Springwatch in Dorset

If you tuned in to BBC’s Springwatch in 2023, there’s no doubt you would have been captivated by the sensational wildlife drama that played out on our screens at RSPB Arne in Dorset.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of Poole Harbour and within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this spectacular 400 acre reserve was host to Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Megan McCubbin and the rest of the Springwatch team as they explored Arne’s incredibly biodiverse landscape - famous for its wide, open heathlands and rare species such as the Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Sand Lizard.

Super National Nature Reserve

The RSPB’s Arne reserve is at the heart of the UK’s first ever ‘super National Nature Reserve’ – the Purbeck Heaths.

Spanning 8,231 acres over the Isle of Purbeck, this ‘super’ reserve is one of the most wildlife rich places in the UK and collaboratively brings together 11 priority habitats, allowing animals, reptiles, birds and insects to move more easily across the landscape and adapt to the challenges brought by the climate crisis.

Arne’s wildlife stars

As we saw in Springwatch, RSPB Arne is home to a star-studded wildlife cast including nightjars, spoonbills and Dartford warblers. Birds of prey like White-tailed Eagle and Osprey are regularly seen over RSPB Arne which makes a visit to the reserve an absolute treat for nature lovers.

Arne is one of the few places in the UK to host all six species of native reptile and on a warm day you could catch a glimpse of a sand lizard basking in the sun, or a slow worm slithering across the path. If you're at the reserve at dusk, listen out for the peculiar call of the nightjar churring in the heath, a truly magical sound!

If you’re not sure where to start exploring, the site runs a seasonal program of family friendly walks and events to teach you all about its wildlife, including Night Wildlife Walks and Osprey Guided Walks. The friendly volunteer team will also be able to guide you towards the trail that best suits your needs.

There is also a shop, café and visitor centre which makes it an ideal day out for all ages.

Poole Harbour

Also in the series, we followed presenter Megan McCubbin as she set out in search of Poole Harbour’s new ospreys and white-tailed eagles to find out about the successful reintroduction projects that have brought these birds back to the south of England for the first time in hundreds of years.

One of the best ways to see these magnificent birds is on a wildlife cruise with Birds of Poole Harbour or Greenslade Pleasure Boats of from one of the lookout points situated around the harbour. There are live webcams and daily updates on social media so you know where are the best places to go and what species are in the area.

Studland Bay

The National Trust's Studland Bay is one of the most dynamic and forever changing landscapes in the UK so it’s no wonder the Springwatch team chose to cover some of the amazing wildlife that can be found here.

The sand dune habitat is very special for rare species like the Tiger Heath Beetle, sand lizard, mining bees and sand wasps and the bay itself is designated a Marine Conservation Zone and a Voluntary No Anchor Zone for its precious seagrass meadows which are home to seahorses, pipefish and wrasses.  

If you are usure what to look for, the rangers will be happy to point out some of the habitats featured on the show and give you tips on how to spot the tell-tale signs of dune wildlife.

Durlston Country Park

At Durlston Country Park, Springwatch plant expert Leif Bersweden revealed a botany bonanza!

Over 3,000 different species of wildlife have been recorded at Durlston and it’s home to one of the UK’s most spectacular wildflower meadows.

The limestone in this area of Purbeck makes it a special habitat for orchids such as the green winged orchid, early purple orchid and early spider orchid and in the springtime, the meadows are buzzing with life.

Also to be found in this wonderfully diverse country park are the rare Lulworth Skipper and Adonis Blue butterflies and fantastic avian biodiversity on the clifftops including peregrine falcons, guillemots, razorbills and other seabird colonies.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle, the seat of the Bankes family and founded by William the Conqueror, is now home to raptor royalty, the peregrine falcon!

Peregrines are the largest of the wild falcons that breed in the UK, with the average adult wingspan reaching up to four feet and reaching speeds of more than 200mph, the fastest bird in the world!

The current breeding pair at Corfe Castle moved in during the lockdown of 2020 and have created the perfect nest site, high in the ruins. Keen eyed visitors to the castle may get a lucky glimpse of these magnificent birds as they fly around the turrets and some interesting evidence of their meals on the grass below!

During the spring and summer months, wildlife lovers may also see a wall lizard, a non-native species which have also made their home at the Castle.

Winspit Quarry

National Trust’s Winspit Quarry are one of the most unique bat roosts in the country, home to 15 of Britain’s native bat species.

In late summer and early autumn, thousands of bats flock to the Winspit caves for a night of ‘speed dating’ and mating on the wing.

The caves are also used for winter hibernation for some of the UK’s rarest bats such as the greater horseshoe.

Although access to the caves themselves is restricted due to conservation and safety reasons, the area around the quarry is a fantastic place to explore, with its craggy rocks, expansive sea views and beautiful walks down from Worth Matravers.

Marine life at Swanage Bay

At Swanage, we discovered the hidden marine world of black bream beneath the waves at Swanage Pier. These notoriously shy fish arrive into the bay in their thousands around Easter time and transform the sea floor into a moonscape of craters as part of their mating rituals.

We also learnt that it was the males, rather than the females that looked after the nests so dutifully which has led to a change in fishing habits.

Although the likelihood of actually seeing a black bream is slim due to their timid nature, Swanage Pier is a beautiful place to stroll along in the spring, especially at sunset as the waves lap up against the shore and is an ideal place to stop with a picnic and marvel at the underwater world beneath your very feet.

Winterwatch

In January 2024, the team returned to RSPB Arne and revealed a captivating glimpse into the natural wonders that thrive on the Purbeck heaths during this underrated season.  

Visitors to the reserve will be able to spot large flocks of wildfowl and waders birds which come to Poole Harbour to feed and roost. The headliners this season are the likes of the spoonbills and avocet but Winterwatch also showed some brilliant shots of hundreds of dunlin filling the sky and the shelducks practising their courtship moves.

During the colder months, you will also get the chance to spot birds you wouldn’t see at any other time of the year like winter thrushes, fieldfare and redwings plus of course the spectacular sight of the starling murmurations.

We were also treated to some wonderful footage of Brownsea Island's famous red squirrels. 

 

Explorethe filming locations

RSPB Arne Nature Reserve

Arne Nature Reserve is situated on Poole Harbour and within the Dorset National Landscape, it's a stunning landscape which consists of dramatic open heathland and ancient oak woodland.  Arne...

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle ruins are one of Britain's most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians, they sit proudly upon a hill of this...

Durlston Country Park National Nature Reserve

Durlston Castle and Country Park, situated 1 mile from Swanage in Dorset, is a fabulous 320 acre countryside paradise. At this National Nature Reserve you'll find dramatic sea-cliffs,...

Swanage Pier

Swanage Pier looks as glorious today as it would have done over 100 years ago and is an essential part of Swanage’s unique Victorian heritage. Situated at the eastern end of Dorset’s World...

Studland Bay

*LATEST UPDATE* The National Trust car parks are open at Shell Bay, Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach. There are limited spaces, so if the car park is full please come back another...

Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is open between 11 March - 29 October 2023. The perfect day’s adventure, this island wildlife sanctuary is easy to get to but feels like another world from the moment...

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