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  • The Beast of Coombe Heath

    It’s been another fantastic summer so far, which has been of great benefit to wildlife on the reserve. The favourable conditions have been great for breeding birds in particular, with nests being spotted all over the reserve including successful robin, green woodpecker and goldfinch nests on the edge of the car park recently. After the three buzzard chicks fledged, some weeks ago now, the barn owls at Arne farm have fledged. The fledglings are still using the nest box to roost in but are now hunting at night! You can still see them on the live webcam here.

    On Tuesday evening we had the first of the ‘autumn’ ospreys using our feeding post by Middlebere Lake. Two ospreys have been seen around the Wareham Channel lately and we expect to see more by the end of the month. Our Raptor Weekend is on Sat 6th & Sun 7th September, where we’ll open manned viewpoints in the hope of seeing many of the birds of prey we have on the reserve but mainly osprey.

    Last Wednesday was the last of our Discover Arne Walks until September as we are running Bug Hunts every Wednesday until then. We had a large group so split it in two. My group were lucky enough to encounter a real rarity as we headed back from Coombe Heath. A hornet robberfly landed in front of us and posed for photos. In my view, this is the king of flies. It’s a fearsome predator that will wait on a perch for a passing insect, take off and grab it with is very long legs and stab it with its sharp mouthparts. It will then find a spot to suck of the fluids of its prey for around twenty minutes. The hornet robberfly is a hornet mimic that is mainly found on heathland in Wales and southern England. It is a UK priority species due to its scarcity and sadly its decline. Big thanks to Trevor Wilkinson who took these great photos on the walk. Note the huge eyes, what a beast! Two more were found by visitors last Friday. I have only seen two in my life, both at Arne.

    Hornet robberfly by Trevor Wilkinson

    Hornet robberfly by Trevor Wilkinson

    Speaking of rare insects, our estates team found a heath (or wood) tiger beetle on Tuesday. The much scarcer cousin of the green tiger beetle. They are dark with cream spots and charge around sandy areas in much the same way as the green tiger beetle. If you see one whilst out on the reserve, please report it.

    Wednesday was the first of our summer bug hunts and it was great fun! We had an excellent turn out and all the kids did really well in filling in their spotting sheets and finding mini beasts to put in their bug pots. We found 6 raft spiders on the pond, 3 wasp spiders, a slow worm and countless woodlouse, worms, snails, harvestmen, grasshoppers, ladybirds and other beetles, spiders and butterflies.  We set a moth trap the night before and had some interesting moths to show at the end, including a female oak eggar, mint moth and brimstone moth. If you’re looking for some family fun over the school holidays, come along. We are running them every Wednesday in August from 11am-12.30pm and it’s free! Meet at the visitor Centre just before 11 and make yourself known.  More details here.

    Looking at Raft Spiders on Coombe Heath taken by me.

    One of the 3 wasp spiders we found, badly taken by me.

    Our 5thannual forage festival will take place on Saturday 25th October from 11am-4pm.  The Arne Forage festival is a collection of local traders, local food producers and craft stalls including hands on bush craft with the Ancient Technology Centre, knife skills courses, forage walks and hands on crafts! This year, more than ever, there is the chance to try your hand at a range of activities in the great outdoors.  More details here.

  • 'Bags' of Wildlife!!

    Hello everyone! I am Lauren the new Information Assistant here at Arne! I am very excited to spend the rest of the year on this incredible reserve.

    Last weekend was our second Reptile Weekend of the year, which was a great success.  We had 4 show and tells on each day over the weekend. We were showing a slow worm that had recently shed its tail, a baby adder and Britain's rarest reptile - the smooth snake.

    We also had two Reptile Rambles over the weekend, which was in high demand and had been booked up for weeks. On Saturday, it was scorching hot but we still managed to find smooth snakes and adders. On the Sunday, the slightly overcast conditions meant another successful ramble, with adders and smooth snakes found as well as a slow worm. 


    Photo taken by John.

    Last week on our Discover Arne walk the rare bagworm moth caterpillar was found on Coombe Heath. This particular species is only found in the heathland in Hampshire and Dorset. The bagworm moth caterpillar is an unusual insect in that it creates a cocoon that i carries around with it.  The female bagworm moth does this through spinning silk and sticking little pieces of foliage to itself. 

    Photo taken by Jack Oughton. 

    The Birds Bees and Butterflies Trail is now open which you can find next to Arne Farm. There have been plenty of butterflies spotted on the reserve, including: silver-studded blue, holly blue, purple hairstreak, marbled white, meadow brown, gatekeeper, brimstone, large and small skippers and grayling. The beautiful privet hawkmoth caterpillar has also been found within the car park. There are also good numbers of raft spiders on the ponds this year with a very large raft spider found on the Coombe pond with hundreds of spiderlings.

    The pond next to the visitor centre is now resident to two common frogs and a common toad. A willow warbler was also spotted drinking out of the pond on Monday.

    Photo taken by John.

    Our Big Wild Canoe event was a great success, with a spotting of two osprey, a peregrine falcon and common seal all included on the canoe trip! If you missed this canoe trip and would like to have a go, we have another running on Thursday the 4th of September. You can find the details about the Big Wild Canoe event here.

    Our Bug Hunts are set to begin next Wednesday the 6th of August, which will take over from the walks until September.  The Bug Hunts will run from 11-12:30pm.  For more information visit our event page here.

    We will also be running our Raptor Weekend on the 6/7th of September which is set to be a fantastic weekend of raptor spotting!   We will set up 3 manned viewpoints to look for birds of prey but mainly osprey.  For more information visit our event page here.


  • Welcome to our owl-cam

    Welcome to our barn owl box! Complete with infra red for night-time viewing, this can be accessed here

    As I mentioned yesterday, because our buzzards have all successfully fledged we have changed the live feed to the barn owl box. Those of you who have visited Arne in the past few months may have seen our barn owls from the screen in the visitor hut, but the camera has recently been changed so we now have a much better picture. 

     by Alex King

    The three chicks were all ringed yesterday by a BTO qualified ringer, meaning each now carries a metal ring on its leg with its own unique number stamped into it. This means that if at any point in the future the bird or ring is found, we know where it has come from, and this provides some invaluable data into where the birds are going, their life span etc.

     One of our chicks by Alex King

    The text under the video screen currently shows information on our buzzard family, but this is in the process of being updated.

    We've discovered some interesting facts from going in the box; all of our owls are female, and from some of the owl pellets, we can see that they have been eating both redshank and water rail. Not quite what you'd expect to see!

     Pellets by Roger Tidman. From left to right: Little owl, long eared owl, barn owl and red kite

    Owls swallow their prey whole, digest the tasty bits and the fur and the bones are coughed up in a surprisingly large pellet. By dissecting one of these pellets you can have a fascinating insight into the diet of the bird. Just be 100% sure that it is an owl pellet you've picked up before you start rummaging!!