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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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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What’s About?

Storm Frank may have let us off easy compared to other parts of the country but it did bring some seabirds closer inshore and great skua, kittiwake, gannet and Sandwich tern were all seen from Studland beach yesterday (30th December). There were also unusually high numbers of great northern divers with ten individuals at various points offshore.

Earlier this week I saw a good variety of birds on a walk from Shell Bay to Knoll Beach that included red-breasted merganser, shag, Brent goose, oystercatcher, ringed plover and sanderling. I especially enjoyed seeing grey plovers foraging for food with their characteristic short bursts of running in between long, watchful pauses.

Finally, the great white egret that has been present for most of the year was seen again in Brand’s Bay – let’s hope it continues its stay into 2016.

A moody sea at Studland yesterday

A moody sea at Studland yesterday


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Something fishy

boar fishI recently found this strange little fish washed up dead on Studland Beach. I had never seen one before, but the Dorset Wildlife Trust Marine Officer was able to tell me that it was a boar fish, an impressive name for such a tiddler that only grows up to 55 millimetres.
Apparently it is usually a deep water fish so quite unusual to find one in shallow water. They have been found in the area before – one on Bournemouth beach a few years back and another one previous to this at Kimmeridge – but this seems to be the first record for Studland.