Bird watching on Brownsea

bird hide

An internationally important wildlife haven, the lagoon hosts thousands of avian visitors each year.

Reclaimed as pasture land in the 1850s, the lagoon was allowed to flood in the 1930s becoming a non-tidal brackish water lagoon offering a sanctuary to a vast number of birds.

Now an area managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, is a hive of wildlife activity.  From May to July, common and sandwich terns build their nests on specially created gavel islands and cormorants, gulls and waterfowl roost safely, protected from the high tides of Poole Harbour.

Tern on the wing
Sandwich Tern
Tern on the wing

In the colder months you can spot over wintering waders stopping off on their migratory journeys to feed in the lagoon.  About 15% of the UK's avocet population overwinter here and you may also spot spoonbills and black tailed godwits.Other resident birds in the lagoon include black headed gulls, oystercatchers, redshanks, herons and Canada geese.

The Lakes

There are two man-made lakes in the central valley of the island and the nearby flooded meadows which have been colonised by reeds, attract a different sort of wildlife.  The lakes are surrounded by sallow and alder trees, an important source of seed for over-wintering birds such as siskin and redpoll.  You may also see where Sika deer have rubbed their antlers on sallows during the autumn mating season.

Mirror like reflection on a clam West lake on Brownsea Island
West lake Brownsea Island
Mirror like reflection on a clam West lake on Brownsea Island

The reedbed provides cover for shy wildlife such as the water vole, the water rail and the reed warbler which arrives from Africa in summer and nests in the reeds.

The lakes are located by land managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.  There is a suggested donation of £2 to enter this reserve which includes access to hides and admission to the Villa Wildlife Centre which has an exhibition, gift shop, toilets and a feeding station for red squirrels.

Bird events

The National Trust teams up with Dorset Wildlife Trust for some annual  events for bird watchers. From April to October, you can join an early morning bird walk where a ranger guide will take you on a guided tour around the island to help you pick out the seasonal early morning bird walks.

During the colder winter months, you can witness one of nature's finest visual treats as migrating birds make Brownsea Island their temporary home. From November to January, join a Winter Bird Boat for a chance to go bird watching in the harbour and on the island - and catch sight of some of the the largest populations of over wintering birds in the UK.

For more information or to book, see Brownsea Island's what's on pages.