RECENT STORMS and strong south-westerly winds have brought some unusual visitors to Dorset’s beaches. Tropical crabs, birds blown off course and rare barnacles are some of the wildlife reported by Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Six rare types of goose barnacle have washed up along the coast in recent weeks, including one, Conchoderma virgatum, which Dorset Wildlife Trust staff have nicknamed the ‘pyjama barnacle’ because of its covering of stripy skin.
Julie Hatcher, Dorset Wildlife Trust Marine Officer, said: “These animals normally spend their lives in warmer waters, drifting around the oceans of the world, hitching a lift on any floating debris, whether it be mats of seaweed, bird feathers or plastic bottles.”
Very rarely, other oceanic hitch-hikers find their way to our coastline; a tropical Columbus crab has been found by local marine expert Lin Baldock on Ringstead beach. This is only the second time in 100 years that Columbus crabs have been found here. They made national news in 2006, when around 30 of them were discovered in Dorset, following extremely stormy conditions.
Among the birds driven by the storms was a grey phalarope, a wading bird blown off course as it headed for the southern oceans from its Arctic breeding grounds. It was seen surfing the waves and picking tiny bugs from the water’s surface just below Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Fine Foundation Marine Centre. Birds, including puffins and petrels that are normally far out to sea, have also been washed up dead, battered by wind and waves and unable to feed.
Julie Hatcher added: “Now is the time to get out on the beach and search among the strandline. After such a stormy period, you never know what creatures you may turn up, and it may even be something never recorded in Dorset before. Take photos and send them to Dorset Wildlife Trust for recording. The more we know about what’s out there, the better we will be able to protect it.”
Send your marine sightings to email@example.com or ring 01929 481044.
Note: from a press release issued by Dorset Wildlife Trust.