So we have been keeping our fingers crossed for spring over the last couple of weeks and this weekend it certainly arrived with a bang. It was that warm that I was working in a T-shirt today! We have been seeing a few butterflies recently and today they were out in force! Peacocks, red admirals, small tortoise shell and loads of brilliant yellow brimstones. Brimstones are probably one my of favourites at this time of year as they are a real herald of spring!
Brimstone at Arne a couple of years ago by znappa
A bit of a QI moment - I have read that brimstones were known to early entomologists as the 'butter-coloured fly' and this name gave us the word 'butterfly'. True or not I rather like the story!
The first raft spider of the year was reported today and a palmate newt was spotted in one of the ponds up by Shipstal point. My most exciting spot of the day was a green tiger beetle up by our offices. This emerald green beetle is a veracious predator and an extremely fast runner (also known as the 'cheetah of the heath') and it is often seen hunting along the sandy paths on the reserve. Despite the colour they can be difficult to spot and they are extremely skittish so be careful not let your shadow cross them or else they will fly off like a shot!
Green Tiger beetle - I said they were difficult to spot!
Last Wednesday we had the first of our March 'history walks' which took in the history and landscape of the reserve and gave visitors a rare opportunity to see the world war II gun emplacement and the bronze age tumuli on Arne hill. We try and relate the history of the heath back to why the RSPB are here managing it now and why it is so important for wildlife and we try and show some of this at the same time. This week we were lucky enough to see a pair of crossbills and watch them for about 10 minutes whilst talking about Arne in the 1940's! Crossbills are one of the largest finches in the UK and they use their amazing crossed beaks to extract the seeds from pine cones!
A male crossbill from our Wednesday history walk taken by Pudweena
The history walks are running on every Wednesday through out March starting at 10 am.
Arne has had it's fair share of TV appearances over the years and the latest was a five minute slot on yesterdays 'Escape to the Country' on BBC one. A film crew came last May and I took them around the heath looking for reptiles (primarily smooth snakes). Having film crews with you can be a guaranteed way of not finding what you want so we were faced with a lot of empty tins but thats'reptile hunting ror you!'
Its always good to get a bit of promotion for the amazing place that is Arne and the programme showed the reserve in its best light. To check it out follow the link and watch 35 minutes in http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03xl3g5/Escape_to_the_Country_Series_14_Dorset/
We had to wait nearly a year for it to be aired but it was good timing as now is the time when reptiles will begin to emerge from hibernation and it won't be longn until we run our first reptile weekend in May.
Reptile rambles are a big feature of our summer events programme and finding a smooth snake, Britains rarest and most elusive reptile is the ultimate goal!
After a long run of pretty fierce weather we have been enjoying a slightly more settled period at Arne. The reserve team have been working hard to clear up the trees that came down during the storms a couple of weeks ago and we have even started to get some sunny days!
As Laura said a couple of weeks ago the warm days are bringing out butterflies like red admirals and small tortoiseshells. These are butterflies that hibernate through the winter in places like holes in trees, thick vegetation and can often be found in garden sheds and garages. Warm days will bring them out of hibernation and they will take to the wing. I have seen a few bumble bees about as well and one actually flew in to my ear a few days ago. Most surprising was the bats that have been flying about during the day. I first saw one in January and another one at the week end. Again warm days will bring them out of hibernation and they will hunt for any insects that may be about.
The wood ants nests are coming alive already and some are already teeming. This is a big contrast from last year when we had a really late spring and we didn't really see any activity until the end of April.
One animal that is always popular with visitors is the seal that can often be found in front of long and round islands and is best seen from Shipstal beach. It has been seen a lot recently and is occasionally joined by a second. The ones we see here are common seals (also known as harbour seals) and can distinguished from the greay seal by their rounder faces and shorter noses. This picture was taken by Mark Wright on a Poole harbour bird boat that I was on a few weeks ago. It was extremely obliging as it spent a bit of time in the water before climbing out on to a floating platform.
Bird wise there are still plenty of waders about including avocets, grey plovers, dunlins, curlews, and redshanks. Spoonbills are still here in good numbers and there is still opportunity to see hen harriers and marsh harriers. Most of the birds will start to leave in the next few weeks and head back to their nesting sites. I am wondering if any spoonbills will hang around this summer. Ussually they all head back to the Netherlands but last year I seem to remember a couple staying in the harbour.
Marsh Harrier by Mark Wright
A redshank and curlew have a bit of a snooze - bu Pudweena
A couple of weekends ago we had planned an event up at the gun emplacement but unfortunately the weather conspired against us and we had to cancel it. However for anyone interested in the history of the area we are doing something a little bit different in March. Instead of our normal discover Arne wildlife walks we will be running Arne history Walks every Wednesday through out March. The landscape of Arne has been shaped by human activity over thousands of years and these walks will take in different aspects of the reserves history ranging from neolithic through to World War II. Follow this link for dates and times. http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-360060