Archive 2008: Our new home

Our new home

After two wonderful years at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's reserve at Martin Mere, Autumnwatch is ready for a new challenge. Home to charming red squirrels, rutting sika deer and a host of woodland and water birds, Brownsea will certainly provide that and more.

With fungi to finches, beetles to bats, and wood ants to water voles, Brownsea is one of the most varied and important sites for wildlife in southern England. In autumn it really is at its finest. No wonder it's one of Bill's favourite locations.

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The surrounding area is full of wildlife hotspots too. Daily wildlife reports and film features will be coming from the shores of Poole Harbour, the shores of Poole Harbour, the spectacular Dorset coastline and the New Forest, where people still manage the stunning landscape in traditional ways, very much in tune with nature.

Red squirrel

One of the stars of the show will undoubtedly be the red squirrel. A nationally important population of this rapidly declining mammal lives on Brownsea, safe from competition with the introduced American grey squirrel. Autumn finds them busy searching for food in the island's beautiful woodlands.

In an attempt to understand more why the species is losing out so badly to the greys on the mainland, Autumnwatch sets the Brownsea reds a challenge – the Autumnwatch Assault Course. Can they match the ingenuity of their cousins in finding food?

red squirrel

The red squirrel. Our money's on this little thing being one of the stars of the show for Autumnwatch 2008.

But amongst all the fun and games, there remains the serious issue of the reds' future across the country. We'll be examining the wider picture, including a new dark race of grey squirrels which are taking over in certain areas.

Sika deer

The annual sika deer rut will be at its peak on Brownsea and also across the water on the mainland. Watch out for the males vying for females with a repertoire of dainty whistles.

Just like the grey squirrel, the sika deer is an introduced species which had spread right across the UK and is becoming widely established. This may surprise a few people, as their nature and habits make them harder to spot than red or fallow deer. Poole Harbour and the New Forest, with their mix of marshy and woodland habitat, is ideal for them... But like other non-native species they can cause problems to habitats and native wildlife.

The lagoon

Large numbers of wading and water birds stop by to feed at Brownsea Island's rich, muddy lagoon while on migration or to over-winter. Look out for Britain's largest flock of avocets, more than a thousand of these beautiful black and white wading birds make Brownsea their autumn and winter home.

the lagoon

Brownsea Island's lagoon: expect to see avocets, all sorts of wading birds, cormorants and little egrets.

Other birds on the lagoon include a huge variety of waders, a roosting flock of cormorants, loads of different duck species and the little egret.

The woodlands

Brownsea's woodlands are packed with life. As well as the red squirrels and sika deer, there are fungi, wood ants, tawny owls and a thriving colony of bats. Tits and finches, thrushes and blackbirds, woodpeckers and nuthatches will all be searching for food to keep up their energy levels before winter sets in.

Much of the activity takes place after dark. So Bill and Kate will be out and about searching for the sights - and sounds - of the night.

lake and woodlands

The island's east lake and woodlands.

Share your photos of wildlife in the Big Freeze.

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Little things that make a big difference and are a lot of fun too.

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