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Peregrine and PreyDurlston is a very special place for birds with a mixed mosaic of habitats offering suitable areas for breeding birds but also due to its location a magnet for migrants passing through in spring and autumn.

Over 270 species have been recorded, ranging from the mega, rare, scarce and common. The only European sighting of the American, Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum was recorded in 1966 with host of rarities including Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophrys , Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus, Bonaparte's Gull Chroicocephalus Philadelphia, Pallid Swift Apus pallidus, Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus, Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus and Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala all seen over the years .

Autumn can be a wonderful time to see visible migration in action as literally thousands of finches, thrushes and hirundines pass through filling the air with large flocks. European records have been set for 10,960 Linnet Carduelis cannabina , 45,000 Swallow Hirundo rustica and 6,500 Sand Martin Riparia riparia.

Breeding birds include the red listed Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, Linnet and Skylark Alauda arvensis for which a detailed conservation initiative has recently been started to try and reserve their sadly declining population.

The scrub provides habitat for breeding Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata, Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis, Stonechat Saxicola torquata and Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula amongst the more common species, whilst down on the cliffs around the caves Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros have recently started to breed.

The exposed sea cliffs provide nesting ledges for Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, Herring Gull Larus argentatus and Razorbill Alca torda whilst one of the UK’s most productive Guillemots Uria aalge colonies return each year en masse with an average of 350 birds seen crammed into the breeding ledges .

Just over the reserve boundary a small population of Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla and Puffin Fratercula arctica can be found with declining numbers a cause for concern for their future in the area.

Durlston Checklist

Complete Durlston Species List - comprising records from the past 30 years

Purbeck Seabird Report 2021

Each year the National Trust and Durlston Country Park NNR join together to ensure a Seabird Survey of the Purbeck coast is undertaken - here is the 2021 report

Durlston Bird Reports

Durlston Woodland Report 2022 - surveys were undertaken as part of the Pleasure Grounds Project 

Durlston Bird Report, 2012

Durlston Bird Report, 2011

Durlston Bird Report, 2010

Durlston Bird Report, 2009

Durlston Bird Report, 2008

Durlston Bird Report, 2007

Durlston Bird Report, 2006

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Credits: Many thanks to Jol Mitchell for his hard work in compiling the Report. Thanks also to our generous and talented photographic contributors!

Bird Report 2008

Below is a short selection of some of the highlights of the year. You can also download the full report or contact us for more information. Some of this year's records can be found in the Daily Diary.


Some wonderful early mornings were accompanied by 100’s of Gannets diving off the head towards the end of January, while the 23rd saw 2000+ Razorbills.  The Guillemots have regularly been back on the cliffs but unfortunately a number of oiled seabirds have been picked up from the local beaches – these get taken by the RSPCA to Taunton.

A number of Balearic Shearwaters (seen just a few hundred yards of the cliffs on the 7th February) and again on 14th along with 1000 Razorbills, 400 Kittiwakes and 1 Mediterranean Gull. The 23rd Jan saw unusually high numbers of Divers -  40 Red-throated, 1 Black-throated and 5 Great Northern Divers, as well as 180 Kittiwakes, 300 Black-headed and 1 Little Gull.  On a number of occasions 5 Ravens have been soaring above the meadows.  The Black Redstart has been in residence at Tilly Whim all winter, brightening those wet and dull mornings.


As spring draws closer, birdsong is becoming more noticeable, with Greenfinches, Blue, Coal and Great Tits, Dunnock, Song and Mistle Thrush, Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch all adding their own threads to an increasingly rich symphony.

Along the cliffs, Rock Pipits are making their amazing ‘parachuting’ song-flights, with Ravens seen displaying on many mornings in February.  Good views of Stonechats and Dartford Warblers on the Downs.  Firecrests and Black Redstart have been seen on most mornings during February.

Highlights of February included 2 Snipe exploding out of the grassland in the meadows, disturbed by our Hereford Cattle on the 14th, a chilly morning on the 17th saw 8 Lapwing and a Golden Plover, evidence of cold conditions inland, with a Reed Bunting also seen.


Participants on a guided walk on the 1st of March were lucky enough to see a total of 31 species, including 2 Woodcock, with a Little Owl seen earlier that morning.

The first Wheatear of the year was reported from Belle Vue on the 5th March – keep your eyes peeled for the first one at Durlston!

Many species of bird have already started nest building – Shags have already finished theirs, while Long-Tailed Tits are hard at work at the moment.

Best ‘twitch’ of the month was a Glaucous Gull, seen close to the cliffs by local birder Warren Claydon on the morning of the 8th March. This huge, white-winged Gull is a real rarity at Durlston, with less than 20 records in over 30 years of sea-watching.

