Discover Dorset’s Wilder Side

Common terns nesting on Brownsea

Common terns nesting on Brownsea - Credit: Archant

The south east coastal area of Dorset has some wonderful nature reserves

Red squirrel on Brownsea

Red squirrel on Brownsea - Credit: Archant

Brownsea Island An island retreat that is home to red squirrels, rare waders and bats

Brownsea Island Lagoon a haven for brids

Brownsea Island Lagoon a haven for brids - Credit: Archant

Set in the middle of Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is owned by the National Trust and is home to a Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve of 250 acres which covers around half the island. The reserve comprises coniferous woodland, with two large acid lakes, freshwater reed beds and a 70 acre saline lagoon. A special attraction to visitors is the presence of wild red squirrels; the island is one of the last remaining strongholds in England of this beleaguered mammal.

The lagoon, an internationally important habitat, provides a haven for a huge variety of birds and is a bird-watchers paradise; overwintering avocets can number more than a thousand, as well as a vast number of black-tailed godwits; spoonbills, whimbrel, egrets and other aquatic birds are often seen. Four hides overlook the lagoon and there is a webcam focusing on the nesting terns during the summer. You can check out the wildlife before you go by viewing the new live lagoon webcam at

As many as 12 different species of bat have been recorded at the reserve, including the large serotine, the brown long-eared and the tiny pipistrelle. There are also rumours of possible new residents moving in - the first sighting of an otter, having swum from the mainland, was recorded in 2011.

The wildlife at Dorset Wildlife Trust’s reserve on Brownsea Island, within a stone’s throw of a major south coast conurbation, never fails to excite. There is the added thrill that Brownsea Island was the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Whispering Island which features in her Famous Five stories and it was also the site of the first Scout Camp which was held on the island by Baden Powell in 1907.

For information about all Dorset Widlife Trust’s reserves visit or call 01305 264620.