Spoonbills have become a regular feature at Arne in the colder months but this year has been exceptional. A British record flock of 49 is currently in the harbour! Being very social birds they are spending much of the time as a large flock but also split into smaller flocks. We had at least 5 birds spend the summer in the harbour this year; how long before they breed in Dorset? They can often be seen roosting at shipstal or feeding in Middlebere Lake when the tide is going out. What is the collective noun for spoonbills?
Spoonbills by Keith Rogers
We had great excitement last Sunday – a ring ouzel at the farm! It’s rare to get these stunning thrushes on the reserve but we do get the odd one drop in on migration. The farm is obviously where the rarer species hang out; there were 3 firecrests there on Monday too. Brent geese have arrived; there have been up to 40 near Shipstal so far, we're looking forward to seeing large flocks of these attractive geese in the coming weeks.
It is noticeably colder on clear mornings now but there are still red admirals and clouded yellows on the wing. Raft spiders and dragonflies can still be seen around the ponds – common darters, southern hawkers and migrant hawkers are clinging on.
The sika deer rut is underway with the eerie ‘creaking door’ calls of the stags heard mostly at dawn. The milder weather has meant another late start to rutting this year but with colder weather this week we expect activity to increase. Big Wood is where the greatest activity is so far. Keep a safe distance from the testosterone fuelled stags though!
Firecrest by Paul Morton from last year's Forage Festival
This Saturday is our 5th annual Forage Festival from 11am-4pm - Celebrate Autumns arrival with a fun packed day for all the family! There will be an assortment of traditional craft stalls, local traders and food producers offering products to buy. There will be a bird ringing demonstration from 11-2. Try your hands at bush craft with the Ancient Technology Centre, archery, forage walks and wildlife themed crafts to make and take home, plus much more.
Autumn is always an interesting time at Arne. It’s the time when we say goodbye to our summer visiting birds and welcome back our over-wintering birds from the north. This Autumn has been excellent for osprey sightings. This tends to be the last week in the year that they are seen; the latest sighting was at Middlebere on Monday. Spoonbill numbers have increased dramatically in the last few days with a flock of 39 in the harbour! These have been moving around from the lagoon on Brownsea Island, to Arne Bay and some have been seen at Middlebere. Avocets are also increasing in number with a flock of around 300 seen at Middlebere on Tuesday.
There have been great numbers of chiffchaffs, blackcaps, goldcrests, house martins and swallows in the last week. On the Discover Arne walk yesterday we witnessed an usual mixed flock at the farm. It’s not unusual to see mixed tit and finch flocks at this time, but it’s the first time I have seen a mixed flock of meadow pipits and goldfinches. It’s been great to see a bigger number of wheatears and whinchats on Coombe Heath than last year. Numbers of wigeon and teal are steadily increasing and hopefully we will see the first brent geese and hen harriers soon!
There have been large numbers of jays seen in the last two weeks. Our resident birds have been joined by birds from the continent. It’s been a poor year for acorns in contrast to last year. This may have a significant impact on jays, which collect acorns in their crops and cache them under leaf litter and in tree crevices in store for winter food. A single jay can hide up to 5,000 acorns and will remember where most of them are. Obviously, the ones they forget have a chance to develop. It will be interesting to determine the impact on jays when acorn numbers are vastly reduced. There appears to be a much larger number of wasp galls this year, which is not to thought to be the reason for a poor acorn year. Last year was a bumper ‘crop’; after a big yield, oaks tend to produce less the following year.
Jay by Nigel Blake (RSPB Images)
Our estate team has completed work on a dam in Arne Bay this week. The aim is to keep some water back at low tide so invertebrates are present over a wider area of the salt marsh. We are hoping that this will create a larger feeding ground for wading birds at low tide, which would also give closer views of feeding waders. Kingfisher perches have also been installed near the hide in the hope that they will pose for better views!
It’s been another good year for clouded yellow butterflies, which have been seen regularly around the farm in recent weeks. There are good numbers of red admirals and speckled woods at present due to the ‘Indian summer’. Southern hawker and common darter dragonflies are still on the wing with raft spiders still showing in good number on the edges of the ponds.
The sika deer have been slow to get going as far as rutting goes again this year due to the mild weather. The mature stags are looking impressive however, with antlers now fully grown and much more muscular physique due to the increase in testosterone levels. We expect them to really get going in the next couple of weeks as more autumnal weather is on the way.
Sika Stag by Simon K
This Sunday is our Wild Food Walk, which proved hugely popular last year. We still have spaces; if you’re looking to learn about where best to find wild food, booking details can be found here
Sunday is also the first of our seasonal Heathland Bash events. If you want to help out with some practical conservation work, we’d love to have you! Click here for more information.
Last weekend was our Raptor Weekend which was very successful. Over the course of the weekend we saw the seven species of birds of prey that we were looking for, including: osprey, peregrine, marsh harrier, buzzard, hobby, kestrel and sparrowhawk. On Saturday morning, an osprey was seen perched on a dead tree from the Coombe Heath viewpoint. Early visitors had a great view of this for a couple of hours. Sunday’s highlight was an osprey being mobbed by a raven that was being mobbed by a sparrowhawk! It was a very busy weekend with lots of visitors coming down to Arne to catch a glimpse of an osprey.
Over the weekend a grass snake was seen by many visitors in the ponds near Shipstal hide as well as raft spiders and wasp spiders. Kingfishers have been frequently seen at the front of the Shipstal hide recently. As a result of increased kingfisher activity at this time of year here, we have decided to install kingfisher perches in front of the hide. Avocets are starting to return from the Netherlands with small numbers seen in Arne Bay and Middlebere. Spoonbill numbers have also increased with 17 birds known to be in the harbour.
Spponbills at Middlebere Lake, photo taken by Keith Rogers.
Our Discover Arne walks have started up again in September, and on both this week and last week’s walk we have seen two ospreys from Coombe Heath. On this week’s walk we also saw a peregrine being mobbed by a raven. Our Discover Arne walks are free to everyone, just turn up at 10am on a Wednesday morning at the Visitor Hut in the Arne Car Park and make yourself known! You can find out more about our Discover Arne walks here.
As autumn approaches we have some exciting events coming up including our Wild Food Walk which will consist of tracking down wild foods such as fungi, berries, herbs and anything else that we can find. You can find out more about this event here. Our Sika Deer Rut will be happening on the 18th of October where we will be venturing out on an early morning looking for sika stags in the rutting season. We will be listening out for their eerie calls as they attempt to corral a group of hinds and fend off any competitors. Equipped with large antlers they will only fight if it’s absolutely necessary, but when they do lock antlers it can be spectacular! You can find out more by clicking here.