RSPB Arne near Wareham in Dorset, England - June 2011
Arne is one of the most impressive RSPB reserves I have visited. Walking on the heath during the day or in the evening is a very pleasant experience. Walking on heathland during the evening has its own special feel. I would recommend the Nightjar walk for first timers. This is the best chance for those that have never seen a Nightjar. The birds will first start to churr and then with luck they will fly around.
This is an unusual and special landscape where you can enjoy a vast expanse of open heathland and old oak woodland. Arne is a fantastic place for family walks at any time of year and we have regular children's days that enable all the family to learn about the unique nature of the heaths.
There is a variety of special wildlife to see. In summer look out for Dartford warblers nesting in the heather, nightjars flying at dusk and as many as 22 species of colourful dragonflies. The reserve overlooks Poole Harbour where you can watch thousands of wading birds, ducks and geese including avocets, black-tailed godwits and brent geese in winter. Ospreys are regularly seen on migration in late summer and in autumn.
In April 2009 a new eco-friendly information centre was constructed. Complete with seasonal nest cameras, a ‘nature table’ where visitors can find out more about the wildlife at Arne, a wood burner, information about the reserve, and a hot drinks machine where visitors can purchase drinks with all profits going back into our conservation work. RSPB staff organise a range of guided walks and events to help you see some of our most exciting species.
The Shipstal and Coombes trails are open at all times; car park locked at dusk
Entry charges per car: £2 for up to two hours, £4 for over two hours. Free entry for members - display membership card on car dashboard.
If you are new to birdwatching...
For people new to birdwatching, Arne offers a chance to see the speciality birds found on heathlands like the Dartford warbler (all year) and the nightjar (summer only). The reserve's location within Poole Harbour will allow you to get to grips with a variety of wading birds and wildfowl (ducks, geese and swans), the best times being during the spring/autumn passage and the winter months. Birds of prey are well represented, with peregrines, ospreys, and marsh and hen harriers seen regularly. A number of themed guided walks are run through the year to look for some of these birds.
Information for families
We have a range of activities for families including the popular 'Bird Bingo' game which gets all the family searching for bugs, flowers and all sorts of other wildlife, as well as organised children's events such as Building a Bug Hotel and Build your own Nestbox. We also have our Wildlife Explorer backpacks full of exploring tools to help you get really up close and personal with Arne's wildlife.
Information for dog owners
Dogs are welcome here, but please keep them on a lead at all times. Please keep them on a short lead (less than 2m) during the bird breeding season between 1 March and 31 August, and when near farm animals all year-round. Please be aware that there are no dog waste bins at Arne, the nearest is in the village of Ridge on the Arne road. But please pick up after your dog and take it away with you.
Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.
Large numbers of avocets spend winter in Poole Harbour. Look for flocks of these striking black and white birds flying around in unison and feeding together in the water.
Stop regularly as you walk across the heathland to scan the gorse and heather for these unmistakable long-tailed warblers. Visit in spring to watch the males perched on top of the gorse, performing their scratchy song.
These dainty little white herons can be seen throughout the year in Poole Harbour. You can see them fishing in the channels, stirring up fish fry from the muddy bottom with their feet.
Linger until dusk to encounter this amazing bird between May and July. As the light begins to fade, listen for the mechanical 'churring' drifting across the heather. Keep your eyes peeled for nightjars darting around catching moths and for pairs performing their wing-clapping displays.
Perky stonechats perch proudly in prominent places, including the tops of bushes and on posts and fences. They are a common sight at Arne. Pairs remain together throughout the year and you can see family groups in summer.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Dartford warblers and stonechats nest on the heaths. Watch out for early butterflies and dragonflies on the trails, and spring migration of wading birds through the harbour. Newly-arrived migrant birds passing through the reserve or staying to breed include swallows and martins, wheatears, cuckoos, ospreys, willow warblers, blackcaps and chiffchaffs. Woodpecker activity is at its best - you have a good chance of seeing great spotted woodpeckers excavating their nest holes by the car park and the Shipstal trails.
The heather's coming into full bloom. See if you can spot reptiles basking in the sun (you need to be quiet for a chance to see them!). Sandwich and common terns can be seen feeding offshore and nightjars 'churr' on the heaths from dusk to dawn. Silver-studded blue butterflies will be on the wing in the areas of wet/humid heath. The wood ant nests will be a hive of activity as are our nestbox cameras, including footage of the farm barn owls. The voracious green tiger beetles will be on the lookout for prey items. In late summer, early migrant waders returning to the harbour include whimbrels, greenshanks and spotted redshanks. Ospreys will be heading south to Africa during August. Keep an eye out for the amazing hobbies hunting dragonflies over the ponds.
Wading birds continue passing through the Harbour or staying to over-winter. Watch out for increasing numbers of black-tailed godwits, dunlins, avocets and grey plovers. Late autumn migrants include redstarts, whitethroats, spotted and pied flycatchers. The sika deer rutting season peaks in October/November. Ospreys stay in the area until mid-October, while spoonbills and kingfishers are regularly seen. The European gorse comes into flower by late November. Numbers of wintering ducks build up in late autumn and are joined by large numbers of brent geese.
Winter is the best time for the harbour birds, with internationally important numbers of wildfowl and wading birds peaking at over 30,000 in the harbour. Scarcer species often seen include black-necked and Slavonian grebes, great northern and black-throated divers, long-tailed ducks, eiders and scaups. Marsh harriers are joined in the area by hen harriers and merlins, especially around the Middlebere area (on the Coombe Heath trail). Dartford warblers will be active on the heath - and look out for stonechats sitting on tops of bushes. Masses of winter thrushes and finches around the farm may include bramblings, lesser redpolls, siskins and goldfinches.