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Arne - BirdForum Opus

Photo by HelenB
View from the hide across Arne Bay, including a large flock of Common Shelducks, December 2006

England, Dorset


Arne Reserve is an extensive area of heathland that protects a large block of this highly threatened habitat and the wildlife it supports.

Much of the reserve is covered heathland with scattered pines, there are bogs and carr woodland in the valleys. There is woodland, coniferous, mixed and deciduous attracting a range of woodland species. In addition, the reserve has fresh and brackish reedbeds and also extends to the edge of Poole Harbour where there are saltmarshes and mudflats.


Notable Species

The typical birds of the heathland are Stonechat, Eurasian Nightjar and the rare Dartford Warbler. Common Buzzard hunt over this area and Hen Harrier in winter. Owls, woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk breed in the woodlands as well as all the commoner woodland passerines and Wood Warbler has bred.

The reedbeds have breeding warblers and Bearded Tit, Redshank breeds on the saltmarsh and a range of waders occurs on passage and in winter.

A variety of waterfowl occurs in Poole Harbour (see also Brownsea Island) in winter such as grebes and ducks including Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser and Dark-bellied Brent Goose. Avocet is regular here in winter with Spoonbill also present at times. As elsewhere on the English south coast Little Egret is now a regular feature at Arne.


Birds you can see here include:

Great Crested Grebe, Horned Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Mute Swan, Bewick's Swan, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Avocet, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Eurasian Nightjar, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Common Wren, Dunnock, Eurasian Robin, European Stonechat, Eurasian Blackbird, Common Grasshopper Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wood Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Bearded Parrotbill, Eurasian Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting

Photo by ikw101
Introduced Sika Deer does at Arne

Other Wildlife

The localised Dorset Heath Erica ciliaris is found at Arne and the three British species of Sundew can be seen in the areas of bog in the valleys. The once common Corn Marigold Chrysanthemum segetum, now scarce in Britain, also occurs at Arne.

Mammals seen at Arne include Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus and the introduced Sika Deer Cervus nippon, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Badger Meles meles and Harvest Mouse Micromys minimus, and the reserve is unique in being home to all six British reptiles including the two rarest, Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis and Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca.

The climate and habitats of the Arne peninsula are also ideal for a wide variety of insects and the area is an entomologist's paradise. More than 800 moth species have been found here along with over 30 butterflies including the rare Silver-studded Blue more than 20 dragonflies and at least 14 grasshoppers and crickets including the rare Heath Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans. In addition 200 species of spider have been recorded.

Photo by HelenB
Stag from the herd of introduced Sika Deer, December 2006

Site Information

History and Use

The RSPB reserve at Arne is 563.4 hectares (1,392 acres) in size and was opened to the public in 1966. The reserve has some important bird species: Eurasian Nightjar, Woodlark and Eurasian Spoonbill, and it also protects the breeding Dartford Warbler. The reserve is mostly lowland heath and a rare heather known as Dorset heath (Erica ciliaris) occurs there. In 1986 it was designated an SSSI.

Areas of Interest

Brownsea Island, to the east of Arne, in Poole Harbour, has a nature reserve worth visiting

Access and Facilities

The Arne peninsula is situated on the south side of Poole Harbour, 5km east of Wareham in Dorset and reached by turning off the A351 road at Stoborough. Part of the reserve is closed to the public except to parties by special arrangement. The Shipstal part is open at all times and has a nature trail. Grid Ref: SY971876

Photo by HelenB
Information Board at Arne, December 2006
Click on image for a larger version

Opening times:

  • Reserve trails: open 8:30am to 4:30pm
  • Carpark: open 9:30am till dusk
  • Shop and Visitor Centre: closed
  • Viewing screens: open
  • 2 hides and 2 viewing screens
  • Guided walks

Entrance fees:

  • £5.00 per car for non-RSPB members
  • Entrance is free for RSPB members - membership cards need to be displayed on the dashboard of the car


  • The Shipstal area has a series of trails totalling about 4 miles, a double-decker hide overlooking the salt marsh and mudflats of Arne Bay, and a panoramic view of Poole Harbour
  • Coombe Trail - a 0.8 mile roundtrip from the carpark. There is a birdwatching screen which overlooks the Middlebere Channel and Poole Harbour


  • Information Centre
  • Cafe and picnic area
  • Toilets
  • Shop
  • Guided walks

Contact Details

Tel: 01929 553360 (RSPB)

Recommended Citation

External Links

Content and images originally posted by Steve


teamsaint's review

I know Arne is a fantastic reserve but for some reason we barely saw anything today. Didn't see anything on the heathland except Crows and there were only Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck and Avocet on the mudflats from the hide. There were quite a few birds on the feeders though. We'll definitely visit again but hopefully we will see a few of the birds that this site is known for next time. Pros

  • Lots of birds on the feeders and a few Avocets on the mudflats.


  • Very cold and not many birds.

stuffreviewer's review

I've been to this reserve several times, at different times of year, and I too have been struck by the lack of birds other than those viewable from the hide - I see more varieties in my garden. There are usually Bar and Black tailed Godwits and Avocets visible from the hide, but the best time to be there is when the deer come down close to the water before dusk. The heathland is being gradually restored, and you will see the usual heathland birds about if you walk through - Wheatears, Stonechats etc., but not in any great numbers. There are supposed to be Dartford Warblers but I haven't personally seen any in this location. Pros

  • Beautiful location
  • good views from the hide and plenty of deer


  • Lack of woodland birds