Exciting times here at Arne as finally, after the clear and crisp nights of the winter months, humidity and clouds have returned once again to our night skies. This means one thing and one thing only... Moths! The traps have been dusted off, bulbs replaced where needed, and dodgy electrics ignored by tactical application of plastic bags. We're ready to go. After a couple reconnaissance sessions we've found there are an abundance of things flying around already, albeit still distinctly brown, but nevertheless exciting and a taste of things to come. Arne is host to a huge variety of Lepidoptera due to the diverse range of habitats found throughout the reserve, which means, when coupled with our location on the south coast, you never quite know what will show up.
Emperor moths are the current catch of choice, on the wing from April to May, this stunning creature is widely common throughout Britain. Yet due to its immense size and appearance there'd certainly be no dismissing of one if it turned up in the trap. The likelihood of this happening is particularly good too as aside from bramble its food of choice is heather, something Arne isn't in short supply of. They were even spotted flying regularly on our summer Nightjar Walks last year (the first of this season beginning from May 18th onwards) so we have consequential proof they're out there!
Female Emperor moth - Female flies by night and the male by day
But even if this fantastic noctuid proves elusive to light there's still a wealth of potential out there. Given the mild winter we've had many species will be out and about earlier than usual. Scalloped Hook-tip was caught only two days ago, a delicate and expertly disguised little moth that you'd expect out towards the end of April rather than mid.
Weather permitting we'll aim to have at least one trap on every night. We'll then sift through our findings at the visitor hut upon opening at 9am, so feel free to come along and have a nose through as well. As the season progresses we may even look to run special trapping events at Arne, as ultimately that's when you get the real excitement of being there as and when the creatures drop in. It's something the visitor team here at Arne are passionate about and so if there's an audience for it we'll do it.
So leave the porch light on, keep an eye on your street lights and conveniently forget to bring in any white sheets from the washing line, as our often overlooked, night-time loving friends are starting to come out again.
So April is here and so are the birds! As are April showers which have soaked a few people out of the reserve today but it's worth the effort! The last couple of days has seen the return of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps which are now joining Chiffchaffs and Swallows which have been building up over the last week. Big excitement yesterday was provided by an Osprey fishing out in Middlebere throughout the day and it’s been seen again today. It was sadly narrowly missed by our ‘Discover Arne’ walk this morning but they enjoyed brilliant views of a Marsh Harrier flushing hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits. A few Spoonbills are still hanging around but lots of the waders and ducks have now departed. However a Spotted Redshank has been seen a few times in Middlebere this week.
More entertainment has been provided by a Great Spotted Woodpecker who’s taken drumming on the bird feeder outside the hut. There’s a short video of him on our RSPB Arne & East Dorset Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/RSPBEastDorset/
Don’t forget we’ve got the Sounds of Spring walks coming over the next three weeks. We'll make the most of the migration this month and we really hope to hear Arne's first Cuckoo of this 2016 on one of these walks. This Sunday is the first followed by the next two Sundays. Ring us up on 01929 553360 to grab a space. Starts at 7am at the visitor hut. The cafe will be very kindly opening slightly earlier for us that day so we don’t have long to wait for a coffee!
We had some great feedback from a visitor last week who specifically came to Arne after seeing a picture of some cake. We promised we’d continue so here’s some vanilla and chocolate marble cake! So if it does rain the cafe's a great alternative.
Who’d have thought I’d be in the office on Easter Saturday writing a blog... It should be lovely and sunny with Arne bustling with enthusiastic visitors spotting all the signs of spring. Well, that’s exactly what happened yesterday!
It was a stunning day and provided everyone with the full Arne experience. The car park area was full of bird song, feeders covered in Siskin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Nuthatch and all the other usual characters. Firecrests were still hanging around in the Holly trees around the car park. Brimstone butterflies were seen throughout the day. Over head we were treated to display flights from numerous Buzzards and also our first Red Kite of the year drifted over heading north. Further afield around the Shipstal trails the Water Voles were performing well at the ponds, the white Sika Stage (now with celebrity status thanks to the Telegraph!) was showing well and Raft Spiders made a welcome appearance throughout the day. Wood Ants were very busy with nests now becoming very active and one of their predators, the Green Tiger beatle was also seen.
Across the other side of the reserve 7 Spoonbill were hanging out in middlebeare where Black-tailed Godwits were also numerous. Dartford Warblers were seen out on the heath and the spectacular parachute display from Meadow Pipits was seen all over the heath. Meadow Pipits are a really underappreciated bird at Arne. On our weekly ‘Discover Arne’ walks I always make a point of stopping and watching them for a while. It’s blinking impressive! But suppose they aren’t the most striking of birds...
Other recent sightings include our first Osprey seen on Thursday 24th along a steady trickle of Wheatear being seen mainly on Coombe Heath. Surprisingly we’ve yet to see our first Swallow but I’m sure this week will produce the goods once storm Katy has headed off.
Off to cafe for a slice of Lemon Drizzle now!