The forecast was for hazy sunshine, turning cloudy and then possibly rain. That’s the sort of impression I had anyway from watching the news this morning. ‘Well, if it’s all about to change I’d best make the most of what’s left’ I thought to myself, so packed the camera gear up and headed to the coast.
Leaving the car at the Spyway Barn car park (which is free!) I was soon striding out heading for the Purbeck cliffs -hoping for a wheatear or two, but also with a cunning plan for a certain species. It was so cunning it couldn’t possibly fail!
With Skylarks in full song, roe deer wandering around in the next field and even a fly past of a peregrine falcon before I could even see the sea, I was rather confident of success – of some sort at least.
Dancing Ledge was the first port of call. Not to sure how it got the name – there are ledges all along this coastline, and I didn’t see any dancing anywhere. Not to worry, because one of my targets for the day was in view. When I say in view, that was about as good as it got. Yes, I could definitely identify it but I knew the pictures would be very much for the record only. One Puffin, floating around on the sea a good few hundred yards away through the haze – but it still counts! A Puffin, great start!
The sun was gaining strength now and I needed to get going before my next target got warmed up. You’ve probably guessed by now that I was on the hunt for reptiles again, and having got all six British reptiles last week you might also be wondering why I’m targetting reptiles again? Well, there are quite a few other reptiles in Britain that are classed as exotics. These are species that have either escaped from captivity or been introduced, and have now established themselves as thriving communities. One such species is the wall lizard – and I was looking for them.
It’s been years since I last saw any, and I wasn’t too sure exactly where to find them. I looked all around Dancing Ledge, then Seacombe Valley -all to no avail. I then espied yet another ‘likely looking lizard hot spot’ and clambered down the path to yet another ledge, with piles of loose rocks everywhere. Ten minutes of fruitless looking and I had just about decided to give up and try elsewhere, when I heard it… The sound of a lizard skitting away into cover is really distinctive and I knew there was a lizard somewhere amongst the pile of rocks to my right. I decided to wait it out – which was very nearly a very bad idea (more to follow on that!).
Setting the camera on a tripod I sat down on a pile of boulders opposite the lizard rocks and waited.. I kept hearing a noise similar to a lizard but not quite right, and then the occasional hissing noise. I moved my camera bag against my coat and it also made a sort of hissing noise (kind of) so that solved that one. Just then the lizard came out..
Yes! A wall lizard, and it soon came right out and started basking while I snapped away. With one out, they all came out – there were at least 10 within a few yards of me, all different sizes and in varying shades of golden brown through to bright green -and all with massively long tails!
Having explored the area I found one really well marked lizard running around on the grass, jumping to catch passing flies – amazing!
By now I had moved away from my original seating place, and looked up when I heard the hissing noise again – just in time to see a huge male adder emerge from right underneath the very boulder that I had been sitting on! He didn’t seem too bothered at my presence, and it seems he might have the taste for wall lizards as he spent quite a while searching through the rocks that they use for cover.
Eventually he seemed to head underground and I didn’t see him again -though I’m sure I heard a few more hisses for a long while after!
I spent quite a few hours with the wall lizards. They are great characters and although they do scoot away at first, they are usually back out again in a few minutes though rarely staying still for long.
They are definitely a thriving colony as I saw plenty of juveniles scuttling around, and the adults were busy courting -if biting each others tail can be called courting!
Time won out in the end and I called it a day, vowing to return again soon – taking one final image before I left.
The long walk up the steep hillside to Spyway loomed and after a while I stopped to take a pic of one of the mining bees.
Not that I have any idea of the species – I’m depending on my friendly bee guru to do that for me (please!). I looked up from that, just in time to see a stoat tumble (literally!)out of the bramble thicket just ahead of me. It shook itself, looked around and saw me immediately as I tried to bring the camera up. Whoosh! It was off in no time, running up the path for a while before veering off into a much larger thicket. I sat down in the hope that it would emerge,and ten minutes later it did just that – on the far side of the thicket and about 200 yards away.
Another record shot, but it does set me another challenge that I’ve been toying with for a few years now – get some decent images of stoat or weasel. That might take some time!
Two more pleasant surprises were left. Just before I reached the car a Wheatear flew over and I managed to get a shot (yet another record one- sorry!).
This was followed by a swallow, my first of the year. I didn’t even bother with the camera – I just watched it swooping over the field as it headed down the hill towards the village.
Maybe ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ as the saying goes – and if the rain arrrives as forecast tonight, the saying might just be right!