Friday, 20 July 2012

A Familiar, Slipper and Birds Eye


Lady’s Slipper Orchid (part of the reintroduction programme) 

Officially declared extinct in 1917 due to over zealous Victorian collectors a single plant was rediscovered in the craven district of Yorkshire in 1930. Since then the location of the last of the Lady Slipper Orchids has remained a closely guarded secret. In 2007 the RHS began to micropropagate and clone the craven plant. Gait Barrows was chosen as one of the first reintroduction sites. Whether or not they’d survive without Rob the Natural England site manager fighting a battle with the slugs and snails is debateable.


P1060382Birds-eye Primrose

Another nationally scare plant the Birds Eye Primula is native to the limestone hills and damp pastures of north Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire. Sadly the unimproved pastures it depends upon has become increasingly uncommon leading to its decline.  The common name is derived from the yellow “eye” of the flower and it’s resemblance to the eye of a male Blackbird.

Brown Hare

Look at those ears twitching! Certainly not your average bunny. Introduced from Europe in the iron age I came across this one feeding on the grass next to Challon Hall.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Kimmeridge Bay

One of the very few designated marine nature reserves within the country and another part of the Jurassic Coast. Although fossils can be found within the shale cliffs the cliffs are constantly crumbling away. With a layer of limestone directly above the shale collecting fossils from Kimmeridge appears to be rather foolish.

The diversity of the marine life is staggering. Underneath the clear, shallow waters a reef extends out into the bay. Glass-bottom kayaks and snorkelling equipment is available to hire but if you’d prefer to stay dry a visit at low tide reveals some of the sights.


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Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Touch of the Mediterranean

Amongst the terns and Black-headed Gulls on Brownsea Island we came across one of the 450 pairs of Mediterranean Gulls that are thought to have made Britain their home since the first breeding attempt in 1968.

With the blue sky, temperature of 80 degrees, sun block, shorts and tee shirt it even felt like the Mediterranean. Although  superficially similar to a Black-headed Gull the Mediterranean Gull appeared to have more of a predatory instinct constantly flying over the terns looking for unattended eggs.

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Hopefully next time we visit a Hoopoe or a pair of Bee-eaters will drop in Surprised smile

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sandwich Terns

A few photo’s from a brief visit to the Sandwich Tern colony at the DWT reserve on Brownsea Island. The noise and non-stop action certainly helped to make it a memorable visit.  In addition to the Sandwich Terns there’s was also several pairs of Common Terns and a single pair of the rare Roseate Terns. Unfortunately the Roseate’s were too far away to photograph. Perhaps one for next year if there’s still a few pairs on Inner Farne.


Sandwich Tern bringing in a Sand-eel

and another one

and yet another


Apparently the day before our visit a Nightjar had spent all day roosting on one of the posts holding up the screens at the edge of the causeway to the MacDonald Hide. Would have been good to see but fortunately we were lucky enough to experience them flying over us at Arne.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Garston Wood

An amazing area of woodland historically managed as hazel coppice and now part of the RSPB’s Dorset estate.

Until recently it was one of the few areas left that was reasonably reliable for Turtle Dove and the Hazel Dormouse. Whilst Dormouse can still be found legally I think we’d be on dodgy territory checking the numerous “nest boxes” so we decided to let sleeping dormice lie.

Mammals seen included Hares and Fallow Deer. The birdlife included most of the normal woodland species. Undoubtedly the highlight of the woodland in mid May was the spectacular ground flora.

Birds-nest Orchid

A rare saprophytic orchid that lives off a fungi that has a symbiotic relationship with the roots of Hazel – no wonder its rare !

An unusually pale Early Purple Orchid

Common Twayblade – another woodland orchid

Sanicle – a favourites of the herbalists in the Middle Ages 

Yellow Archangel

Toothwort - another saprophyte occasionally found on Hazel

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fossil Forest

Located just to the east of Lulworth Cove inside the military firing ranges the fossil forest is one of the highlights of the “Jurrasic Coast.”

Towards the end of the Jurassic period the sea level dropped creating a group of islands surrounded by salty lagoons. For a short period of time a tropical forest of giant cypress and ferns flourished before the sea rose again. The forest was then flooded under a shallow lagoon. Thick mats of algae grew across the forest floor and around the base of the trees and fallen logs. Sediments stuck to the algae and built up over time to form large doughnut-shaped ‘burrs' around the trees and wood.

approximately 144 million years ago

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The Fossil Forest is now the most complete fossil record of a Jurassic forest in the world.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Durlston Country Park

Another very impressive National Nature Reserve and country park to the west of Swanage town centre overlooking the bay. To date it’s the best public park I’ve been to in this country it really is a superb area. Even if you can’t visit the park their website knocks spots off most others. Every time we’ve visited there’s been something different to see.

Black Redstart
A rare Black Redstart (male). One of the circa 30 pairs that breed in Britain each year


Black Redstart
Black Redstart with a small caterpillar on it’s way back to the nest site


Early English Gentian
Early English Gentian

Early English Gentian
The rare Early English Gentian growing amongst the short grass close to the lighthouse.


Adders Tongue Fern
Another easily missed uncommon plant – Adder’s Tongue Fern

Early Spider Orchid
One of the rarest Orchids in Britain – the Early Spider Orchid

Durlston Head
Looking west towards Peveril Point from Durlston Head

Kidney Vetch
Kidney Vetch an important food source for the Adonis Blue growing on the seacliffs

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Higher Hyde Heath – part 2

In addition to the Dragonflies, Butterflies, Birds and heathland flora the main attraction at Higher Hyde Heath is the healthy population of the elusive Sand Lizard. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to see them before at Arne and closer to home at Ainsdale, they’ve been in so much cover its proved difficult to get a decent photograph.
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Sand Lizard (male)

DSC_1159Sand Lizard (female)

DSC_0583Sand Lizard (female)
As well as the Sand Lizards Higher Hyde heath also has plenty of Common Lizards. Grass snakes, Adders, Slow worms and even the rare Smooth Snake can also be found. A very impressive reserve hopefully next time we’ll have a bit more time to explore it. 
Common Lizard doing its best to control the horseflies

Basking Common Lizards (larger pale one is the female)