"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Saturday, 12 July 2014

DORSET - Part 5 - 1st July: RSPB Arne (butterflies), Wareham and Langton Matravers

RSPB Arne is located on a promontory of the Isle of Purbeck overlooking Poole harbour. It is most famous for its lowland heath - a very rare habitat here these days. Its always been very near the top of my list of wildlife reserves to visit and I was determined that, if we only found time to visit one nature reserve, it had to be this one.

There are numerous trails to follow on the Reserve but we chose the Combe Heath Trail, consisting mainly of lowland heath, which offered the best opportunity of seeing Dartford Warblers (a species I have never seen). All six species of British reptile can also be seen here. Actually, we didn't see many birds - only kestrel, stonechat and a pipit too far away to be identified to species level and no reptiles slithered across our path but I was very pleased with the butterfly sightings and it was good to walk round such a beautiful reserve.

All photos were taken with the 70-300mm lens - not ideal for landscapes but never mind and the invertebrate photos are all cropped some rather heavily!

The beginning of the walk takes you through pine woodland.

Here's the first butterfly - a Large Skipper - my first sighting this year.

There were hundreds of wood ants crawling around on the woodland floor.

Their nests are amazing and they contain thousands and thousands of workers. On the surface the mound has a soil core topped with a "thatch" comprised of organic materials such as pine needles, heather, twigs and dried grass. Cleverly, the thatch intercepts the sun's rays at right angles and acts as like a solar panel raising the nest temperature above that of the surrounding area. This helps the development of the young inside the nest and enables the workers to keep warm enough to remain active even when the weather is cool. Workers even move the young to different parts of the nest so they are raised at the optimal temperature. The thatch also keeps the nest dry as pieces are laid in such a way that water trickles away from the nest. The main part of the nest consists of chambers and tunnels deep underground.

Second butterfly sighting (again new for year) a Small Heath - they are tiny!

Finally, out onto the heathland - what a superb habitat. It was like something from a Thomas Hardy novel.

There were dozens of these Heath Potter wasps on a sandy bank and on the path near a hide. This species lives on heathlands and the young are reared in tiny little "pots" made of mud and water. The female lays an egg in each pot and once they have hatched she collects caterpillars (between 9 and 38) which she stings and then pushes into the pot for the young to feed on.

Believe it or not there is a Stonechat perched on top of the gorse in the middle of the picture. No point in cropping because it would still have been a blurred little out of focus blob!

As we walked round we had several sightings of tiny blue butterflies flying around heather. Eventually I managed to get some photos of one - a Silver-studded Blue - I really was over the moon as this is a "life tick" for me.

I lingered for ages trying to get some photos of this individual another Silver-studded Blue. This time a worn male.

The rest of the family by this stage had totally disappeared from view. I did stop off at a pond near the start of the walk where there were loads of dragonflies but, apart from a poor photo of a blue damselfly, they were too far away to get pictures. I could have spent ages here (raft spiders are found on the pond and wasp spiders (I've never seen either species) in the undergrowth) but I decided I had better hurry back to the car as the family must have been back there for at least half an hour.

Peacock displaying in the car park - a shame about the cars getting in the way!!

After lunch I would have been happy to walk around around another trail this time on the Shipstal part of the reserve which consists of scrub, farmland, ancient oak woodland, pine forest, heath, saltmarsh and ponds but I was outvoted (3-1) so we set off for Wareham a market town which dates back to Saxon times and was a strategic stronghold for King Alfred the Great.

The first time I've seen a Scarlet Tiger moth for years and it has to be an individual squashed on the pavement :(

One of the tame Black-headed Gulls - no need for the 70-300 lens this time.

This small museum was excellent and is manned by volunteers. There are exhibitions telling the history of Wareham from prehistoric times to the present day with a special section on Lawrence of Arabia (1888 - 1935) who was a champion of Arab independence during and after the First World War and lived close by at Bovington from 1923 until his untimely death.

Right in the centre of this house is a small black plaque - we all had a lecture from B (who is an insurance broker) on these fire signs.

Apparently, a long time ago, insurance companies had their own fire engines and if you were insured by them you had their "mark" on your building. If there was a fire they would respond

if they insured you. If they didn't well unfortunately the house was just left to burn!

When we got back D and I had a wander around the village where we were staying.

I love this weather vane - it and the stone face in the following photo were on the cottage next door to ours.

We were staying in Crack Lane - it was originally called Creek Lane because it leads to a bend in the largest stream in the parish.

We had a quick look around St George's Church. The church, which is almost square, was designed by Crickmay of Weymouth - the company where Thomas Hardy once worked as an architect. There has been a church on the site for 700 years but this church (built of local stone) was completed in 1876.

There are 28 columns in the church of Purbeck Marble - this is actually not a true marble (it's not metamorphic rock) but is a fossiliferous limestone used as a decorative building stone.

By 1872 the church had become unsafe and had to be closed for a while because storage of smuggled barrels of brandy in the ceiling rafters had pushed the walls of the church outwards. Here is a monument plaque in memory of Charles Hayward, Churchwarden , who was the smuggler responsible for hiding the brandy.

I really would have liked to take the moth trap on holiday with me this year but there just wasn't room so on this particular evening I draped a white sheet over a clothes horse on the patio area of the garden and shone a torch through it. Unfortunately, I didn't see one moth! The lighted windows of the conservatory did attract a few moth species but they were always on the side where the garden dipped and I couldn't reach the windows to pot the moths.

Apologies again for the vast amount of photos - the posts to follow on the last few days of the holiday should contain less!

Many thanks to Neil and Matthew for confirming my Silver-studded Blue id's.


Countryside Tales said...

Well done indeed on the Silver Studded :-) I've yet to see one. Haven't been to Arne yet, although a friend raves about it for bird watching. Wareham is a pretty town but I did smile at your 3:1 out voting to stay on the reserve(familiar here too). Love the brandy barrel story :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Many thanks :) I was very impressed with Arne - it was exactly as I imagined it. There's lots of different trails too through different habitats and of varying lengths. I get outvoted all the time :( I love all the smuggler stories and museums when we're away :)

Chris Rohrer said...

I enjoy your commentaries. Pubs are popular:) Also nice to see several of the birds. Stonechats or other birds that like to sit on top of trees from a far far far away spot always irritate me:) Couldn't they come just a bit closer? I like the pic however without cropping it. Beautiful plants and I really love those first initial photos of the forest. Rather unique

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris. Birds do seem to have a habit of perching too far away for a decent photo !!! Glad you liked the early forest photos - sometimes the 70-300 lens can give some interesting effects :)