Wednesday 3rd February fresh to strong W sunny intervals, 9C
The cycle ride from Weymouth to Arne is a delight with a strong wind at my back and empty roads with high quality tarmac. It is going to be a great day; I can feel it in my bones.
I feel excited as I approach Arne along a lane from Stoborough. This is one of my top five favourite RSPB reserves with beautiful heathland and woodland habitats beside estuarine arms of Poole Harbour, the World's second largest natural harbour.
After having cycled through some thick smoke coming from an area being cleared of old conifers, more restoring of the original heathland habitat, I reach the reserve and go to the small visitor's reception block. There I meet Luke and Chris, RSPB staff and soon, after stowing the bike away safely, I am off speedily walking to an area where I am hoping to see my first target bird of the day, Dartford warbler.
Reaching the area of thick gorse, the exact place where I saw dartford warbler last year, I search and listen for this superb small bird. The wind is still very strong and after an hour or so I still haven't seen or heard one.
I stand near to some gorse that looks particularly suitable and take out a chocolate bar for lunch. Then I hear something; a small, scratchy sub song. It sounds as if it is coming from quite a way away. I am therefore very surprised when a male dartford warbler pops up out of the gorse about ten feet away. It moves unconcerned by my presence amongst the gorse for a few minutes.
Then a female pops her head up too. I get such fantastic views and so close as I stand stock still and watch them exploring the gorse.
New bird for the year and the important one from the three target birds for the day, as there would have been only be a few opportunities of seeing one, being restricted to the heathlands of mostly Southern England. No matter, it is on the list. Brilliant.
I walk down to the small cliffs from where one can look over to Long Island and beyond to the ferry crossing at Studland. The tide is receding and four spoonbills are quite distant out on the mud that starts the Middlebeare channel. There are also a fair number of avocets and curlew here. In the distance to the south I can see the famous ruins of Corfe Castle. This was blown up by Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War after he captured it from the Royalist army. I take a photograph as a flock of Brent Geese are flying in front of it.
Through the large woodland and along the side of some large fields, a sign of how benign this Winter is is that there are no Winter thrushes on the grass and no finches either. Usually in a normal, cold Winter there would be hundreds of both.
Also missing are the large herds of Sika, a specie of large deer. They have obviously been culled to protect the habitats.
Back to the Visitor's Centre, which is soon to be replaced by a much larger one, hopefully by Easter, I meet Rob. Now Rob is another RSPB staff member and last year we had a fabulous day birding Arne together.
I head off for Middlebeare where the National Trust has a hide that overlooks the other end of the Middlebeare Channel from where I was earlier in the day. This sued to be one of my favourite birding places when I used to live in nearby Swanage and holds great memories for me. I haven't been here for around ten years and I am surprised at how high the trees have grown around the hide. The view across the muddy channel looks the same though with the curling dyke down the centre viewable because of it being low tide. I am hoping a hen harrier will go past and that the resident barn owl will put in a showing.
By dark neither have been seen but there have been a number of spotted redshanks and spoonbills. Little egrets and brent geese so life is good.
Year list still at 148, nineteen ahead of this time last year.
27.87 miles 1187 feet elevation up 1210 feet elevation down