Alpaca Dorset

For six years we had our neighbour’s 3 alpacas in our paddock. Advantages: they mowed the grass and were decorative. Drawbacks: they caused a lot of damage by digging and from their peculiarly toxic waste; and were annoyingly passive / aggressive. So we moved them off, spent last winter filling in all the holes with a ton of topsoil and re-seeding, followed by a programme of regular harrowing, mowing and rolling to make the field ready for our son’s wedding on midsummer’s day (where we had our own reception a few years decades ago).

Wed Pad

Now what? The answer is: sheep. Peaceful, munching grazers with no obvious drawbacks. A young farmer in the village has put 7 pregnant Poll Dorset sheep in the paddock. Result: pastoral scenes, evenly cropped grass, and a damage-free field – with pre-Christmas lambs in prospect. Dorset Poll Sheep 7Dorset Poll Sheep 1Dorset Poll Sheep 8Dorset Poll Sheep 6Dorset Poll Sheep 3

The Dorset breed of sheep comes in both poll and horn varieties. Here are specimens of each kind photographed at a recent show in Dorset. The breed is hardy (as befits Hardy country), and unusually they can lamb 3 times over the course of 2 years, making them a productive option for a young farmer building up his flock. 

Dorset Poll Sheep, Stock Oak Fair Dorset Horn Sheep - Stock Oak Fair


A collection of seagulls of various ages strutting their stuff on the beach at West Bay, Dorset

Gulls West Bay Beach 1 Gulls West Bay Beach 2 Gulls West Bay Beach 4 Gulls West Bay Beach 5 Gulls West Bay Beach 6 Gulls West Bay Beach 7 Gulls West Bay Beach 8 Gulls West Bay Beach 9 Gulls West Bay Beach 10


The Gatekeeper is (yet) another butterfly species that I have photographed this year for the first time in our garden in Dorset. There are several possible reasons for this: I haven’t bothered to notice them before; I have noticed them, but confused them with the similar meadow browns I do recognise; I have become more observant and butterfly-aware since we restored the garden and planted a lot of bee / butterfly / moth attractant plants; the species is in fact new to the garden, perhaps for the previous reason. Anyway, whichever is right, they suddenly arrived in the garden / I finally recognised this ‘new’ species in early August. Here are some.

THE FIRST GATEKEEPER I NOTICED THIS YEAR Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset (1st of the year)

SUBSEQUENT SIGHTINGS Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 1 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 2 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 3 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 4 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 5 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 6 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 8 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 9 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 10b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 11b Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12 Gatekeeper Butterfly, Dorset 12a


A few photos taken in July and August of swallows in Dorset. Our recently installed upgraded electricity cables are ridiculously large, but at least they provide a solid perch for the birds. The adult swallows shown are followed by a young trainee swallow nabbing a passing insect; and some cute fledglings including one (penultimate) who decides to call for its food the easy way – and the compliant parent… Swallow, Dorset 6 Swallow, Dorset 9 Swallow, Dorset 13Swallow, Dorset 2Swallow, Dorset 1Swallow, Dorset 10 Swallow, Dorset 11 Swallow, Dorset 12    Swallow, Dorset 16 Swallow, Dorset 15Swallow, Dorset 17


This is a small selection of bees visiting a Dorset garden during the last month or so. The favoured flowers have been Hyssop, Lavender, Alium and Cosmos. And if anyone knows the name of the pale bee in photo #4, I’d be pleased to know – it’s a real beauty.

Summer Bees Dorset 1Summer Bees Dorset 2Summer Bees Dorset 3Summer Bees Dorset 4Summer Bees Dorset 5Summer Bees Dorset 6Summer Bees Dorset 8Summer Bees Dorset 9Summer Bees Dorset 10Summer Bees Dorset 11


I’ve been waiting for these tiny butterflies to appear, but this is the only one I have seen this year, and then for only a minute or two. Then Hurricane Bertha’s tail-end arrived  and the butterflies have all but disappeared except for the occasional large white fluttering round. The flowers this one was visiting are tiny; and the butterfly looks small, even on them.

Small Copper, Dorset 1Small Copper, Dorset 2Small Copper, Dorset 3







I photographed this bird yesterday in Warwickshire. It was hanging out with several ‘normal’ white geese on the banks of the Avon at Bidford, yet it was not like them. I’ve  had a look online for a goose breed with blue eyes, orange eye liner, an orange beak speckled with black and a bulbous forehead. I’ve found nothing like this. The answer may be that it the age or seasonal stage of a particular goose species. Or a strange swan-cross: a swoose or gwan? The last photo shows the whole creature. I’d welcome a definitive ID (it may be completely obvious, but my mind has gone blank on this one… ).

Goose Mystery Bidford 1 Goose Mystery Bidford 2 Goose Mystery Bidford 3 Goose Mystery Bidford 4


Speckled Woods have just started to appear. Unlike most of the other species in the garden, they are eschewing the flowerbeds in favour of the hedgerows. I saw my first one a couple of days ago in the vegetable garden, but it was by the hedge there and not on the flower side. So maybe its name – and its unshowy dappled colouring – says something about its preferred habitat.
Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 1 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 4 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 8 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 9 Speckled Wood Butterfly, Dorset 10