National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


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Pond Life

new pond at Middle Beach

In the long term, landscape-scale conservation projects, such as acquiring new land, advising farmers and landowners, working with business and influencing national policy are essential to maintaining a healthy natural environment.  This is exactly what our Land, Outdoors and Nature strategy is all about.  But there is still room for small projects that can make a difference to wildlife diversity.  So check out the little pond recently made by the Studland Beach Rangers behind the huts at Middle Beach.  Already it is surrounded by lush vegetation with impressive spikes of purple loose-strife and colonised by whirligig beetles, water boatmen, pond skaters and three types of damselfly – large red, azure and blue-tailed.

 


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Harmless Hornet

Hornet hoverfly at Knoll Beach

Hornet hoverfly at Knoll Beach

Hoverflies, exquisite creatures that are important pollinators of many flowers and whose larvae often feed on plant pests, are usually either overlooked or mistaken for stinging insects.

But one species that is hard to overlook when insect watching, but definitely mistaken for a stinger, is the hornet hoverfly.

At almost 2cm long, the hornet is the largest and most impressive hoverfly in Britain. As its name suggests, it is an excellent mimic of the Hornet, so keeping predators such as birds away, but lacks a sting.

Only a very rare visitor to the country up to the 1940s, in recent years it has become more common in southern England and is still spreading northwards, perhaps as a result of the warmer climate. The adults are migratory so this is a good time to look for them on late-flowering buddleia.


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Anyone for Cricket?

Anyone for cricket?

Great green bush-cricket

Great green bush-cricket

We often hear the various chirping, trilling and buzzing of crickets and grasshoppers at this time of year but finding them, let alone catching them, is a great challenge that quickly brings back childhood memories. So I couldn’t resist when this spectacular great green bush-cricket, the sword-shaped ovipositor indicating a female, appeared beside a grassy path at Middle Beach.

Despite being by far our largest bush-cricket, the expert camouflage of the great green makes them hard to spot though males can be located by their very loud ‘song’, produced by rubbing a hind leg against a wing, that sounds like a sewing machine going continuously for long periods.

However, the song of some species, for example the widespread speckled bush-cricket, is so high pitched that it cannot be heard by most people. One useful method for finding these is by scanning with a bat detector because, just as with bats, the device makes their sounds audible.

 


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Heathland Star

northeastwildlife

northeastwildlife

It is always a great pleasure to hear, and hopefully see, a Dartford warbler on the heath.  Most often skulking in a thicket of gorse, it’s easy to understand why an alternative name for them is furze-wren.

 

My subjective impression this summer is that they have had a successful breeding season.  Certainly they seem to be quite conspicuous just now along the Ferry Road and around the Knoll dune heath.

 

This is good news, strengthening the role of the Purbeck heaths as an important area for Dartford warblers.  Furthermore, although they are mainly restricted to southern England, good breeding success and better winter survival has allowed them to expand their range northwards in recent years, reaching up to the Midlands.

 

And perhaps they are losing their renowned shyness and secrecy a little – one of the most reliable places to see them this summer has been by the BBQ area at the Knoll Beach car park.