National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


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Beast on the Heath

A colleague recently made this interesting observation…
‘On Tuesday 20th May, about 09:30, whilst walking near the far north end of the orienteering course by post T, I saw a number of deer making their way across the marshy area. Looking across to the other side of the marsh I noticed two deer running fast from my left to right, along the line of pine trees. I could see they were being chased by a large dark/black animal. The creature was about the size of a very large dog, approx. half the height of the deer and my first thoughts were of a wild boar. It was running as fast as the deer. I could not hear any barking and the location is very remote, close to Little Sea surrounded by marsh and with no easy paths for dog walkers’.
With big cat stories occasionally making the news, it’s fun to speculate on what this might have been. Certainly the observer was convinced that it wasn’t a dog and some scat found at the site did look like something a large cat would produce.
Perhaps further sightings will give more clues to the identity of this beast on the heath.


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Jelly Giants

barrel jellyfishBarrel jellyfish have been in the news recently with large swarms of these impressive sea creatures reported off the south west coast. Normally the barrel jellyfish live out to sea in deep water so this invasion into coastal waters is unusual. It may have been triggered by an increase in the amount of plankton for the jellyfish to eat brought on by higher than average winter temperatures.
This one washed up on Studland Beach was relatively small but they can grow to be three feet wide with trailing arms six feet long. Beneath the bell are hundreds of tiny mouths each surrounded by stinging tentacles that capture plankton.
These giant jellies may look scary but, despite their large size, the sting isn’t strong enough to be harmful to humans.


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Song of Summer

What a pleasure it’s been in the last couple of days to hear the breeding birds turn up the volume and blast into full voice. As I write, a blackcap is really going for it and a nearby robin seems to have taken up the vocal challenge in some interspecific rivalry. I’ve heard a couple of cuckoos too. One flew past me as I was cycling along the Corfe road, landed in a small copse beside a fairway on the golf course and immediately started to call. That was a very uplifting moment, having spent all day confined in a meeting room. But if I had to pick one singer that really does it for me it would have to be willow warbler. Their lovely phrase of descending notes repeatedly delivered from a suitable perch is a joyful sound of summer. I can hear one right now in the distance and I’m very tempted to leave this desk and go to it. Right I’m off…


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Seahorse survival

seahorse1The latest newsletter from the Seahorse Trust (Spring 2014) reports the disappointing news that only 4 spiny seahorses were recorded at Studland’s South Beach compared to around 40 in 2008. There may be several reasons for this including the impact of recreational boat use in the area. A new leaflet produced by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) gives advice on anchoring on seagrass meadows and aims to change boat owner’s actions when on sensitive sites like Studland and other seagrass beds in the UK.
The newsletter also reports on the successful rescue of a stranded seahorse in Guernsey. This reminded me of a similar event here. A school group came across an immature seahorse on the beach, stranded by the receding tide. It was lying in a groove created by the tyre tracks of a cyclist that had passed by five minutes earlier. The school children were very excited by this find, though tinged with sadness as the seahorse was clearly dead, both out of water and run over. I placed it in a small container of seawater so that the children could get a better view then tucked it away in my rucksack. Later, the children asked to see it again so I took the container out to find that the seahorse was now swimming around in circles. Brilliant!