An amazing misty morning, with visibility down to just a hundred metres and so much moisture in the air that my coat is soon covered with a fine sheen of droplets! Nonetheless, a wonderful morning to stroll across the clifftop, which is carpeted with a rich variety of flowers. Lilac-coloured Thrift flowers poke out of cushions succulent leaves, the yellow flowers of Kidney Vetch form a dense matt above Tilly Whim, with Sea Campion, pink-flowered Mallow and Birdsfoot Trefoil creating a glorious display. The dark burgundy flowers of Houndstongue in bloom in the shelter of a dry-stone wall, with Pellitory-of-the-wall growing nearby. The huge pink and white umbels of Wild Carrot are looking particularly magnificent, surrounded by a delicate tracery of green sepals. Rock Pipits display from the cliffs, with Guillemots straggling along the water below, or whirring in and out from the cliffs, with a few Razorbills amongst them. A Peregrine patrols along the clifftop, with a Kestrel scanning the ledges at Tilly Whim and a pair of Ravens perched on top of the Mile Markers. Out at sea, a few Gannets passing by, with 4 Sandwich Terns in Durlston Bay, making spectacular plunge dives into the water, as a Buzzard wheels above them. Although many species are a little late or thinner on the ground than usual, some plants seem to be thriving, with Sainfoin making a truly spectacular show in Centenary Meadow. Also in bloom in the meadows, Ox-eye Daisies, Yellow Rattle, Pale Flax, Fairy Flax, Carrot Broomrape, Rough Hawkbit, Hedge Bedstraw and Bee Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid, to name just a few. A great view of a Roe Deer doe in Centenary Meadow, browsing quietly among the flowers. Overhead, Swallows skim through the mist with the song of a Skylark from somewhere above me.
A thick blanket of fog shrouds the Park this morning, making patches of Blackthorn rise like islands out of a white sea and carpeting the grass with a heavy dew! Calls and songs ring out through the still air, with the ‘see-sawing’ of Great Tits still by far the most widespread, though now joined by a variety of other calls and songs. One nice new addition is the scratchy song of Lesser Whitethroat, who have started to return in the last few days, joining the much more numerous Whitethroats, who are scattered across bushes and scrub. Also in good voice, Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds, with the fluty notes of Blackcaps, querying calls of Willow Warblers and repetitive notes of Chiffchaffs echoing around the Gully. Sedge Warbler (another new arrival), Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Tawny Owl heard in the woodland below the Car Parks and the mewing of a Buzzard rising up out of the mist in Durlston Bay. Out in the meadows, at long last, Cowslips are making an impressive show, though still only about half the size one would expect at this time of year! Early Spider Orchids are also finally starting to bloom, though still in small numbers – another week should see many more in flower, with one of the first Early Purple Orchids in bloom in the Finches. Out on the downs, look out for Hairy Violets, which are starting to bloom, along with Whitlow Grass, Early Scurvy Grass and the fluffy flower heads of Spring Sedge.Blackthorn is starting to bloom along the hedges, with fresh green leaves starting to appear on Hawthorn. A Black Redstart weaves in and out of the tumbled rocks at Tilly Whim, with a Kestrel perched on the rocks above.
A swirling grey mist greeted me on arrival today, quite a change from yesterday’s bright sun. Despite today’s cool and grey start it does feel as if spring has arrived properly at last after the couple of ‘false starts’ during the previous six weeks. This is due in part to the sudden appearance of the white flowers of Blackthorn and the thousands of Cowslips that have sprung up in the past couple of days. Many other signs of spring can now be found all over the park such as the flush of new leaves over shrubs and bushes such as Bramble, Hawthorn, Elder and Field Rose amongst others. Out in the meadows the leaves of Clover, Bulbous Buttercup, Burdock and Crow Garlic (Wild Chives) can be found whilst around the hedgerow and scrub edges Cleavers (Goose grass), Cow Parsley, Wild Parsnip and Hogweed leaves were all noted. Look out for the blue flowers of Hairy Violet, as good place to spot these is in the Quarr in Saxon Field. Also noted there were the yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine and Dandelion along with a peppering of white Daisies. A kerfuffle erupted in a nearby scrub patch, after a couple of seconds a Jay exploded out of the bush closely followed by a very irate female Blackbird, who was surprisingly aggressive considering the size difference. Sitting on top of an anthill were the delicate little white flowers of Scurvygrass, beneath it there were the fresh excavations of the anthills residents – Yellow Meadow Ants. The scratchy song of a Common Whitethroat could be heard loud and clear in Saxon Field, further away another 2 could be heard singing.
A beautiful spring morning, with bright sunshine sparkling on the dew in the meadows and not a cloud in the sky. Just outside the Learning Centre, a pair of Great Tits hurry back and forwards from their nest (have a look at the live camera in the Castle to see inside, where you can also watch the Guillemots on our cliff camera, who are packed ‘shoulder to shoulder’ on the ledges). A pair of Kestrels seen (and heard!) mating at Tilly Whim, where what appears to be a breeding pair of Black Redstart are also in residence – fingers crossed! The harsh croaks of a Raven echo off the cliffs as he passes by, as Rock Pipits hurl themselves into the air, ‘parachuting’ down as they sing. Overnight, Whitethroats have arrived in large numbers, with 12 seen or heard during a brisk walk across South and Saxon Fields and many more in the scrub and hedgerows around the Park. A few Lesser Whitethroat also starting to appear, though in much smaller numbers. Also newly returned, a few Wheatears strutting along on the Downs and Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps singing in the Gully. The wonderful, liquid song of a Skylark above the meadows – they are starting to take up territory, so please keep to the paths and keep dogs under close control when in these fields from now on. Overhead, Swallows and House Martins continue to sweep in off the sea (though no repeat of yesterday’s early Swift). Cowslips are becoming more numerous (although still very small!), with Hairy Violets scattered across the downland, and a few of the tiny blue flowers of Milkwort finally starting to appear. As I cycled up the hill, once again, the noisy drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard among the trees near the Aviaries.
Another glorious morning with hazy sunshine gently increasing the temperature and drying off the dew left overnight. Gone is yesterdays cool breeze and there is now only the slightest of movement. First off today was a quick shuffle around the car parks to put the signage to tell everyone of our first wedding of the year here at Durlston – congratulations to Georgina and Russell! This means that the Belvedere and Gallery level will be closed for much of the day – ask at the front desk about timings. Whilst walking around I noticed the beautiful small blue flowers of Forget-me-not growing out of the kerbstones and the peppering of the white, yellow and pink of Daisies all over the grassed areas. A blur of movement drew the eye to a nearby Hawthorn bush - 4 male Chaffinch were having a fight. Whether it was a territorial battle or over a female I couldn’t tell but after several minutes three had retreated to leave the victor to sit in his bush and take a well earned rest. Moving down the timeline several Grey Squirrels scampered off on approach and nearby a few Woodpigeon could be heard gently cooing. The small blue flowers of the confusingly titled Green Alkanet can be seen growing along the side of the Castle Road, above them a typically noisy Jay screeched as it hopped from branch to branch. A check of Caravan Terrace revealed a great display of Primroses, behind them the tinkle of water cascading down the rock face tells how much water there is in the ground – no wonder there have been so many landslips this year. Rather quiet in Durlston Bay today apart from a pair of Herring Gulls padding their way over the rock in search of something to eat. Much more activity around the headland with Cormorant and Shag passing by eastwards, a raft of 9 Razorbills and 26 Guillemots on the water and groups of Jackdaws, Herring Gulls, Fulmars and Feral Pigeon all being harried by a Raven – no wonder the Guillemots were on the water!