Saturday 25th June 2016.
Selfie comprising of yours truly, John Cronin and John Goodall at the start of our long walk to Dancing Ledge to see the Puffins.
Where has the last year gone? Our annual pilgrimage to Durlston Head with John Goodall and John Cronin was back again and, yet again, we got to see the Puffins and a host of other superb birds and nature along the way. It seems to take it toll on our legs and feet every time and by the time I got back to John Cronin’s car, my feet were severely barking! The local weather forecast predicted possible heavy and thundery downpours in the afternoon, but though we had a few short showers, it was all good as we arrived in blazing sunshine around 8am.
Razorbills and Guillemots on the sea below the cliffs.
John Goodall checking out the seabirds below the cliffs.
Guillemots and Razorbills at Durlston Head.
Meeting up at the Farlington Marshes car park, it didn’t take us too long to get to Durlston Head; especially with a pit stop to pick up a MacDonalds breakfast along the way! I have yet to see any Auks in 2016 and today made up for that. Good numbers of both Guillemot and Razorbil showed well below us on the sea and as we neared the Dancing Ledge area, we picked out two Puffins on the sea that showed very well. Though no Kittiwakes were seen on this trip, sightings of the occasional Gannet and Shag over the sea were had as well as the graceful Fulmars. Both Ravens and Peregrine patrolled the cliff faces and Rock Pipits were abundant along the grass edges. The sea state looked fair though there were ‘white horses’ over on the horizon; indicating a bit of wind out there. But, all in all, it looked very tranquil out there with just a few sailing boats on show.
A rather tatty Raven.
A better looking one.
The footpath provided good views of Stonechat (at least ten individuals seen including a few juveniles) and at least four Yellowhammers. Common Whitethroats were in good numbers and John Goodall found a family group of Dartford Warblers within the coastal gorse area. A small flock of 3 Siskins were a surprise as we enjoyed the Auks near the beginning of our walk; a year tick for one of the guys.
This Jackdaw posed in the tree below us.
Horsefly basking in the sunshine.
As well as the Peregrines, other raptors seen today included at least four Kestrels, a female Sparrowhawk and at least two Common Buzzards. With all the juvenile birds present, I am not surprised there were a good number of Raptors present. Swifts were an ever present sight, screaming high overhead and riding the sea breeze with ease.
Marbled White – my first of the year.
Pyrausta despicta moth.
John Goodall and John Cronin on the walk.
As well as birds, I am always on the look out for all sorts of nature and kicking off with butterflies, I was pleased to find my first Marbled Whites of the year. At least two were seen, maybe three, but I noticed that there was a severe lack of butterflies this today. Meadow Browns, Small Heath, a couple of Common Blues and one Small Tortoiseshell were seen. Both Large and Small Skippers were seen in good numbers and a couple of possible Lulworth Skippers, although I am awaiting ID on some of my photos. A few moths were seen including several Silver Y’s on the wing; a Pyrausta despicta and on Crambid moth I hope to have the ID on shortly. Just the two caterpillars were seen: an Oak Eggar and a Brown-tailed Moth.
One of many male Stonechats seen today.
Female Stonechats were abundant too. Quite often we would stumble into their nesting area and so made a hasty departure.
Common Whitethroat showing well along the footpath.
One of the best sightings today, albeit a bit grisly, was a Stoat attacking and killing a young rabbit (although this was done out of sight in some bramble bushes) then walked across our footpath in front of us. It was my first sighting of a Stoat this year and quite a dramatic one too. Now to the wild flowers. I am no expert and I will leave some of my photos for my friend Geoff Farwell to ID, but some of them could be ID’d and up to three species of Orchid were seen. Pyramidal Orchids were abundant though I came across several spikes of Bee Orchid along our walk. Just the one spike of Common Spotted Orchid was seen and that was right by the car park!
The Stoat with its prey.
The beautiful Bee Orchid.
Once we reached the Dancing Ledge, we had lunch and enjoyed good views of the Auks, including the Puffins. A juvenile Rock Pipit came down to walk among us while we had lunch (see video), while its anxious parent was nearby calling to it. More auks were flying through, which kept us entertained, but the views here are just amazing. A shower reminded us that we should be on our way and so packing up after a good hours rest, we made our way up the hill to walk the footpath back to the car park.
The confiding Rock Pipit.
A Puffin in flight close to the Dancing Ledge.
A Puffin on the sea.
Adult and juvenile Shag near the Dancing Ledge.
A very confiding Rock Pipit.
More Stonechats, Whitethroats and Yellowhammers were seen and we even had sightings of Chiffchaff, Linnet and yet more Ravens. It was a lot more cloudier on the journey back and a few showers came over but it was still relatively warm as we took in the peace and quiet of this superb place. It was 3pm when we reached the car park and guzzling on lemon drink, it was time to go home. I believe this is the 5th year running I have done this trip with the ‘Johns’ and will look forward to the same time next year.
Oak Eggar caterpillar.
A male Yellowhammer holding territory.
A male Stonechat in full song.
A great day out with these two guys.