News from Brownsea Island - November/December

News from Brownsea Island - November/December

Hazel Ormrod

The island may have closed to visitors for the winter but it's been a busy time for the Brownsea team and the volunteers with the Countryside Stewardship work taking place to restore the heathland, work parties clearing gorse, thinning woodlands and laying paths and plenty of engagement with schools, groups, volunteers and our members.

Cooler temperatures have seen dwindling numbers of dragonflies with just the odd common darter still visible around the lakes and red admirals still about on the sunnier days. Lots of species of waders have continued to rise in number with dunlin, avocet and grey plover slowly building and developing their full winter plumage.

Country Stewardship Update

The work of grinding the stumps of felled trees was followed by the scraping of the thatch layer from the surface alongside the lakes and up to the gravel pit. This work will mean that areas dominated by bracken and rhododendron will now be more suitable for heathland restoration. Heather will be able to establish and we will seed some areas with heather cuttings to help it along. Whilst it does look rather bare at the moment, it will mean that over 6.6 hectares of heathland on the reserve will be created and protected for years to come.

Practical work

Our work parties have been concentrating on gorse and scrub removal this month as well as re-laying paths, working on the Villa garden, making repairs to infrastructure and clearing leaves from the boardwalk. Volunteers also helped with birch thinning on St Andrew’s Hill which is being harvested and used to build fencing around the lake hide. The thinning work will provide more light for desirable species of tree such as rowan, oak, sweet chestnut and scots pine which in turn, will establish more squirrel food sources.


Nicky and Jonny hosted an online talk for around 500 Dorset Wildlife Trust members which was well received, and Jonny delivered the Cameron Bespolka Memorial Lecture to 450 primary school children at Winchester College.

Young Conservationists have been enjoying their on-island sessions and in December pulled off a brilliant Instagram takeover showcasing the work they are doing on the island. Huge thanks to the John Lewis partnership who have donated funds to Shore Rangers which will help pay for vital equipment.


The white-tailed eagle known as G461 has visited the island again – an amazing sight and we are hoping that this means it is considering Poole Harbour as its new home. Fingers crossed. On the lagoon counts, dunlin have increased to over 800, avocets have peaked at just over 500, 29 curlew were recorded, 48 gadwall have been present and oystercatcher numbers have built up to over 550. Greenshank have peaked at 19, wigeon have built to 100+ in numbers and up to 69 bar-tailed godwit have been seen. Black-headed gulls have reduced to 30+ this month and up to 750 black-tailed godwit have been present at high tide. Redshank have evened out to between 50 and 100. Up to 4 spotted redshank have been seen, 11 knot have been present and up to 7 sanderling. Shoveler numbers have steadied out to 14 with almost all returned to their usual plumage. Teal have built in number with over 500 now present at low tide. There has been one sighting of a drake pintail and shelduck have returned from their moult with over 100 now present.