Thursday, 18 July 2013

Dorset Holiday-Day 12: Fort Nelson Royal Armouries, Arundel WWT

Another scorching day and my family decided to take us to Arundel WWT, but only after we had been to Fort Nelson Royal Armouries. When we got there I found that there was a nature reserve across the road, though it was little more than a field so I went to have a look while my family spent the morning at the armouries.
The field had a lot of butterflies but the were all the same species, though they were in excess. These included things like Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large and Small White, But there were other species which were a bit more unusual, not least Marbled White and Small Skipper.
-Small Skipper
-Marbled White
Walking through the field I also found some none butterfly wildlife, though there was a lot less of this unless you counted the 6 Spot Burnet Moths which were once more very common.
-6 Spot Burnet Moth
While I was walking around there was a curious song coming from the grass and I eventually tracked it down to a very menacing cricket species, which Google informs me is a Roesel's Bush-Cricket, not that I regularly record cricket species, but it certainly struck me because of the striking yellow lines behind its head.
-Roesel's Bush-Cricket
On the bird front it was very quiet, with the exception of a couple of Magpies and on the way out I stumbled across a family of Willow Warblers. They were very flighty and I did not get exceptional views of them.
-Willow Warbler
I went to the museum cafe because my mum said that there we were going to have a coffee. While we were there my mum told me about all the butterflies that were on the wildflowers growing inside the museum. There was nothing that I hadn't seen, until during our coffee my dad spotted a Pill Millipede descending the wall of the museum, which is not a bug I can regularly see.
-Pill Millipede 
The journey to Arundel was none exciting except that there was a fire on the road which blocked everything up and restricted out speed at reaching the site. 
I have always wanted to go to Arundel, and when I arrived my first impressions were good, as on the first pond prior to entry there were Broad Bodied Chasers and Black Tailed Skimmers hunting it. The entry was good and we learnt that there were boat trips running, so we decided to go for one of those first before we had lunch and set off round the reserve.
The boat trip was very enjoyable and relaxing. I spotted some baby Tufted Ducks, as well as large families of Canada and Graylag Geese. On the mammal front we were delighted to see a Water Vole swim across the channel, though the delight would wear off as we walked round the reserve. On the Dragonfly front there were Black Tailed Skimmers, and there was another which I reckon was a hairy dragonfly but I did not get a good enough view. The only thing that would put me off that i.d. is that it is very late in their flight season, but apart from that, it ticked all the boxes. On the damselfly front there were Azure and Common Blue but also Red Eyed, but since we were on a boat I was unable to get any photos. For that reason my only photo of that species is from Norfolk 2 years ago.
We had lunch in the wildlife garden but did not really see anything.There was a school trip lunching next to us and that could be partly to blame. After lunch the trip headed off towards the lapwing hide, so we decided to  go to that hide later and instead go to the 'Sir Peter Scott centenary sand martin hide'. On the way, there were some Egyptian Geese on the path.
-Egyptian Geese
The hide was OK in terms of birdlife. There were Moorhens and Canada Geese feeding directly in front of the hide, as well as Mallards, Tufted Duck and Shelduck. There were also a pair of Common Terns on a raft in front of the hide, which were showing nesting behavior but no sign of chicks, despite what the sightings board said. They were quite close though, and they obviously were not too bothered by people who I imagine were often noisy which could have disturbed them from their nest.
-Common Tern
After we had finished in that hide we went back to the two hides we had meant to go to, Ramsar hide first, where there was nothing much except a female Mandarin. The second hide was the Lapwing hide, and it lived up to its name since the only bird in there besides Mallards was indeed a Lapwing.
After those two disappointments we headed to Scrape hide which was the best hide on the reserve, but that really did not say much. There was a good number of species, including Mallard, Shelduck, Tufted duck but also a few Gadwall sheltering from the heat under a tall tree. At the far end of the pond there was a Grey Heron hunting but it was some way away. There were also quite a few dragonflies around, but the only ones close enough to identify were Four Spot Chasers and Black Tailed Skimmer.
-Grey Heron
We were watching the far dragonflies to see what they were, when a small mass began swimming across the lake. My initial thought was grass snake, and why not. But no, it turned out when I looked at it through my camera that it was another Water Vole, though to be honest I would rather that it was a grass snake.
-Water Vole
After we had finished at Scrape hide we moved on to Reedbed hide. Here there was very little, but there was a very cute family of four well grown Moorhen chicks. The adult bird then mounted a small platform in front of the hide, being very bold and then started looking in, even though we were only about 2 feet away.
It was the best view of a moorhen I had ever had. After we had finished in Reedbed hide we moved on to the reedbed walk. About half way through the reedbed walk we sat down and were soon surrounded by a small gathering of Moorhens and Mallards, so my dad fished out the crumbs from lunch and started to feed them from our hands. The moorhen though decided that it would rather have my flesh than bread crumbs. 
After that we moved on and were just watching some more moorhens when I noticed that the reeds next to us were moving of their own accord. So I had a peek in and spotted another Water Vole there happily chomping away even though we were only about a meter away. Now the appeal of water voles at this site was beginning to diminish. On the boat, our pilot had told us that the reserve was in a big fence so that no water vole predators could get in with the exception of birds, but it also restricted the voles moving out. So effectively, it was like a big water vole zoo, but you don't really think of it until we start to see them as tame as this.
-Water Vole
We finished the reedbed walk and headed to the waterfalls enclosure. Here there was the only Blue Duck outside of New Zealand and that was quite exciting. After a few mins of watching it though you began to feel sorry for it, alone with only a farm duck for company. It was exciting to see because it is such a rare duck but for the above reason it seemed a bit bitter sweet.
-Blue Duck
We finished by walking back through the pet wildfowl zone and we got to see some large groups of rare wildfowl of the world, as you would expect from a WWT place. Once more though as we were walking over the white faced whistling duck boardwalk, a Water Vole appeared and started swimming across the pond, even though we were almost directly above it.
-Water Vole
I thought the reserve was a big disappointment really, I had expected a bit more. My dad summed it up quite well-Its a great place if you want to see Moorhens, but otherwise. We headed back to the caravan site, but the wildlife did not stop there, oh no.
That evening once more we set off to look for nightjars to see how many we would get. We had to wait a little longer than the night before and for a few minuets we were wondering if they would even turn up tonight when we were suddenly surrounded by churring and we saw one flying right towards us. We soon had 3 Nightjars flying all around us, and once more quite close. This time I had brought the tripod to try and get some photos of when the birds were landed. However, it did not really work as the camera still vibrated while on the tripod. Still I got more amazing views of these bizarre birds.
So ends our last full day on holiday, alas that there 13 days have flown by so quick. Hopefully, on the way home we will go out on a high.

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