Down at the reserve

In just two weeks so much has changed down at Arne. Most of the trees have their summer coats on now and the woodland areas of the reserve have become cooler and shadier than before.

The lush, green early summer colour of the woodlands

Swifts have suddenly appeared in much greater numbers now and hobbys and spotted flycatchers have also been regularly spotted. The kestrel pair at the farm now have four eggs and the barn owls in their nest box have six.

Ms Kestrel showing off her eggs on the live video feed
Ms Kestrel showing off her eggs on the live video feed

The reserve at Arne is lucky enough to be home to all six of the UKs native reptile species. These are viviparous or common lizard, sand lizard, slow worm, smooth snake, adder and grass snake. Last week, staff and volunteers had a reptile survey training day where we learned how to check tins and felts for smooth snakes, slow worms and adders. These were just one metre square sheets of corrugated tin or roofing felt which were laid strategically over the heathland . These sheets warm up under the sun and in the morning the reptiles crawl underneath to warm up for the day ahead. It was great to see and hold my first smooth snake and see a bright green male sand lizard too!

A stone chat poised at the top of a scots pine on the heath
A stonechat poised at the top of a scots pine on the heath

Other recent wildlife sightings include stonechats, mistle thrush and long-tailed tits. All these have very distinctive calls which I’m trying to learn to recognise. Stonechats make a loud chirping sound like two pebbles being knocked together and the mistle thrush I saw were emitting their loud warning call, like the sound of a football rattle. Long-tailed tits are just the sweetest ball of pink, black and white fluff with a deceptively loud voice!

On Friday evening we also enjoyed a camp out on the reserve and were fortunate enough to hear and briefly see a nightjar. The loud whistling call during flight and the chirring song are easy to hear after dark, in the absence of most other bird calls. In June and July there are weekly nightjar walks which I hope to go on to hear and see more of these special birds.


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