Talking about wildlife with
Summer Heathland Nights Heathlands provide a unique habitat for a wide range of wildlife, and Dorset heaths are amongst the best in Britain. Summer nights are a perfect time to visit and explore, as the heaths are at their most colourful at this time of the year, and many species remain active until late evening when the weather is warm. Many heathland plants are in their full bloom and glory from July to September. Heather, gorse and bog asphodel create a stunning sea of purple and yellow, with the cotton grass adding its fluffy white flowers to the colourful mix. Sundew, Britain’s most common carnivorous plant, flourishes in the damp, boggy areas, as do many different species of dragonflies. For insect enthusiasts, there is also an array of other invertebrates, including heath grasshoppers, emperor moths and wolf spiders. Birds are plentiful in the summer and on a fine evening you can admire the dashing flight of the hobby, catching dragonflies for dinner. At twilight, the enigmatic nightjars become active. These summer visitors from Africa are a rare and elusive species, and although you may not be able to catch a glimpse, they can often be recognised by the male’s strange ‘churring’ song that echoes through the ni gh t. O th er avia n denizens of heathland
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include the Dartford Warbler, stonechats and woodlarks. No doubt you will have heard about the huge fire that burnt around a third of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Upton Heath in June. We have been overwhelmed by the response of local people, who turned out in large numbers in the days after the fire to help to rescue surviving reptiles. Now the work begins to make sure that the untouched areas of heath are in the best condition for wildlife, assess the depth of the fire damage and to manage the regrowth and recovery of the ecosystem for the full range of rare plants and animals. While we will see green shoots very quickly, this will be just the start of a long road to full recovery.
Nick Hoar, Communications Officer Dartford Warbler
Photo by Colin Smith
Thursday, June 30, 2011 16:59 Black Magenta Yellow Cyan