Wildlife & Marine > Wildlife at Durlston :: Wild Flowers :: Marine :: Butterflies :: Birds :: Guillemots :: Moths :: Geology

Birds - An Introduction

Over 265 bird species have been recorded at Durlston.  These range from species such as the Robin and Herring Gull which are seen every day, to the Brown Thrasher, a species from North America whose appearance at Durlston was the only time that it has been seen in Europe. 

The Durlston List, ie those species that have been recorded at Durlston, can be seen at [Durlston List].  Between 160 and 180 species are recorded each year.  Those recorded in 2010 and 2011 can be seen here:

Highlights include Black-browed Albatross, Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Black and White Storks, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Black Kite, Montagu’s Harrier, Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Osprey, Red-footed Falcon, Quail, Corncrake, Stone Curlew, Long-tailed Skua, Bonaparte’s Gull, Alpine Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Shore Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Richard’s and Tawny Pipits, Waxwing, Brown Thrasher, Aquatic, Marsh, Icterine, Melodious, Subalpine, Barred, Greenish, Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Isabelline Shrike, Twite, Lapland, Snow, Cirl, Ortolan, Little and Black-headed Buntings.

Some species are resident all year round, while others are visitors at particular times of the year.  Spring and autumn migration (April to May, and August to mid-November) are particularly good times to spend a day birdwatching at Durlston, but any time is likely to be rewarding.

A Special Place for Birds

What makes Durlston such a special place for birds?  There are probably two reasons: the variety of habitat, and Durlston’s position on the south coast of the UK which makes it an excellent place to observe spring and autumn migration.  Durlston’s habitats include grassland, scrub, woodland, cliff-face and rock outcrops, farmland and the sea itself.  Each has an associated set of birds.


The grassland habitat is particularly valuable during the spring migration when incoming Northern Wheatears feed on the short turf.  This is repeated during the autumn migration when they can be joined by Meadow Pipits and Yellow Wagtails.  Kestrels can often be seen hunting over the grassland areas, and the lucky observer might see a Short-eared Owl in autumn.


The scrub areas, particularly in the Gully, are a valuable habitat for Redstarts and migrant warblers such as (in decreasing order of abundance): Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Garden, Sedge, Grasshopper and Reed Warblers.  In spring, the scrub areas may hide a singing Nightingale.  Coastal gorse scrub provides habitat for resident Dartford Warblers and Stonechats.  As the warblers move southwards in autumn, they are replaced by thrushes, some of which overwinter.– the occasional Ring Ouzel, plus Song Thrushes, Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds.


Woodland at Durlston is located mainly around the Castle and along the eastern (Durlston Bay) side of the Park.  Woodpeckers and other woodland species such as tits are the main species of interest; Firecrests are regular in winter and Yellow-browed Warblers are a possibility in autumn.


The cliff-face is the interface between land and sea and the ledges provide nesting opportunities for a variety of seabirds – Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Shags, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  Peregrine Falcons are regularly seen and Durlston is one of the best places in Dorset to see this magnificent bird of prey.  Birds can often be seen hunting pigeons and teaching young birds to fly in July and August.  The ledges at Tilly Whim are a good place to see wintering Black Redstarts, and Rock Pipits are ever-present along the coast.


The sea is almost always of interest, particularly during strong winds in spring and autumn.  Passing seabirds include Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, the occasional Puffin, Manx, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters, Sandwich, Black, Common and Arctic Terns, and Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas.  The tiny Storm Petrel may pass during strong winds in the summer.  Add three species of divers in the winter, and various waders and wildfowl in the migration periods and it is always worth scanning the sea.

ZoomClick images for larger versions: 
Peregrine and Prey
Peregrine. Photo: Simon Johnson

Short Eared Owl
Short-eared Owl. Photo: Julian Sawyer

Northern Gannets
Northern Gannets. Photo: Simon Johnson

Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat. Photo: Simon Johnson

Kestrel. Photo: Ken Dolbear

Fulmar. Photo: Adrian Winter

Jackdaws. Photo: Roy Cowley

Stonechat. Photo: Ken Dolbear

Shag. Photo: Adrian Winter 

Black Redstart
Black Redstart. Photo: Simon Kidner 

Robin. Photo: Adrian Winter