Sunday, 9 October 2016

8th October - RSPB Arne, Dorset and Leaden Hall New Forest, Hampshire

Towards the end of the week there was a significant movement of Yellow-browed Warblers and Ring Ouzels around the south, and as a result there was a decision to be made, where to go to this weekend.  the initial plans were to try the RSPB reserve at Arne, I wanted to see the Sika deer rut, October being a good time for this.  Then on Thursday a Yellow-browed was reported so I decided to stick to the plan.  Setting off in the dark, as the light increased I was treated to not just one flyover of a Tawny Owl on the A31, but two.

Arriving just after sunrise in the car park at Arne there was plenty of activity in the surrounding trees, but I headed out along the trail towards Shipstall, stopping along the way to take in the view across the heath towards a distant misty Corfe castle.

It was overcast but not with the sort of cloud that would deliver rain, but rain it did, fortunately not to hard though.  As I walked along the trail through the woods, I was watched by young and female Sika deer.  Hopefully this would be a good sign

As I walked along the boardwalk I could hear plenty of Chiffchaffs calling, and every so often a short burst of what I though could be a Yellow-browed Warbler.  I stopped and waited, but apart from the Chiffchaffs and a few Great Tits, nothing else appeared.  I then later found out that there had been a Yellow-browed just outside the car park around 8.30!

I followed the trail to Shipstall, and as the path came out at the beach I walked up the cliff to get a better place to watch the water and mud.  A single Spoonbill was wading in the shallow water

Gun fire coming from wildfowlers in Middlebere upset a lot of the birds on the fore shore., but more dramatic was the large flocks of Avocet spooked by the guns, they flew from my left heading into Poole Harbour.

Three groups came past, and I estimated there must have been at least 300 to 400 birds.

There are about a 100 Avocet in the area, so I only saw about a third of them.

Back on the foreshore the Oystercatchers continued to feed and call annoyingly

While Little Egrets also paraded in the shallow water making lunges to catch small fish.

I walked around the path, and up to the viewpoint where there was not much of a view.  I then turned back and headed into the woods, stopping at one of the ponds to watch a group of Siskin feeding in the Birch trees.

Moving into the deeper woodland I came across another group of young Sika deer, they were happy to stand and watch me as I watched them.

I visited the hide, which looks out over the saltmarsh, and into the harbour.  On the far bank there was a group of 15 Spoonbill, something short of the number counted here in the week, 59 were reported on Friday.  Of the the 15 6 were feeding while the others were doing what all good Spoonbill do, sleeping.  They were though just too far for an acceptable photograph.

Leaving the hide, the path wound through a lovely dense silver birch wood, the white bark contrasting well with the dark branches.

The tacking calls of Wrens could be heard in amongst the bracken, and every so often one would appear above the brown leaves.

This one coming up above the fronds

Another feature of the walk was the constant movement in the bracken, chestnuts falling from the trees above onto the path.  Grey Squirrels were almost everywhere collecting the sweret chestnuts and scurrying away to cache them somewhere safe for the winter.

Chiffchaffs were calling from almost everywhere, and every so often they would appear out into the open.

The woods had been very quiet, I had expected to hear the strange calls of the Sika Deer stags, it is a loud piercing scream, and can be quite unsettling if you are not aware what it is.

Then as I came around a corner I found a single stag on its own. It does though look to be in good shape, and probably ready for a rut.

Sika were introduced from the Far East into Britain in 1860 with Arne hosting one of the largest populations in the south.  The preferred habitat is coniferous woodlands and heaths on acid soils.

The male deer has a much thicker neck than the Fallow and Roe Deer, the antlers are branched and similar to a red deer but usually with a maximum of eight points.These differ from the palmate antlers of a Fallow Deer.

I made my way back to the car park, and then had a coffee in the cafe.  Arne is going to be location for BBC Autumnwatch and Winterwatch and I am sure that the cafe is going to get some very good mentions.

After coffee I walked out onto Coombe Heath, and then out onto the raptor trail.  Green Woodpeckers had been calling all morning but I had not been able to see them clearly.  The main sight being the flash of a yellow rump as it flew away from me.  As I walked up the trail one flew onto the telegraph pole in front of me.  Of course it went around the other side away from me, but would then peer out every so often.

A little further on a Great Spotted Woodpecker called, and then appeared at the top of a dead tree.

Happy at the top of the tree it then proceeded to preen.

In the pines around the trail Mistle Thrushes and Redwings called and flew over, none though allowing any chance of a photograph.

Another stage Sika deer appeared in the gorse in front of me.

