What a brilliant month it’s been for scarce birds. Arctic skua and grey phalarope off Shell Bay; two great white egrets at Little Sea; firecrest and yellow-browed warbler at South Beach; ring ouzel and wheatear on Ballard Down; marsh harrier and osprey at Middlebere; hen harrier and merlin at Hartland. As we go into November, many of these species will still be present so head out with your binoculars and get birding.
A small herd of Red Devon cows have been a regular sight on Godlingston Heath for a number of years. Their grazing controls invasive grasses and suppresses scrub growth that can out-compete the heather.
The countryside team have now extended their range to heathland on the east side of the ferry road, targeting the grazing by confining the cows within electric fences. Quite a challenge as the beasts already have a track record of making a break for freedom.
A great find on our fungi foray was this fine specimen of tiered tooth, Hericium cirrhatum, growing on an old sallow. The Latin name refers to a hedgehog due its spiny appearance but, to me, it looked like a miniature frozen waterfall with its hanging spines resembling tiny icicles.
There are only four previous Dorset records of this unusual wood-rotting fungus that is usually associated with damaged or fallen beech trees.
A curious wildlife event is happening on the heath where millions of tiny gorse spider mites are clothing the bushes in fine, communal webs creating shining sculptures. These mites only live on gorse, feeding on the foliage and often causing serious damage to the plants. Consequently they have been introduced to Australia and New Zealand, where gorse is a highly invasive alien species, to control its spread.