1 Jun 2014

1 June 14 - Signs Of Some Of Purbeck Oldest Residents

I have recently been told about some Tumuli at Godlingston Heath next to my Studland patch. So thought I would have a look at the site. It's near a viewpoint over the Studland area. I've looked from the viewpoint on many occasions, but I didn't know the Tumuli were there. There are 3 Tumuli or Round Barrows here. Steve Morrison has commented that they are Bronze Age (approximately 2500 BC to 800 BC). They would have been burial mounds for important people within the community who lived here. Dorset & neighbouring Wiltshire have a lot of Neolithic & Bronze Age monuments, mostly in the chalk parts of the county and there are quite a few other Barrow locations in the Purbeck area. I've not been able to find out anything else about these Tumuli, but if anybody reading this does know anything more about these Tumuli, please leave a comment to this post. On the Scillies, archeological studies have shown that the people were living & farming on the lower parts of the islands & placing their Barrows on higher ground where they would be more visible at a distance. Presumably, a similar thing is happening here, especially as there are additional barrows higher up on the chalk ridge which separates the Poole Harbour basin from the Swanage area on Nine Barrow Down.There are plenty of other examples of Barrows on high ground elsewhere in the Dorset & Wiltshire area, but this little corner of the Poole Harbour reminds me of the Scillies with the close proximity of Heath & Downs, next to the coastline (just from a habitat viewpoint, rather than a rarity viewpoint).
The Godlingston Tumuli: There are 3 Tumuli or Round Barrows here
There are good views over Newtons Bay & Brands Bay from this area.
View from the Tumuli: Newtons Bay is on the left, with Brands Bay on the right & the harbour mouth at the extreme right hand end of the photo
There were a few Butterflies & Dragonflies on the wing in the surrounding area.
Painted Lady: There has been a small arrival of Painted Ladies in the last couple of weeks from Europe, but some years have hundreds of thousands of this great Butterfly arriving on Southerly winds, before breeding & heading North. A smaller movement South is sometimes obvious in the Autumn
Small Tortoiseshell: Sadly, this once common Butterfly has declined quite a bit since my youth
Brown Silver-line: A fairly common day flying Moth where Bracken occurs on Heaths
Keeled Skimmer: Female. They are just starting to appear locally
Keeled Skimmer: Female. I couldn't resist another photo of this stunning Dragonfly
Coreus marginatus: This Shieldbug doesn't have an English name. It is fairly common across the Southern half of England and coastal Wales in dense hedgerows, wastelands & damper areas
I had spent the morning at Old Harry looking to see if the Grey-headed Wagtail was still around at Old Harry, while several hundred people had been watching the Short-toed Eagle at Morden Bog. Before I left Old Harry, it had been seen flying off high South & West from Morden. I thought it might have been tempted to hang around on the Lulworth tank ranges & return to Morden Bog that afternoon. Therefore, I headed to a viewpoint overlooking the Wareham to East Holme water meadows. From here I had a reasonable, but distant, view of the Lulworth ranges. I could have found closer viewpoints of the Lulworth ranges, but that wouldn't have put me between the ranges & Morden Bog. More crucially, it wouldn't have put me within the Poole Harbour area. At this point, we didn't know if it had occurred in Poole Harbour, but myself & a number of the local Harbour listers were doing our best to add it to the Harbour list. We subsequent know that it was seen over Arne soon after if disappeared on the Saturday morning, but only seen by a visiting birdwatcher. My 2.5 hour vigil wasn't wasted, despite no sign of the Short-toed Eagle, as my Plan B worked. About a month ago, local Harbour birder, Nick Hopper, was doing survey work on a farm close to where I was standing. He flushed a Grey Partridge, a species that hadn't been seen in Poole Harbour since the late 90s. One was heard the following evening, by Nick & a couple of other local Harbour birders, but I had no success when Nick took me onto this private farm. However, as part of the farm is bordered by the Wareham to Wool road, I've been looking every time I pass the area. This was about my 8th attempt & I was keeping my eye on a couple of small ploughed fields, between Eagle watching. This Plan B tactic paid off when a Grey Partridge walked across one of the fields, before walking back into cover: my fifth Harbour tick of the year. This compares to 3 in each of the last 2 years, so it has been a great Spring locally. Sadly, too far for a photo on this occasion.
Worbarrow Hill Fort: I've not noticed this before, but it will be somewhere to explore this Summer. Another sign of some of Dorset's oldest residents 
As the temperature was starting to drop, I figured that as it was now about 2 hours after the Short-toed Eagle had gone to roost on the previous afternoon, then I was probably not going to get it flying overhead to Morden Bog. There had been no confirmed sightings since it flew off about 10:00, just the usual probable (i.e. rubbish) claims that seem to occur whenever an interesting large Raptor occurs. So a final scan over Soldiers Road & Hartland Heath in case it was roosting over there, before home for some well earnt food.

Finally, I've had some great feedback from Brett Spencer & Martin Garner on the Grey-headed Wagtail, so please check back & view the comments for that post.