National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

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Gull Power

A conversation with a visiting birdwatcher reminded me how easy it is to overlook the ordinary. He was a big fan of house sparrows and gained as much enjoyment from these as he did from finding scarcer species. So I spent some time this morning watching gulls from the Shell Bay ferry.

First up were some distant Mediterranean gulls. Lacking any black in their wings, they appeared like snowflakes against the grey surroundings. When I first started birdwatching these were rare birds and worthy of a ‘twitch’. But now it’s not unusual to see large flocks of several hundred around the harbour.

Two greater-black backed gulls were on the water going through an early courtship ritual. At close quarters these are very big birds, the largest species of gull in the world in fact. And handsome too, though their ruthlessness doesn’t endear them to us. I’ve seen one eat a whole puffin without pausing for breath.

And I couldn’t help but chuckle at the black-headed gull hitching a ride on the ferry itself. Though perhaps it was having the last laugh. After all, their Latin name, ridibundus, does translate as the laughing gull.

black-headed gull cropped


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Recent wildlife sightings

The Rees Cox hide was the place to be with daily sightings of both water vole and kingfisher for a spell mid-month. The water vole was very active, repeatedly swimming out from the bank beneath the hide, chewing through a green reed stem then carrying it back to the bank. At the same time, a kingfisher regularly used a perch beside the hide to dive from and, whenever successful, flew by under the noses of the watchers in the hide, carrying its catch to a more distant lakeside tree.
Rare migrants usually grab the birdwatching headlines this month but don’t overlook the mass movements of common species. For example, on the morning of the 16th September, a local birder counted 2000 siskin, 1200 swallows and 300 meadow pipits flying over Shell Bay in just two hours.

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