Autumn at Arne


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Autumn at Arne

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It is turning cold but the sun has been shining on Arne for most of November.  This has brought out lots of visitors and with them lots of interesting bird sightings.

The 27th October was a particularly exciting day for seeing things when two cranes flew over the reserve and several people were lucky enough to catch sight of these birds – and who could miss them with a 6.5ft wingspan and its long neck extended in flight.  As a bird that was extinct as a breeding bird in the UK until a very small population re-established in the Nofolk Broads in the 1980s you can imagine how thrilling it is to see two of these fantastic birds flying across Dorset.  The RSPB are helping to reintorduce the common crane to the Somerset Levels. Hopefully by the end of the project there will be 100 cranes out there and for the first time in 400 years Somerset will have breeding cranes! 


Photo by Nick Upton - rspb images


Later that day we also had a red kite fly over Coombe and off across Middlebere, which is an unusual sighting for us too.

A few siskins have been seen flocking over Coombe, as well as a single crossbill.  Signs of winter are turning up all over the reserve as avocet numbers build up, the odd brambling has been feeding in the finch field, a small murmuration of starlings flock over Middlebere in the evening and the leaves fall from the trees, creating a stunning golden carpet of crisp leaves that is childishly satisfying to kick your feet through.  The colours are mesmerising and the glow from the autumn sun brings a magical atmosphere to the reserve.  Hints of summer are however still holding on with red admirals and speckled woods enjoying the last of the sunshine.  Even a couple of smooth snakes surprised some visitors when they braved the cool autumn weather and showed themselves off on the paths up on Coombe.


Photo by Dom Greves


Even from the visitor’s hut we’re seeing some nice things.  There was a squeal of delight in the hut yesterday morning when we turned on the TV screen to discover the newly installed owl box was being used for the first time by a roosting barn owl.  Speaking of the wildlife cameras, you'll all be pleased to hear that our feeder camera is finally back up and running so you can do your own bird spotting of your own from home.  Thanks for all your patience in waiting for this to be fixed.

I also had an exciting bird spot of my own, an Arne favourite and a first for me, the dartford warbler.  Having been here for over a month now and having not yet seen one I was beginning to think that they were a myth.  So on my day off I decided to put some time in and armed with my binoculars I set off onto Coombe on a dartford warbler mission.  Meadow pipits and stonechats were plentiful and I had a superb view of a sparrowhawk chasing the former.  I stopped in the hide on my way round and was informed by a lady that I should have been there 5 minutes ago – the phrase every bird watcher hates to hear.  Two dartfords had just flitted about in front of the hide!  However, from the hide I was treated to 200 avocets and about 11 spoonbills, who can complain about that?  The sun was starting to go down and everything was going quiet except for the eerie call of the sika deer, and I was about to give up when I spotted some interesting caterpillar nests in the gorse.  I stuck my head in the bush to have a closer inspection when a dartford hopped out in front of me, probably just as shocked to see me as I was it.  We eyeballed each other curiously for a few minutes, giving me the chance to admire its stunning yellow/orange legs and that handsome red ring around its eye.  So they do exist!  So if you haven’t seen one then come down here and put in the hours, it is worth it – even if you don’t see one there are so many other exciting things you’ll come across on your search, not to mention the gorgeous colours autumn is throwing up all over Arne.



Photo by dipperboy

  • Thanks for info. Jen, glad you've seen a DW now - hope to get to Arne soon.

  • "Oi, you! Get orf my caterpillars!"

    Are you sure it isn't it winter by now? They're comparatively mild down this end of the country Jen. ;-)