Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Dorset Holiday-Day 4: RSPB Arne

Today was another bright and sunny, and hot, day so I decided to make my way to RSPB Arne as it had high recommendation, and my parents were passing nearby and so could drop me off, since it was far from easy to get to by public transport. It was another heathland reserve, but had some woodland and meadows, though the latter were out of bounds, as well as some estuary and salt marsh. 
When I arrived it was already well over 25 degrees. First I made my way through the woods but there was not much going on there. The path then went by a section of estuary called Shipstal Beach. Here I left the woods and wandered round the saltmarsh for a bit. Around some of the small stagnant pools there were Keeled and Black Tailed Skimmers, both species I was beginning to get familiar with on this holiday 
-Black Tailed Skimmer
From the beach I was able to look over the bay towards Brownsea Island. There were more birds here than there had been on any other site I had so far visited. From the beach I could see a few curlews and a shelduck flew over.
I made my way towards the hide, via the ponds and heathland. The heathland was not very exciting, but the ponds had some nice dragon and damselflies. There were Emperor Dragonflies and Four Spot Chasers, while on the damselfly front there were Small Red Damselflies and Common Emerald Damselflies. Small red damselflies were so abundant that I had started to take them for granted. It seems odd that less than 5 days ago I had only ever seen one, in a misty lake in wales 
-Small Red Damselflies
At the hide I got good views out over the saltmarsh. I can imagine in winter that there would be ample birds but on this hot summers day there did seem to be a lack. There was a large flock of curlews, as well as a group of Little Egrets probably the largest flock of them I have ever seen. There was also a few Black Headed Gulls around, as well as a handful of Woodpigeons. In front of the hide directly there was a large sand bank and on it were some roosting Cormorants. Close examination revealed Greater Black Backed Gulls and Oystercatchers there too, so on the whole, an improvement on the bird front.
-Cormorants, Oystercatchers and Greater Black Backed Gulls
-Little Egrets
I made my way round the top heathland and found plenty of shallow pools not shown on the map. I scrambled down the bank to get a closer look at them. There were plenty of keeled skimmers and four spot chasers and also a couple of butterflies, like Common Blue
-Common Blue
The pools still had some of the damselflies described from earlier, such as small red damselfly, which was becoming something of a formality
-Small Red Damselfly
After I had explored the top loop of the heathland, I made my way down past Arne Farm back to the visitor center where I could wander off to the proper heathland section of the reserve. The meadow did not have many insects as the reserve leaflet suggested, but there were quite a few Meadow Brown butterflies
The heathland had one pond on it, so here is where I went first, as it being lunchtime I had intended to sit and see if I could spot a raft spider, which was one of Arnes specialties. The first thing I saw when I got to the pond was a Green Woodpecker, which had flown over from the adjacent woodland. Its odd to see a green woodpecker in a tree, but it really highlighted the outline of the bird
-Green Woodpecker
At the pond the main species were the four spotted chasers which were the most obliging I had ever come across. There was a stick placed near to the bench I was sat on, which they regularly came to, so I was able to take my best photos yet of this fairly abundant dragonfly species.
-Four Spotted Chaser
While having my lunch though, a party of elderly people came and the peace was shattered. They were nice enough, some even joking, saying 'And you thought you were going to have a peaceful lunch' and the like, but the secretive spider did not come out while they were there. Once they had left and my lunch had finished I had a wander around the pool to see what was about, and if any spiders were lurking around the back. 
I did not find any spiders, but when I mounted the bank I flushed 2 Sika Deer from the shrubbery. They probably gave me as much of a fright as I gave them. It is the first time I have seen this kind of deer, but I have now completed my list of "British" deer (though I don't count reindeer as some people do) so this was a 'finishing off the category' kind of tick, but even so. I was surprised at how big these deer were, almost red deer size, when I was expecting a much more slender deer, like a fallow.
-Sika Deer
After I had been round the pond and found no spiders I headed up on to the heathland to the hide there and to see if I could find any dartford warblers. I diddnt, but I did find a Meadow Pipit which was taking food into the heather, where I can assume that there would be a nest
-Meadow Pipit
The hide was disappointing and that's an understatement. The only birds there were Black Headed Gulls, and the walk down to it involved being savaged by Cleg Flies, which seem to love me since our trip to Angelsey 
On the top of the moors I spotted more deer in the distance, but they dissapeared into a thicket. I also watched a male Stonechat calling, and caught up with some lovely Silver Studded Blue butterflies. I found myself not really appreciating these really rather rare butterflies since I had seen them before and they seemed to be everywhere. Therefore I made an effort to find one landed so I could once again record it. It took some time though, even though I was surrounded by them, as few of them seemed keen to land. When I did find one though...
-Silver Studded Blue
On my way back into the wooded bit of the reserve I decided to have another look at the pond, see if any spiders had turned up. I had a quick look and was about to go when there it was. It was huge at the top of the reeds. I could hardly believe it, there was a Raft Spider, Britain's second largest spider. I took a few photos before I stealthily ambled closer. When I was closer I noticed that there was an egg sack at the top of the grass stems which the spider must have been guarding. It was a big spider, but seemed bigger because it had sturdy legs and not weeny legs like some other large spiders. It would have been about 7 cm long
-Raft Spider
I then tried to move some obstructing reeds but the spider bolted, rather it vanished, straight down the stem and into the water. I decided to move on and come back in a bit to see if it would come back out. Since there was a nest there I assumed that it would at some point so I set off round the top part of the reserve to kill some time for it to come back out.
In the woods I actually saw a bird this time. In the gorse on the woodland edge I could hear an constant chirping and when I started to look I found the cause the be a fledgling chaffinch which was rather bold, as it did not fly away when I found it, as I was quite close to it. 
-Chaffinch Fledgling 
I made my way back to the ponds, but since it was getting quite late in the afternoon most of the dragonflies had roosted up for the evening. At the second pond though I found not a dragonfly but a lizard, which was my first reptile on a holiday where every site claimed that there all 6 British Reptiles. This was a Common Lizard which looked lovely, though as you would expect I could not really get a good photo because of the amount of vegetation debris.
-Common Lizard
On my way round the top loop I flushed some more sika deer, this time even closer than they had been the first time. But aside from them I did not see anything, and most of the reserves life had gone to bed it would seem, and even though it was only around four o'clock you could be excused for thinking it as late as 7, it was really becoming rather like twilight.
After I had been round the loop I made my way back to the pond before I set off walking back to Wareham. I could not see the spider where it had been, and had a quick look elsewhere, only for it to be on the other side of where it had been and that I had completely missed it, hard to do you would think for such a large spider.
-Raft Spider
This time I made a point of not moving anything to avoid disturbing the spider and left it where it was. On my way back to the road, a sika deer wandered right across the path in front of me. I was impressed since the others I had seen had all taken flight at the first sight of me. This one did not seem bothered in the slightest as it sauntered across the path. 
-Sika Deer
I made my way to the road and began to walk back feeling very satisfied. With the exception of dartford warbler I had seen all of Arnes specialties. On the walk back I saw more deer, but also stonechat, Common Buzzard and Treecreeper, which was a holiday first.

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