As the winter is approaching we’re currently battling against some rather soggy and blustery conditions, it’s sad to see visitor numbers drop so fast from the hundreds on a beautiful sunny weekend day to 7 on a damp and dreary Thursday. To fill our time a little better a brainstorming session was had and the outcome is we’re going to produce a weekly species focus blog, this is in addition to our regular sightings blog so don’t panic, there will still be lots of nice pictures of the latest goodies!
The last week has seen the start one of our favorite migration spectacles of the autumn, to most it’s quite a surprise as it is from the humble Woodpigeon! We have quite a few conversations regarding Woodpigeons in the last week, most beginning with “I saw this huge flock of birds flying south this morning” So what better species to start our focus series on.
The UK breeding population of Woodpigeon is close to 5.5 Million and you can pretty much find them anywhere and everywhere, from parks to gardens, roadsides to woodland if there is suitable habitat they will try and use it. What then happens in late October to mid November can be quite spectacular, the current record for migrating Woodpigeon here at Arne is 161,000 and no, they wouldn't have been counted one by one, with numbers like that they may have been counted in blocks ranging between 100 to 1000. This however is only half of what can be counted annually at different watch points, we've sadly not been on their route this year, not recording a single flock however over in Weymouth and Portland the numbers have been really good, well over 100,000 have been recorded in the last week or so, some making their journey’s in quite horrendous conditions as can be seen in the video from Portland below.
© Martin Cade - Portland Bird Observatory
So why do they do it? Sadly we don’t really know a watertight reason why, there are however a couple of theories, some say they are heading south to warmer climes like southern France and Spain, with recoveries of dead or injured ringed birds backing this up but then a second theory is that they run out of food in one area (100,000 birds can devastate their food crop in a few days) and then have to move further south to find some more to eat! Sadly some of the Pigeon do meet an ugly end, natural predators and Humans play their part in this but the very large majority to go unscathed with some birds living way on into their teens.
part of a 1500 strong flock of Woodpigeon heading south over Portland Harbour
© Joe Stockwell
I was given 2 hours and set a challenge, find me as many species as you can in that time frame. Now Arne is a big reserve and it holds a lot of bird species, though I’m sure most will be aware, when you try and see lots of them in a short space of time they seemingly vanish. Prime targets for my client were Dartford Warbler, Woodlark and Spoonbill; although I made no guarantees I was happy to reckon on clearing up!
The first 30 minutes...
The Information Hut feeding station gave us 15 species without too much effort, including Brambling and Treecreeper, around the car park we added Firecrest, Goldcrest, Redwing and Fieldfare with little trouble and a Raven was noted flying over too. Leading out onto West track, an area kept under lock and key, we saw our first Green Woodpecker and a flock of Long-tailed Tits flew through containing more Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.
Completing the first hour...
Dartford Warblers are a myth to some people I’m sure, time after time dejected faces return having not seen our special little Warbler. My client was not disappointed today seeing 3 birds in no time at all, Stonechats were with them too, a brief scan over the Wareham channel added Mute Swan, Little Egret, Brent Goose and Mute Swan.
A final hours hunting...
Species additions suddenly became hard to come by, we ploughed through though and made it up onto the Coombe viewpoint, from here it got good really quickly! Avocets by the hundred, all of the common ducks including some really smart Pintail, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Grey Plover and Spotted Redshank paraded around on the mud looking for some meaty treats, before I could even think we were adding on more birds including the Lingering Great White Egret, a Female Marsh Harrier and another target of Spoonbill was seen flying towards Brownsea Island, sadly the time was running out so we started to head back and totted up the species list and we finished up just shy of 80! Not bad for a 2 hour Hire a guide session and my client could not have been happier with 4 new birds to their list and lots of opportunities for close viewing and photographs.
Why not do it yourself? Hire me out and I’ll take you to see lots of birds, I love to do it and I’d love to help you see more!
This is the deal... For £50 you get a guide who’s well equipped with a vast knowledge of Arne and it’s wildlife, for a two hour tour of Arne. We can have groups of up to 6 people and it’s pretty much up to you how your visit will pan out. If you’d love to see a Dartford Warbler, that will be our focus. If you’d like to experience the sight of thousands of wading birds wheeling around the sky? You’ve guessed it, that’s what we’ll do. Of course, birds being birds, we can’t guarantee anything but we love a challenge at Arne!
Arne is over 550 hectares of prime wildlife habitat waiting to be explored. To arrange a guide for yourself, a relative or friend or a small group, give us a ring on 01929 553360 or email@example.com
Joe Stockwell - Arne Information Assistant
Temperatures remain ridiculously high for the season though this week we’ve had our fair share of rain. Hence why I’m in the office sheltering at the moment! But in spite of that, visitors have ventured out to Arne in the hope of a few exciting encounters. Raptors have again been creating most of the interest with Hen Harrier and several Marsh Harriers putting in almost daily appearances. Merlin equally as frequent along with our commoner regulars such as the good old Kestrel and Buzzard. This week the view from the raptor hide has had a facelift... literally! My plan today was to head down with the camera to get a pic for you but so far the torrential rain has put stop to that. We promise to get a pic online in the next few days! It’s worth the wait I promise.
The hut/ car park area is still the best place to see a nice selection of woodland birds. A surprise Treecreeper bathing in the pond was nice on Wednesday and Brambling are still appearing at the feeders though not as frequent as last week. Firecrest are still numerous though more are now appearing away from the car park. We’ve had up to 10 recording some days this week. Two were ringed on Saturday as part of the Stour Ringing Groups demonstration at our Forage Festival which was a wonderful day! Wednesday we had an exciting report of a Marsh Tit from near the raptor hide. This species is continuing to decline in the Poole harbour area and the UK generally. It used to be very common at Arne and in a very short space of time they’ve almost vanished. Fingers crossed they can hang on and make a recovery.
Marsh Tit - Luke Phillips
The warm weather isn’t enticing many ducks to venture to the UK so it could be quite a spectacular arrival when the weather starts to turn a bit chilly. Brent Geese are numbering a few hundred in the harbour, the first Red-breasted Mergansers are starting to appear and Pintail have been much more numerous this week. Spoonbill top count has been just over 30 in the last week.
Black Redstarts are probably the highlight of the last week with up to 3 hanging around the farm. There was still one on Wednesday so keep an eye out for them flitting around the rooftops.
Black Redstart - Luke Phillips
Away from Arne slightly, just up the road at RSPB Arne Moors nature reserve we’ve had plenty of raptor action with double figures of Marsh Harrier, several Hen Harrier and even a Short-eared Owl!
Short-eared Owl - Luke Phillips
This reserve isn’t open to the public but this winter we are arranging special guided walks for small groups to check out this amazing place and it's wildlife. All the details are here -http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-407884 . it’s still over a month away but places are disappearing quick!