Spotting puffins at Spyway
The puffin is one of Britain’s best loved birds, and if you’re really lucky you might catch a glimpse of them on your walk at Spyway, where a small colony returns each year to their burrows in the cliff face.
Where to spot puffins in Dorset
Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the South West Coast Path in South Purbeck every year. But few realise that hidden away in the sheer cliffs beneath their feet is the South Coast’s most easterly (and probably smallest) colony of puffins.
The puffins come in from the sea to Purbeck each spring and are here for about three months.
Perhaps because there are so few, a sight of them is a magical moment – but a poignant one too. Be careful and patient, and you may see them flying into their burrows in the cliffs, sometimes carrying fish, presumably to feed their young.
Although described as being as ‘thick as grass’ here in the 1930s, by 1975 numbers had gone down to just 23. For the past decade there have rarely been more than half a dozen seen. No chicks are known to have fledged for a decade or so now, but puffins live for 20 years or more and are loyal to their nesting sites, so will keep coming back to try.
The plight of Purbeck’s puffins is sadly typical of the global situation. Their dramatic decline is thought to be largely linked to the decline in fish populations, particularly sand eels. Elsewhere, predation of chicks by rodents has also contributed to their decline.
We are doing what we can to keep Purbeck’s puffins going: experiences on places such as Lundy Island have shown that colonies can recover quickly if the conditions are right. In 2018 we installed cameras on the ledges to check on their nesting, and we're working with outdoor activity companies to make sure we don’t disturb them.
Discover towering sea cliffs and rolling countryside at Spyway. Scramble down to Dancing Ledge, stroll along the clifftops or head inland to one of Dorset’s best loved pubs.
Discover towering sea cliffs, scramble down to Dancing Ledge, stride out on a walk along the South West Coast Path, and walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs.