National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

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Across the water

The morning ferry crossing to Studland is always a good opportunity to start the day with a bit of birding. So despite the gloomy skies, I came in to work this morning cheered by the various coming and goings. Common terns have joined the Sandwich terns now, feeding at close range, and a pair of shelduck arced overhead. A herring gull flew past trailing a large piece of vegetation from its bill and an oystercatcher and a cormorant low over the water. Small birds too with swallow and greenfinch heading north
A hoopoe (24th) at Greenlands was an excellent find for a local birder. Wintering in Africa, these migrants sometimes overshoot their Mediterranean breeding areas and land on our coasts. Despite being a colourful bird, they can be surprisingly difficult to spot until they take flight, flashing black and white patterned wings.


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Masked Crabs

masked crab3Easterly winds cast up some masked crabs on Studland Beach yesterday and many visitors enjoyed seeing these unusual crabs, many for the first time (though sadly of course the crabs weren’t alive).
Masked crabs burrow under the sand in the shallow waters of the bay with only the antennae visible, channelling water down to the gills. They emerge at night to grab marine worms or crunch bivalve molluscs with their disproportionally long claws
Elsewhere, an osprey lingered at Middlebere for a couple of days (18-19th), content to view the harbour from a convenient telegraph pole. Migrants up on Hartland included redstart, lesser whitethroat and cuckoo (16th)

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What’s about?

Despite the cold south-easterly wind this morning, summer warblers, chiff chaff, blackcap and willow warbler, were in good voice. Sandwich terns were busy offshore and a few swallows heading along the peninsula
A fine male redstart was by Hartland Moor (10th) with a couple of wheatear. On the same day osprey and spoonbill were at Middlebere
Five bottle-nosed dolphins were sighted in Studland Bay (4th)

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Peeking at Parakeets

I try hard to ignore them but much as I want to, I just can’t help raising my binos to these ridiculously green, annoyingly raucous and blatantly attention-seeking invaders. Studland Village has a well-established population of ring-necked (or rose-ringed if you prefer) parakeets – look for them in the trees around Fort Henry, the WWII bunker on the cliff top between Middle Beach and South Beach. Native to Africa and southern Asia, there are now thousands breeding in southern England descended from escaped pets.

Should we accept them as a benign addition to our bird fauna or despise them as a harmful pest? Your view might be influenced towards the latter by a recent study, focussed on London, demonstrating a significant impact on the foraging behaviour of native birds. The study, published in Behavioural Ecology, suggested that the parakeets introduce a spatial shift in the foraging behaviour of great and blue tits which could feasibly cause reductions in population.

So next time, maybe I’ll keep my binos to my chest and carry on walking

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Bird sightings in March

So the yellow-browed warbler, present since before Christmas, has made it into April. This morning it was calling loudly from the willow carr behind the first line of beach huts at the south end of the Knoll Beach car park
Other bird highlights in March included the long staying surf scoter and ospreys at Brands bay (25th) and Middlebere (28th). On the sea at Studland small numbers of black-necked grebes were present with a slavonian grebe (7th) and a great northern diver (27th). At Middlebere there were 6 spoonbills (21st) and a hen harrier (15th)