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Durlston National Nature Reserve – 4 May 2019

The annual coach trip on Saturday 4 May was to Durlston National Nature Reserve near Swanage in Dorset. It was a day of bright sunshine but with a cold wind. As the coach drove from Wareham to Swanage, Alan Parfitt explained how the route was travelling back in time – first the Tertiary sands of the Dorset heaths, then the Chalk ridge which runs through Corfe, then Wealden marls, then the Purbeck Beds and finally the Portland Beds. The day’s walk started from the Visitor Centre along the cliff-top Coastal Path. There were fine views across to the Isle of Wight and a Peregrine flew past. Fulmars flew below on stiff wings and rafts of Guillemots with a few Razorbills swam on the sea below. Further along the cliffs, it was possible to look back over the Guillemot nesting ledges, where there were also a few Shags. On the other side of the path, Rock Samphire and Wild Madder were noted, Whitethroats were singing and there were a number of Wall butterflies. The path led steeply down a rocky stretch near Tilly Whim caves. A Rock Pipit flitted round a rocky platform, there were several Stonechats flying around the gulley below the lighthouse and clumps of Thrift and Sea Campion cushioned the cliffs. A number of the hairy Caterpillars of the Brown-tail moth were crawling across the short turf of the Lighthouse Green. A few Early Spider-orchids were found here, but they were mostly past their best. The walk continued into the first field beyond the lighthouse. More Early Spider-orchids were found here, and a few still showed the glossy brown spider markings. Other flowers found here included Green-winged Orchid, Horseshoe Vetch, Yellow-wort, Dwarf Thistle, Wild Clary, Pale Flax and both blue and pink Milkwort. After much discussion, it was decided that both Common and Chalk Milkwort were present. Lunch was consumed in the sunshine and out of the wind, in the shelter of a rocky ridge. A Gannet flew past out to sea. Continuing over the ridge, there was a fine display of Cowslips and Early-purple Orchids. Heading further west, the next steep field above the Coastal Path had good numbers of Green-winged Orchids. Small-leaved Buttercup was found in cattle-poached areas and near a water trough. Returning along the top path towards the Visitor Centre, a number of Lesser Whitethroats were heard and a Small Copper butterfly was seen. A second group of members walked a shorter route. They explored the Saxon Field, where there were more Cowslips and Early-purple Orchids, and a small quarry had a good display of Early Spider-orchids, with many still fully in flower.

Pictures by Fiona Brown, Ian Esland and John Lerpiniere

RDNHS Coach trip to Durlston National Nature Reserve, 4.5.2019
Plant species
English namesScientific names
Wood SageTeucrium scorodonia
Hart’s-tongueAsplenium scolopendrium
Traveller’s-joyClematis vitalba
Herb-RobertGeranium robertianum
Wayfaring-treeViburnum lantana
Red ValerianCentranthus ruber
TamariskTamarix anglica
Rock SamphireCrithmum maritimum
Stinking IrisIris foetidissima
Bristly OxtongueHelminthotheca echioides
Smooth Sow-thistleSonchus oleraceus
ThriftArmeria maritima
Wild MadderRubia peregrina
Hoary MustardHirschfeldia incana
Salad BurnetPoterium sanguisorba
Common MallowMalva sylvestris
Horshoe VetchHippocrepis comosa
Mouse-ear HawkweedPilosella officinarum
GorseUlex europaeus
TeaselDipsacus fullonum
Sea BeetBeta vulgaris
Buck’s-horn PlantainPlantago coronopus
Sea CarrotDaucus carota ssp. gummifer
Ribwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata
WeldReseda luteola
Sea CampionSilene uniflora
Common MilkwortPolygala vulgaris
Common Bird’s-foot-trefoilLotus corniculatus
CowslipPrimula veris
CrosswortCruciata laevipes
Germander SpeedwellVeronica chamaedrys
Carline ThistleCarlina vulgaris
Early Spider-orchidOphrys sphegodes
Green-winged OrchidAnacamptis morio
Early-purple OrchidOrchis mascula
Hoary PlantainPlantago media
Wild ClarySalvia verbenaca
EyebrightEuphrasia spec.
Yellow-rattleRhinanthus minor
Common CentauryCentaurium erythraea
Dwarf ThistleCirsium acaule
Greater KnapweedCentaurea scabiosa
Pale FlaxLinum bienne
Common VetchVicia sativa
Bulbous ButtercupRanunculus bulbosus
Cut-leaved Crane’s-billGeranium dissectum
Bird species
PeregrineFalco peregrinus
RazorbillAlca torda
GuillemotUria aalge
SkylarkAlouda arvensis
Butterfly species 
Wall BrownLasiommata megera
Small CopperLycaena phlaeas

List by Renée Grayer