April / May

As always, April provided some memorable bird watching as migrants arrived from the south.  Redstarts, Grasshopper Warblers and Pied Flycatchers were particularly noticeable. Pomarine Skuas and Black Terns added excitement to early morning sea-watches while a possible Cory’s Shearwater was noted on 4th May.

The most surprising sighting was a superb summer-plumage Water Pipit on 2nd May – only the 2nd Park record. Other scarce species included Honey Buzzard, Serin, Osprey, Short-eared Owl and Quail.


Among the breeding birds, Common and Lesser Whitethroats are particularly numerous while Linnet and Skylark numbers seem to be up on recent years. A Dartford Warbler is holding territory on the downs

Other seabird news – 2 pairs of Razorbill can be seen via the camera, Some good seawatching, with Scoter, Great Skua, 20+ Manx Shearwaters and 4 Storm Petrels all spotted on 26th May. 

Some unusual sightings – a Marsh Warbler reported from Saxon Field on 27th May and on both 29th & 30th a female Golden Oriole seen, while a Nightjar was discovered on 21st May


7 Puffins were seen on the last two evening boat trips, while the very wet Wednesday afternoon trip provided fantastic views of 50 or more Gannets really close to the boat.

Other highlights this month have included a Cuckoo in the Wildlife Area (06/06), with Grey Heron and Little Egret on the same day, a juvenile Peregrine Falcon seen for the first time on the 25th, with it’s sibling seen a couple of days later. Stoats have been seen hunting on many days.

The month ended with a couple of unusual sightings on the 30th, with 3 Crossbills


The 2 juvenile Peregrines and a young Kestrel are regularly heard around the coast and gully.

A steady trickle of Swifts, Swallow and both House and Sand Martins have been seen.  Other migrants are Red-legged Partridge (12 & 14/7), Hobby (10/7), Wheatear (18/7), Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Pied Flycatcher (30/7), Tree Pipit (31/7) and Redstart – all becoming more numerous as we reach August.  A Cuckoo flew over the Wildlife Area on 30/7 and Turtle Doves have been seen in the Gully on several days.

An unusual number of Crossbills passed over from the 4th, while on 25th July, 23 were counted.

Species passing at sea include Balearic Shearwater, Manx Shearwater (38 on 7/7), 3 Tern species, 3 Storm Petrel (9/7), and on the 11thJuly 160 Gannets, on the 21/7 a Yellow-legged Gull, and on the 31/7 a Cory’s Shearwater.


As August proceeded and September arrived the main wildlife focus has been on bird migration.  This year the highlights have included a large number of Crossbills, probably leaving their summer breeding grounds early due to a reduced number of pine cones.  Overhead activity has also involved Yellow, Grey and Pied Wagtails, plus Tree Pipits.

On land an influx of small birds over the 26 -31st August enlivened proceedings with Hobby, Siskin, Redstarts, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchat and 9 species of WarblerGarden, Willow, Chiffchaff, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Dartford, Sedge, Reed and Blackcap.   2 (or possibly 3) Wrynecks were seen on 30th & 31st August. 

At sea Balearic Shearwaters have passed – this is the rarest seabird to pass through UK waters on migration.  Bonxie and Arctic Skuas, Common and Arctic Terns, plus Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Greenshank and for the first time ever, both Green and Wood Sandpiper have been seen in the same year at Durlston.

Another highlight was on 30th Sept when Swallows and House Martins were passing over at a rate of 3000 per hour.

Visible migration taking place as large numbers of Linnets, Goldfinches, Redpoll, Siskin and Chaffinches passing over plus a few HawfinchesGrey and Pied Wagtails, accompany Meadow and Tree Pipits as well as the continental Coal Tits, Goldcrest, Firecrest and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.


Birds of prey galore, with a superb Goshawk on Sat 4th Oct, (a fairly unusual sight at Durlston).  Magnificent views of a Hobby as it flew above the garden of The Lookout cafe on both 1st and 2nd Oct.  A number of sightings of our smallest bird of prey, the Merlin, plus Buzzards and on a Honey BuzzardSparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrines also seen.

October has been the month for birdwatching if you are counting the sheer numbers of birds seen – 1800 Swallows & House Martins, 1000 Linnets, 1000 Goldfinches, 330 Chaffinches and 294 Siskin, 52 Redpoll, 7 Crossbills, 23 Brambling, 2 Reed Buntings, 120 Pied Wagtails and 100+ Starlings – these are the maximum numbers counted during the early rounds.


It has also seen the best sightings of Short-eared Owls for a number of years with 1-3 being watched quartering the meadows from mid-October, culminating in the sad story of the Short-eared Owl that was mobbed by Crows on 6th Nov, then eaten by a Peregrine Falcon, which despite the attentions of a Kestrel held onto her supper, (the beautiful wings are on show in the Centre). 

Other birds of prey have included Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Hen Harrier, Merlins, Buzzard, Sparrowhawks and Hobbies.

