Trip reports

Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour

Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour
Stuart Harrison

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The weather wasn't at all inviting as we made our way to Poole Quay to catch the 10.00am ferry to Brownsea Island; it was overcast, windy and drizzly rain was falling. We put on waterproof trousers as we waited for the ferry and on boarding it immediately descended to the lower deck to stay dry. We needn't have worried as the sun came out as the ferry neared the jetty at Brownsea Island and waterproof trousers were removed. On the ferry journey we noted several shelduck, herring gulls greater black-backed gulls, oystercatchers, cormorants common and sandwich terns.

On the jetty we encountered a group of beavers, not the semi-aquatic rodents but the junior branch of the boy scouts. Overlooking the lagoon from the visitor centre it was obvious that there were large numbers of black-tailed godwits, shelduck and gulls of various varieties present.

At the entrance to the boardwalk that took us into the Dorset Wildlife Trust part of the island the first red squirrel was seen dashing about in the undergrowth at the base of a tree. At the Low Hide overlooking the lagoon, we were able to get a good views of black-tailed godwits, oystercatchers, shelducks and a lone greenshank all feeding and a pair of avocets snoozing. We also saw common and sandwich terns flying to and fro and, later, from this hide we noted two nesting yellow-legged gulls on one of the islands.

At the Mac Hide, we were confronted with two fenced-off islands immediately in front of the hide where sandwich terns, black-headed gulls and a pair of mediterranean gulls were nesting densely packed and noisily. Also, a solitary greenshank wandered backwards and forwards in the muddy shallows, getting ever closer to us. All of these provided great photo opportunities at close quarters.

As lunchtime beckoned several of us moved on to the picnic tables outside the villa (the DWT HQ on the island) to watch the birds on the feeders and hopefully see a squirrel or two. No squirrels appeared while we ate our sandwiches but we were entertained by a jackdaw that successfully managed to cling onto a nut feeder for its lunch and by various sizes and colours of chickens that walked around our tables. Others returned for more substantial snacks/drinks at the very welcoming NT Visitor Centre cafe.

A few of us made our way to the Lake Hide, perched high up overlooking the Lake! The incumbent watchers there advised us that not much had been seen in the previous hour, apart from a few shelduck, so we didn't stay very long.

Lunch over and facilities used, we split up to walk around parts of the island managed by the National Trust.

It was fairly quiet elsewhere birdwise except for the calls of a male peacock which carried a long way. Overhead two common buzzards were seen circling and a mistle thrush was seen gathering food.

Several members took the trail through the NT woodland area, to the cliffs on the south side of the island, where they had spectacular sunny views of the southern part of Poole Harbour, and of Sandbanks and chain ferry to Studland. Only a few red squirrels were briefly seen before scampering off in to the woods. A solitary young rabbit grazed on a patch of grass in the sun, before settling down and trying to pretend that it wasn't really there!

Two members even made it all the way along the island trail to the Old Pottery at the western end of the island, and still made it back in time for the ferry! They put the "younger" members to shame!

Most walks ended up back at the cafe garden, as the time to catch the return ferry approached. Here, near the lagoon overlook, two red squirrels appeared posing for photographs on the root of a fallen tree. They then scampered across the yard and over the wall ending up in the cafe garden where they climbed up to the nut feeders for a snack, giving us yet more super photographic opportunities. These were the best red squirrel photo opportunities of the day, and all in the last 30 minutes before we were due to catch the return ferry! Brownsea Island is one of the few places where red squirrels still exist and are not threatened by greys because there are no grey squirrels on the island.

All good birding days come to an end and at 5.00pm we boarded the last ferry back to Poole. This took us the long way back passed Furzey Island and Green Island with an interesting running commentary being given by the captain.

On leaving the ferry at Poole, we went straight into the Poole Arms (for the second consecutive night!) for yet another wonderful fish dinner with excellent real ale. So ended an excellent birding day.

Ian Parker & Stuart Harrison (photographs Stuart Harrison.)

Members on the Brownsea Trip

Marion & Ron King, Gill & Ian Parker, Sarah & Stuart Harrison, Jenni Anderson, Marion Osman, Anthea Lovatt, Arthur Whiting, Cliff Parslow and Alan Corner.