Monday, 16 January 2012

Sika Sunday

A beautiful crisp morning, bathed in Golden Winter Sunlight, Spot on! Sat Nav set,  3 x Memory Cards packed just in case!! The destination the RSPB's flagship Heathland reserve at Arne overlooking Poole Harbour and the distant Brownsea Island. After a short sunday morning layin and a steady drive down the 70 odd miles from home to Dorset, We ( the Girlfriend and I ) arrived around 11.35am grabbed a quick bite to eat and off we set.

Pretty much instantly distracted by the bird feeders next to the new Information Kiosk (I say new, but then I haven't been for 3 Years). Teeming with life, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Robin & a pair of Nuthatch all visiting on some kind of chain line. Also strutting his stuff beneath the feeders a male Peacock, not your average bird table sighting.
Male Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch
We headed first out on the Shipstal Point trail towards the Salt marshes and Poole Harbour beyond. First sighting a rather large herd of Sika Deer grazing on a paddock field in the middle of the reserve. 
Grazing Sika Herd
The first birdlife encountered as we headed towards the shoreline, the haunting call of a Curlew, another 100 yards through to the edge of the Salt marsh and the culprit could be seen, joining a passing group of Avocet heading towards the Middlebere Channel. Now I'm not sure what it was that flushed the birds as it moved so fast, falcon-like low over the crests of the waves as it disappeared around the corner of the headland. But if I had to take an educated guess I'd say a Merlin however I can neither confirm nor deny.

Further on around the path whilst trying to get a picture of a small flock of birds dropping in and out of the heather, to which im 99.9% sure were Meadow Pipits, The arrival of 2 Sika Bucks on the path below rather whisked me away. We got so close that I slowly moved to the other side of them in the end, walking straight past, as the light was better for a picture. Bit disappointing as its supposed to be a Wild beast but Im not complaining about the pictures. The path ended in about 30 yards right on the edge of the large area of Salt marsh overlooking Poole Harbour and the distant town of Poole. About 50-60 yards out was the remaining Sika herd, probably 40-45 deer.
Sika Buck 
Sika Buck 
My Fave I Think - Sika Buck 
Sika Buck
Sika Buck  
Sika Hinds
Being on ground level spotting Birds on the marshland proved a little tricky, with just the large bank of Oystercatchers visible on the waters edge a few Hundred present I would think. We took the boardwalk path around to the Double-Decked hide over looking the marsh, bringing a slightly different viewing angle and some slightly different birds than im used too. Curlew, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal & Little Egret all feeding out on the marsh. Lots of small groups of Teal, rising from hidden channels and joining other smallish groups. Hard to say the kind of numbers present really. The peaceful sound of the water lapping against the peaty edge with the odd Duck call was broken by the hoarse cacophony of a circling Raven.
Brent Geese
With the wind battering the open hide windows, we headed back towards the Car for a drink and the path out towards the other hide overlooking the eastern end of the Middlebere Channel. Whilst watching the procession of Sika crossing the path, slightly reminiscent of the wagon trains from the western films, We were rewarded by 6 Goldcrest fluttering about in the Silver birch tree above our heads. The walk back to the car also brought a slightly more wild sighting of the big Sika Buck.
The Big Boy
After taking the winter finch walk back to the visitor kiosk and only being rewarded with a small flock of 15-20 Starling, we headed out on to the Coombe Trail, on good authority from the RSPB staff that its about this time of day the Short Eared Owls come in. Spending a good 45 mins scanning the surrounding Heathland with no reward not even a Stonechat on the odd Gorse bushes, We headed down to the hide, briefly taking in 2 Black-tailed Godwits fighting on the waters edge.

Now the Middlebere Channel at this time of the day (3pm) looks quite an impressive stretch of river, but quite deceiving really as the tide was heading out, more and more small groups of Avocet headed down to the where the rapidly retreating water left and increasing expanse of mudflat. Numbers ranging into the thousands traveling westerly down the channel. Brilliant stuff having not seen the graceful Avocet before in the wild. In front of the hide large numbers covered the width of the river, the water appearing quite deep coming no further up than the tops of there stilt like legs. Also sifting through the shallow mud more Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Teal & Snipe. A large flock of Lapwing circled in the distant fields. 
The walk back across the Heath still resulted in no Short Eared's but the time was going fast, traffic all the way home was pretty heavy, but didn't spoil a great day out! Even home, just in time for Mum's Sunday roast! Apologies for the rather descriptive account, I hope all that got this far are not too bored!