Poole Wildlife Watch 2013

Families Go Wild in Poole this Winter

Shake off the winter blues and make a date with nature at one of the UK’s most beautiful wildlife hotspots.

Birds AvocetThe largest in Europe, Poole’s spectacular natural harbour and heathland are home year round to an ever changing ensemble of wild birds making it one of the best spots in the UK to see them.  Up to 40,000 winter waders and the UK’s largest wintering Avocet flock in the UK take advantage of the harbour’s unique environment each winter, from November to March. A unique area of wetland of international interest, the harbour is a specially protected RAMSAR site and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  It contains 8 unique islands including the largest Brownsea which is owned by the National Trust and was the site of the first Scout camp held by Baden Powell in 1907.

Poole is packed friendly experts to help families make the most of the UK’s winter wonders unforgettable cruises to hard to reach places.  December, January and February provide the perfect time to wrap up warm and take a trip with Poole’s Bird Boats to see birdlife at its best on specially tailored trips with experts from the RSPB and Dorset Wildlife Trust. Watch a cast of thousands strike a pose and make the most of the Avocets, Oystercatchers, Great Crested Grebes, Shelducks and many other species that live in and around Poole Harbour.

Choose from a guided harbour cruise or the chance to land on Brownsea Island out of season for an exclusive tour of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Nature Reserve with unique access to the thousands of birds that flock to the island’s lagoons and reedbeds.  The island played host to BBC AutumnWatch in 2008 and was described by Bill Oddie as “the best place for seeing wildlife in Dorset”.  Booking is essential through the National Trust Brownsea Island Tel: 01202 707744.

Starlings c Donna Challinor

You don’t have to get on the water to see the wildlife at its best, armed with a pair of binoculars, Holes Bay, Shore Road and Harbourside Park in Poole are good sites to see wild birds from October-February. And in January and February, spectacular views of starlings flocking over Sterte Esplanade and Studland provide one of the most stunning dusk displays in nature.  Picture by Donna Challinor.


Aerial pictured of Upton Country ParkSet in more than 100 acres of woodland and parkland on the northernmost reaches of Poole Harbour, Upton Country Park offers great opportunities to see a variety of wildlife throughout the year from animals and birds to water creatures and amphibians.  From the shoreline enjoy views towards Poole town across the harbour, the mudflats and marshes of which are a protected site of international importance for wildlife conservation.  Autumn and winter migrants provide an excellent opportunity to train your wildlife spotting skills and see some of the more unusual species like the Redwing and Fieldfare feasting on the park’s plentiful berries and fruit.  For more details visit www.uptoncountrypark.com link will open in new window.


The RSPB Arne link will open in new window nature reserve on the shores of Poole Harbour played host to BBC Autumnwatch in 2016 and Winterwatch link will open in new window in 2017.  The largest remaining rural heathland in Dorset, it covers 550 hectares and is the UK’s most bio-diverse area and busiest RSPB reserve.  Overlooking Poole Harbour, the reserve is home to all 6 of the UK’s native reptiles:  adder, grass snake, smooth snake, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm as well as a population of Japanese Sika Deer.  The combination of heath, woodland and harbour make it a spectacular location year round and whether a novice or expert, make the most of the experience with RSPB guided walks.  Open 9am-5pm, the car park is locked at dusk.  Entry is free to RSPB members.

Keep an eye on the wildlife with the live Brownsea Lagoon webcam which captures all the action from the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s reserve on Brownsea Island at  www.birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk link will open in new window all year round.  The lagoon is a perfect habitat for thousands of Avocet and up to 30 Spoonbill in the autumn and has hosted some special birds in the past such as Common Crane, Caspian Tern and Western Sandpiper.

Red Squirrel HomepageFor red squirrel hunters, Brownsea Island provides the perfect location to see  rare native Red Squirrels and Sika Deer.  

For red squirrel hunters, the National Trust provides special Winter Weekends on Brownsea Island 10 February - 11 March 2018 with boats hourly from Poole Quay & Sandbanks, 10am-4pm.  Daily opening begins 17 March-28 October. To find out more about the spectacular wild birds visit the bird hide in the Dorset Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve on the island.  Positioned near the lagoon edge, it’s the prime location for viewing feeding waterfowl.  It’s also the perfect time of year to see the island’s rare native Red Squirrels and Japanese Sika Deer.  Hop on the National Trust boat from Sandbanks for more details, tel: 01202 707744. Ferry and landing charges apply.

Sandbanks Beach 2009If walking is your passion, stroll along Sandbanks, Britain’s best beach and winner of more Blue Flags than any other UK Beach or take one of the regular free guided walks and explore internationally important, protected heathland at Canford Heath.  Covering 850 acres, equivalent to 530 Wembley-sized football pitches with views of Corfe Castle and the Purbecks, the heath is home to rare wildlife and habitat.  Try a Health Walk link will open in new window, usually between 2-3 miles in length, the walks are a chance find out more about the site’s history, conservation and wildlife including the rare Dartford Warbler in spring and summer and many other species year round. 

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