It’s not often that the magazine team get to go to RSPB reserves. The very few times we have visited a reserve, the whole team has left with a very real sense of the great work being done, and lots of new knowledge to use in our great publications. Our trip to RSPB Arne would be no different, except Mark had hatched a little plan

I was really looking forward to seeing RSPB Arne for the first time. Here you can just make out Corfe Castle (Photo: Jack Plumb)

Mark writes a serious nature watching itinerary. We would be travelling a long way, so it made sense to make the most of anything we would otherwise be driving right past. A very early start meant we wouldn’t miss anything, and would have plenty of time to explore parts of Dorset other than Arne. First stop, gulls.

We were after one gull in particular, but ended up seeing every species of gull with a black head ever recorded in the UK, on a single body of water: black-headed gull, little gull, Mediterranean gull, and Bonaparte’s gull – an American vagrant and just what we were after.

Pink legs, black beak. Very easy to miss... (Photo: Flickr creative commons courtesy of K Schneider)

There was no time to dawdle though. We were off again, heading to Arne and all the lowland heath we could handle. But the next stop would be a different patch of heathland. Just next to Arne is the beautiful Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve, and just a few hours later we had ticked off several heathland specialist species.

Dartford warbler was first to get ticked, and was my number one must see from a work perspective, as we often talk about them in supporter communications. Sand lizards were always going to be a stunning thing to see at this time of year, and the one we saw was vividly green and basking, as we were, in the glorious Dorset sun. Then on the way back to the car, the two beetles that make heathland their home: green tiger beetle and heath tiger beetle. What an all nature haul!

This male sand lizard hung around for a photoshoot - what a show-off! (Photo: Jack Plumb)

We popped back to the B ‘n’ B, and dropped our kit off. Magazine planning and scheduling ensued, with a few emails, then it was dinnertime. But don’t think that the nature watching was over! Just out the back of our B ‘n’ B was our very own small patch of heathland. This patch, though, was just different enough to be the very likely home of one of my favourite birds, nightjars.

Totally churred out (Photo: Grahame Madge rspb-images)

I’d only ever heard one before, so I was hoping for a good view. Out we went, just before 9.00pm. There was churring at the far end… Near-silent powerwalking… Stillness. Whoosh! Right past us, just meters away. What a way to end the first day in Dorset.

More heathland next time... (Photo: Jack Plumb)

Tune in next time for main event: the stunning RSPB Arne day out with the rest of the magazine gang.