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May 2017

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M is for May and May is for movement! Whilst spring is with us and flowers and insects start to emerge it is still birds that dominate the headlines. For the first couple of weeks migration remains in full flow with summer visitors returning to nest, others passing through on their way further north and, inevitably, some vagrants that turn up here lost and bewildered, possibly having been blown off course by storms and adverse weather conditions.

One often overlooked aspect of migration is the movement of sea birds along the coast. Having spent the winter months far away from land they return to their home colonies on islands and highlands around British shores to breed. This results in parties of birds rarely seen passing our shores and, although technically not Dorset I suppose, if they can be seen from a location on the Dorset coast that is good enough to count. These species include skuas, auks, shearwaters and petrels. The most excitement amongst birders is the sight of a party of 'poms' (pomerine skua) and a number of these were seen this year. More frequent are 'bonxies' (great skuas) and arctic skaus. Manx shearwaters are regular travellers along the coast but less frequent are the Balearic shearwater. While watching for sea birds our observers saw basking sharks, Atlantic grey seal, bottled-nose dolphins and the rare Risso's dolphin.

Of the migrants seen arriving on land many are waders who drop down for a rest and feed before moving further north. This year has seen some of the less common species in Dorset passing through; most notably knot, ruff, little ringed plover, purple sandpiper, spotted redshank, little stint, curlew sandpiper and golden plover. More usual but in good numbers this year were whimbrel, sanderling and greenshank.

The rarest species, of course, are the vagrants, the ones that really should not be here. There were a good number of them this year including golden oriel, short-toed lark, Bonepartes gull, little gull, red-rumped swallow, hoopoe, red-footed falcon, glossy ibis and crane. In addition a number of 'good' warblers included dusky, spectacled, melodious and subalpine. Other interesting birds seen included cattle egret, spoonbill, black tern, roseate tern, eider duck, common scoter, puffin, stone curlew, red kite and honey buzzard.

As we put winter well behind us in May and look towards summer, insects start to emerge and as birding interest subsides so our contributors turn their attentions to other aspects of wildlife and butterflies, moths and dragonflies are the most popular subjects. This May odonata observations showed that some species that were virtually never seen in Dorset are now getting established here. Scarce chaser, red-veined darter and scarce blue-tailed damselfly all notable records for Dorset and seen in quite large numbers. The emergence of the Duke of Burgundy fritillary at Giant Hill took several of our observers out there to see and photograph them. This is now believed to be the only site left in Dorset where they can be seen. May also sees the emergence of marsh fritillary and the nationally scarce small blue and Adonis blue as well as Dorset's own butterfly, the Lulworth skipper. Some migrant moths made the records too with hummingbird hawk-moths being seen along with silver Y and scarce merville du jour. In gardens there were reports of the 'hornet hoverfly', Volucella zonaria. From the heaths some species always associated with that habitat brought sightings such as green tiger beetle, raft spider and mother Shipton and emperor moths. 

Plants generating the most interest were, nor surprisingly the orchirds with reports of green-winged, greater butterfly, southern marsh and comon spotted as well as the common twayblde.



In May female raft spiders can be seen waiting hopefully for a meal on heathland ponds

The records for this month have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Species List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Select a Day Original Tweets Guidance Notes
Monthly Statistics: 
Total entries for the month of ... May 2017
Total Monthly Tweets 647
Total Monthly Records 1177
Total Monthly Species 339
Total Monthly Sites 74
Total Monthly Contributors 64