Brownsea is the largest of the islands within Poole Harbour, Dorset and one of the few remaining homes of the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in the UK. It is owned by the National Trust, however around half of the island is managed as a nature reserve by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
We've found that the best way to increase encounters with red squirrels on the island is to separate yourself from the other visitors - which is important as you'll be arriving with dozens of other passengers on one of the ferries that travel to the island. After that, just walk slowly and quietly and you're likely to see the squirrels either in the trees or gathering food on the ground. This time we had a few geocaches to find near the church, so this ensured that we were mostly on our own.
I had placed the camera down to help Lucy find the geocache, which was about 5 metres away, when a red squirrel joined us. It was taking quite an interest in our bag (and camera, which I now couldn't get to without scaring away the squirrel!), before hopping up to us and sitting face height on a stump. It was a wonderful experience. After a few moments it gently hopped away again. We managed to see a few squirrels during our walk, including this one:
Talking about the different habitats, heathland it just one that visitors will encounter on the island and we saw the heath speedwell (Veronica officinalis) that created a lovely carpet of delicate colour - one that this green woodpecker (Picus viridis) was also enjoying; but for other reasons! Along with this Mouse-ear-hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum)
As we headed towards the beach we saw some other interesting species such as this English stonecrop (Sedum anglicum), spiral wrack seaweed (Fucus spiralis), and of course the very pretty oyster catcher (Haematopus ostralegus); which posed for some photos before having an afternoon nap.
I think we found three geocaches this time around which took us around the National Trust side of the island. It's amazing that within a few steps of having a panoramic view of the harbour, you suddenly have a completely different view - such as this path with coniferous trees.
|One of a few geocaches available to find on the island.|
We slowly walked back to the ferry and spent a few minutes in the new gift shop - which has a nice second hand book collection; which included the David Attenborough book The First Eden, which I picked up for a couple of pounds. The ferry back takes passengers on a tour around the harbour and it seemed much longer than previous times we've been on it - lasting for nearly an hour. But it's such a lovely place to be, interesting scenery and history, that we didn't mind.
Of course, I can't end this post without showing you one of the other famous species on Brownsea Island; the Peacock