Dorset Discovery Autumn Tour 2018 - Sept 3rd to Sept 5th

Autumn is a time of change, arrival and departure, and although September can still certainly feel like summer, for the birds it’s definitely time to start thinking about heading south. Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Redstart, Whinchat, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat all pile through in good numbers along with vast gatherings of Swallow, House and Sand Martin often closely followed by hungry Hobby. September is a great month for waders too, both passing through and arriving. Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover will be in transit, as Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and Spotted Redshank will begin settling down for the winter. All six native reptiles will still be out and about on the heathlands and giant Wasp Spiders and Raft Spiders can be found on and around acidic ponds. This week in September is also classic Osprey week, sometimes with up to six at any one time in Poole Harbour. September in Dorset is magical, so why not join us for what’s surely going to be a trip to remember.

  • Gain access to some of the UK’s best wildlife spots and areas of RSPB reserves opened exclusively for our Dorset Discovery tour
  • You will be led by expert local guides from the RSPB and Birds of Poole Harbour charity, who also happen to be the very people responsible for managing, surveying and protecting these wonderful landscapes.
  • Learn about why and how we manage sites for wildlife too.
  • 100% of the profits go straight back in to local wildlife conservation, right back in to the places you’ve visited.


Why come in the autumn?


  • Witness the glory of autumn migration as birds make their way south and filter through Poole Harbour, feeding on berry bushes and insects
  • Dorset is one of the few places where all six native reptiles occur. We’ll be trying to track down as many as we can including the exceptionally rare Smooth Snake and Sand Lizard
  • September is Osprey month so we’ll be looking for them fishing in the Wareham Channel and other sections of Poole Harbour
  • Experience the magical Brownsea Island, home of the Red Squirrel and the famous Brownsea Lagoon.
  •  Get great views along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast as we look for sea birds off Durlston Head
  • Newly fledged Marsh Harriers quarter the reedbeds, along with other returning harriers arriving for the winter
  • Get up close and personal (if you wish) to some of Dorset’s most  spectacular and largest Spider species


Below is our tour itinerary. The itinerary is flexible based on what we have seen and members of the group wish to see, as well as taking into consideration weather and wildlife spectacles.

Day 1

We’ll be meeting at RSPB Arne where your team will welcome you and take you straight out on to the reserve. The RSPB has been managing the reserve for wildlife for over 50 years and there is certainly a lot of wildlife to go around. We’ll be looking out for all the Arne signature species like the Dartford Warbler, Spoonbill, Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake as well as trying to track down autumn specialities like the massive Raft Spider and colourful Wasp Spider. It’s migration time and Arne doesn’t disappoint; Osprey fish in the harbour along side returning wading species, large numbers of Swallow and Sand Martin pile up before braving the Channel and we may spot Whinchat, Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher all gathering together in mixed flocks as they head south. We’ll have exclusive access to areas not usually open to the public.

Day 2

An early start as we head to the coast to Durlston NNR. This is one of the best autumn migration spots in the UK. Here we’ll be treated to an exclusive bird ringing demonstration to hopefully get an even closer look at migrants such as Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Redstart and Whitethroat. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for seabirds out on the water and learning how to identify birds migrating high overhead. Next we’ll be moving around the harbour and stopping off at a real Dorset secret: Holton Lee.  Woodlark, Stonechat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff should keep us interested, and if they don’t, the rutting Sika Deer certainly should. Last up we’ll be going to an RSPB reserve only just opened to the public: RSPB Lytchett Fields, where we’ll have exclusive access to parts of this fantastic wetland reserve. Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper put in regular appearances here in autumn along with a host of other wading species.  

Day 3

We'll be scouring the Studland peninsular for more migrants including Greenland’s Farm and brands Bay, we’ll then be boarding a boat and heading to the National Trust’s Brownsea Island where we’ll be visiting the wildlife lagoon managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Here we’ll try spotting some of southern England’s only remaining Red Squirrels in the woodland and returning wading bird species like Avocet, Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank plus the last of the remaining Common and Sandwich Tern. Lastly we'll head to the stunning valley of Challow Hill with views out across Corfe castle and perhaps even a cheeky cream tea to finish.

Event Type 
Guided Walk
3 September, 2018 - 12:00
12pm Sept 3rd to 4pm Sept 5th
£375 per person (excludes accomodation)
Additional Information 


Tour Leaders – There will be a minimum of two tour leaders at any one time. We may also be joined by site-specific staff as and when necessary.

Paul Morton

Founder of the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ charity and project manager for the publishing company ‘The Sound Approach’. Paul has been watching and monitoring Poole Harbour's wildlife all his life and is the Poole Harbour Wetland Bird Survey Organiser , runs the hugely popular school bird boat scheme and project led the recent Poole Harbour Osprey translocation project. Paul was also the Information Officer at Arne RSPB reserve for several years and he’ll be your lead guide for the tour.

Rob Farrington

Rob is the RSPB Dorset Visitor on Reserves Manager and works on all 9 of the RSPB reserves in Dorset. Rob has a huge passion and knowledge base for all of the reserves wildlife and first volunteered at the RSPB Arne reserve when he was 10.

Luke Phillips 

Luke is the information Officer at the RSPB Arne reserve but lives (and birds) over in Weymouth. His expertise and knowledge covers the Weymouth and Portland and he is also the youngest BTO ringing trainer in the country.


What is included?

Food included:  Lunch on day 1, day 2 and on day 3.

Transport is included on day 2 and 3. On day 1, guests are expected to make their own way to meet at the RSPB Arne reserve. This set up will not add to participants mileage and will enable us to spend more time out watching wildlife. At the end of day 1 guests will make their own way to their accommodation.

Expert guides are included. Our group will always have a minimum of two guides and as we visit different reserves site-specific staff may join us.


And what isn’t?

Accommodation is not included.



For our Dorset Discovery tours we use the Kingston Country Courtyard as our accommodation partner. Nestled on top of the Purbeck ridge with breathtaking views of Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour, the Kingston Country Courtyard hotel provides us easy access to all of our birding destinations whilst providing you with the comfort and warm welcome you’d expect.

Please note – As accommodation is not included within our price you are free to stay at any destination you wish.

However, Quote your ‘Dorset Discovery tour’ booking reference number when booking with our accommodation partner and receive a special deal at the 4 star hotel.

If you choose to stay at the Kingston Country courtyard then ALL bookings (including dinner options) must be done through them.

On the Monday and Tuesday evenings of the tour two of your guides will be having dinner at the Kingston Country Courtyard should you wish to join them.

If you choose not to stay at the Kingston Country Courtyard but would like to join the group for dinner you're more than welcome. Dinner bookings and choices can be made directly through the hotel. 

All guest pick up and drop offs for the duration of the tour will be from the Kingston Country Courtyard Hotel at the specified times on the finalised itinerary. 


Optics and Clothing

Optics are an important part of the trip so please bring Binoculars with you and scopes if you have one. The guides will have telescopes that you will be able to use, but the more scopes the better! Suitable wet weather gear should be brought just in case along with sturdy footwear.


How to Book

This is an exclusive trip with only 8 places available, so please book early to avoid disappointment. To book please ring RSPB Arne on 01929 551693 and ask to book on to the RSPB and ‘Birds Of Poole Harbour’ Autumn Tour. Bookings are being taken now. If you wish to be put on the reserve list prior to that date, please contact Rob Farrington on 07725574793


By booking you are agreeing to our terms and conditions.


You will be sent directions to RSPB Arne, booking confirmation and details of our accommodation partner.


Paul Morton –

Rob Farrington –

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