National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


Leave a comment

An idyllic afternoon at Little Sea

Carp cruising around the lily pads; a singing chiffchaff away on the far bank; a four-spotted chaser perched on a reed stem just three feet away and black-tailed skimmers too. Two cormorants and a grey heron are just visible but then a handsome great-crested grebe appears out of nowhere, collects a floating reed stem and swims off again. Six house martins swoop low over the surface, catching flies in the warm sunshine and a swift powers by at height. My attention is drawn to a delicate wake coming this way and a grass snake undulates across the lake to the near bank, somehow keeping its head above water.
And not a soul to be seen; only a distant dogs’ bark and the faintest of shouts from the beach to indicate a human presence. Perfect.

View from the hide

View from the hide

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Puzzling Plumage

ASCII

ASCII

I came across these feathers back in January when out walking near Little Sea and found them to be a bit of a puzzle. My first thought was that they were from an owl, perhaps long-eared or short-eared, but the barring was too diffuse and the feathers not quite soft enough. Could they be from a buzzard? But the colouration was too rich and the feathers not quite rigid enough. So they have stayed on my desk for the last five months, an unsolved mystery.

But then along came Joe, one of our beach rangers, to solve the problem. He suggested they were from a bittern, a bird I’d never considered because of their rarity here at Studland. But a search online showed a perfect match and it all made sense. A winter visitor, notoriously secretive, seeking shelter in the reeds and shallow waters of Little Sea. What a great shame that the bird never showed itself while it was here.


Leave a comment

Small is Beautiful

cowrie1aMonstrous, ‘big as a dustbin lid’, barrel jellyfish may be taking centre stage, but for me, the star of the seashore show is the tiny, but very lovely, cowrie. These lemon-shaped, finely ridged sea snails grow to a length of only one centimetre though some tropical cowries can reach 15 centimetres.
When active, the brightly coloured mantle (the outer wall of a mollusc’s body) wraps around the shell so that it is almost totally covered. Their target is sea squirts, as cowries both eat them and lay their eggs inside them.
Two species occur around the UK, the European cowrie, with three dark spots on the shell, and the plain Arctic cowrie. Look for their empty shells along the strandline in patches of coarse gravel.