Unusual sightings have included Yellow –browed Warbler (17th Oct), Snow Bunting (23rd Oct), Lapland Bunting, (14th Oct), Ortolan Bunting (8th Oct), Ring Ouzels (12th Oct, 7, 8, 9th Nov), plus Garden Warbler, Woodlarks and Hawfinches.  A first for Durlston was the Olive Backed Pipit which flew over on 13th Oct.
The last Wheatear and Willow Warbler disappeared on 18th Oct, and the first Fieldfare arrived 21st Oct. 

Black Redstarts have been around most days since 19th Oct.

At sea, Leach’s Petrel (20th Oct), Brent Geese, Wigeon, Scoter, Balearic Shearwater, Mediterranean Gulls, Great Skua, Great Northern Divers, and Red-throated and Black-throated Divers.


An interesting month with a wide range of temperatures reflected by the unusually diverse selection of birds recorded in the period.

Visible migration continued during the first half of the month with Goldfinches, Linnets, Siskins, Bramblings and Redpolls particularly noticeable. The colder weather produced Golden Plovers and Lapwings while Woodcock and Snipe were also seen on several days.

Along the cliffs, the local Guillemots, Razorbills and Fulmars were seen most days along with Peregrines, Rock Pipits and at least one Black Redstart.   Further offshore the daily log included: lots of Gannets, good numbers of passing Red-throated Divers supplemented by the odd Great Northern and Black-throated Diver, an unseasonal Great Skua on 22/12, several Velvet Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider. Mediterranean Gulls continued to show well along with their commoner cousins.

Short-eared Owls remained on the Park much later than usual, delighting visitors throughout the month, with the occasional Little Owl report and the regular ‘hooting’ Tawny Owl in Castle Woods brought the owl count up to 3 species on several dates. Ravens put on some spectacular displays of aerial acrobatics raising hopes of possible breeding.  Sporadic Merlin and Buzzard sightings added to the variety of raptors.

Firecrests were recorded on an almost daily basis usually accompanied by Goldcrests, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, while Dartford Warblers were often seen or heard in the gully area.

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Credits: Many thanks to Jol Mitchell for his hard work in compiling the Report. Thanks also to our generous and talented photographic contributors!

Bird Report 2007

This is a brief summary of some of the highlights of the year. You can also download the full report or contact us for more information. Some of this year's records can be found in the Daily Diary.

A total of 162 species were recorded at Durlston Country Park during 2007, 12 fewer than in 2006. Highlights in 2006 included European Storm-petrel, Wryneck, Yellow-browed Warbler, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Tree Sparrow, Serin, Twite, Common Rosefinch, Lapland Bunting and Ortolan Bunting.


As normal, January was a relatively quite month. Firecrests in the woods and a Black Redstart at Tilly Whim remained from 2006. Also on land, Song and Mistle Thrushes started to sing from early in the month. The main interest was at sea with a passing Goldeneye on 3rd, a Little Gull on 19th and a Velvet Scoter on 22nd. Also on that day, a Cormorant of the Continental race sinensis was recorded. Great Northern Divers were reported on five days.


As in January, the main interest was at sea. Black-throated Divers, the scarcest diver seen off Durlston, and in Dorset, passed on 5th and 11th, a further sinensis Cormorant was recorded on 14th, and an usually large (for Durlston) flock of over 80 Brent Geese passed on 20th.


March is the month in which migration starts to become apparent. Typical early migrants were the first Northern Wheatear on 7th, Sand Martins on 11th and Sandwich Terns offshore on 15th. Two Black-throated Divers also passed on 15th.


April saw a flurry of activity with the numbers and diversity of migrants increasing rapidly. Of the local species, nine Common Buzzards were seen on 5th. “First dates” for some of the commoner migrants were as follows: Willow Warbler (2nd), Swallow (5th), Yellow Wagtail (7th), Redstart (7th), Hobby (7th), House Martin (10th), Common and Lesser Whitethroats (15th), Swift (20th) and Cuckoo (24th). Northern Wheatears peaked on 24th with 14 birds present; other passerines of interest included Pied Flycatchers, a rare spring record of a Tree Sparrow on 16th, Nightingale, Turtle Dove and Ring Ouzels. At sea, the first Common Terns passed on 19th, a Balearic Shearwater on 24th, and Arctic and Little Terns on 27th and 30th. Skua passage during the last week included five Arctic, two Great and one Pomarine Skua. Five Little Gulls passed on 23rd with a further bird two days later. Waders were also on the move with Ringed and Grey Plovers, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone all passing offshore, albeit in small numbers. The last three days of April saw a significant passage of Bar-tailed Godwits along the Dorset coast, reflected at Durlston where over 20 birds were reported on 27th, 20-30 birds on 29th and 30 on 30th.


