporting of the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly, which is found specifically on lowland heath and calcareous grassland. They are generally quite rare as they have a pretty restricted distribution across the UK, and Dorset is a real hotspot for them! Their preferred foodplants at Arne are Bell heather (which has recently come into flower making the heath come to life!), Cross-Leaved heather and Gorse. Normally they appear in early July so this is quite early-probably brought about by the sudden change in temperature.
Beautiful Silver Studded Blue butterfly by A P Read
Another amazing sighting was the unusual Striped Ladybird which was reported at the weekend. This is a species commonly associated with pine woodland, and simliarly with most ladybirds their preferred prey is aphids. This is possibly a first for Arne as we were not aware of any reportings previously; and there are obviously more to come according to the photograph below! So keep your eyes peeled on your next visit!
Striped Ladybird by A P Read
Plenty of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen at the ponds including Four-Spot Chasers, Broad-Bodied Chasers, Common Darters, Emperor and the Azure blue damselfly. Amazing sightings of the Four-Spot Chasers mating mid-air! There were also really good sightings of the Raft Spider yesterday-including a view of a pregnant female with an egg sack which was pretty amazing!
Bird-wise there have been several reports of Spotted Flycatcher which is fantastic. The Dartford Warblers are still regularly heard and seen displaying on the gorse. The Kestrel fledglings have moved further from the box with the recent good weather, though there has been some fantastic views of them sitting on top of the box and in the local area, as in the photograph below.
The kestrel fledglings by pudweena
Last night on the Nightjar walk there was plenty of activity which was great news as the bad weather has been keeping the churring activity relatively low until now. At least 6 Nightjars were heard on the walk and there was a couple of pretty good sightings! The glow worms have also been out in force recently, with the females laying on their backs showing off their bioluminenscence and wafting thier pheremones in order to attract the males attention. Quite amazing animals!
Last night there was also fantastic views of a couple of female Sand Lizards choosing where to lay their eggs. The females tend to be pretty choosy about their laying sites (and rightly so!) so will dig out holes in several places before actually laying. These females were seen burrowing and resting in the dug-out holes, deciding if this was the right spot! It is a great time to see Sand Lizards at the moment (relying on it being good weather!) as the females are often checking out sites alongside the path, and recently there have been several sightings down by Shipstal Point. In terms of reptiles, yesterday there was a sighting of a Grass Snake outside the hide on the Coombe Heath trail which was quite exciting, and quite an unusual place to see them due to it being very dry up there.
Burrowing female Sand Lizard by Gordon MacPherson
If you fancy learning more about Arne's reptiles, and would like to see Rob's impression of a Grass Snake playing dead, check out last week's Countryfile on iplayer:
Also, if you fancy coming along on one of our brilliant Nightjar walks give us a call on (01929) 553360 or pop into the visitor centre to book a place. Places are filling up fast so don't delay!
So Arne is a very exciting place at the moment with lots of changes as we move into the summer. Fingers crossed for more good weather!
Thanks for so much info. Sarah, great reading, shame I left it too late to get on the Nightjar walk as fully booked. Will phone tomorrow to see if there are 2 places left next Wednesday.
Excellent blog entry! It was a brilliant sighting of the nightjar. Went back next day to see if I could locate the sand lizard burrows but the rain had washed the sand completely smooth. Never seen a striped ladybird before - how on earth did they find each other I wonder?
P.S. Gotta be a candidate for best blog post title of 2012 surely?! :-)
I'll second that :-)