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The best Dorset wildlife stories from 2017

PUBLISHED: 10:39 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 19 December 2017

Barn owls at Lorton (Photo by Paul Williams)

Barn owls at Lorton (Photo by Paul Williams)


Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Sally Welbourn shares her favourite wildlife stories of 2017

It’s been a busy year for Dorset Wildlife Trust’s members, supporters and volunteers. Highlights included a visit by HRH Prince Charles to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve in west Dorset; we helped save a legally protected wildlife site from development at Rampisham Down and over £180k of funding was put in place for the Portland Quarries Nature Park and the development of the Fine Foundation Marine Centre at Kimmeridge. 

An exotic invader

Adverse weather conditions in the UK and further afield at the beginning of autumn led to an influx of the exotic Portuguese man o’ war being washed up on our beaches. Resembling a blue/purple balloon with blue ribbons trailing behind it these colourful creatures aren’t easy to miss and are usually found in the open Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese man o’ war is not a true jellyfish, but a floating colony formed by coral-like hydroids living together to create venom-filled stinging tentacles. These hang from a large gas-filled float capable of angling itself to catch the wind on the sea’s surface. Whilst they can cause a painful sting, they are rarely serious, and only fatal in a few rare cases. If you do see one washed up on a Dorset beach, don’t touch it but do drop us a line and let us know where you saw it kimmeridge@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or tweet @DorsetWildlife.

Poole Rocks!

Ever wondered what sort of wildlife lives beneath the waves off our coastline? This year, thanks to the launch of a new website, users can now ‘dive in’ and explore Poole Rocks Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and discover the dazzling array of creatures and plants which live in this protected area, just east of the entrance to Poole Harbour. Created a MCZ in 2013, Poole Rocks is home to over 360 wildlife species including the rare Couch’s goby, Baillon’s wrasse and pink sea fan. Recent footage filmed here has also revealed that during spring the seafloor becomes a frenzy of spawning black seabream. The website includes stunning underwater photography and video, allowing the user to enjoy marine wildlife in a new way without getting their feet wet! Visit the website at poolerocksmcz.uk. 

Fledged for success

Back in the spring thousands of wildlife fans witnessed the largest number of barn owl chicks ever to fledge from DWT’s Lorton Meadows nest box. People all over the world were able to watch the owlets grow and fledge online thanks to the nest box webcam. It was the most successful season for the resident barn owls since the ‘raptorcam’ was installed in 2010. And this is very good news indeed as barn owl numbers have been in decline nationally, with 2013 seeing the worst breeding season for 30 years. Unusual weather patterns, such as long winters, cold summers and wet springs have made it harder for barn owls to hunt. But this year’s drier summer created ideal hunting conditions for the parents to catch small mammals such as voles to feed up their chicks. We have our fingers crossed for another successful breeding season next year! 

A good tern at Chesil Beach

The little tern has delighted both conservationists and visitors by breaking recent breeding records at its sole South West stronghold, Chesil Beach. Thirty-eight pairs of Britain’s smallest seabird bred on Chesil Beach’s pebbles this summer, with 73 chicks fledging, making it one of the most successful sites in the UK. This was all made possible thanks to 56 volunteers devoting hours of their time to watching nests in an attempt to protect the vulnerable birds from disturbance and predators, giving them the best chance of survival. Chesil Beach is South West England’s only little tern colony. In 2008 the breeding pairs dropped drastically, and this summer’s success is a result of eight years of hard work by organisations involved in the Little Recovery Tern Project, including the RSPB, Chesil Bank & Fleet Nature Reserve, Natural England, The Crown Estate, Portland Court Leet, and Dorset Wildlife Trust. Find out more at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/littleterns. 

Nuts about nature?

Wondering what to give a wildlife fan for Christmas? With membership of Dorset Wildlife Trust they’ll get our magazine three times a year, a guide to our 44 nature reserves, a car sticker and all the latest wildlife news and events from around the county, as well as a free Wild Dorset Calendar 2018 by internationally renowned wildlife photographer Guy Edwardes. Cost is £36 for single, £42 for joint and £48 for family membership (or pay by direct debit from £3 a month). Find out more at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk and click on ‘support us’ or call 01305 264620.


A look back at Dorset’s wildlife news from 2016 - Sally Welbourn from Dorset Wildlife Trust looks back on the county’s wildlife stories of 2016


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