Falcons and Seabirds on the Isle of Purbeck

After a rather interesting turn of events, linked to the Coronavirus Lockdown my summer holiday ended up in Dorset, in the pleasant seaside town of Swanage. At first glance not a greatly interesting place for wildlife, but if you look more closely at Swanage and the surrounding area, you will find an abundance of seashore and clifftop wildlife.

As one enters any seaside town, the first thing you will probably hear, the ringing call of the infamous Herring gull. The pale-grey back and pink to grey legs, give the Herring gull away. It’s the species of gull that’s most likely to be seen in a group outside a fish and chip shop, hoping to grab your meal.

As well as Herring gulls, I also saw black-headed and Great black-backed gulls. A fearsome butcher of a bird, Great black-backs are the largest species of gull in the world and also until recently a very scarce gull. The black-headed gulls are one of the smaller gull species, their name is a bit misleading because they often have a brown-coloured head.

My first encounter with a falcon occurred at Durlston Country Park, I reached the cliffs and a Kestrel flew right over my head. Then a man pointed me in the direction of a Peregrine Falcon, which when in flight, it was sight to behold. I saw both falcons many times and I returned to the Park throughout the holiday.

Kestrels at Durlston Country Park

As well as Kestrels and Peregrines at the park, there was also a mini colony of Auks at the feet of the cliffs. British Auks include; Razorbills, Guillemots and the iconic Atlantic Puffin. At the park I could spot lots of Guillemots, some Razorbills, but sadly no Puffins. The video below shows the colony floating on the water, about to leave the cliffs for a year at sea.

Guillemots and Razorbills, Durlston Country Park

Perhaps the highlight of the holiday was the visit to Corfe Castle, where a pair of Peregrine Falcons nested during lockdown. I could see the parents flying in, out and around the castle ruins. After walking to the top, I could even see the tails of the young Peregrines poking out of the nest. the ground below the nest was covered in the remains of unfortunate birds and the calls of hungry chicks could be heard from anywhere on the site.

Peregrine Falcons, Corfe Castle and Durlston Country Park

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