23 May, 2017

In the Kingswood

Sunday's wanderings led me though this gorgeous stretch of woodland tucked away on the secluded slopes of the Purbeck Hills. It was densely carpeted in Ramsons and there was a fresh garlic aroma in the air. Combined with the fact that there wasn't another soul in sight and this is definitely up there with the most alluring spots I've stumbled across in a long time. 

Early Purple Orchid

I can just imagine a medieval king escaping here to let off some steam after a hard day's work running Corfe Castle back in the day.

22 May, 2017

Studland to Godlingston

It was a real scorcher of a Sunday. I headed down to Studland Bay armed with a sweep net, binoculars and a pair of trunks on underneath my shorts just in case I felt keen enough for a dip.

Unsurprisingly, half of Dorset seemed to have the same idea, and with the beach being way too packed for my liking I scurried off into the surrounding heathland to see what I could turn up. It was much hotter here without a cooling sea breeze, and not a lot was happening. Several Heath Tiger Beetles were buzzing around, and it was nice to watch a pair of Dartford Warbler hunt insects amongst the gorse. In one of the waterlogged ditches it was a pleasant surprise to see Royal Fern growing. I remembered this one from back when I was working on an organic croft on Mull. Up there it flourished in the dykes surrounding the croft; sprouting up to easily 2 metres or more. This one's a tiddler in comparison, but still nice to find...

Royal Fern

Opting for a change of scenery I consulted the OS map, scouted out a nicely labelled area of chalk downland and made for it. I was soon standing at the bottom of Godlingston Hill at the eastern end of the Purbeck Hills, a prominent backdrop to the Purbeck peninsula famously bisected by Corfe Castle. 

It felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. The views were stunning and there were things everywhere. Most of those things were blue and shiny butterflies but there were a few moths mixed in too. Dichrorampha petiverella and Ancylis comptana flushed with every other foot step and every now and then a Wood Tiger would whizz past. 

 Dichrorampha petiverella

Wood Tiger

 Longitarsus dorsalis

 Agromyza myosotidis/abiens leafmine on Hound's Tongue

 A carpet of Crosswort

Fairy Flax

Slowly but surely, as the evening wore on and woodland shadows began splaying across the valley, the Adonis Blues began to chill out. Having spent the majority of the afternoon chasing after them with my camera like a madman, the cooler temperature was making them much more lazy and approachable. They seemed way more concerned with catching the last warm rays of good stuff than worrying about me getting all up in their face, so I had a bit of fun with the wide angle lens...

Adonis Blue

21 May, 2017

Life on the cliff edge

I had plans to spent a lazy Saturday lounging about the caravan in my pants, but as the rain subsided after lunch and blue skies began to appear, the urge to get outside became too much. I snapped out of a Nick Drake induced daze, put some walking boots on (I wasn't just in pants at this point) and headed out to the abandoned village of Tyneham a little further east along the coast from Lulworth.

Unfortunately for the residents of Tyneham, their village stood slap bang in the middle of a large secluded valley that the MoD decided would be a superb location for a temporary military firing range during the Second World War. Villagers were displaced with the belief that they would be able to return after the end of the war, but this wasn't to be the case. The army placed a compulsory purchase order on a large part of the coastline between Lulworth and Kimmeridge after the war, and Tyneham remained abandoned; wild garlic growing in place of pavements and knarled blackthorn branches slumping over roof trusses.

A rather sombre story but it isn't all bad news. Ironically, turning the area into a massive firing range has helped preserve its natural history interest from human disturbance and development, and the coast path is still open to the public when military things aren't going on.

Up on the exposed cliff top there was a strong wind brewing. The kind of wind that makes most people not want to get too close to the edge. The urge to poke around in the undergrowth was just too much though...

The hairy little weevil Barypeithes pellucidus

  Helcystogramma rufescens pupa rolled up in Tor-grass

Knotted Hedge-parsley, a scarce and tiny relative of Cow Parsley!


 Rest Harrow

 Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia) is common on exposed chalk here

Down in the slightly more sheltered Pondfield Cove there was further botanical interest...

 Golden Samphire

 English Scurvy-grass

 Rock Samphire

The secluded Worbarrow Bay looking stunning in the evening sun...

20 May, 2017

I twitched a plant and I liked it

When I came to Lulworth I had in the back of my mind a bit of a personal ambition to become more familiar with flowering plants. Over the past year they've really begun to catch my interest, but apart from a basic knowledge of the common stuff that I've slowly gained through leaf-mining, kingdom Plantae remains a big and scary new world of tricky green things.

Dancing Ledge

It certainly seems as though I've come to the right place. Only two weeks into the job and I've already seen over 50 species for the first time, across a range of habitats I've never knowingly botanised in before. Admittedly in most cases the hard work of identifying has been done by someone else during our survey work and I've simply strolled up and asked what it is, but I'm slowly teaching myself to become familiar with some of the chalk-loving species that inhabit my temporary back garden.

Last Wednesday I even rushed over to Dancing Ledge after work to twitch one of Dorset's rarest species, the stunning Early Spider Orchid. If the fact that I'm ready to get in my car and drive miles to twitch a plant doesn't show my outright dedication to learn more about them, then... erm... I don't know what does.

Early Spider Orchid, a spring-flowering species very much at the northern edge of its European range along the cliffs of the Jurassic coast

18 May, 2017

I'm in Dorsetshire!

This might not be news to you if you follow the antics of Bill's Birding on Twitter as it's the only the thing I've been talking about on there, but if you don't then here, have some news: I've moved to Dorset.

Starting last Monday I joined the ranger team at Lulworth Cove, on the western edge of the Purbeck peninsula. Alongside my colleague Natalie we make up this season's field surveyor team; our job basically being to go out and monitor the rare flora and fauna that thrive on the vast amount of lush coastal grassland, south-facing cliff slope, heathland and deciduous woodland owned by Lulworth Estate. Tough job eh?

It's only a temporary thing and I'll be back to square one once the summer ends, but that's a worry for another day. I feel extremely lucky to have found such an opportunity that allows me to live and work in such a beautiful location, and I intend to make the most of it whilst I'm here! Check back here for an update soon or follow my happenings over on the Twittersphere.

Early Spider Orchid

Dingy Skipper

Small Blue

Early Gentian

24 April, 2017

Bluebells and longhorns

The woods are now doing that thing where they turn blue for a little while, so I turned up to White Down on Sunday afternoon with a plan to photograph the transformation.

I wasn't alone; it seemed like half the population of the local town had descended on the reserve, but as usually happens in the North Downs people quickly melted away with distance from the car park and I was left with all this to myself.

The things interspersed amongst the bluebells didn't disappoint either. This is Nematopogon swammerdamella, one of the largest members of a family of micro moths which all sport mesmerizing long white antennae. They're one of my favourites.

Nematopogon swammerdamella

 Wood Speedwell

 Yellow Pimpernel

I really needed to stand under this Beech to give you an idea of how utterly humongous it is.