A small boardwalk crossed a boggy area, and despite the overcast conditions a female Common Darter was flying around settling on the gorse to warm up.

The trail ends with a small hide that overlooks a bog and open water.  There is also an Osprey platform.  On the water there were several Teal and Wigeon about, but close in a Little Grebe was giving some lovely close views.

The hide was also providing welcome shelter as the rain returned once again, the Little Grebe was not concerned though.

A big surprise though was the appearance of two Marsh Harriers over the back of the marsh.  

At one stage they were joined by a Raven and a Sparrowhawk that proceeded to mob the harriers.

I set off back to the car park, and stopped once again when the calls of Chiffchaff made me think there still might be the chance of something different with them.

I headed back to the hide overlooking Shipstall point, the tide was in, and hopefully the Spoonbills had collected in the roost.  I walked along the beach, there was a large group of Cormorants just offshore, and three Sandwich Terns fishing out on the water.
The hide was quite busy now, but fortunately I had some good views over the marsh at the Spoonbills.  The count today was of 60, all sleeping

A wider view trying to get a full view of all the birds.

I spent a little time scanning the marsh.  A very distant Kingfisher was hovering over the open water. the sun picking it out, the blue being unmistakableRedshank and two Black-tailed Godwits were also feeding amongst a large group of Curlews.

Back at the car park, the calls of a Firecrest led me to a group of holly bushes.  I only managed though to see one bird.

The entertainment came from a pair of Nuthatches, once one had been succesfully chased off, the other seemed to relax and started to preen

Quite extensively

This was the first time I have spent any significant time at Arne, visits go back some way into the eighties, then you would arrive and look for Dartford Warblers at the triangle just outside the reserve.

It was never considered a reserve to spend time at, just somewhere that was another part of the large area of Poole Harbour and Purbeck.  But today I saw it in a different light, walking around it reminded me of Minsmere, with the heath and bracken, woodland and open water in the harbour.  The Raptor trail added to the interest, with the surprise of the open marsh at the end, I am sure this will get better, it is a shame though that the trail is only open in the autumn.  The facilities have also improved significantly, as well as the hut in the car park there is now a superb cafe, and well stocked shop.  

It will be interesting to see how the reserve is portrayed on Autumnwatch, I imagine the stars will be the Sika Deer, followed hopefully by the Spoonbills and waders in Poole Harbour.  There is though the chance to watch the Firecrests, and then the wonderful fungi that can be found.

The reserve was by now beginning to fill up, so I decided to move on.  The next destination was the New Forest, and a walk up to Leaden Hall through Black Gutter Bottom.  As I walked up the hill I could see a distant Kestrel on a dead tree, and several Linnets and Reed Buntings were buzzing around the gorse. As I reached the plateau several people were already there watching the berry covered bushes.  I settled in by the side of the bushes, and at first watched a Blackbird eating the berries, but then the main event turned up, and the first one was a splendid adult male at the top of the tree, a Ring Ouzel.

They wouldn't stay long gobbling down the berries, then disappearing back into the bush, the only sign that they were there being the rustling of the leaves as they attacked other berries.

There would be a short intermission, then they would appear again, this time a possible juvenile of female bird.

There were Hawthorn  and Blackthorn berries available, but they seemed to prefer the slightly larger, reddish orange berries of the Whitebeam.  They would sit and wait, watching for any movement.

Then grabbing the berries, pulling them from the stalks and swallowing almost in one action.

There has been a large movement of Ring Ouzels this week, probably as a result of the easterly winds, and a large high pressure area settled over Scandinavia, one of their main breeding sites.  Leaden Hall is a regular site to see them as they migrate back to the south for the winter, the Whitebeam tree appearing to be a magnet.

I took a break from staring at the moving leaves and walked around the area, the short grass was an attraction to a pair of Pied Wagtails, and a very confiding Wheatear.

Back at the bushes a trickle of Swallows passed through, and more Reed Bunting appeared in the trees.  I had one more good final view of the Ring Ouzel before I decided to head back to the car.

Interestingly the Whitebeam, the berries of which the birds definitely preferred,
is commonly grown in parks and gardens, but is quite rare in the wild, the question therefore is how did it get here?

During the Second World War this area was used as a target for bomb testing, a target wall stood off-centre in the circular area and it was used to test bombs.  There was a concrete apron where now there is short grass, the concrete being removed in 1991, maybe the trees were planted then.

Walking down the hill a Kestrel flew low into one of the gorse bushes scattering a flock of Linnets, while overhead I could hear more Redwing passing.  I then decided it was time to head home

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