The south coast's last known puffin colony is to be caught on camera to monitor its nesting sites.

High ropes experts have installed cameras on the cliffs near Dancing Ledge, Purbeck, to monitor the last mainland south coast puffin colony. 

While abundant in Purbeck in the early 1900s, the bird is near extinction in the area and the cameras hope to reveal reason for the decrease.

Marine ornithologist Dr Richard Caldow said: "Every day, the puffins seemed to be taking plenty of fish to the nests which indicates that the food source wasn’t a problem. But after three weeks, they stopped their deliveries.

"The pufflings [chicks] need to be fed for six weeks before they leave the nest, so there must have been a reason why the adults stopped taking them fish – such as the chicks having been predated by rats, gulls or crows.” 

Supported by Dorset Wildlife Trust who helped provide expertise and source cameras, the cameras were lowered 20 feet down a sheer cliff face and installed by trained rope access conservators who used masonry screws.

Ben Cooke, area ranger for the National Trust in Purbeck, said: “These cameras will be key to helping us plan for the future of these special, rare seabirds. They’ll help collect really important evidence of what’s happening with the puffin colony, then we can assess if there is anything we can do to help.

"For example, if rats are the problem, we can look at ways to protect the nests from them. Along with our partner organisations, we’re committed to doing whatever we can to prevent the loss of this much-loved species.” 

Dancing Ledge is a popular National Trust site on the south Purbeck coastline, used by walkers, climbers and other activity groups .

Because of the inaccessible location of the puffin nests, the easiest place to spot them is from the sea which can be done through guided boat trips in the summer. 

Ben said: "We ask that people take their rubbish home with them, including left-over food. If rats are identified as the main problem for the puffins, then discarded food will exacerbate the issue.”