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My Top 10 Species for Visitors

Submitted by Peter Orchard on Thu, 15/08/2019 - 11:20

Dorset is blessed with a diverse array of habitats and, as a result, a diverse flora and fauna. Amongst the animals and plants found here there are some that are almost unique to Dorset and only found here. here are others that can be found elsewhere in Britain but are more 'common' here in Dorset. If you are coming to Dorset here are ten species you might want to go looking for. The names are also links to the page about tha species in the main database where you can find more information about the species and where you can see it.

Sand Lizard

The sand lizard can be found in a few locations in country but it is here in Dorset that you will find their stronghold. They are very common on the heaths where the sandy soil is ideal for their nesting requirements. I say they are very common but whether you will see one on your visit is another matter. I spend many hours on the local heaths and hardly ever set eyes on one!

Smooth Snake

What I wrote about the  sand lizard could be repeated for the smooth snake except that instead of 'hardly ever' set eyes on one make that 'never'! The best way to see a smooth snake is to go to Arne on a Wednesday morning at 10.00am and join their weekly walk and then I am pretty sure the leader will find you one to see really close up as they are licensed to handle them

Dartford Warbler

Dartfords can be seen in other parts of the country too but people come from all over to see them here in Dorset because, again, this part of the country, the heaths especially, is home to the biggest number of them. They spend their life in and around gorse bushes and a favoured song perch in spring is often the highest point on a cluster of gorse bushes. Want to see one? Again, head to Arne for their weekly walk.


Once quite common across Great Britain the nightjar is far less often encountered. Another heathland specialist the Purbeck area of Dorset is a good place to find them but you need to go out at dusk. Once again, Arne is a top spot for them and the wardens there do special evening nightjar walks to see them. The walks are very popular and you need to book in advance.


I have included avocet in my list because, although they are now quite common in various parts of Britain in winter and also nest in East Anglia, we get very large numbers (over 1,000) in Poole Harbour now each winter and they can be seen at low tide from both Arne and on Brwonsea Island. They make a wonderful sight and I suspect the views you get here are as good as you fill find anywhere with the possible exception of the River Exe in Devon.

Lulworth Skipper

One species you definitely will not anywhere in Britain other than here in Dorset is our very own butterfly, the Lulworth skipper. Indeed, with numbers continuing to fall each year you are now lucky to see one here. The are a small, dull coloured butterfly but if you get to see them close up you will find they have a lovely pattern of rays of sunshine on their fore-wings. Found along the Purbeck coast and yes, near Lulworth (Bindon Hill) is one of the best places to see them.

Silver-studded Blue

Heath is such a rare habitat in Britain and much of what there is remaining is here in Dorset and so it is of little surprise that some of our rarest wildlife is associated with such a rare habitat. This is true of the silver-studded blue butterfly which is certainly at home on the heath. Most of our heaths have silver-studs on them in mid-summer, often in good numbers, but apart from a small colony of a sub-variety found on Portland you will not find them elsewhere.

Early Spider Orchid

Adopted by the Dorset Wildlife Trust as its logo the early spider orchid is another national rarity. Found also in a few places on the chalk cliffs in Kent it can be found in good number here on the limestone of the Purbeck cliffs. A recent survey established that there are over 1,000 at Durlston alone. A small orchid but an attractive one, the flower supposedly resemble a garden spider which makes them quite unmistakable if you find one, Found in April and May but they have a short season.

Portland Spurge

Head to Portland to see its very own spurge. It does also occur along the limestone Purbeck cliffs but it is Portland where it is most frequent although even here it could not in anyway be thought of as common. You will not see it anywhere else in the country.

Dorset Heath

You may think heather is heather but there are four species of heather found on the Dorset heathland and the Dorset Heath is the rarest. Found also in small quantities in parts of Devon and also in the Channel Islands this nationally rare plant is actually quite common on the heaths of Purbeck south of Poole Harbour, you just have to know how to recognise it.

Dorset has other special species too including the nationally scarce Adonis blue butterfly but as I set myself a limit of ten the above are