National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


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Seashore Safari

A keyhole limpet on Studland Beach

A keyhole limpet on Studland Beach

A group of keen-eyed and eager primary school children on a Studland ‘seashore safari’ found a fantastic variety of marine life along the strandline and, amongst the seaweeds, shells and various bits of crab, there were a few surprises.

A small, unfamiliar crab with attractive sand-particle colouration, was identified as a Pennant’s Crab.  This species has flattened back legs for swimming.

Small sea gooseberries, or comb jellies, were spotted in the shallows even though they are almost invisible apart from rows of delicate hairs called cilia that resemble tiny combs.  These propel the sea gooseberry through the water and, in sunlight, their regular, beating motion generates bands of iridescent colours.

Best of all was a keyhole limpet.  Unlike the common limpet, this species has an oval-shaped hole at the top of the shell that allows more efficient circulation of water over the gills and faster removal of waste products.

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Tern it on

June is the perfect month to look for terns.  These slender seabirds are widespread along our coastline now, patrolling inshore waters in search of food for their chicks.

Look for a flash of white as a tern plunge-dives from around 20 feet to catch a small fish just below the surface.  As it flies off, notice the long wings and deeply forked tail that gives the alternative name of sea swallow.

Many of these terns nest on the Brownsea Island lagoon.  Here, the terns have been encouraged to nest by the construction of small gravel islands surrounded by protective fences that keep out predators such as crows and herons.  Nesting boxes and drain pipes set on the ground provide cover for the chicks in poor weather.  Over the years the number of pairs has varied but on average there are around 200 pairs of Sandwich terns and 100 of common tern.

A group of nesting Sandwich terns with chicks on Brownsea can be viewed by webcam from the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ website.

common tern

common tern