Having woken refreshed from a nice 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep and myself briefly wrestling with a un-openable packet of shower gel we set about to conquering the previous days omission; green lizard. Now we specifically knew what time the lizards started to become active saved us several hours of fruitless searching.
Our first new lepidopteran of the trip and a rather covetous species and that. A couple were found and the cool morning made them easy to photograph while joggers did their best to upend us.
We began our search for green lizard looking for searching some key features we were told to find. This proved more difficult than we first thought as we searched the recesses behind the chalets while trying to remain inconspicuous. I imagine we failed miserably at this but no one said anything so kudos to us. Flipping over some roof tiles found us a lovely rosy woodlouse and a southern coast speciality I had hoped for. Native cockroaches. I’m still not sure which of the 3 British species we encountered but my hunch is tawny cockroach. They are remarkably charming and I wholeheartedly recommend looking for them if you are in the vicinity.
Back on lizard search we discovered some black pieces of wood which matched pictures we had seen. Based on our CSI style level of forensic work we determined this would be a good place to focus on. James hoisted himself onto the cliffs while I scanned around from the bottom. After a few false starts James hollered down, saying there was one just in front of him. I scrambled into action. Sadly, James is a lot stronger than me so I struggled to pull myself up the wall. James is freakishly strong though. I saw him punch through a bank. Another time he tried to take a thorn from a lions paw and he kicked it to death instead. Another time he spat a cherry stone over a church only for it to enter orbit then kill George Clooney. Another time he read all of English literature in a day. That’s not a feat of strength but still beyond impressive. He may also have a demon’s heart.
I’m just to give a little more background to our search here. Having failed the day before, we studied the photos available to us online. After forensically examining the materials the lizards were basking on, along with the surrounding vegetation, we narrowed the search area down. Robert discovered a piece of dark wood which he was convinced was some sort of sign or symbol. As it transpired, he was correct. I clambered around the shifting sand, eyeing up suitable bits of dark wood. They all looked pretty much perfect, lacking only their lizardy mounts. Curses. I kept scrambling. After ten minutes of search I felt downhearted. I looked further up the slope. The terrain looked particularly awkward, but I decided to give it a go. I stretched out my arm to the nearest handhold of grass, and suddenly noticed there was a green lizard directly in front of my hand. It had been in my eye-line for some time, but it blended in delightfully with the fresh green of the grass. It was only when I started to move that my brain interpreted the shape correctly and it popped into clarity. I then immediately got Robert’s attention through arm gestures and very gentle hollering. I don’t have a demon’s heart, by the way, I have half of a dragon’s heart. I’m like David Thewlis in Dragonheart, only marginally less arrogant.
Anyway, as I managed to pull myself up and get within a short distance of the lizard, a van pulled up at the base of the cliffs. He asked what we were doing. We said we were looking at a lizard and wouldn’t be long. He got back in his van and waited. I managed to get this picture before the guilt of a security guard waiting to make sure we don’t die in a crumpled heap forced us down.
Not long after taking that picture the lizard shot off into the undergrowth and I started to make my down. The vanning gentleman pootled along on his vanly way. I then realised that one my legs wasn’t working. Not sure why and it certainly didn’t hurt, but one muscle in my upper leg decided that it was done for the day. The moral of the story is do exactly what you want just tell the security guard you will be done shortly. I can confirm that this works for burglary as well. I remember stealing a sapphire the size of a duck’s egg from a French casino and the guard was all like “Hey, whatcha doin’?”, and I was like “I’m just stealing this sapphire the size of a duck’s egg, I’ll be quick” and he was like “Urgh, it’d better be” and he rolled his eyes.
Having filled our mucky chops with lizard goodness we headed to Higher Hyde Heath. It’s a reserve which seems to be a mix of old woodland, heath and brownfield. It was heaving with rare treats and delights and boasts every single native reptile. We found this slow worm with blue specks which, for whatever reason, aren’t showing. Still, it’s a slow worm and we can all agree it’s the best reptile.
We also enjoyed numerous sand lizards. Vowing to return the next morning before the heat got everything worked up we went to Kimmeridge for some rockpooling. I’m a rank amateur when it comes to rockpooling so it was an afternoon of roasting in the afternoon sun whilst James pointed at things and I believe everything he said about them. Despite that I managed to see around 20 species I hadn’t before.
