13 Jun 2022

13 Jun 22 - The Old Harry Pelagic

In the last Blog Post, I wrote about being invited by my friend Mark Singleton, who is one of the local National Trust team, to join one of the annual breeding Seabird surveys that are carried out by Footprint Ecology for the National Trust. The survey covers the Purbeck coast from Durlston to St Aldhelms and along the cliffs to Old Harry. After completing Jurassic Coast section from Durlston to St Aldhelms, we crossed Swanage Bay to cover the chalk cliffs of Ballard Down as far as the breeding Gull colony on Old Harry.
A panoramic view of the Swanage side of Ballard Down: There are no breeding Seabirds on this side
The chalk cliffs of Ballard Down: Looking North towards the Pinnacles & Old Harry
As we passed the chalk cliffs of Ballard Down, there were a few nesting pairs of Fulmars and Cormorants, as well as, a pair of Shags.
Fulmar: There are a few pairs of Fulmars which breed like this individual which was photographed from Ballard Down (14 Jun 15)
Cormorant nest
Another Cormorant nest
Shag nest
Peregrine: The Ballard Down Peregrine nest clearly has good sea views
The Old Harry area: This chalk band used to stretch across to the Needles and it is thought that the Solent finally broke through to the sea about 7,000 years ago
As we passed the final piece of cliff before Old Harry, we saw the local cliff-nest House Martins which were feeding along the cliff edge & then flying back to their nests to feed their young. We were too far away for photos, so I've included a photo I took a few weeks earlier from Old Harry of one of the nests. This is one of a few UK sites where House Martins still nest in their traditional habitat.
House Martin: One of the pair are nest-building at the top of the cliff (20 May 22)
Looking South from Old Harry
The rock stacks at Old Harry are an important local nesting site for Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls. They are best seen from the edge of Ballard Down, however, it won't be possible to count all the nests, without checking from a boat.
Old Harry: The large rock stack is Old Harry & the smaller stack is Old Harry's Wife. However, he original had two wives, but one fell into the sea in a storm in 1509.
Great Black-backed Gull: Photographed from Ballard Down (31 May 14)
Herring Gull at Old Harry Rocks: Photographed from Ballard Down (1 Jun 14)
It had been a brilliant trip out covering the Purbeck coast as far as St Aldhelms, as well as, this section up to Old Harry. My thanks to Mark Singleton at the National Trust who invited me along & to Durwyn and his team from Footprint Ecology who were running the survey. If you would like to join a trip to the same stretch of coastline to see the breeding Seabirds, then the Birds of Poole Harbour team run trips in the breeding season from Poole Quay: more details will be on the website around June & July each year.