Migration continued into May. Turtle Doves (increasingly rare at Durlston and the rest of the country) were recorded on 2nd, 5th and 19th. Other noteworthy land birds included a Honey Buzzard passing overhead on 3rd, a Wood Warbler on the same day and a Golden Oriole seen briefly as it disappeared into dense vegetation on 20th May. At sea, Arctic (2nd), Great (10th) and four Pomarine (28th) Skuas were recorded. A Storm-petrel was off Durlston Head in the evening of 8th May. Passing waders included Dunlin (4th), Knot (5th) and Sanderling (four days).


A Red Kite passed overhead on 2nd and five young Crossbills passed overhead on 13th. Otherwise, the sea was the main interest in a quiet month. Three Storm-petrels passed on 2nd; Balearic Shearwaters on 18th and 21st. The latter date also saw a peak passage of 36 Manx Shearwaters and two Puffins offshore.


The mid-summer lull continued into July with Balearic Shearwaters reported on 2nd, 17th and 23rd. July is the peak month for passing Common Scoters; 85 bird-days were recorded.


Balearic Shearwaters were recorded on 15th and 18th; an hour’s seawatch in a fresh southerly wind on the latter date was dominated by over 240 Gannets heading west, many passing close inshore. On the land, Pied Flycatchers were reported on four days; a Woodchat Shrike was reported just south of the Saxon Field (a favoured area fore Shrikes) on 11th. A Wood Warbler was reported on 25th.


An Ortolan Bunting was heard on the Downs on 5th and a further bird passed over on 10th. The first Ring Ouzel of the autumn was reported on 13th. Two Wrynecks were seen on 16th by the Gully and near the western boundary. A Pied Flycatcher was reported on 13th. Of the commoner migrants, there was a spectacular “fall” of Willow Warblers on 22nd with over 150 birds present. Passing seabirds included a Great Skua on 5th, the last Balearic Shearwater of the year on 20th and Sooty Shearwaters on 18th and 23rd in a poor year for this species.


October is invariably an excellent month and October 2007 was no exception. A particular highlight was the number of birds of prey. A Marsh Harrier passed though on 7th. Noticeable were Merlins (recorded on 22 days), Sparrowhawks (42 bird-days including five birds on 17th) and Peregrine Falcons (three or four birds were recorded on ten occasions between October and mid-November) hunting the migrating passerine flocks. A Shorteared Owl was hunting over the hollows and scrub of Round Down on 31st.

Visible migration (the overhead daylight passage of migrating species such as pigeons, larks, hirundines, wagtails, pipits and finches) is an annual occurrence at Durlston and other Dorset headlands. Passage lasts from September until December, but the main period for finches is from October until mid-November. Counts were undertaken on 34 days between 2nd October and 17th November. Of the seven common finch species, totals were as follows: Goldfinch (15,370), Chaffinch (10,570), Linnet (5,580), Siskin (1,450), Greenfinch (1,420), Lesser Redpoll (1,060) and Brambling (710). Noteworthy passerines passing overhead included Twite (6th and 29th), Lapland Bunting (26th and 29th), Crossbill (27th), Serin (30th), Tree Sparrow (on five days) and Hawfinch (31st). Wood Pigeon migration began around the third week with significant overhead movements reported on 29th (7,850 birds) and 30th (8,900, including over 2,000 in one flock).

A Woodcock was seen on 12th. A juvenile Common Rosefinch was on the western boundary on 13th, and again on the next day with Greenfinches. Yellow-browed Warblers were reported on 9th, 22nd and 25th. At sea, Little Gulls (reported on four days) and Mediterranean Gulls (49 bird-days in this peak month for the species at Durlston) were a feature.


Passerine migration continued into November and the accompanying raptors were still in evidence, though not in the numbers of the previous month. A Short-eared Owl flying out to sea on 17th, pursued by crows, was an unusual sight. A Woodcock was present on 2nd and a Yellow-browed Warbler on 5th. Tree Sparrows passed overhead on 2nd and 17th; a movement of 8,000 Wood Pigeons occurred on 13th and the third Lapland Bunting of the autumn passed overhead on 17th. At sea, the peak count of Mediterranean Gulls (12 birds) was recorded on 1st and a Little Auk was seen on 18th. A Purple Sandpiper was recorded on the rocks at Tilly Whim on 26th. An unusual record was of two passing Tufted Ducks on 20th.


The year ended as it had begun with the main interest on land being wintering Firecrests and Black Redstarts. At sea, Black-throated Divers passed on 15th and 18th. December was the peak month for Red-throated Divers with seven birds passing on 15th (part of a noticeable movement along the Dorset coast) and six birds two days later. Great Northern Divers were reported on five days. Two Pochards and two Velvet Scoters passing on 19th were both unusual records, as was a Kingfisher reported from Peveril Point at the north end of Durlston Bay on 30th.