Poole Harbour on the Dorset coast is the second biggest
natural harbour in the world with 96 km of coastline and several unspoilt islands.
One of those islands is Brownsea which was once a sanctuary for deer from
exotic species to winter waders. Photo by Viktoria Gridley-Haack|
The Brownsea deer were imported by Victorian landowners with a
penchant for exotic species.
Nobody realised that the deer could swim and
the Sika escaped from Brownsea at the end of the 19th Century.
descendants flourish on the mainland.
A good place to see them is at Shipstall
Point in the shadow of Poole Harbour.
The best time to watch the deer is
early in the day when there are very few people around and the animals come out
to graze on grass.
The deer are frequently to be found on the reed marshes
around the hide by the viewpoint.
thought there are as many as 7,000 Sika Deer living around the harbour area especially
on the Studland peninsula, which boasts one of the highest densities anywhere
in the UK.
The deer have done well in this part of Dorset. They can thrive
on poor vegetation, which enables them to live at high density.
have superior digestive powers, and like to eat the heather and gorse on the Dorset
Their mouths and stomachs are certainly tougher than many
These hardy creatures can even eat brambles, blackthorns, yew and
Harbour is also one of the most important estuaries in the country for wintering
The best way to see them is by boat - the RSPB runs cruises leaving
from Poole harbour side.
In the winter the harbour is home to 28,000 birds
from the Arctic and Continental Europe.
Amongst the migrants are Brent
Geese from Russia, wading birds from Canada and Greenland, and ducks from Russia
and Central Europe.
Also look out for other cosmopolitan visitors including
Avocets and Black Tailed Godwits.
These bird love wintering in Poole Harbour
with its relatively warm climate - the estuary doesn't freeze up, and there's
plenty of food available.
The harbour's large inter-tidal area of mud and
sand is a popular feeding ground - different species of birds feed on different
The mud is rich with rich including small shellfish, crustaceans,
The birds roost at high tide on the jetties, salt marshes
and the lagoon on Brownsea Island in undisturbed locations where they can rest
and sleep safely.
Godwits and Shelducks
out for waders - Poole Harbour is internationally important for these birds especially
the Black Tailed Godwit.
Increasing numbers are now wintering in southern
England and Ireland.
This once common breeding bird dropped dramatically
in numbers in the past when they developed a reputation as a delicacy.
visitor is the Little Egret, a small, white heron-like bird, which loves the rich
waters in Poole Harbour.
This bird has spread gradually from southern Spain
and France to Britain as winters have got warmer.
During the breeding season
the Egret acquires head plumes which for centuries led to the birds being killed
for their feathers to be used in the hat trade.
The outcry that followed
marked the beginnings of international bird conservation and eventually led to
the formation of the RSPB.
Also to be spotted are Dunlins, Grey Plovers,
Red Shanks, and Shelducks.
is an unspoilt island, lying just off the south west tip of Poole Harbour.
trip to the island is a must for nature lovers - this secluded location is a haven
for a variety of wildlife.
In winter it is home to a large population of
Avocets - more than 1,000 of these birds roost on the lagoon here.
Avocet has a unique upswept bill which it sweeps sideways through the shallow
watery mud to capture tiny shrimps and other invertebrates.
also the first place where Little Egrets nested in 1996 when they moved north
to our shores.
It's probably one of the best places in the country to see
this bird - a quarter of our wintering population.
Many of these birds come
from Holland, and a few even fly in from nearby Essex or Suffolk.
is a little warmer in winter than the east coast of England.
It's also one
of last refuges in the southern England for the Red Squirrel.
there are approximately 200-250 red squirrels on Brownsea, living largely in the
island's pinewoods where there are no Grey Squirrels to compete.
All images except deer courtesy
of Viktoria Gridley-Haack at Brownsea Island.