Image by Lisa Lawley via FlickrA lovely sunny day with a cool Autumn chill and a perfect opportunity to stop off at the RSPB's reserve of Arne on my way back from Dorset. Situated on the western edge of Poole Harbour, it's not that well sign-posted but head out of Wareham to the village of Arne, along a pretty much single-track road across heathland and you'll find it.
The small main car-park was pretty full when we arrived. No doubt people were there to see the osprey - which we had too - well I had, not sure about my travelling companion who was along for the ride. First stop was the hide across Coombe Heath where two of them had been seen during the week. The heather is almost over but there still a few splashes of purple around and the Autumn colours have just started to appear. Swallows and house-martins still around in numbers and plenty of small birds.
Within minutes of entering the hide, the osprey put in a brief appearance - it flew gradually closer over the inlet and then headed off out of sight. A buzzard circled high up over the trees but no more osprey. Never mind - it was enough to have seen it. My first sighting of an osprey in this country.
Back to the car park where we were pointed in the direction of the roosting tawny owl - way up in the top of a pine tree on the edge of the heath, near to the car park. All you could see was a dark blob in the trees and it's feathers. A few smaller birds, including a nuthatch spotted it and started calling loudly before moving on ... as did we, for a walk to the other part of the reserve.
Past a herd of Sika deer feeding in the fields, around the farm and onto the shore near Shipstal Point. Here out of the wind and in the sunshine it was lovely and warm. The tide was in, so very little mud for the waders around. A few gulls, little terns and cormorants taking off overhead. On the saltmarsh little egret and a curlew.
From the viewpoint up on the heath there's a wonderful view of the reserve, Bournemouth on the far shore
and island in Poole harbour along with the expanse of salt marsh and mud flats.
At the other hide - overlooking the saltmarsh I spotted the spoonbill. When we first arrived they had their heads tucked in, so looked much like the egret - although their size and stance probably gave them away. As they stuck their heads out to preen, their spoon bills were clearly visible and in the end there was a flock of ten standing together. Resting up on the saltmarsh were hundreds of curlew, well, certainly a hundred or so - they were everywhere. A few of them were out feeding along with oystercatchers and four dunlin busying themselves along the edge of the mud flats.
The occasional black-tailed godwit also came in to view - especially from the higher of the two hides where there are really good views of the roosting birds waiting for the tide to drop. Dozens of cormorant and oystercatchers, plenty of little egrets with their bright yellow feet, a few shelduck and teal.
All in all a great few hours at a lovely reserve with a mix of heathland, woodland, saltmarsh and mudflats - I'll certainly be back.