National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

Puzzling Plumage

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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.

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Author: Kevin Rideout

National Trust Visitor Experience Officer based at Studland

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