Brownsea lagoon and wetlands

Brownsea Island quayside buildings and lagoon

The five hides that overlook Brownsea's lagoon, lakes and reedbed are the perfect perch to watch the spectacular comings and goings of many species of birds.


Reclaimed as pasture 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.

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.

Sandwich Tern


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.

West lake 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 small entry fee to 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.