National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


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Stranded

seaweed1 220415 cropToday, the Studland strandline was a brilliant place to discover marine life for a group of primary school children on a visit from London. Searching amongst the seaweed, a great shell collection was rapidly assembled from tiny cowries to chunky common whelks. The reflected colours of purple and silver from the saddle oysters and pandora shells were especially popular though the spider crab claws and the remains of a barrel jellyfish brought a more cautious response.
The recent build-up of seaweed on the beach, accompanied by spider crab shells, cuttlefish bones and whelk eggs, may be seen as a nuisance by visitors but, for wildlife it’s a valuable resource. A range of spiders, flies and predatory beetles move in and sandhoppers, small shrimp-like crustaceans, are super-abundant, providing food for shorebirds such as sanderling and ringed plover.
The seaweed also plays an important part in the development of dunes as it provides nutrients and acts as a sand trap, allowing pioneers plants such as sea rocket and saltwort to become established, eventually paving the way for marram grass.

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Snakes Awake!

Smooth snake

Smooth snake

Snakes are on the move again after their winter shutdown and, with great stealth and a bit of luck, it’s possible to see all three native British species on National Trust land in Purbeck.
Look for adders in the heathland or the edges of open woodland. Interestingly, they have the widest global distribution of all terrestrial snakes and are the only species to occur within the Arctic Circle.
Grass snakes are sometimes known as water snakes because they are good swimmers and their preferred food is amphibians and fish. Their Latin name, Natrix, means swimmer or water lover. Look for them around the margins of Little Sea.
Smooth snakes are the biggest challenge because they are a very secretive heathland specialist preferring areas of deep mature heather on south facing slopes. Most species of snake have a keel on their scales, a raised ridge like the midrib on a leaf, but smooth snakes are extra-smooth because their scales lack this feature. Their Latin name, Coronella, means ‘small crown’, referring to the dark, heart-shaped mark on the top of the head.