If you stand around long enough with a box of animals eventually the curiosity of passers by will overwhelm them into asking what you’ve got. I think I spent half an hour passing crabs between children. Jesus, that was a poorly worded sentence. I spent half an hour informing children about crabs. Better but misleading. I said stuff about crustaceans to children. That will do for now. Another child claimed that starfish were “his worst enemy” because “they stick to you forever”. He was delightfully stubborn but possibly an idiot. To this very day I have never found out why he considered them his nemesis.
Some ice creams and sunburn later we were on our way to our final site for the day to look for orchids. There may have been a small stop on the journey so James could vandalise the promotional efforts of a particular political party. The memory is a bit hazy but I’m certain he shouted “VIVA LA REVOLUTION” as he did it. If I had been in France during WW2, I’d have definitely joined the resistance. Anyway, who’s complaining about a ruined UKIP sign? I hear Farage likes to throw darts a schoolchilden. And he only eats bombay mix, even though he hates it.
At Durlston County Park we spoke to a nice, informed man about the possibility of seeing early spider orchid. He basically said “Fat chance suckas” before punching a jukebox into life. He obviously didn’t but mentioned seeing a lot of other nice things to make up for it. There will be a post coming up about what makes a good reserve warden/information assistant. It could be scathing.
Durlston also provided a welcome bit of botany in the form of Early Gentian. Neither Robert or I are ‘hardcore’ as far as plants are concerned (we’d certainly never drive to Fair Isle to twitch an unusual seed that had blown across from foreign climes, as some people presumably do) but we’ll happily admire an unusual plant. The gentian was eclipsed, however, by Robert’s magnificent discovery of a Bloody Nosed Beetle, so named because of all the bar fights it gets into. Bloody Nosed Beetles combine several delightful features that make them very endearing. They are big, but slow moving. I’d go so far to say that they plod along, lost in their daydreams. They are basically made of rounded ball shapes, which gives them the appearance of an animated character. They also have big stupid feet, like a tiny six-legged puppy. I adored it. It was essentially a real-life pokemon.
We were also brilliant enough to find a pair of Lesser Bloody Nosed Beetles. They are essentially the same as a Bloody Nosed Beetle, but smaller. They’re still great, but just not quite as great. We didn’t find an Early Spider Orchid, which was a shame. I’ll have to be back again next year.
After Durlston, Robert said we should have a cooked meal. I readily agreed. We found a pleasant eatery in Swanage. Swanage. Swanage seemed very pleasant, like a nice south-coast Bridlington. The name bothers me though. ‘Swan’ is fair enough, but the ‘-age’ sound really sours it. I think there is a lesson there for the local council. Anyway, we had a pizza, which was delightfully hot, and asked for as much free water as they’d give us to stave off our heat stroke. I had started to hallucinate that Robert was Bill Oddie and Robert had started to hallucinate the same thing about me so we were both very confused. I’m sure something amusing happened at the eatery but I don’t recall exactly what. Did we have a staged argument whilst a waitress looked on? I don’t quite remember.
After Swanage we headed to find a Tesco for necessary goods. The Tesco couldn’t be found. It didn’t appear on the internet, we could only see it from a distance but as we got closer it vanished. It was deeply perturbing. Eventually we stopped at a garage so that Robert could ask one of the locals for advice and directions. As he was doing so I saw a winged beast flapping around a light on the forecourt. I took my net, jumped, and deftly swept it up. A cockchafer. Standard fare for me, but a species that Robert had never seen alive before. I went over to the glass and waved it at him. He was tickled pink.
It turned out Tesco was basically right next to us. We must have driven straight past it about thirty-eight times. It also seemed to have nothing in stock. No chocolate milk, no houmous. It was distressing.
We then head to our sleeping site, Higher Hyde Heath. We had a bit of a walk first, which gave us pleasing views of a nightjar. Robert slept in the car, and I slept outside under a thin blanket. It was pretty good actually, I got hear nightjars churring all night, along with a cuckoo that obviously wasn’t very sleepy. The only problem was when it got really, really cold at about 4.00am and it felt as though I’d never be warm again. Here ends day two of our trip.