What a pleasure to walk out to Old Harry Rocks this morning, accompanied by singing skylarks overhead and whitethroats evenly spaced along the boundary hedges. Even a croaking raven couldn’t spoil the harmony. Colourful butterflies were on the wing with frequent small tortoiseshells and common blues, occasional large skippers and a dark green fritillary. A pile of pigeon feathers beside the path indicated a recent peregrine kill, perhaps brought down by one of the three young that fledged from the nearby cliff nest. And so many flowers to choose from. My eye was drawn to the cheerful five-petalled flowers of rockrose. Herbalists used these in a potion to ward off attacks of panic and terror. Quite appropriate really when you’re perched on the cliff edge and a sheer drop below.
The sand loving marram grass is by far the dominant plant in the Studland dunes. Generations of school pupils have got to know it as a brilliant example of environmental adaptation with a crucial role in the coastal processes that have shaped the peninsula. But get in amongst those big tussocks and you’ll find some superb plants making their way in the gaps and hollows. Today, the dunes at Shell Bay were brightly coloured with the blue pin-cushion flowers of sheep’s bit, the proud, upright red flowers of common centaury and the extravagant trumpets of sea bindweed.
Less showy but having the tenacity to grow in the bare sand in front of the marram is the resilient sea rocket and the mini cactus-like prickly sandwort. But beware if you’re barefoot, or even barenaked, as this sandwort has fine but sharp spines.
Just a few days to go now until one of our biggest wildlife events of the year. Together with Bournemouth University, we’re holding a BioBlitz this Sunday, an all-day feast of wildlife recording and sharing our passion with like-minded people. The aim is to record as many species as possible on the Studland peninsula, particularly targeting those found by naturalist Cyril Diver in the 1930’s.
It’s going to be a great opportunity to team up with some top experts as they’ll be leading walks throughout the day.
It’s been a wonderful day here. The bell heather is flowering, dragonflies are becoming more numerous every day, especially four-spotted chasers and black-tailed skimmers, and young stonechats are showing well.
A heathland survey at Studland found Dartford warblers, linnets and stonechats doing well. However there was little sign of the meadow pipits, skylarks and lapwings that were recorded as breeding birds by Cyril Diver in the 1930’s. This indicates that there has been a change from a quite open heath to a more mature one with an increase in scrub and trees.
Cuckoos were calling on Hartland Moor and Godlingston Heath (31st) and at Middlebere there were three hobbys, two spoonbills and a marsh harrier (22nd).
Common terns continue to entertain around the harbour entrance. I’ve often seen gulls swooping over fishing boats catching bait thrown into the air by sea anglers but today was the first time I have seen a tern do it. Quite a change from a plunge dive but the result was just as effective.