Visitors to the beach at the weekend noticed the return of the huge barrel jellyfish to Dorset’s coast.

A number of people got in touch with the Echo with their pictures of the dustbin lid-sized creatures washed up along the shore.

The species is the largest jellyfish found in British waters. They can grow up to a metre wide, two metres long and can weigh up to 35 kilograms.

Though common to find along our shores in the summer, they are more of a rare find this time of year. Their sting is relatively harmless to humans, but it is advisable not to approach them because they could be mistaken for other, more dangerous species.

Wareham-based wildlife photographer and author Steve Trewhella thinks unseasonable weather in April may have something to do with the jellyfish returning earlier than usual.

“This seems to be becoming a more regular occurrence and it is interesting that they have turned up again, especially this early,” he said.

“It is generally warmer than it has been in previous years, so I think it has to be to do with climate change and rising water temperatures.”

In 2014 there were record numbers of barrel jellyfish as they swarmed the coast in huge numbers. Steve said: “This is what happened in 2014, we started seeing them in dribs and drabs earlier on but then the next minute there were hundreds and thousands of them. I think we could be seeing similar numbers again this year.

“We saw eight in Chesil Cove but we weren’t there long and it was quite bad visibility.

“People see these amazing and exotic animals on the telly but don’t realise the incredible marine life they have on their doorstep.

“They know more about clownfish in Australia than they do about these jellyfish that they can actually see.

“If you see one when you are out swimming or whatever don’t throw your arms up in the air – they are virtually harmless and you don’t scream and shout every time some stinging nettles sprout up at the end of the garden.”

Dorset Wildlife say that the presence of the barrel jellyfish in our waters means we could see some leatherback turtles, which feed on jellyfish. Ocean sunfishes could also be spotted.