Monday, 15 May 2017

A Dolphin Weekend

Few creatures that we can see around our beautiful Isle of Purbeck provoke the kind of reaction that Dolphins do. Everyone, wildlife fan or not, seems desperate to see them and this weekend there were no fewer than six sightings. Pod sizes were as big as 10-12 individuals and amongst those were at least two youngsters. Although I spent a fair amount of time a boat, these photographs were taken from the shore just a few hundred metres from the centre of town.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A Full Day of Walking

Walking the many footpaths that crisscross the Isle of Purbeck is something I do on a daily basis, visiting well known and not so well known haunts and looking for photographs to appear. Rarely though do I get the chance to head off on a wander that will take a full day but that is exactly what happened on a partially cloudy, slightly windy, not quite perfeck for photography day.
It is hard to take off the photographers hat when the conditions are not quite right but sometimes I need to just shut up moaning about the lack of light and enjoy what is a superb walk through some of the finest coastal and clifftop paths that you will find anywhere.
From anywhere in our part of the world finding the coast path is easy and the wildlife is always there waiting for you, you just need to keep your eyes open... and be just a little lucky.
Whatever the weather, the paths take the same route and the views never become boring and, as we headed off from Anvil Point Lighthouse towards Dancing Ledge and the first of many quarries, we spotted Redstart and Stonechat as well as all of the usual suspects: Dunnocks, Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, the list was getting longer and time was moving on.
If you know where to look there are shelves along the cliffs: areas quarried for stone but not to the extent of the big four. These places are perfect to get off the path,have a break and watch the sea. Apart from the young Ravens that were about ready to spread their wings all was quiet, perfectly quiet.
When we reached our first cliff quarry a single Grey Seal, enjoying the surf just of shore, was joined by a further two adding to the bonus of two Puffins on the water far out to sea.

Now I am not going to pretent that taking photographs of our Purbeck Purbeck Puffin is easy, especially on a choppy sea but just getting a glimpse is worth while. A better view can be achieved by hopping on one of the cruise boats that leave Swanage or Poole and head along the coast.
Similarly, our Grey Seal population rarely leave the water here and so only head shots are the order of the day. Again though, seeing a seal in our waters is always a treat.
From Dancing Ledge the coast path continues past several other cliff quarries each of which deserves to be explored and time spent doing just that is never wasted. We didn't think any of the Wall Lizards found that can be found sunbathing in these quarries would actually be out due to the lack of Sun but after a little searching a single Lizard, squeezed in the crack between two rocks was spotted.

 After Dancing Ledge, Hedbury, Seacombe and Winspit our next goal was St.Aldhelm's Head, a favourite place with far more than just stone to its history. Here, amongst the plants that slowly hide abandoned buildings, is the perfect place for another break with a view that will take your breath away....literally if the wild wind is blowing.
Amongst the Wheatears and Swallows that blow in from across the sea at this time of year we headed inland to The Square & Compass and the chance to drink something other than water.
The walk back to Swanage on this occasion was via the Priest's Way, an ancient and well used path that follows the hill down to the bay. Roe Deer kept us amused in the fields next to the path as aching limbs started to complain (knowing that the end was in sight), but not before a quick detour to check out some 140 million year old dinosaur footprints.
A full day of walking, covering some 15 miles of ups and downs, giving incredible views and superb wildlife, with the finest of company was just about done, which was handy because we were just about done too.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

From Portland Bill to Poole Harbour

Dorset has plenty of fine places to visit that are noted for their wildlife two of the best known are Portland Bill and Poole Harbour. So, on a day that didn't quite give us the light that we had hoped for we decided to visit these two places and as many nature reserves that we could fit in, in the time we had. Apart from the stunning views Portland is well known as a great place for bird watchers and photographers and any given day can provide new species that you may not have seen. Today the Wheatear and Whinchat were two that gave us the most fun but as always here there was talk of birds that we failed to see.

Walking around the southern tip of Portland is always a treat whether you follow the cliffs or head inland and so we did both. From the cliffpath Guillemots and Razorbills could be seen on the water as Kestrels and Crows flew overhead, as we headed inland the sounds of the sea changed to the near constant song of the Skylark.

 Eventually is was time to leave and head away from the sea to a completely different habitat of reeds, freshwater and mud. The weather didn't improve and wind ripping through the reeds seemed to keep the smaller birds deep within the cover. There was no sign of the Bearded Tits that we know are here and only the occasion call and briefest glimpse of Reed and Cetti's Warblers. Linnets were seen though, as well as many Swallows, Swifts and Martins and that is never a bad thing.
Suddenly, the unmistakable shape of not one but a pair of Marsh Harriers appeared above the reeds and gave us distant but great views of these stunning birds.

Marsh Harrier
From here we moved on to the southern shores of Poole Harbour to catch the tide coming in as well as the last of a dwindling light. As we sat watching the Grey and Ringed Plovers mixing with Wimbrell and Godwits an Egret fed on worms in a nearby pool and a large group of Sika trekked by. In the distance a couple of Swan Geese wandered across the grassland and another Marsh Harrier seemed to take great pleasure in spooking the birds that gathered on the disappearing mud.
Not a bad end to a good day.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Magic of Houns tout

Of all the walks that crisscross the Isle of Purbeck my favourite is a two mile easy path from Kingston to Houns tout, it is a walk that I never tire of and is my 'go to' walk if I need space and time to myself.
The walk starts in the woods with a path that slowly takes you up towards the cliffs, your company can include Foxe, Roe and Badger along with one of the finest birdsong soundtracks.

One animal that I always look forward to seeing along this path, especially at this time of year is the Hare. They are timid, great at hiding and incredibly fast making any photography fun as well as a bit of a challenge. When the grass is short they are easier to spot but still charge around at a rate of knots.

  As the crops in the fields start to grow it gets more and more difficult to spot the Hare, they like to hunker down and relax between the rows and all of a sudden every movement must be a Hare...surely!

 Eventually, after many false calls, you may just be lucky. Don't try to get too close or they will be spooked and run, just give them space and you can get a shot or two of one of our finest and most charismatic locals.

If you can drag yourself away and make it to the cliff edge you are in for another treat with one of the finest views, east and west, that you can see anywhere.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Guillemot Monday

I had a chance to jump onto a boat for a quick run around to Dancing Ledge early this morning and, although the sun didn't give quite as much light as I wanted, it was great to be back on the water. I have been after shots of our Guillemots as they leap from their ledge for a while but haven't managed to get out there on a sunny day, so a bit of a trial run was in order. A brighter morning would mean higher shutter speeds (which is a must for me) but watching these funny little birds is always a good way to start the day.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Blue Skies, Raptors, Purples & Spiders

The weather has been kind to us giving plenty of chances to wander the cliffs. At this time of year wild flowers are breaking free and among these are the Orchids. Early Purples stand like a beacon in the grass whilst high on the ridge the Spider Orchids appear in greater and greater numbers. Both are great to find and both are interesting to photograph. As well as the gorse-dwelling little birds, Kestrels and Peregrines patrol the cliff edge, making flying look effortless.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

A walk for a walk

 I have another guided walk on Sunday and as usual, a few days, before I check out the route to make sure there are no surprises for me. This morning after a few days of cloud we had a beautiful start with wall to wall blue skies.
I did look for problems, honestly I did, but it was all just about perfect!

A Dolphin Weekend

Few creatures that we can see around our beautiful Isle of Purbeck provoke the kind of reaction that Dolphins do. Everyone, wildlife fan or ...