Wild discoveries on Brownsea Island

Brownsea © Damian Garcia

Late summer wildlife has been thriving on Brownsea Island, and if you haven’t visited yet, Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Poole Harbour Reserves Manager, Luke Johns gives us a taste of what there is to see.

Across Brownsea Island there have been two discoveries with a Brownsea first for a spotted winged antlion, found in the John Lewis Castle grounds. The spotted winged antlion is an insect which resembles a dragonfly, but they are in fact their own family of insects. This is a species that had first been discovered in Minsmere in Suffolk, and then there have more recently been sightings in the South East of the UK.

Another wild discovery is of a sand lizard population on Brownsea Island. It is thanks to the conservation management by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers that these reptiles have clearly thrived in the rich and varied habitat – even if undetected until now! 

Sand Lizard on Brownsea Island by Luke Johns

August and September have been about the departure of terns and the return of winter waders on the lagoon. Sandwich tern and common tern have dwindled to just the odd few by the end of August, and waders such as Redshank and dunlin reaching 100s again. The water levels on the lagoon have been lowered slightly to allow more habitat for the waders to feed on the exposed mud now that the tern season is over.

Varying numbers of some of birds on the lagoon are below:

• Dunlin have reached 450+ 

• Spoonbill have reached 15 so far

• Redshank have peaked at 130+ with plenty of juveniles in amongst them

• Greenshank are up around 20+ with lots of juveniles seen

• Curlew have returned up to 23 

• 2 Curlew sandpiper

• 2 little stint which have not been seen for a couple of years on the lagoon

• Oystercatcher 250+

• Ringed plover 240+

• 10 knot

• 30+ teal

The rarer sightings on the lagoon during the month include: A little tern, curlew sandpipers, little stint, a ruff and high numbers of ringed plover, which is unusual. The peregrine has been busy visiting and taking the odd bird for a meal, particularly with the building numbers of waders. The first grey plover arrived on the 29th August with a cold northerly wind on a day that felt quite autumnal.

The autumnal feeling is also echoed by all the ducks in eclipse plumage and the departure of nearly all the shelduck.  Shelduck have headed to Bridgwater Bay in Somerset, where most of the UK population gather to moult before returning sometime in September.

Common sandpiper numbers have built to around 8 so far which we hope will break the record of 22 previously recorded in a September at Seymer’s Marsh.

Curlew sandpiper on the Brownsea Island Lagoon by Nicki Tutton

Dragonfly transects have revealed good numbers of common darter, ruddy darter, keeled skimmer and black-tailed skimmer. It is unusual that there have been no sightings of white admiral butterflies yet this year, with usual numbers building in August. The high numbers of gatekeeper butterflies have slowly dwindled throughout the month to just a few battered specimens remaining on the wing.

The island is still taking bookings for visitors, and boats are running hourly from Poole Quay.  We have decided to close the bird hides for the safety of our visitors.  Read more about what to expect from your visit, and book here

Black-tailed skimmer by Nicki Tutton