Time seems to accelerate as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer! I’m now working four days a week at the markets and volunteering two days a week at the RSPB reserve at Arne, leaving less and less time for crafty pursuits.
The weather being so good though, it has been a fantastic way to spend whole days! I’ve really enjoyed talking to the visitors, many of whom are keen birders, and finding out what they hope to see or have seen on the reserve. I’ve always been interested in wildlife but am much better on plants and fungi than birds and animals so it’s been fascinating so far!
After only 3 days of volunteering, I’ve already learned more about birds than I ever knew before. I was lucky enough to see a kestrel in a nest box lay its first egg of the year, thanks to a live camera feed and I could probably happily spend all day watching the many birds that come to enjoy the feeders outside the information hut, not to mention the rats!
Mostly what I’ve enjoyed is just getting outside and really looking around at what’s there. To my shame I realised it’s been years since I went for a proper walk around the reserve, although we used to go all the time when I was younger. It’s the same for a lot of local places, you think “Oh, we always go there” but actually it’s been a long time since I’ve made time to explore the beautiful places right on my doorstep.
One of the best things about spending at lot of time exploring the same places is that you can really get a feel for the changing seasons. In just two weeks so much at Arne has changed. At the beginning of April, the primroses in the churchyard filled the grassy slopes with spots of bright colour. Now, the early blossoms are fading but the bright green of new leaves has begun to burst from the buds of the many oak trees on the reserve.
Before starting at Arne, I didn’t have much of an idea of what the changing seasons meant to the other wildlife. From the arrival of the first swallows at the end of March to the call of a cuckoo in mid-April and the anticipation of eggs in the barn-owl and kestrel nest boxes, it’s been great to learn what to look out for. I’m looking forward to seeing what else will arrive as the year progresses!
Last week we had two separate reports of fish in one of the ponds on the reserve, where no fish had been seen before. Following two reconnaissance trips we concluded that the ‘fish’ were most likely to be newts, of which there are plenty. They do have a habit of swimming with their limbs pressed against their sides, looking for all the world like little fish, until they pause on the surface and their legs spread out again.
In addition to the wildlife, Arne is also home to a herd of longhorn cattle – my favourite breed. They are quite old-fashioned but growing in popularity now, and very elegant with the great curved horns framing their faces beautifully. Both the longhorns and other cattle on the farm often have to share their fields with herds of sika deer. These roam freely on the reserve and there are two white deer that are particularly popular with visitors.
I hope I will be able to keep a record of the things I see and learn while working at Arne over the coming months. I’ve got a couple of other long term projects on the go at the moment too so hopefully I’ll find time to fit everything in!