You are here

What basic information does the Nature of Dorset database contain?

Submitted by Peter Orchard on Thu, 15/08/2019 - 08:16

The Nature od Dorset database:

When I moved to Dorset in July 2006 and immediately started researching the nature reserves here as a way of exploring my adopted county. Outside of Arne and Durlston I had little idea what else Dorset had in store to explore. Being a compulsive recorder and collector of data I soon started to build up a store of knowledge on the nature reserves of Dorset and felt that I should share that with others so that they too could share the wondrous places we had been to together. The Nature of Dorset project grew from that and the Nature of Dorset database is a repository of all the information I have accumulated. 

The database is a collection of data, not just from Dorset's nature reserves; I have included other wildlife 'hot-spots' too. The database comprises two main files; one of sites and one of species. These two primary databases are linked by a table of records that show what species you might see at a given site and at what sites you might find a certain species. 

This structure means you can use the Nature of Dorset website in two alternative ways:

  1. To find places to go to see wildlife and nature at its best with some expectation of what you might see when you get there
  2. To find the places certain species that you might want to see occur so that you know where to go looking

Sites Database:

As I visit a nature reserve/hot-spot I create an entry in the database that contains:

  • some basic information about the site, its ownership, management, access and facilities, etc
  • a brief description and my thoughts on the site
  • some photographs showing various aspects of the site to give a feel for it
  • its location on a map, directions on how to find it by car and some other sites nearby if you are looking to make a day of it
  • a list a species you might find on the site
  • a guide to the habitats on the site
  • a basic 'risk assessment' so those with mobility difficulties do not get caught out by unexpected accessibility problems
  • links to other websites that have information on the site

All of this information should give you a feel for the reserve before you even get there as well as enabling you to find it!

Species Database:

As I find a new species I create an entry in the species database that contains:

  • some basic information including scientific name, other names it might be known by, its place in the natural order of things and so on
  • a brief note about it highlighting identification features and behaviour and some other thoughts
  • some photographs
  • a distribution map showing where it can be seen
  • a link to similar species in the same family

I have arranged this in a 'top down' format from the species home page to aid identification. If you start at the top, with four clicks you may have identified something you have seen!


The sightings table links species to reserves and adds a date and a status to form the species lists and the distribution maps. These are not always my records, I have included some publicly available records too in some cases to enhance the prospective visitors experience. Where I have done this the source is shown and a link to the source is included in the resources for the site. The next two pages of the guide have a lot more information on species lists and sightings records and I urge you to read them!


I believe that the 'reserves' section of the Nature of Dorset is now the most comprehensive guide to the nature reserves and other wildlife hot-spots in Dorset, not just on the internet but anywhere! I am still working on it and will continue to do so until health prevents me from continuing.