New ‘Fly-through’ Camera Maps Wildlife Habitats on Portland

A new ‘fly ­through’ technique for filming Portland’s landscape is revealing the progress of conservation as never before. 

Developed by a Dorset Wildlife Trust officer and volunteer, the remotely controlled camera on a zipwire is being used to film habitats in Portland’s quarries on a landscape scale, tracking the restoration of the island’s rare limestone grassland for wildlife.

Click above to watch the "fly-through" video
or watch it on YouTube by clicking this link

How it came about

Sam Hamer, Portland’s Living Landscape Project Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “Portland is such a dynamic landscape and we needed to record the scale of the threat to limestone grassland within that context. The little owls that nest in King Barrow had been watching us while we were working, which made me think that we needed a true ‘bird’s eye view’ on what we are trying to achieve.  We hope that it will offer an insight into this unique place for people who have never been here before, and it’s a chance for people who know the quarries well to view them in a way they will not have seen them before.”

It took just one month to perfect the technique, which is now providing valuable landscape-scale data for conservationists during the ongoing battle with invasive alien species.  Fast-growing cotoneaster is one of the invaders smothering rare native plants and lichens and threatening the survival of endangered butterflies and moths.  Dorset Wildlife Trust’s ‘Portland’s Living Landscape’ project, supported by Viridor Credits Environmental Fund, is currently restoring up to 200 hectares of internationally important limestone grassland.  This habitat supports ten UK Biodiversity Action Plan species, including the unique chalk grassland form of the silver studded blue butterfly which lives nowhere else in the world.

Heath Robinson?

Sam added: “We may have put it together in a Heath Robinson way in our back gardens, but this contraption could be the start of a new way of looking at our landscapes up close, which is not only useful for the conservationists but also lets everybody see the progress of work for wildlife.  It’s the next best thing to being there and hopefully that will make people want to come and see for themselves what’s living in Portland’s amazing old quarries.”

Why not become a volunteer at Portland's quarries?

The Portland’s Living Landscape project is a partnership initiative funded by a commemorative grant from Viridor Credits Environmental Company and supported by the Court Leet of the Royal Manor of Portland, Portland Bird Observatory, Plantlife and Natural England.  Dorset Wildlife Trust is looking for local volunteers to join weekly conservation work parties this autumn in Portland’s quarries.  For more information, contact Sam Hamer on 07824 874272 or

Dorset Wildlife Trust is part of the Natural Weymouth and Portland Partnership; connecting people with nature

Notes to Editor

For more information please contact Sam Hamer at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 07824 874272.
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About Dorset Wildlife Trust
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
Dorset Wildlife Trust is part of the Natural Weymouth and Portland Partnership; connecting people with nature

Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living.  Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves.  Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve.  DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas. Blog

Portland’s Living Landscape supported by Viridor Credits through the landfill communities fund
The project aims to restore up to 200 hectares of limestone grassland; a priority UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitat.
This habitat is of international importance supporting 10 UK BAP species, including the unique ‘cretaceous’ form of the silver studded blue butterfly which now only survives on the island. Hundreds of species of plants and animals are dependent upon the limestone grasslands and coastal habitats of Portland for their survival. These include 27 species of national scarce, rare or vulnerable plants and an incredible 99 species of notable or Red Data Book Invertebrates. In addition to the more visible species over 350 species of lichens and bryophytes have been recorded, 23 of which are on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Red List.
Cotoneaster growth is currently the biggest threat to limestone grassland on Portland. Without intervention we will see the local, and in some cases global extinction of a number of species. While Buddleia plays an important part in the life cycles of some butterflies, the specific butterfly species that are rare to Portland have a greater dependency on the limestone grassland plants. Large amounts of Buddleia are a threat to this habitat and by managing the Buddleia on these sites we aim to restore this nationally important habitat.

The Isle of Portland is home to:

  • 100% of the global population of Portland hawkweed.
  • >75% of the global population of Eudarcia richardsoni.
  • >90% of the UK population of Southbya nigrella (a liverwort).
  • >75% of the UK population of Cephaloziella baumgartneri (a liverwort).
  • >75% of the UK population of Portland feather-moss.
  • 4 lichens found nowhere else in Britain.
  • Nationally important colonies of chalk hill and small blue butterflies.
  • An endemic variety of the silver studded blue that has declined from 30 colonies to around 10 at the most.

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